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15 Amazing Character-Defining Sunglasses in Movies

It doesn’t have to be sunny for sunglasses to be cool. In movies, the right shades can make all the difference in helping to define a character and there have been a lot of memorable ones over the years. By no means a complete list, and a few iconic ones purposefully left off, here are 15 great sunglasses in movies.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone (Cobra, 1985)
FILM: Cobra (1986)     DIRECTOR: George P. Cosmatos

Stallone plays L.A cop Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti, part of the elite “Zombie Squad”, who must stop a gang of terrorists called The New Order, who plan to create a society adhering to social Darwinism, taking out the sick and feeble. A no-nonsense cop, Cobra isn’t much for negotiating and goes in guns blazing. With his trademark unlit matchstick tucked in his lips, he’s always got his shades on, bringing the law the hard way. This Cobra has bite.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington (Book of Eli, 2010)
FILM: The Book of Eli (2010)     DIRECTOR: The Hughes Brothers

After the world falls to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, saving humanity lands on one man who claims a voice in his head guides him in delivering a sacred book to a location on the west coast of the United States. Along the way, he faces a number of challenges, including a megalomaniac (Gary Oldman) who wants the book to rule the people, and Solara (Mila Kunis) who joins his quest. All the while, Eli always dons his dark shades, and with good reason we come to find out. Post-apocalyptic Tip #1: Don’t mess with Mr. Washington.

Will Smith

Will Smith (Men in Black, 1997)
FILM: Men in Black (1997)     DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld

A secret government agency known as the Men in Black have been policing the hidden space alien population on Earth for decades. After a New York City detective (Will Smith) inadvertently chases one down, he is recruited into the fold by veteran agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) where he learns all about the truth of what’s really happening on Earth. But to be an agent in the Men in Black, you’ve got to put on the last suit you’ll ever wear. And of course, some stylish shades. Will Smith does get jiggy with in them, but don’t call him sport.

Brad Pitt

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, 2013)
FILM: Fight Club (1999)     DIRECTOR: David Fincher

A bored, insomniac (Edward Norton) seeks a new challenge in life when he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), an introverted soap salesman. The two concoct a plan to create Fight Club, a secret street fighting gang that grows into a social movement bringing both men (or is it one?) into anew nightmare. Turden is all about style, with his brash attitude and tinted glasses. You could say it gives him real (split) personality. But don’t talk about it.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, 2001)
 FILM: Legally Blonde (2001)     DIRECTOR Robert Luketic

This isn’t just about the boys. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a real blonde, and thinks she has it all figured out since she’s the president of her sorority, a calendar girl, and has the most desirable guy on campus as her boyfriend. But that comes crashing down when he breaks up with her after he thinks she’s not really good for his high political aspirations. Well, its off to Harvard for Elle, to smarten up and win back her man. But there’s no reason she can’t do it with some style. And a sassy pair of rose-colored sunglasses to boot. There’s probably a metaphor in there.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise (Top Gun, 1986)
FILM: Top Gun (1986)     DIRECTOR: Tony Scott

A brash hotshot fighter pilot (Tom Cruise) gets the chance to fly at the elite Naval fighter weapon’s school, but his cocky attitude cause some riffs with the other pilots. But he also starts up a relationship with the hot instructor (Kelly McGillis) and has to earn his way into the team’s trust, all the while fighting personal demons of his own. When you think of Tom Cruise and sunglasses, right away, Risky Business jumps to mind, but come on, Cruise in a flight suit with a pair of Ray Ban Aviators? Win. It’s the need. The need for speed.

John Goodman

John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, 1999)
FILM: The Big Lebowski (1999)     DIRECTORS: Joel and Ethan Coen

The Dude (Jeff Bridges) gets his rug soiled (which really tied the room together) after he is implausibly mistaken for a millionaire. Seeking compensation for the rug (which really tied the room together), that is now stolen, The Dude (who also wears some cool shades), accepts a one-shot job in delivering cash for a kidnapping ransom drop-off, but naturally, things go badly. One of The Dude’s friends, whom he enlists for help, is Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), a slightly disturbed Vietnam vet who tends to think in one dimension. But he looks great in his gold-tinted shades that rarely come off. They really tie his face together.

Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, 2009)
FILM: Avatar (2009)     DIRECTOR: James Cameron

When humans discover a rare mineral on Pandora, a hostile planet inhabited by dangerous creatures but also a race of ten-foot tall, blue skinned aboriginals, a war breaks out, and it’s not long before the film’s hero, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington)–who has infiltrated the Nav’i as one of their own in an avatar–begins to question the motives of his own species. On his side is Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), a trained human pilot who also sees fault in the military plan to ravage the planet. But she looks boss in her pilot shades. And you don’t want to make Michelle Rodriguez upset.

Harvey Keitel

Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, 1992)
FILM: Reservoir Dogs (1992)     DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino

A gang of thieves get together for a big heist, most of them unfamiliar with the others but all promise a cut of the action. When the gig goes sour and one of them gets shot, questions pop up about who might have turned on them and called the heat. While just about all the members of the gang wear shades, none wear ’em like the The Wolf (Pulp Fiction anyone?) himself, Mr. Harvey Keitel. But we’re not takin’ sides, honest. Speaking of Harvey . . .

Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise, 1991)
FILM: Thelma and Louise (1991)     DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

Two unhappy women, Themla (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) decide to hit the road in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible and live a little. Problem is, along the way, they stop at a roadhouse and gets mixed up with a man who gets the wrong impression over a dance and outside, tries to rape her. Louise, packing a pistol, shots him and the two go on the run with cop Harvey Keitel in chase. Nothing like Sarandon in a pair of Tom Ford Nikita’s. Melt your heart.

Jean Reno

Jean Reno (Léon: The Professional, 1994)
 FILM: Léon: The Professional (1994)     DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

After 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) loses her family, including her younger brother, to a ruthless drug addicted DEA agent (Gary Oldman), she is taken in by a neighbor named Léon (Jean Reno), who is himself an assassin. She pleads with him to train her so she can one day take revenge on the man who murdered her family. Naturally, Léon does, and comes to feel paternal for the child. He also wears some very cool shades that give him, along with his cap, his distinctive, shall we say, professional, look.


Madonna (Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985)
FILM: Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)     DIRECTOR: Susan Seidelman

Certainly the Material Girl gets on the list. And here she is in this quirky comedy about a housewife (Rosanna Arquette) who comes to New York City seeking some adventure and ends up in a caper involving a pair of Egyptian earrings worn by Susan (Madonna). A lighthearted but fun little romp, Madonna created a national fashion trend, of which those D&G shades were all the rage.

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate, 1967)
FILM: The Graduate (1967)     DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols

Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a recent college graduate, and while his parents have big dreams for him, he’s still unsure of his future. At a party to celebrate his next steps in life, he meets Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s business partner. She initiates an affair, even after Ben becomes involved with her daughter. As Ben contemplates his situation, he floats in a pool, metaphorically adrift, wearing a pair of shades that do more than block the sun, they symbolize the unclear vision he has in everything that lies before him. But who says no to Anne Bancroft?

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, 2013)
FILM: The Great Gatsby (2013)     DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann

The film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel follows Midwesterner Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) lured into the lavish lifestyle of neighbor Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). While it’s a wonder to behold at first, Nick begins to see some cracks in the sheen of his new friend, and some disturbing traits that will lead to tragedy. Gatsby is all about extravagance and fashion, and you can’t beat this dapper combination of straw boater hat and tortoiseshell-framed Bottega Veneta sunglasses. Ah, the 20s. When real men wore pink suits.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford (Clear and Present Danger, 1994)
FILM: Clear and Present Danger (1994)     DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce

When the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence falls ill, in steps Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford), who himself, inexperienced in political ways, gets embroiled in a nasty undercover war with the drug cartel in Colombia. As his own government betrays him, he now needs to help rescue a team of black ops soldiers he sent into the jungle and convince the cartel of some shady operations. When speaking with Colombian drug lords, it’s always best to be wearing some aviator sunglasses and to turn up your coat collar. Being Harrison Ford helps, too.

What are some movie sunglasses that would make your list?

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One Response

  1. NunaShar August 2, 2016