[Update: Captain America has been demoted from #2 to #7 due to popular reprimand. Keep the comments coming – We do listen!]
If you need a last-minute idea for your Halloween costume this year, don’t forget to look to the silver screen. There have been plenty of iconic characters in movies, but rarely do their outfits stand the test of time and find their way into costume shops, come October.
Today we’ve selected twelve of our favorite movie-inspired costumes – and what do you know, most of them are comic book characters!
While much of the list may seem obvious, it’s worth pointing out those costumes that will never be forgotten. Wardrobe designers put in months of hard work designing and creating outfits that accentuate a fictional character’s nuances and personality. It’s more than cloth and buttons.
Take your pick from the 12 costumes below and get to your nearest Halloween store or start up that sewing machine and make it yourself!
12. Iron Man
Iron Man’s Mark armor is his most recognizable feature and it is still fresh in the mind of the masses. The powered exoskeleton has also gone through a number of alterations over the years, making it more difficult to truly distinguish a single suit.
While some of the changes to Iron Man’s armor have been made by Tony Stark as needed, many changes in the design have been made with the interest of fans in mind.
The red and gold colors are what truly set Iron Man’s armor apart from the rest of the pack. Although the advanced weaponry gives it a certain level of badassness, the signature colors of the Mark suit have been the one mainstay throughout the years.
Those weapons sure do kick ass, though. From a miniature hacksaw to the awesome laser beams in Iron Man 2, the Mark armor has gone through some fantastic upgrades. In fact, those lasers made it on my list of 25 awesome movie weapons. The Mark armor in Jon Favreau’s films are inspired work, including my personal favorite – the anti-tank missiles.
Iron Man’s armor is as recognizable as any for its flashy substance and unprecedented look. As Tony Stark constantly searches for ways to improve the suit, it will be interesting to see how it evolves in The Avengers.
Catwoman has gotten a bum rap over the years due to some misguided interpretations. Although I enjoy Michelle Pfeiffer’s attempt in Batman Returns, it isn’t a universally-loved performance. As bad as the Halle Berry Catwoman movie was, at least they got her costume right. Then again, how hard is it to make a tight, leather suit.
Interestingly, Catwoman’s first appearance was without a costume. She only sported a mask in her second appearance. Like most costumes of recurring fictional characters, Catwoman’s has changed since her inception in early comics. But the leather bodysuit has stuck around for quite a while, be it purple or black.
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns
With no modifications needed to take down enemies, Catwoman simply utilizes her razor sharp nails to do minimal damage. She is more of a seductress thief than a weaponized killing machine.
If Catwoman finds her way into Batman 3, it will be interesting to see Christopher Nolan’s take on the outfit. As simple as the suit may sound, there is always room for improvement in order to make her more menacing. Or is it the simplicity that makes it work?
10. James Bond
James Bond is the best dressed character in movie history. While his outfit may get straight to the point, it deserves to be on this list. Bond has always been fashionable based on the time period each movie takes place in.
While Sean Connery looked fine in a suit, it wasn’t until George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that it really felt like James Bond was a showcase for the era’s best attire. A fromer model-turned-actor, Lazenby took Bond into a realm where the sleekness of his suit was just as important as the size of his gun.
Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s representations of Bond were among the most fashionable, though. No matter what he went through (literally), Brosnan’s suits always stayed fresh and slick throughout the entirety of the film. It was a pretty amazing sight.
As Daniel Craig took over the reigns of James Bond, the suits became less predictable. He simply dressed the part of a suave agent. Always dressed to kill, the man with a license to kill has the enemies and the ladies both under pressure.
9. The Joker
The Joker has been one of the most consistently-dressed characters in comics. The portrayals of Joker onscreen have been tremendously different with each actor, but the purple and green customized suit has looked relatively similar throughout.
If anything has changed, it is the number of hidden weapons in The Joker’s suit. Flower lapels that shoot acid are my personal favorite of the gag weapons, but the more recent costume lacked any kind of violent touch-ups.
- Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight
Sometimes the performance makes the costume iconic. Even without Heath Ledger’s legendary and Oscar-winning turn as Joker, millions of fans would still be sporting the purple suit from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. While the clown makeup is Joker’s iconic look, his suit is an extension of his style.
The white battle armor of the Stormtrooper is among the most recognizable costumes in movie history. Even people with little to no knowledge of Star Wars (they exist?) would find the outfit familiar.
While the armor is used for battle, there are no labels of rank on the exterior of the outfit. Instead, the clean, white exterior of the uniform acknowledges the clone aspect of the Stormtroopers.
There is one major problem with the armor. While it looks nice – especially in a formation of Stormtroopers – it doesn’t protect them very well. Although the awful aim of Stormtroopers is a flaw of the clones inside them, one shot to the chest seems to disable a Stormtrooper. It may have been a financial decision by the Empire to cut down on costs after a hefty price tag on cloning.
One design that has served the Stormtroopers well is the helmet. While it is just as recognizable on its own, it also has a practical use. For instance, when a Stormtrooper bumped his head on a door frame in Star Wars, he went on unharmed.
7. Captain America
[Update: Do to popular reprimand, Captain America has been demoted a few spots from #2 to #7. The movie may still be filming, but our first looks at the costume prove it belongs.]
Like Batman, Captain America lacks superpowers. But where he fails in special abilities, he makes up for in his perfect strength and his legendary costume.
Wikipedia does a stand-up job of explaining the technical aspects of the costume:
Captain America’s uniform is made of a fire-retardant material, and he wears a lightweight, bulletproof “duralumin” scale armor beneath his uniform for added protection, Originally, Rogers’ mask was a separate piece of material, but an early engagement had it dislodged, thus almost exposing his identity. To prevent a recurrence of the situation, Rogers modified the mask with connecting material to his uniform, an added benefit of which was extending his armor to cover his previously exposed neck.
Captain America’s bulletproof suit is not only ahead of its time, but also a flashy piece of fabric. Discussions raged on the potential look of Captain America’s outfit in the upcoming Captain America movie. Within minutes of Chris Evans’ announcement as the next Steve Rogers, fans were on Photoshop putting his face in various versions of the costume.
Besides its practical nature, the key to Captain America’s costume is the iconic shield. While costumes vary between interpretations and evolve over time, this costume prop has stayed constant ever since it went from triangular shape to circular. The red, white and blue shield is more weapon than cover. It is made of indestructible adamantium and can be thrown with a boomerang return thanks to a vibranum element.
Depending on how you look at Captain America’s costume, it is either extremely cool or tremendously frustrating. I personally love it, but my background is not in the comics on which it is based. Expect to see this costume everywhere starting next year, when Captain America: The First Avenger hits theaters.
If there is one costume that always gets a laugh in the real world, it is the Ghostbusters uniform. Officially named the CWU-27p Flight Suit, the outfits bring beige back into the mainstream.
They were actually designed to resemble the look of exterminators. Considering that is what the Ghostbusters do, it is a fitting inspiration. The general appearance of the Flight Suits is funny in the context of the film, but it has become a common presence in fanboy reunions like Comic-Con.
- Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters
The No-Ghost logo of the Ghostbusters sits on the shoulder and regular accessories like work gloves and boots add to the overall aesthetic of the Flight Suit. But the Proton Pack is what makes it iconic.
The Ghostbusters would be nothing without their Proton Packs. Without it, they really do just look like janitors. It’s the pack that sets these three scientists apart from the rest of the world’s superheroes.
Although two other DC Comics characters surpass Spider-Man on this list, his costume is iconic nonetheless. The red and blue body suit is more than just a cover for Peter Parker’s true identity.
When he wears the suit, Parker truly transforms into Spider-Man, even if his powers exist without it. You could argue the suit is more iconic because it makes Spider-Man powerful in a psychological sense. But in reality, the world knows Spider-Man as the teen in the skin-tight costume with a spider logo.
It is fascinating that the costume’s main purpose is to engage Peter Parker’s inner hero. This is further proven when Parker is possessed in Spider-Man 3 and his entire personality changes to match the black suit that has transformed him.
The suit has no physical powers and hardly protects Parker from enemy fire, but without it he is just a frustrated boy with superpowers. Then again, if Peter Parker would just get over his problems, the suit wouldn’t matter :-).
4. Indiana Jones
Dr. Jones may be a part-time teacher, but Indiana Jones is a bona fide adventurer. In many of the cases on this list, the clothes truly make the man. Indiana Jones is yet another example. The hat and bullwhip have become cultural staples, instantly linked to Indiana Jones.
The Indiana Jones outfit is made of everyday items, not customized materials like a superhero. Certain parts make Indy truly unique – the bullwhip, the jacket, the satchel and the fedora. Director Steven Spielberg knew the power of Indy’s fedora when he constantly referenced it in word and image. Just take the introduction in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for example, when the shot opens on Indy’s hat and continues to its shadow.
The fedora and whip may be the stars of Indy’s outfit, but the color scheme should not go unmentioned. How many legendary heroes actually go with brown for their main color? You sure won’t see many superheroes sporting brown capes. It makes sense, considering Indiana Jones’ work in the field with tombs and caves.
Indiana Jones has one of the most recognizable costumes in entertainment. The accessories and the overall look of his outfit make him a superhero with no powers at all. Dr. Jones’ teaching persona gives off a Clark Kent vibe against his adventurous side that sports a fedora and bullwhip.
3. Darth Vader
While you may see more Stormtroopers at Comic-Con than Darth Vaders, there are plenty of Vaders roaming the streets of San Diego each summer. Similar to Spider-Man’s costume, Darth Vader’s all-black attire is a part of him. Although, this time it is more literal – Anakin Skywalker becomes a cyborg in a robotic suit to survive after his devastating battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Although the famed costume may have limited Vader’s ability to move freely, it gave him the basic functions necessary to carry out his day to day activities. Ultimately, the suit is an external expression of Vader’s inner demons.
- Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in Spaceballs
The black colors counter against the bright whites of The Death Star’s interiors, forcing Vader to stand out even more. There is also the obvious reference to evil. In contrast to the purity of white colors (see: Luke Skywalker), black stands for something sinister.
Countless films have turned the costume into a parody, most efficiently in Spaceballs, where Rick Moranis played Dark Helmet. It is simply a testament to the staying power of Darth Vader’s outfit and Emperor Palpatine’s great taste in apprentice wardrobe.
The beauty of the Batsuit is not in the design, but its functionality and psychological resonance. It is more than an amalgamation of materials designed to protect a human being. The Batsuit is designed specifically to strike fear into Batman’s enemies and conceal Bruce Wayne’s identity.
Of course, the early depictions of Batman’s suit were less intimidating than contemporary visions, but they still function on a level that represents the era in which they function. Although the suit has gone through a number of revisions, it has remained iconic and faithful to its initial purpose.
For the sake of focus, let’s simply stick to the modern interpretations of the Batsuit. Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies have added an extra level of toughness to the suit by implementing state-of-the-art and creative solutions to make it feasible in the real world. The memory cloth wings and bulletproof armor are a true step up from original Batman comics.
The Batsuit has always been special for its ability to contain a number of weapons. Without a gun, Batman needs plenty of places for his gadgets. Without the utility belt, the Batsuit is kind of an awkward thing to look at. The Batman logo on the chest plate is the other aspect that creates the legendary look, although it has changed in appearance frequently.
The Batsuit is a fully-functional set of armor that not only protects Bruce Wayne’s identity, but his safety as well. It is a weapon, a protective suit and a disguise all in one bat-shaped costume.
The most iconic costume in entertainment history is a simple and basic design. It doesn’t test the creativity of its artists and leaves the magic to the man inside. Arguably the most marketable symbol in the world, the Superman logo has stayed firm to the man of steel’s chestplate since the beginning.
Co-creator Jerry Siegel once claimed he wanted to “give him a big S on his chest, and a cape, make him as colorful as we can and as distinctive as we can.” The red and blue colors have been just as iconic as the ‘S’ and sure outdo Spider-Man’s blue and red.
Clark Kent’s everyman attire may not be Superman’s costume, but it sure is Kal-El’s disguise. Part of the beauty of Superman is that Clark Kent is his true costume. Those wonderful moments when Kent rips open his plain suit and unveils the ‘S’ have captured the hearts of audiences for decades.
The look of Superman is arguably the basis for all superhero costumes after it. Although few costumes look like Superman’s, there is something inherent in them that draws back to Superman’s iconic suit. It stands the test of time and found a way to transcend underwear jokes and still be as cool as anything we’ve seen to this day.
Superheroes don’t need costumes to be great. For many, their powers have nothing to do with the outfits they wear. But these costumes are more than just practical designs. Each one represents the character inside and sometimes lets that character out.
The costumes we have seen in cinema have transformed characters into icons. They have found a way to go beyond just entertainment and become a part of the international culture.
This Halloween is your chance to dress up like your favorite character without the ridicule of being the ultimate fanboy. Between major conventions and Halloween, there are few chances each year to wear the outfits made famous on the big screen.
If we left out your favorite movie costume, share yours in the comments section below.