Every now and then, a movie comes out that stays with us long after the credits have rolled. And great movies, as we can all attest to in our pop culture-obsessed world, can define a generation.
It may be the family whose ancestors originally immigrated from Italy that obsessively quotes The Godfather; it may be the fathers and sons who make a tradition of watching a James Bond marathon every Thanksgiving; it may be the hundreds of Lord of the Rings fans who get together at least once a year to watch and loudly commentate on the extended editions of the entire trilogy. Whatever it is, these movies have transcended their original form to become a part of their fans’ lives. That’s why, when given the chance, die-hard fans will jump at the chance to own a piece of the magic, no matter the cost.
From Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to Vito Corleone’s overcoat, fans and collectors have spent thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars to own their favorite film memorabilia. To some, it may seem excessive, but to true fans, it’s a chance to own a piece of history. With that said, here are the 15 Most Expensive Props In Movie History!
15. Harrison Ford’s pistol (Blade Runner) – $270,000
When Blade Runner came onto the silver screen in 1982, no one could have predicted its influence on the future of sci-fi. Initially a box office disappointment, Blade Runner has since become revered for its vision and scope, presenting a dystopian society where androids hide in the guise of human beings and a specialized police force seeks to hunt them down. Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is one such Blade Runner, who is tasked with hunting down Roy Batty and his host of other replicants. His pistol, of course, plays a key part in his pursuit of their “retirement.”
The original prop was constructed from a combination of parts from a Styr Mannlicher .222 Model SL and a Charter Arms Bulldog revolver. Different bolt heads and screw heads, as well as half a dozen LED lights, were added to give the pistol a more “futuristic” look, though the lights were apparently temperamental about actually working throughout production.
The original prop sold at auction in 2012 for $270,000. With Blade Runner 2049 coming out next year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Deckard’s pistol make an on-screen return!
14. General Lee Dodge Charger (The Dukes of Hazzard) – $450,000
“The General Lee” is a 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the Duke cousins Bo and Luke in the 1979 show The Dukes of Hazzard. The car is recognizable by its signature horn, which plays the first twelve notes of “Dixie,” and the Confederate flag on its roof, notable for the 2015 controversy it caused in the wake of the Charleston church shootings, which had TV Land pulling reruns of the show from its schedule.
The idea for the General Lee was developed from bootlegger Jerry Rushing’s car Traveller, named after Robert E. Lee’s horse. Traveller was also the name of the car in 1975’s Moonrunners, the movie precursor to the show.
The big draw for the car in the show was its long jumps and its police chases. Consequently, there were many, many General Lees used (and consequently destroyed) in the making of Dukes of Hazzard, but one, owned by John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, sold at auction in 2008 for $450,000. Seeing as the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie was critically panned, we don’t think we’ll be seeing the General Lee on screen again anytime soon.
13. T-800 Metal Model (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) – $488,750
The Terminator made its smash debut in 1984, and 1991 saw its return in the even bigger hit Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where the the T-800 model of the titular killing machine was once again played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The full-scale cyborg skeleton used to render him onscreen into the giant android sold at auction in 2007 for $488, 750 — the fact that the red eye lit up just like in the film probably didn’t hurt.
Stan Winston is responsible for the look of the Terminators, and won two Oscars for T2: one for visual effects, one for makeup. The evolving look and technology for the making of the Terminators was an ongoing process; in the first film, the Terminator was made from plastic with a metallic finish, but it chipped too easily during the action scenes. In the sequel, a chroming process was used to make a more durable skeleton, also adding a metallic luster that made it look more authentic. For the collector who bought it, it was worth every penny.
12. DeLorean car (Back to the Future) – $541,000
The 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 has become synonymous with time travel. The only car DeLorean ever manufactured, it burst onto the pop culture scene with the 1985 release of Back to the Future. Equipped with a flux capacitor built by inventor Doc Brown, in the film, it travels through time when it hits 88 miles per hour.
There were originally seven cars in total used in the making of the Back to the Future trilogy, and only three remain in existence. The one sold at auction in 2011 was mainly used in the third movie, with part of the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Soon, though, the DeLorean will be available for purchase for any die-hard Back to the Future fans with the means, as the car will be going back into production in early 2017. DeLorean — who’s only stayed in business by refurbishing old DMC-12s — are planning to make three hundred replicas of the original. The replicas will reportedly cost about $100,000 each; now we just need to invent the flux capacitor!
11. Dorothy’s ruby slippers (The Wizard of Oz) – $666,000
1939 gave us a slew of Hollywood classics: Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Wizard of Oz. Victor Fleming’s latter masterpiece also gave us one of the most famous props in movie history: Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Worn by Judy Garland, only four of the original pairs survive, with one pair permanently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, actually had Dorothy wearing silver shoes. The producers of the film decided to change the color to red, as it would show up better against the yellow brick road. In a film with a dazzling (and now iconic) change from black and white to color, every advantage of Technicolor had to be taken.
One pair of the ruby slippers was sold in 2000 for $666,000. In 2005, the pair at The Judy Garland Museum was stolen. Ten years later, in 2015, a reward for one million dollars was issued for anyone with information on the stolen slippers’ whereabouts.
10. Flying car (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) – $805,000
While Mary Poppins (1964) is more well known in the public eye, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) is another British musical that can conjure up childhood nostalgia, especially for those enchanted by its eponymous flying car. The film stars Dick Van Dyke as the inventor Caractacus Potts, and chronicles his adventures with his two children and Truly Scrumptious as they seek to sell his inventions and evade Baron Bomburst and his evil (and frankly, pretty terrifying) Child Catcher.
Six cars in total were created for the film, including an engineless version for the trailers, a car for the flying scenes, a car for the transformations, and a smaller version for driving scenes. After filming was completed, all six were fitted with engines and used to promote the film around the world. One car was a fully functioning road-ready car with genuine UK registration; this was the car that sold in 2011 for $805,000 to famed director Peter Jackson, who now uses it as a fundraising vehicle.
9. Audrey Hepburn’s dress (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) – $806,000
It’s one of the most famous opening scenes in Hollywood history: Holly Golightly — played by Audrey Hepburn in her most iconic role — emerges from a yellow taxi on 5th Avenue. She nibbles a pastry while looking in the Tiffany’s shop window, wearing “the most famous little black dress of all time.”
The dress was created by Hubert de Givenchy, a French designer (with clients such as Jackie Kennedy) and a close friend of Audrey Hepburn’s, for whom he designed nearly all of her personal and professional wardrobe. For Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Givenchy not only designed the black Italian satin sheath gown, but chose the accessories to accompany it: Holly’s pearls, cigarette holder, black hat, and black opera gloves.
8. Lotus submarine car (The Spy Who Loved Me) – $860,000
James Bond is synonymous with glamorous cars, and the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is no exception. The vehicle is a submarine specially built for the film with the bodyshell of a Lotus Esprit. Six Esprits in total were used during filming, modified for the water, with fins where the wheels would be. The vehicle was dubbed “Wet Nellie,” after the autogyro called “Little Nellie” in You Only Live Twice (1967).
After filming was completed, Wet Nellie was placed in storage in Long Island, New York. After ten years, its storage unit was auctioned off for less than one hundred dollars, the buyer initially unaware of the unit’s contents. From 1989 to 2013, he occasionally exhibited the vehicle, restoring its exterior. It was eventually sold at auction in London in 2013 to business magnate Elon Musk, who has plans to use Tesla Motors’ electric drive train to make the car-submarine functional.
7. Steve McQueen’s racing suit (Le Mans) – $984,000
Le Mans (1971) features a fictional account of the annual 24-hour auto race in Le Mans, France. Starring Steve McQueen, it was initially a box office flop, but over the years it garnered praise for its authenticity by using the actual Le Mans circuit, footage of the race captured by a participating car, and well-known drivers and actual Le Mans race cars. It has consequently gained a cult following, to the point where fans are willing to go to extraordinary measures to own a piece of its memorabilia.
McQueen’s racing suit was originally donated after the film’s release to the British newspaper The Observer as a prize for a Le Mans-themed trivia contest, which was won by twelve-year-old Thomas Davies. Davies sold the suit in 2011 for $155,000; three and a half months later, it was sold again, this time at the Icons of Hollywood auction in Beverly Hills, for $984,000, making it the most expensive piece of racing memorabilia ever sold.
6. Do-Re-Mi outfits (The Sound of Music) – $1.5 million
It’s probably the first image that comes to mind when you think of The Sound of Music (well, right after Julie Andrews spinning around in a field belting out “The Hills Are Alive”). The outfits Maria makes from old curtains for the seven Von Trapp children are recognized all over the world, as well as the song they sing during a montage of day trips in Salzburg while wearing them. “Do, a deer, a female deer…” There, now it will never leave your head, either.
The Sound of Music came out in 1965, another smash hit for Julie Andrews after her starring role in Mary Poppins the year before. The Sound of Music went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Gone with the Wind (ironically, another film well-known for its curtain costume), and it held that title for five years.
The costumes are, indeed, made from real curtain material; the designer, Dorothy Jeakins, won an Oscar nomination for her work on the film. Despite being made of essentially canvas, the Do-Re-Mi outfits sold for $1.5 million in 2013.
5. Cowardly Lion costume (The Wizard of Oz) – $3 million
Actor Bert Lahr’s most recognizable role was his turn as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Though he may not have had the most memorable songs in the musical – “If I Were King of the Forest” somehow isn’t quite as catchy as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” – he certainly had the most memorable get-up. The Cowardly Lion costume, made from real lion fur, sold in 2014 for $3 million after being found abandoned in an old MGM building. The costume was bought by James Comisar for his Museum of TV in Phoenix, Arizona, where it is still on display.
Lahr was chosen for the role for his comedic skills; his ad-libbed lines made his co-stars, especially Judy Garland, laugh during filming, causing director Victor Fleming to call for take after take. When the film was a success, Lahr was warned about the possibility that he’d be typecast. “Well, yeah,” he reportedly said, “but how many parts are there for lions?”
4. Maltese falcon statuette (The Maltese Falcon) – $4.1 million
The Maltese Falcon (1941), one of the true classics of film noir, was the directorial debut of John Huston, also known for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen, and stars Humphrey Bogart as world-weary private detective Sam Spade in search of the titular statuette. The statuette sold in 2013 for $4.1 million to Las Vegas hotel and casino billionaire Steve Wynne.
Some have contended as to whether the statuette is the real prop used in the film, as the actors purportedly used plaster stand-ins as opposed to the 45 lb. lead statuette. However, the prop in question has been confirmed as having appeared in the film; its bent tail feather, which can be seen at the end when Spade carries it out of his apartment, occurred during filming when actress Lee Patrick dropped it while handing it to Bogart.
3. Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger/Thunderball) – $4.4 million
One of two cars that were used in the making of Goldfinger (1964), James Bond’s 1965 Aston Martin DB5 convertible sold for $4.4 million in 2010. The car sold was known as the “Road Car”; during filming, it was used for regular driving, and was only outfitted with Bond’s signature gadgets after filming was complete. Interestingly, Goldfinger was the film where gadgets became a key part of the Bond franchise.
The Road Car went on to star in Thunderball (1965) the following year. It was then sold in 1969 to radio executive Jerry Lee for $12,000. It was mainly kept in storage until its most recent sale in London, where it was bought by Ohio collector Harry Yeaggy.
The other Aston Martin, known as the “Effects Car,” was given add-ons such as rotating plates and guns that appeared through the tail lights. It was stolen in 1997 from an airport hangar in Boca Raton, and has yet to be recovered.
2. Audrey Hepburn’s ascot dress (My Fair Lady) – $4.5 million
Audrey Hepburn’s Edwardian black and white lace dress, seen above, was designed by Cecil Beaton, who snagged the Academy Awards for costume design and art direction for his efforts. My Fair Lady (1964) also won Best Picture, Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Score.
The costume was worn during the musical number “Ascot Gavotte,” which features Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) out in high society for the first time, where she pokes fun at the activities (or lack thereof) of the English upper class.
The dress (and matching hat) sold in 2011 for $4.5 million as part of a collection from late actress Debbie Reynolds, who collected over 3,500 costumes from films throughout Hollywood history — including Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, and Casablanca — in the hopes of one day creating a Hollywood museum. The ascot dress remains the most expensive item ever sold by California auction house Profiles in History. Amazingly, it wasn’t even the most expensive dress to be auctioned off from Reynolds’ collection!
1. Marilyn Monroe’s dress (The Seven Year Itch) – $4.6 million
Marilyn Monroe’s white ivory cocktail dress is one of the most famous dresses in history, for the moment that became one of the twentieth century’s most iconic images.In The Seven Year Itch (1955), Monroe’s character steps onto a grate in the sidewalk, making her dress fly up to expose her legs. The moment has been parodied in everything from Shrek 2 to Blades of Glory, and it helped etch Monroe permanently into Hollywood history.
The scene originally was to be shot outside the Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatre at 1:00 am, but the cameras and Monroe caught the attention of hundreds of fans, ruining the shot. Director Billy Wilder had to reshoot the scene on a set at 20th Century Fox.
Like Audrey Hepburn’s ascot dress, Monroe’s dress sold as part of the late Debbie Reynolds’ Hollywood collection. It sold for $4.6 million, making it the most expensive movie costume, or prop of any kind, in history.
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