Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is a Terrible Archer

A few days back on Wired’s GeekDad, they ran an exhaustive post detailing how Jeremy Renner (as Clint Barton) works his bowstring, compared to that of an Olympic archer. The result proves once again that things in movies aren’t real, not even Marvel’s The Avengers.

They took a look at Brady Ellison, the top-ranked archer in the world. He looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in this shot, and is wearing a tiny vest. He probably never worked at the circus either.

Note the form. He’s basically kissing the bowstring. Now check out the lackluster form Barton’s putting up.

I’ve flopped Brady’s photo so we can compare it to Renner’s, Renner being left-handed (which may be the source of his problem, but I’ll get to that). Notice that Hawkeye has his elbow oriented at a 45-degree angle, while Ellison’s is vertical. What this means is Hawkeye has a nice big muscle protruding out into the path of the string, hence the second arm guard.

Now compare the grip; Hawkeye is gripping the bow mostly from the side; his fingers wrapped solidly around the handle, with his wrist off to the side in an attempt to get it out of the way, hence the first arm guard. By contrast, Brady’s hand is holding the bow very lightly, just a couple of fingertips resting on it. The bow is pressed against the base of his thumb, his palm is at a 45-degree angle, and his wrist bones point directly into the center of the bow. This makes for a lot less bow movement and a much more accurate shot.

It’s the sideways gun hold of the archery set. Will Jeremy Renner be the new Chow Yun Fat, unintentionally teaching an entire generation of thugs the wrong way of holding their firearms?

The writer goes on at great length, pointing out many other specifics, and it’s a fun read.

As a result, I’ve decided to cancel my series of articles comparing the Hulk to a real person, Captain America to the best real shield thrower in the world, and Scarlet Johansson to real ugly humans.

Interesting side note. If you read the reviews of the Academy Award winning Hurt Locker on Amazon, you’ll see a whole bunch of responses from ex-Military decrying how unrealistic Renner’s bomb disposal work was in the flick. Val Kilmer would never put up with this shit.


  1. I was always curious why Hawkeye was even in the Avengers movie, he seems kinda silly off the page

    if they’re gonna use a “normal” person i want the GODDAMN BATMAN!

  2. But…Hawkeye IS the best. So doesn’t that mean all those other guys are doing it wrong?

  3. I would wager that Brady Ellison has never had to take a shot while dodging bullets and lasers…. The comparison GeekDad is a great article on proper archery form, but it’s way out of context. I wouldn’t want to lightly grasp a bow when it’s my only “super” feature and some bad guy could run up and knock it out of my hand.

  4. Will Jeremy Renner be the new Chow Yun Fat, unintentionally teaching an entire general of thugs the wrong way of holding their firearm?

    We can only hope!

    • i really like the idea of street thugs using bows and arrows instead of guns

    • @thered

      One of my favorite comics moments ever was a Punisher comic in which a group of guys are shooting at Frank with their weapons sideways. He then sighs, takes all but one of them out, and explains to the survivor what sights are and how to use them.

  5. You’d think a tech rag like Wired would get that he uses special Starktech arrows that function a little differently than normal arrows and thus have to be held in a different manner for the superiority to be unleashed. Like iphones.

  6. Val Kilmer would just use a laser to fill a house with popcorn to eat while he reads the haters’ comments on Amazon.

  7. We had a archery unit in 10th grade gym class, but I didnt learn anything because i was too busy trying to launch my arrows onto the freeway that ran behind the school’s athletic fields. After reading the full GeekDad article I kinda want to take a archery class.

  8. Kelly (@annaluna) says:

    The author has a similarly exhaustive post about Brave, and how Pixar got everything absolutely perfect. It was a fascinating read, and educational enough that when I saw the Avengers trailer after reading it, I noticed some of the flaws right away.

  9. I read this and thought about pitching it as a post here then decided not to. As an archer, I just found it kind of annoying. Ellison’s bow is a state of the art weapon, Renner’s a is a prop; the bows look differently weights, almost certainly have different draw weights, etc. etc.

    I remember reading Kevin Smith’s intro to his Green Arrow run, he said he actually tried to go shoot a few rounds and found that it was really really hard, but that shouldn’t prevent him from telling good stories. So I doubt Renner’s form will detract from my enjoyment of the movie.

    That being said the double arm guards is really annoying, you have to be doing something screwy to need one, let alone two. Then again I’ve never fired an arrow while falling off a building, so I’ll let it slide too.

    • The two arm guards thing bugs me too. They could have just as easily made one larger one, or some sort of bracer thing.

    • Fair point about the prop bow. Though I’d imagine it’s not that cheap of a prop.

    • Now I call bullshit on you Ryan.

      ….Kevin Smith actually did research?

    • I reckon the second arm guard is for when he holds his crossbow overhand (with one arm above the bow string)

    • is he ambidextrous? that’s a superpower in and of itself.

    • ….Has anyone considered that the double arm guards might just be because they look cool? Realistically, two arm guards wouldn’t be any more motion-hindering than one, so why does Barton’s second one have to serve any purpose at all?

      Seriously. It’s a movie. All the action is fast-paced, and not too many people are going to be looking all that closely at Renner’s archery skills — Clint Barton is a deadly archer, just like Natasha Romanoff is a super spy, Bruce Banner is a giant green monster, Tony Stark is a superpowered metal man, and Steve Rogers is a genetically perfect human being who’s been frozen for decades.

      Who’s really looking at the realism here?

  10. I tried my hand at archery at summer camp as a kid. IT IS TOUGH…so much of it is process and technique.

    Anyone who has a background with the military, police or just experience with weapons in general tends to find actors in movies shooting from the hip and getting headshots at a half mile away to be laughable….but hey, that’s movies!

    • And that extends to other fields as well. After working at an amusement park, I just hate it in movies when someone flips a switch and ALL the rides in the amusement park not only turn on, but they all start running as well. Roller coasters running without operators are especially ridiculous. But, hey, I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying Zombieland. On a related note, if I refused to watch movies because of bad physics, I’d never be able to watch another movie again!

      @Josh – Loved the last two paragraph’s of the article.

  11. I wonder how someone who is an expert at using a bow IN COMBAT (you know, while moving and aiming at moving targets) holds a bow? Is it possible the technique has to be completely different? I would guess holding the bow with two fingers, essentially, would be fairly impractical in a combat setting. Maybe Renner isn’t that far off.

    How does Rambo hold his bow? Those films were documentaries, right?

    • If only we had access to the techniques of the horse archers of the Mongolian Steppe, who were purported masters, but their culture has long since faded away.

      Read books.

    • i’d suggest dusting off the old Delorean, traveling back a ways, and consulting some Mongolian archers on how they were able to be that accurate while riding a horse a full speed! =)

    • I would guess “run and gun” archery would be very impractical in a real situation. But if there’s a good technique to fire an arrow accurately, why would it be any different if you were aiming at a moving target, or have to move from position to position to line up a shot? Seems to me correct form would need to be second nature.

    • @Josh–you stole my comment!

      I did a quick google search and i noticed there is some revival “exhibition” of various mounted archery still going on in the world, but i’m sure its not like it was back when the Mongols were conquering the known world.

    • You know, my dissertation was on Mongolian Mounted Combat, so i can confirm, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mongolians do not use bows OR arrows during mounted combat. During mounted combat they actually threw the children from conquered nations at their enemies. This was, of course, very effective. i can also confirm that they wore no less than 25 arm guards at all times.

      And I do read books… whenever Stephanie Meyer releases one.

    • @stuclach: I loved her new book “New Moon: How Genghis Khan Conquered the Khwarezmia Empire”.

    • She’s quite the scholar.

    • @stuclach–i thought they threw vegetables at their enemies…thats why they don’t eat them (that and because you can’t grow them on the tundra plateaus that is Mongolia) I read that in national geographic so i know its true! =)

    • Damn you and your knowledge.

  12. I always thought bow n’ arrows were more of a stealth weapon. To use one in a setting where others have guns or repulsar blasts just seems highly impractical.

    Hollywood’s fondness of archers this year is very odd to me. It’s kind making a fad out of thin air. That said, I’m sure there will be archery classes in Time Out __ magazine’s “things to do this summer” list.

  13. I got a kick out of the update that compares Renner to the author’s then-11-year-old student instead of the Olympic archer. In addition to the piece about Pixar getting it right, there’s also a piece complimenting Jennifer Lawrence’s form in The Hunger Games. Comparing the builds of Brady Ellison, Lawrence and the young student to Renner, it seems to me he is trying to use his muscles to do the work. A common mistake in many disciplines.

    Obviously it’s not a big deal and shouldn’t be a mark against the quality of The Avengers movie. But it is interesting more archery lessons weren’t included in that $220 million budget. The Hunger Games got it right for half that price. Either way, I want to sign up for some archery lessons now.

    • I wonder if they took a tactic similar to in Cap (and Thor?), letting the actor work out how to use the weapon themselves in a way that felt right to them. This may have just been how Renner liked handling the bow in the midst of all this action. Probably better to have him hold it quickly and instinctively, even if it’s wrong, than to have him pausing to think about how he’s supposed to hold it in every shot.

    • That would make sense. You gotta get those shots in and I’m sure they were long days on set.

      Are there hammer and shield throwing experts out there to analyze Cap and Thor’s technique? 🙂

  14. Damn that Jeremy Renner for not getting with the archery program! I’ve had it in for him ever since Dahmer because he didn’t look exactly like the serial killer and now this! Nevermind that its just a movie, its inexcusable is what it is! Renner, you can forget about that fan club I was going to start up! And lose my number while you’re at it!

  15. There’s really no point in seeing the film now, is there?

  16. This is in perfect balance of being the best article ever to the stupidest article ever.

    It’s a movie for Christ sakes. There’s going to be no believably in any of this. I’m sure they gave Renner some training in regards of holding the damn bow and simple release techniques.

    The more troubling part of Hawkeye is how to make him at all believable in an movie where alien in hi-tech gear is shooting lasers at him.

  17. Not like this! NOT LIKE THIS!

  18. As a former archery instructor, it’s actually always bugged me how Hawkeye (and other archers) hold their bows, so I loved that article

  19. Hilarious article!

  20. Are they going to do a follow up about how inaccurate the movie process of turning a man into the Hulk is?

  21. so, hawkeye’s so good that he doesn’t need to hold his bow right and he STILL hits his target every time. sounds like he’s better than brady.

  22. And that’s why Ellison is just an Olympic archer instead of a super-hero. He has poor form compared to Hawkeye. Obviously Hawkeye knows what he’s doing, who are they to critique?

  23. i gained 100 nerd points after reading this.

  24. i know with me.. my elbow wont turn in and straighten up until i pull the string back.. .. it just wont turn… Maybe renner is the same way and his prop bow probably has no poundage. Imagine a hundred takes.. he would F his shoulder up permanently.

  25. Well, there’s no way i can enjoy that movie now. good work

  26. next we should discuss this month’s wonder woman cover and explain to everyone how fucked up she’s holding that sledge hammer and how the mechanics of it all would never work to properly pound out that sword. she would just hit the weaponsmith god holding the sword right in the face. we could compare her technique to john henry irons’.
    collect 200 nerd points at the door.

  27. As an optometrist, I was extremely disappointed when my treatise: “Samuel L. Jackson and the improper use of the eyepatch” was rejected from Wired magazine. Perhaps my next attempt “Scarlett Johansson and her thirty-eight specials — poor pistol placement” will be more successful.

  28. If anyone’s interested, in Japan they still have mounted archery as a sport/activity/martial art. It’s called yabusame, and you can find videos of it on YouTube.

  29. does anyone care to take a vote as to who is more accurate.

    bullseye or barton.

    seems like a good question since both have been hawkeye.

  30. Hahahahaha!!

    Nice observation guys:)

  31. Only Josh would post something like this. Man, I thought Star Wars really did happen in a Galaxy far far away…
    This just ruined everything for me 🙁

  32. Ok ONE ALL of hawkeye’s arrows were CG modified. I worked on the movie. I know. all he did was pull a string and ACTED like he was shooting. His character in the comics has one large armguard, so therefore he used two instead of one. Look it up before you say anything. Thank You.