24: Why Jack Bauer is the 21st Century’s Greatest Action Hero

As impossible as it might seem, a new season of Fox’s 24 premieres tonight. It’s been four years since the series aired its then-final hour, and since that episode the show has become considerably less talked about, if almost entirely forgotten.

That the series is now renewing itself with 24: Live Another Day presents us with an interesting situation. For lapsed fans of the series, it’s a chance to (hopefully) recapture the feeling of the show at its finest. More importantly though (and perhaps crucial to the show’s overall success), Live Another Day provides a new generation of viewers, ones who may have only heard about the series and its central hero, a chance to see what all the fuss was about. It gives them a chance to see just why Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer was THE onscreen hero of the first decade of this century.

24 Split ScreenBy accident more than design, 24 became the first post-9/11 drama series—a show about major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the series premiere of which was delayed (and edited, as it featured a passenger aircraft exploding in midair) following the very real attacks of September 11. America needed an impulsive id to carry out the revenge fantasies so many people harbored after that day, and along came Jack Bauer.

Jack was the everyman hero of the 21st century. He was a man who wasn’t invincible (despite managing to survive far longer than almost all of his coworkers), but whose drive and determination we longed to embody. He didn’t play by the rules, he frequently let his emotions get the better of him, and he had a deep, unshakable devotion to his duty (even if it meant toppling governments, including his own).

He was a conflicted hero, who existed in what would be considered a moral gray area for most of us. While he made the “right” decision almost without hesitation, these decisions always came with a heavy toll, both emotionally and physically.

In the tradition of characters like Indiana Jones and John McClane, Bauer was not immune to battle damage, developing numerous injuries throughout his ongoing series of longest days ever (the worst-sounding of this injury catalogue has to be the “floating rib fragments” of Season 6).

For anyone who might doubt just what Bauer is capable of, or why he earned his place in the pantheon not just of television heroes, but among those of any medium, here are ten of the most intense, thrilling, and yes, just plain badass moments of Jack’s illustrious, terrorism-stompin’ career.

You Might Also Like

  • Nicole Angeleen

    Yes, yes, YES! I love the line in the trailers, “Jack Bauer is a traitor. And a psychopath.” Yes, but he’s OUR traitor and OUR psychopath. “I’m gonna need a hacksaw,” is one of my favorites. Also, in season 2, when Kim is gunning down her boss in the closet, and Jack implores her to “shoot him again.” Because it has been a couple hours since he killed anyone, and he needs to live vicariously through Kim. I would also be interested to see a catalogue of body parts (of friends and enemies) that Jack Bauer has relieved people of. Jack is back, baby! Jack is back.

  • Unluckily, I had to stop reading or I’d spoil myself from anything happending after the 4th season. But I do agree, I’ve imagined Kiefer Sutherland playing some badass characters in some Tom Clancy’s books I’ve read.

    • BrianLeeMartin

      Crazily enough, there was a small span of time where the producers were trying to essentially adapt The DaVinci Code into a season of the show (this was in 2003, just before the book became a runaway hit). I think Jack Bauer is a far better fit for Tom Clancy than Dan Brown.

      • You just sent me to look for that piece of info I’ve been missing out… I can’t even imagine it!