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Tall, Dark, and Handsome

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Clark Gable himself. Accept no substitutes.

"You will have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood."
Merian C. Cooper invoking Exact Words to Fay Wray, prior to working on King Kong (1933)

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. A tall and handsome black man can be described as such too, though anyone with the height and dark hair can pull it off. Most of the Tall, Dark and Handsome men display 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.


See Aloof Dark-Haired Girl for the Distaff Counterpart, and Tall, Dark, and Snarky when combined with Deadpan Snarker or Gentleman Snarker.

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Examples when the trope is played straight:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Andrew from Little Witch Academia has dark brown hair, stands a full head taller than Akko, and is often stated to be quite handsome.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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".
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Lackadaisy: Mordecai Heller is drawn as a tall, anthropomorphic tuxedo cat. Asa refers to Mordecai as "swarthy" due to his black fur. The way several women react to Mordecai suggests that he's considered attractive in-universe. His human form definitely qualifies as dark and handsome.

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.

    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
Tolkien's Legendarium

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • The director of the original King Kong (1933) truthfully promised Fay Wray that she would be working with the "tallest, darkest" leading man in the world. Although a bit of a stretch: the actual Kong ligature used for most scenes was only about sixteen inches tall.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Smallville:
    • 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".
    Clark: Davis must have done something to her. Chloe would never lie to me if she weren't trapped.
    Oliver: Either that or she just can't resist tall, dark and Doomsday.
    • When Lois watches a video from her Missing Mom (played by a former Lois Lane), she is told that she will meet someone special, and her mother guesses he will be tall, dark, and handsome.

  • When they first met, Dean Martin told Jerry Lewis that people would call him "the Boy with the Tall, Dark, and Handsome Voice."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • 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".

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • During the music video of Plants vs. Zombies:
    "Sunflower" "I know your type: tall, dark and dead"

    Web Videos 
  • 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!

    Western Animation 
  • 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.


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