Actors Who Got Tattoos for Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tattoos are permanent, so you’d better be sure about your decision if you decide to get one. If you’re an actor getting one to go along with a character you’re playing, that’s probably okay, but not all actors have good judgment in this regard—especially when it comes to which tattoos they choose to get! So which are the good tattoos, which are the bad ones, and which are the ugly? We’ll help you find out with this list of actors who got tattoos for movies!…

David Duchovny’s X-Files Tattoo

Some actors get inked to match their on-screen characters. David Duchovny got a tattoo of an alien ship—the very same design seen in his hit series The X-Files —on his shoulder when he was filming for its pilot. In retrospect, it was probably a good move: not only did Duchovny’s intense portrayal help make The X-Files one of Fox’s most beloved shows of all time, but that famous vessel later became part of Mulder’s iconic look.

Sandra Bullock in Our Brand Is Crisis

Perhaps it was a sign of desperation. Perhaps she’s not a good poker player. Perhaps she just lost a bet. Whatever her reason was for getting inked up to play a tattoo artist in Our Brand Is Crisis (which also earned her an Oscar nomination), we’re hoping Sandra Bullock kept it on her person—and never actually got it permanently etched into her skin. The strange thing about Bullock’s ink is that it was not even consistent with her character in Our Brand, who sports lots of black tattoos—and none on just one arm (or foot) as seen on Bullock.

Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger

(The good) Depp got a giant white-and-black tomcat tattooed on his right arm to play Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in 2013’s Black Mass. Based on how it looks in most movie stills, we’d say that was a pretty wise decision by both Depp and his tattoo artist. It fits Depp’s tough guy persona perfectly. And frankly, who wouldn’t want to have a new family member named ‘Whitey’? It’s kind of an awesome name for cat…or man…or whatever you are.

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X

Denzel Washington’s portrayal of iconic civil rights leader Malcolm X as a young man was memorable—and so were his tats. During filming, both arms were fully inked with an image of Malcolm’s face superimposed on a cross. The only thing I knew about Malcolm X at that time was that he had been killed while giving a speech, Denzel said in his memoir A Beautiful Mind. I didn’t know anything about him—his dreams or his ideas. After filming ended and he took off his prosthetics, Denzel kept one real tattoo to remind him of what inspired him to play such an important historical figure: A simple black star on his right forearm.

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

The tattoo that started it all. After winning an Oscar in 2003 for Best Supporting Actor (and appearing as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock from 2006 to 2013), Baldwin returned to acting by playing a ruthless real estate salesman in James Foley’s film adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. With over 50 tattoos on his body, including one on his neck that reads Cunt, Baldwin’s role certainly isn’t his most stunning performance. But he did get a kick out of receiving a special request from director Foley: It involved getting a tattoo while filming.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

This was one of those time to get a tattoo moments. After all, Gyllenhaal is in a dark movie about a guy who videotapes crime scenes while running around with his blue-collar buddies at night. To really sell it, Gyllenhaal needed a series of ink. For example, he has creepy wings on his chest (wink wink), two dots over each eyebrow that look like eyes in poor lighting (spooky), stranger danger written down one arm (creepy) and an unnerving smile on his stomach (super scary). You might have noticed that Jake got paid $150K for all those tats—and now he’s set for life! Thanks Nightcrawler!

Keanu Reeves in Street Kings

Thanks to one of Hollywood’s most successful tattoo artists — Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club in Los Angeles — Reeves can add three more tattoos to his collection. If we had to pick, our favorite is the Death & Taxes poster on his left arm that was made famous by skateboarder Paul Rodriguez. Reeves first got a temporary tattoo while filming John Wick , which led to him getting his Taxed Enough Already tattoo on his right forearm. As he explained , Well, I just thought it was a cool word as far as outlawing taxation without representation. A few months later he decided he wanted another tattoo based off an image of a pinup model with her hair blowing in front of her face.