Well, Everyone Loves Blondes, Heroes Want Redheads, and of course there's the sensual Brunette. But for men, there seems to be one main perceived ideal: Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Sometimes, it's a Tall, Dark, and Handsome Stranger.
Tall, Dark, and Handsome Stranger was a pulp fiction trope, particularly in mystery novels. Romance novels still play it straight sometimes. This then led to a Tall, Dark, and Handsome casting trope for leading men: Clark Gable, etc. This is also one of the defining attributes of the Latin Lover stereotype.
Historically, "dark" referred to the man's hair and often eyes, not necessarily his skin color. The expression was typically used for white people (with "healthy" or "bronzed" i.e. tanned complexions at best, as opposed to too pale or "pasty") due to society frowning on interracial relationships, to put it mildly. So while the phrase could literally apply to a black man, it's unlikely to be used this way unless it's in a modern work, and thus a slight subversion.
Most Tall, Dark and Handsome men display an aloof, cold, and distant personality, but they do have a gentle and caring side.
Being one of the oldest tropes in the book, it's nowadays more often used in subversions and deconstructions. The actual invocation of the trope Tall, Dark, and Handsome Stranger is often parodied or might be played straight but usually isn't highlighted if it is.
Examples when the trope is played straight:
- Andrew from Little Witch Academia (2017) has dark brown hair, stands a full head taller than Akko, and is often stated to be quite handsome.
- Bruce Wayne, Batman. Money is not the only reason Bats is surrounded by women. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree as his adopted sons follow in his footsteps. Dick adds in his magnetic personality, Jason has his Bad Boy charms and Tim is one in the future he's shown in. Damian is the exception since he's still a kid, but in the future, he does get his father's looks.
- Blacksad: John Blacksad is tall, a black cat, and constantly being eyed by most females. Add to that his mysterious nature and you have an archetypal tall, dark, and handsome character.
- Corto Maltese.
- Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl has the tall, dark, handsome Ragamuffin, in his human form.
- Lobo, as of the New 52.
- Superman: despite all that Clark Kenting he does to make himself look geeky and awkward, the true Superman is quite a hunk.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, as a result of being aged up to 15 years old, Ash is now at least as tall Brock was in the original timeline (not to mention taller than Delia) and implied to have a more muscular build. This, combined with his black hair and swarthy skin, makes him pretty good-looking in the eyes of several female characters.
- Pretty much all the James Bond actors fit the mold, except for Daniel Craig for being a tad short and blondish. The initial backlash that ensued after he was cast in Casino Royale (2006) is a good indicator on how pervasive this trope was and still is.
- Sir Michael Redgrave exemplified this trope (frequently coupling it with a refined charm) for much of his film career: see, for example, The Lady Vanishes, Thunder Rock, "the Ventriloquist's Sequence" in Dead of Night and Secret Beyond the Door.
- Thor: Ragnarok: Although Loki is normally a tall, raven-haired Pretty Boy, his all-black Midgardian suit gives him a more masculine appearance, and it makes him look handsome rather than pretty.
- X-Men Film Series
- Colossus is the tallest X-Man, and he also happens to be a brunette and good-looking.
- Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine certainly qualifies, although the comic books did not depict him this way. In the film series, he's dark, broody, dangerous, and mysterious.
- Magneto as a younger man when played by Michael Fassbender in the First Class trilogy.
- James Bond is described in the original Ian Fleming books as six feet tall, black-haired and cruelly handsome. His eyes are a cold blue-grey instead of dark, though. Fleming also invoked Textual Celebrity Resemblance by having characters say Bond looks like the American musician and actor Hoagy Carmichael - evidently someone who Fleming thought fit the mold in real life.
- Isaac Asimov's "Satisfaction Guaranteed": The TN-3 model (Tony) was designed to do housework, and US Robots & Mechanical Men decided to make it look attractive as well; building him to an above-average height, perfectly groomed black hair, warm olive skin, and attractive enough to make all of the other housewives in the neighborhood jealous.
"Tony was tall and darkly handsome" — first line
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Buffy first met Angel, he called himself a friend and she said that he was dark, gorgeous in an annoying sort of way. In Angel Cordelia calls him "tall, dark, and broody".
- John Reese from Person of Interest is tall with dark hair in the earlier seasons (he later gets some grey so the Silver Fox trope is used instead) and is something of a Death Seeker due to his past as a CIA hitman. Detective Fusco once refers to him as "Tall, Dark and Deranged".
- Star Trek: Picard:
- Cristóbal Rios is tall with dark brown hair and dashingly handsome in a manner which is typical of a gruff Lovable Rogue. Dr. Agnes Jurati finds him attractive and he becomes her boyfriend.
- Because Rios selected the self-scan option for the Emergency Holograms on La Sirena, they all appear identical to him, and therefore they share his good looks.
- The X-Files:
- Agent Fox Mulder is tall, well-built, has brown hair and sad green Puppy-Dog Eyes, tanned complexion, nose... Yes, he's got it all. Being a Deadpan Snarker doesn't hurt.
- Alex Krycek is a double agent and a dirty rat boy who charms and eventually betrays everyone must be fit and handsome to pull it all off. He has very dark eyes and black hair. Tall, dark, mysterious and very handsome.
- "Sweet Rosie Jones" by Buck Owens (1968) has the narrator lose the love of the title character to a "tall dark stranger." A year later Owens recorded a spinoff/sequel actually called "Tall Dark Stranger" that explored the trope even further.
Examples when the trope is invoked, parodied and/or subverted:
- Best known example (and, maybe, the Ur-Example) would be a Roma fortune teller prophesying that her female customer will meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger.
- Ranma ½: Tatewaki Kuno has dark hair (black in the manga and dark brown in the anime), is one of the tallest characters in the cast and is very Hunky in appearance. In the watermelon chapter and its anime adaptation, Kuno even introduces himself as "Strikingly handsome, dark and tall." Despite Kuno's own thoughts, he's actually the Lord Error-Prone rival to the led.
- During the course of The Heart Trilogy, Smaug gains a human form that is physiqued like a warrior, about seven feet tall, and dark-haired. His face would be considered handsome if he didn't have a condescending personality, the fiery golden eyes, and around his mouth cruel lines that make it look like he has spent his entire life sneering at people unworthy of him.
- In Disney's Aladdin, when Jasmine distracts Jafar by pretending to be mind-controlled into loving him, she describes Jafar as "tall, dark...well dressed..." Apparently, calling Jafar handsome would just be too suspicious.
- From Dusk Till Dawn: While at 5'11" George Clooney might not be quite as tall as others in the trope, Seth Gecko is handsome and mysterious, with a Dark and Troubled Past. Word of God on the DVD commentary points out that Robert Rodriguez, the film's director, deliberately shot Clooney from underneath, to make him look heroic. This is a subversion in that he's not a romantic lead. The head vampire wants to either eat or enslave him, and Kate makes an overture that is quickly shot down.
- In the Aunt Dimity series, Bill Willis was introduced with a beard, a paunch and thick horn-rimmed glasses when Lori first met him. He later lost all three, and Lori subsequently describes him as being "quite literally, tall, dark and handsome."
- Played with in Dragon Bones. Alizon, the king's half-brother is described as very handsome, tall and slender like a wolf, and, occasionally, dark-haired. He dyes his hair, which is apparently already going grey, and seems fond of trying out new colors.
- In Victoria Hanley's Light of the Oracle, the love interest of the main character Kiran fits the tall and dark like an animal until he gets a makeover, becoming so handsome that he goes from being snubbed by the Rich Bitch Clea to being pursued by him.
- The Professionals. Thus spoke Bodie: "I believe in me because I was born tall, dark and beautiful... and engagingly modest of course." He's tall, has dark hair and a troubled past as a mercenary in Africa.
Clark: Davis must have done something to her. Chloe would never lie to me if she weren't trapped.
- Instead of using their names, Lois describes Clark at least once as "tall, dark, and bumbling" and on another occasion as "tall, dark, and single" and Davis/Doomsday as "tall, dark, and scary".
Oliver: Either that or she just can't resist tall, dark and Doomsday.
- Garfield: Jon Arbuckle once asked his cat if he was this. Garfield responded: "Maybe if you stand on a chair, turn off the lights, and squint." A variation was "stand on a chair, turn off the lights, and lie".
- Prince Devitt was one of the most popular foreign wrestlers in Japan but despite being the definition of tall, dark, and handsome he was put under a mask and the second Pegasus Kid. When he unmasked, it wasn't too long before he joined the evil Control Terrorism Unit in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. However, in some other promotions, he was allowed to both use his real Irish identity and remain a beloved crowd favorite, but New Japan was the biggest promotion during his stay there he ended up founding so most people know evil Devitt. He ended up leaving the CTU stable and becoming part of a face tag team for a few years, so NJPW fans know the babyface also, but then he turned heel again and formed the Bullet Club at the end of his tenure. Then he went to WWE NXT and became the Good Is Not Nice / Dark Is Not Evil babyface demon king Finn Bálor.
- During the music video of Plants vs. Zombies:
"Sunflower" "I know your type: tall, dark and dead"
- CollegeHumor, "Meet Cute with a Ghost": Jess's character meets a really cute ghost during a seance. She originally wanted to contact her dead grandfather, but the ghost turns out to be "tall, muscular, with dark hair" and a doctor to boot. Jackpot!
- Parodied in SpongeBob SquarePants, where Pearl, in "The Chaperone", refers to her ex-boyfriend as "long, tan and handsome". Yes, he does turn out to be a complete dork. Taken further by Spongebob himself, whose attempt at artificially imitating those three characteristics with stilts, a toaster and braces makes him the star of the prom Pearl invited him to.