Some weapons become more iconic than the fictional characters that use them. Others are a vital aspect of a character’s personality. In this column, we take a look at some of the greatest fictional weapons of all time.
Not every hero relies on a gun, sword, spaceship, or car. Some heroes throughout decades of movies, novels, television, video games, and comic books get all four in one exoskeleton that gives him or her the power to fight evil (and sometimes good) in all shapes and sizes. With the right set of powers and the right design, a suit of armor can go from plot device to beloved fictional weapon in the span of a single story.
Sometimes, a suit of armor will be used on a special occasion by a hero in the direst of circumstances. In other cases, a hero and his or her armor are synonymous to fans. Whether they have been featured in countless stories or only in select tales, great pieces of armor have a thrilling and captivating quality that sparks the imaginations of fans, no matter how often they have been seen.
The following 10 suits of armor range from minimally protective coverings to some of the most powerful pieces of weaponry ever seen in fiction. In any case, they are some of the most iconic and badass weapons to ever grace the screen or page.
Iron Man Armor – Marvel Comics
Tony Stark and the Iron Man armor are synonymous to both comic book and movie fans. Stark’s initial reliance on his armor to save his life from shrapnel lodged near his heart and to escape from a POW camp means that the Iron Man suit is truly part of him. However, it’s also the catalyst behind a complete shift in his worldview, changing him from selfish playboy weapons manufacturer to selfless global hero. Combined with its vibrant design and envy-inducing powers, the Iron Man armor is an all-time great. It’s difficult to nail down a single Iron Man suit as the defining version because Stark switches them out on a nearly yearly basis in comics and upgrades them with every new film. However, suits like the Silver Centurion, Bleeding Edge, and Extremis armors will go down as hallmarks. For a rundown of his greatest suits, check out Iron Man’s Best Armors.
Best Feature: While the rest of the armors on this list may be bigger or even more powerful, the true strength of the Iron Man armor is how fully integrated it is with its wearer. Tony Stark truly is Iron Man because the suit so seamlessly integrates with him. Even long before the generations of liquid armor and even without an arc reactor embedded in his chest, the Iron Man armor is one and the same as Stark.
MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor – Halo
Created to work as the ultimate armor in conjunction with the specially bred and genetically enhanced SPARTAN-II super soldier, the MJOLNIR armor is the final step in creating the ultimate warrior of the future. This combat exoskeleton creates a sealed atmosphere that works even in outer space while also shielding against all manner of attacks. By having a neural interface added to the soldier’s brain, the suit responds without a moment’s delay and also allows for integration with an artificial intelligence. While only SPARTAN-IIs who have received physical enhancements can wear the suit without it killing them, it’s become an iconic piece of video game iconography as the defining look for Master Chief, hero of the Halo video game series and one of modern gaming’s most iconic characters.
Best Feature: AI integration. All the power upgrades and bullet-proofing may be great for combat, but the pairing of a Spartan solider and an artificial intelligence makes for an unstoppable team. It’s having Master Chief and Cortana together that resulted in the heroes beating back the forces of both The Covenant and The Flood.
Boba Fett’s Mandalorian Armor – Star Wars
The Mandalorian armor is the traditional battle armor of the warrior clans of Mandalore. While the expanded universe of Star Wars details the history of this armor and its attachments to generations devoted to bloody warfare across the galaxy, it is most closely associated with the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Decked out with a flamethrower, a jetpack, a whipcord thrower, and more, Boba Fett’s armor includes every tool needed to take down any target. His macrobinocular viewplate strikes an imposing and aggressive visage, which, combined with a detailed and battle-worn green armor, created an iconic look that made Boba Fett into one of the most fascinating side characters in all of Star Wars.
Best Feature: The look. In all honesty, Boba Fett’s armor doesn’t do much, at least not in the context of the films. But the roughed up yet mysterious look (all contingent on that aggressive T-shaped visor in the helmet) is what hooked in viewers. The look alone makes Boba Fett a memorable character.
Justice Buster – Batman
Batman has worn numerous armors over the course of his more than 75 years’ worth of comic book stories, each with a specific purpose. The Justice Buster is his contingency plan in the event that any of the Justice League members turned rogue. This hulking and powerful juggernaut includes a lasso to ensnare Wonder Woman in an illusion, a dehydrating foam for Aquaman, a fast-than-thought laser for The Flash, and miniature red suns embedded in the gauntlets for Superman. When the members of the Justice League were rendered insane and placed under the control of The Joker, Batman debuted the armor and to take them down in the most non-damaging way possible. To see every suit worn by Batman, read Batman’s Many Armors.
Best Feature: The Justice Buster is able to take on Superman, easily the League’s most powerful member. While it’s no easy battle, Batman is able to eventually take down The Man of Steel until the effects of The Joker’s poison have worn off.
Yautja Armor – Predator
One of the sparsest pieces of armor on this list, the armor used by The Predator in its titular film mainly consists of a helmet, weaponized gauntlets, and a shoulder-mounted cannon. However, not much else is needed when the wearer is a massive, agile, and supremely strong alien who is the master of technologically superior weapons from the far side of the universe. The helmet allows its thermal vision-seeing wearer to view various spectrums of light, the gauntlets contain massive blades, the shoulder cannon can kill a target in a single shot, and active camouflage allows The Predator to be virtually invisible to the naked eye. These abilities let the alien warrior hunt anything anywhere.
Best Feature: It’s a toss-up between the cannon and the camouflage, but The Predator’s camouflage is what takes the alien from being dangerous to being one of the most deadly monsters ever seen on screen. For being a creature in search of sport, this is downright unfair.
Gypsy Danger – Pacific Rim
When massive alien monsters began to invade the Earth through a portal located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, the nations of the world decided upon the most sensible option – creating giant robot warriors to fight them. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim took heavy influence from decade of mech fighting manga and kaiju stories for this monster mash movie. While the world is protected (somewhat unsuccessfully) by giant humanoid robots (known as Jaegers) from dozens of countries, it’s the United States’ Gypsy Danger who is the true hero. Piloted by two warriors and striding around like John Wayne, this slightly outdated mech brawler has the tools and the talent to take down some of the most dangerous monsters ever seen on the big screen. Using plasma cannon, rocket-powered fists, a massive sword, and anything else it can get its hands on, the multi-story-tall Gypsy Danger fights to save the world.
Best Feature: The massive, retractable chain sword housed inside its arm, which measures dozens of feet and can cut through even the toughest of Kaiju hides. The only downside is that Gypsy Danger’s pilots seem to completely forget about it for most of the movie. Once unleashed, most Kaijus don’t stand a chance.
Metal Gear Rex – Metal Gear Solid
There have been Metal Gears both before and after the debut of Metal Gear Rex in Metal Gear Solid, but nothing beats this classic bipedal tank. Designed by Hal Emmerich based on designs from a Soviet scientist, Metal Gear Rex was created as a top secret prototype weapon for the United States as a counter measure to global nuclear disarmament and housed in its nuclear base on Shadow Moses Island. But when the terrorist Liquid Snake and the rogue FOXHOUND unit captured Rex and the base, ex-special agent Solid Snake was sent to retake the weapon. Rex is a massive walking tank armored with machine guns, rocket launchers, and nearly impenetrable armor that protects its pilot, who is housed within its dinosaur-like head. But most crucially, Rex is armed with a nuclear missile launching rail gun, meaning it can launch a strike from anywhere to anywhere, making it the most dangerous weapon on the planet.
Best Feature: The rail gun. Being able to launch a nuclear missile from any terrain and without a heat signature that would allow counter measures, Metal Gear Rex is turned from a formidable piece of weaponry into a tool that can change the world forever.
Samus’ Power Suit – Metroid
Samus Aran is one of Nintendo’s seminal heroes thanks to her trailblazing games, thrilling adventures, and awe-inducing Power Suit armor. Created by the alien race known as the Chozo and given to Samus as they raised her, this modular powered armor suit allows its wearer to survive in outer space and incorporate all manner of weapons. As an intergalactic bounty hunter and explorer, thee capabilities allow Samus to adapt to all manner of conditions and fight any enemy. When activated, the suit biologically bonds with Samus in order to afford her all of its wonderful capabilities, such as morphing into a tiny ball. Of course, one of the indelible features of the Power Suit is that it is constantly being upgraded, giving it new weapons and strengths. But the basic suit is the most iconic and the one which informs all the upgrades.
Best Feature: Being able to roll into a tiny ball is an ingenious piece of design, both from the standpoint of adding something that has never before been seen and in terms of adding something completely new to the level design of Metroid. Having Samus be able to bomb jump within ball form is even better. The question is how doesn’t this kill her?
The Destroyer – Thor
When the ancient gods of Asgard were threatened by the all-power intergalactic Celestials, they crafted The Destroyer Armor – made from an unknown metal stronger than the Uru which composes Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, containing vast energies from the gods, and enchanted by all manner of spells. Ever since its creation, the armor has been used by hero and villain alike in numerous comics and has also appeared in Thor’s first film, although it was much weaker. While it can be worn, it also poses minimal intelligence, allowing it to go on destructive rampages when activated. Due to its dangerous nature, it is rarely used by heroes, but is often exploited by villains. Possessing vast strength, a near indestructible hide, and the ability to shoot energy beams from its eyes, The Destroyer could most likely destroy every other armor on this list.
Best Feature: This beastly suit is powerful enough to defeat the gods of Asgard and its arrival is enough to make all but the bravest of the brave (my man, Thor) shake in their boots. Anything strong enough to challenge the old gods is deserving of special recognition.
RX-78-2 Gundam – Gundam
The Gundam series has spanned decades, been brought to life in anime, manga, and video games, and has seen many different mechas take center stage, but it all comes back to the original RX-78-2 Gundam. Piloted by Amuro Ray for the Earth Federation in the war against the Principality of Zeon, this battle-ready mobile suit is an iconic figure in the history of anime. Most often referred to as “White” or “The White Devil,” RX-78-2 uses Vulcan guns, two beam sabers, a beam rifle, hammers, and more to fight the giant mechas forces of Zeon in the future. While the more grounded nature of Gundam’s “real robot” subgenre of anime means that the mecha is more limited to real world physics, its more realistic design and fight style captures the imaginations of fans around the world.
Best Feature: It just looks so cool! And classic! This is Gundam after all. Even if you’ve never seen any of the many entries into this series, most people recognize this wonderful piece of anime history. In a medium filled with giant fighting robots, Gundam stands among the best.
Have your own favorite armors in fiction? Let me know in the comments below.