There’s no denying that with passage of time, mustaches have taken a beating – in life and on film. Once the mark of a man’s man – an embodiment of rebellion and overwhelming testosterone – changing fashion soon meant that even the most glorious mustaches were played for a laugh, not a silent nod of awed reverence.
But as ‘Movember’ once again commences – the month in which men let upper lips grow freely to raise awareness for men’s health and well-being – we can tolerate the prejudice no longer. As fans of film, we know that deep down, every man should spend this month bubbling with pride, not mutual embarrassment.
Think you don’t have what it takes to join the unshaven masses? Our list of 10 Movie Mustaches For Movember Motivation may just have you sporting one all year ’round.
Nothing captured the rebellious lifestyle and nature of the fictional rock group Spinal Tap – the stars of Christopher Guest’s iconic mockumentary – better than Harry Shearer’s handlebar mustache.
Although we would warn that the bangs are still not advisable for the modern man, there is no way of overlooking the raw masculine energy of that ‘stache.
While Shearer’s character ‘Derek Smalls’ was also famous for his… manufactured manhood, any man bearing this wild a mustache is not only embodying the rock and roll spirit, but a confidence that a sharp suit can’t even approach.
Some might think that a ‘stache this unkempt is just ‘messy’ – but they just don’t get it, man, and they never will.
The film may be beloved by a generation, but ask around, and you’re likely to find at least a few people who still don’t realize that it was Dustin Hoffman underneath the sizable wig and mustache of Hook‘s titular villain (the false nature of his curls might lead some to assume that the mustache is also fake, but we prefer to leave some dreams unsullied).
There were many messages to take away from Robin William’s turn as Peter Pan – make time for your family, never grow up, and that we will never, ever understand Mermaids – but one of the most important was that for all his bark, Captain Hook’s bite was found wanting.
The hat, the wig, the platform shoes – it was all about image. But the key ingredient was that pair of hairy hooks, waxed to perfection. If you have your sights set on a CEO position, or merely a supervisor, take the hint: nothing is more intimidating than a man with this much time to spend on his mustache.
It’s a sad truth that for all its good intentions, Movember leads to countless chuckles and hurled insults from those who are not yet wise in the ways of the ‘stache. Silly, laughable, or just plain ‘uncool’ these mustaches remain, they’ll say. The only retort? “So…Lando Calrissian wasn’t cool?”
On the off chance that such a realization leaves your would-be attacker conscious, they’ll be forced to accept that Calrissian’s mustache – small, thin, and uneven – was still the essence of cool. While the mustache was technically the same one sported by Billy Dee Williams for much of his life, simply imagining Lando without the facial hair makes it clear that it was a key component.
A bare-lipped Lando would still be a well-connected, skilled smuggler-turned-entrepreneur. But slap the mustache on him, and suddenly his cape doesn’t seem so silly either.
If only it were possible to distill the entire rebellious spirit of the 1960s, along with the freedom and devil-may-care attitude of the American Southwest into a single mustache. Well, it turns out it is possible, and Dennis Hopper managed it in Easy Rider.
The hair certainly helped Hopper embody the ‘free love’ philosophy, along with the early signs of the biker counterculture, but that mustache carries the brunt of the load. Since Hopper was also directing the film, it stands to reason that the proud ‘stache was entrusted with not only conveying the character of ‘Billy’ but also imbuing Hopper with the authority needed to helm the project.
Given that Hopper left the world of eccentric geniuses in 2010, we can think of no better tribute than to help his legacy live on atop our upper lips.
Daniel Day-Lewis deserves credit for the mustache shown off in There Will Be Blood – and for growing everything but a mustache in Lincoln – but there is no facial hair in the actor’s repertoire that remains as cemented in our memory as that of ‘Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting.’
As the central antagonist of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, the bushy, finely curled mustache left us every bit as conflicted as Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Vallon.’ Cutting’s love of butchery (of both animals and men) made him a man to be feared, but that facial hair projects so much self-control and dedication, we couldn’t help but admire him.
Very few people would have what it takes to groom a young man as second-in-command after killing his father, but with a mustache that proud, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.
In any list of ‘buddy cop’ legends produced, Detective Roger Murtaugh is a no-brainer. The epitome of a family man, Murtaugh wasn’t in the mood for hunting down mass conspiracies or putting his own life on the line in a fit of adrenaline – he was, after all, “too old for this s***.”
And nothing got the point across like that gloriously thick mustache upon his upper lip. That right there is a mustache only a true husband and father could wear with pride, communicating that while he might be capable of bringing drug smugglers and international crime syndicates to justice, he’s also got to worry about his youngest daughter’s dance practice.
Danny Glover has sported a proud ‘stache in many roles, but Murtaugh taught us early on what a ‘movie dad mustache’ truly meant… and to always check behind the toilet.
Some kids dream of being a cowboy, others astronauts. But a select few know that true wonder lies in growing up to be the doorman of a mystical wizard in a faraway land.
That might sound like an odd claim, but the authority that Frank Morgan brought to the role in The Wizard of Oz is undeniable. With those clothes, those eyebrows, and that hairstyle, Morgan’s doorman should have been a laughable fool. But when that mustache popped through the gates of the Emerald City, and into our hearts, we all knew Dorothy and her gang were in trouble.
The mustache was so prominent, most failed to realize Morgan also played The Wizard of Oz – that’s how powerful the facial hair was. Take it away, and all you have is a blubbering con man with delusions of grandeur.
Few actors have made a career out of playing convincing badasses like Kurt Russell: with starring roles as ‘men of action’ in Escape From New York, Stargate, The Thing and yes, Captain Ron, Russell’s roles have become more iconic than the actor himself.
So saying that a mustache helped take him to the next level is quite a claim. But portraying the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Russell’s western ‘stache conveyed everything he needed to. He was as intimidating as ever, but instead of simply threatening, the mustache made Earp seem goodhearted, dedicated, resolute, and most importantly, gentlemanly.
The film featured a wide variety of respectable mustaches, ranging from Val Kilmer to Bill Paxton, so Tombstone should simply be considered required viewing for Movember participants.
The ’80s brought with it a host of instant action movie classics, with Michael Biehn appearing in more than a few. It’s fitting, then, that Biehn’s role as ‘Lt. Hiram Coffey’ in The Abyss includes a mustache that is a better representation of the 1980s than neon spandex.
In both Aliens and The Terminator, Biehn played the plucky young soldier forced to shoulder greatness to perfection. We can only assume that director James Cameron arrived at the conclusion that Biehn had all it took to play the antagonist of his next film, The Abyss. But he was missing something…
That something was as simple as a fuzzy upper lip, but enough to convince fans that Lt. Coffey’s authority was beyond question, and even Ed Harris wasn’t enough to stop him. There’s no question that if Biehn possessed that glorious soup-strainer on LV-426, the Xenomorphs would have named him their king.
Any fan of Hollywood westerns knows that mustaches can’t be discussed without paying respects to veteran actor Sam Elliott. The actor’s lanky gate, Southern drawl and unrivaled whiskers made him a no-brainer when casting cowboys, but even so, his mustache has exhibited admirable flexibility.
Ranging from classic (Tombstone) to downright confusing (Hulk), Elliott’s mustache has shown range that many modern leading men would envy. But when Elliott paired with the Coen Brothers for The Big Lebowski, his mustache joined many in the cast by delivering a performance for the ages.
Grown out to the point of inconvenience, that sterling silver lip-grizzly exuded so much wisdom that audiences had no choice but to accept his fourth-wall-breaking narration, and near omnipotence.
We feel wiser just looking at it.
One day, Thomas William Selleck woke up, and thought to himself: “I wonder what I’d look like with a mustache.” And just like that, history was made. Ask any grown man who lived through the 1980s with a mustache, and they’re likely to credit Selleck’s run on Magnum, P.I. as their motivation.
But as Selleck moved from television to the big screen, his mustache came with him, leaving an indelible mark on nearly every role that followed. Three Men and a Baby, Quigley Down Under and Mr. Baseball were just a few films in which Selleck’s duster achieved co-star status, proving that the mustache had nothing to do with the character, but the actor himself.
As the essence of cool (with or without the Ferrari and Hawaiian shirt) Selleck’s lipholstery defied changing fashions, sporting it to this day. Any man sporting a similar ‘stache should walk tall, since even Spielberg knew the world would’ve embraced a mustachio-ed Indiana Jones in a heartbeat.
That’s just 10 glorious lip-kittens immortalized on film, but it should prove more than enough to let even the patchiest mustache be grown in without hesitation.
So the next time you’re forced to endure November teasing, or shave your lip clean in shame, just remember: mustaches were cool enough for Billy Dee Williams, Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt and even George Clooney to sport – even if their results were drastically varied. And that, brethren, is some solid company.
What movie mustaches are most hallowed in your mind? Feel we’ve overlooked a few key contenders (there are too many to name)? Be sure to mention your own favorites in the comments, and we wish all movie fans a Merry Movember.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.