Cary Grant wasn't known for his shredded six-pack. Neither were Marlon Brando, John Wayne or
Somewhere along the way, however, chiseled abs became all but a requirement for modern male movie stars, whether they're playing spandex-clad superheroes, ancient Greek warriors, petty criminals or Victorian detectives.
As the trend reaches its apotheosis (or ab-potheosis, perhaps) via the male-stripper sequel "Magic Mike XXL" — which flaunts its washboard stomachs with irrepressible, even refreshing glee — here's a look back at some key moments in the rise of the cinematic six-pack.
Now a global star, Pitt landed his breakout film role playing a charming thief opposite Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in
Twenty years after the film's release, Davis recalled to Vanity Fair how Scott "personally sprayed Evian on Brad's abs" for the pivotal moment. Talk about attention to detail.
("Thelma & Louise" wasn't the last time Pitt would go shirtless on screen — honorable mentions include "Fight Club," "Snatch" and "Troy.")
As the homicidal yuppie Patrick Bateman, Bale demonstrates what it takes to get an, er, killer bod in several scenes of
The Spartans in "300" (2006)
What do you get when you multiply a six-pack by 300? Zack Snyder gave us the answer in his big-screen adaptation of Frank Miller's stark graphic novel dramatizing the Battle of Thermopylae, during which a small group of Greek soldiers held off scores of Persian invaders.
The odds-defying feat is all the more impressive because the musclebound Spartans — led by
Forgoing the deerstalker cap was one sign that Downey and director
Presumably no CGI was used to enhance Gosling's big shirtless scene as a strapping, smooth-talking lothario in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's romantic comedy — it just looks that way.
In the film, after impulsively joining Jacob (Gosling) for a nightcap, Emma Stone's tipsy love interest Hannah asks him to remove his V-neck. When he finally obliges, she gasps, "Seriously? It's like you're Photoshopped!" (That sound you hear is a thousand Gosling fans making screen captures.)
Though he first made his mark as an amiable overweight goofball on TV's "Parks and Recreation," Pratt got into Navy Seal-shape to play a member of the black-ops team that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2012's "Zero Dark Thirty." Since then he's become a bona fide action star, one whose six-pack now gets loving close-ups in summer blockbusters like Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Channing Tatum and company in "Magic Mike XXL" (2015)
Granted, Tatum and his co-stars previously strutted their stuff in 2012's original "Magic Mike," but that film's gyrating was underscored by a fair amount of existential angst and soul-searching. The extroverted sequel isn't quite so brooding, and it truly revels in biceps, deltoids and, of course, abs. "It's a beautiful thing, man," one character says of the restorative powers of their flexing. "We're like healers, or something."
Even the posters for "XXL's" expertly executed marketing campaign are stripped-down to the essentials, with nothing but text, blank backgrounds and its shirtless stars. It's enough to make one wonder if we've reached peak abs — and if so, what comes next.