It’s interesting to think about some of the things that remain prescient in the public conscious, especially when it comes to cinema. Some films become a part of a greater canon of pop-culture history, while other movies fade away into obscurity.
On another level, the costumes and clothing that certain characters wear in legendary films can take on an iconic life of their own, a testament to the level of detail that the wardrobe supervisors of Hollywood hold themselves to.
With that being said, here is our list of the most iconic jackets in movie history. These are the famous pieces of clothing that managed to be just as memorable as the movie characters that wore them.
1. The Leopard Jacket – The Graduate (1967)
Worn by the character referenced in Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song “Mrs. Robinson,” The Graduate was deemed an “instant classic” when it premiered in 1967.
Although Mrs. Robinson is not the protagonist of the film, she arguably became the most iconic character, no doubt in part due to her keen sense of style and sex appeal onscreen.
Anne Bancroft wears a leopard jacket as Mrs. Robinson with Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock in the 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film The Graduate (Credit: Embassy Pictures / United Artists)
This is embolized in her iconic leopard print jacket, which has such a loud presence that it simply cannot be ignored in any scene it’s present.
The leopard jacket truly encapsulates Mrs. Robinson’s character. It’s chic, it’s stylish, it’s somewhat intimidating, and it’s a flagrant symbol of wealth and affluence. For those reasons, it deserves a spot on this list.
2. The Red Harrington Jacket – Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
It’s nearly impossible to discuss iconic film outfits without mentioning this legendary look that James Dean wore in his most ubiquitous role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause.
Since James Dean suffered an untimely death at age 24 and only managed to star in three films, the look became associated with the actor himself, transcending the film and the character as well.
James Dean as troubled teenager Jim Stark wears a cherry-red jacket in the 1955 American coming-of-age drama film Rebel Without a Cause (Credit: Warner Bros.)
The jacket just shouts cool and made for the perfect aesthetic for Jim, who is a character that embodied the dissatisfied and rebellious youth of the 1950s.
According to a popular rumor, James Dean enjoyed the look of the jacket so much that he actually kept it after the production of Rebel Without a Cause had wrapped, which definitely contributed to the strong association between the actor and the iconic piece of outerwear.
3. The Army Jacket – Taxi Driver (1976)
I love it when a character maintains a recognizable look throughout the course of an entire film.
In Taxi Driver, the protagonist Travis Bickle (famously played by Robert De Niro) dons this army jacket for the entirety of the film as he traverses through the streets of New York City.
Robert De Niro wears a green military jacket as Travis Bickle in the 1976 American film Taxi Driver (Credit: Columbia Pictures)
Although the jacket certainly fits the aesthetic of the troubled character, it also maintains significance in the overall themes of the film as well.
Travis is a discharged Vietnam war veteran, which is why he still wears his beat-up army jacket.
The film was released during the height of the tension surrounding the Vietnam War and acts as a commentary for those affected negatively by the events of the controversial conflict.
4. The Scorpion Jacket – Drive (2011)
Let’s switch gears a bit and take a look at an iconic jacket from a more recent film, in this case, Drive, which was released to audiences in 2011.
Nicolas Winding Refn is certainly a director who has a passion for aesthetics, and that’s clearly on display when it comes to the wardrobe choices of the characters, most notably the unnamed protagonist of the film (played by Ryan Gosling).
Inspired by the band KISS, and Kenneth Anger’s 1964 experimental film Scorpio Rising, Ryan Gosling wears a satin jacket with the logo of a golden scorpion on the back in the 2011 American action drama film Drive (Credit: FilmDistrict)
Gosling sports a wickedly badass jacket throughout the entirety of the film, which features a satin construction emblazoned with a large yellow scorpion stretched across the back of it.
Since the film is so light on dialogue, the visuals of the film really take center stage, which is one reason why the jacket become such a memorable piece of recent cinematic history.
5. The Long, Black Trench Coats – The Matrix (1999)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more instantly recognizable look in 1990s cinema than the long, black trench coats sported by protagonists Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) in The Matrix, which was undoubtedly one of the most iconic films of that decade.
The Matrix is set in a sci-fi universe where humanity is sedated and forced to live in a virtual world crafted by alien overlords.
Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson/Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in the 1999 science fiction action film The Matrix (Credit: Warner Bros. / Roadshow Entertainment)
While there doesn’t seem to be a canonical reason why all the human protagonists in the film where these long coats, it’s clear to see why the Wachowskis decided on the slick, all-black look.
It’s cool, it’s different, and it certainly gives off an impression of an otherworldliness that plays well with the aesthetic and subject matter of the film.
6. The Denim Jacket – The Breakfast Club (1985)
Placing a group of wildly different teenagers in a single room for a whole summer day might not seem like the most exciting concept in the world, but director John Hughes managed to work magic with his cast in The Breakfast Club, which became of the most popular films with teenagers of the 1980s.
Of that cast, the designated “cool kid” was certainly John Bender (played by Judd Nelson), a rebellious and hard-headed teen with a devil-may-care attitude.
Judd Nelson wears a denim jacket as John Bender in the 1985 American teen coming-of-age comedy-drama film The Breakfast Club (Credit: Universal Pictures)
And what look did Hughes decide on for this cool character? A Levi’s trucker denim jacket of course.
The perfect choice for a character that seemingly cares little for his appearance, Bender’s look of this jacket paired with fingerless gloves became one of the most recognizable clothing choices in the film.
7. The Yellow Plaid Jacket – Clueless (1985)
When Clueless premiered in 1985, it provided no shortage of iconic outfits that would inspire the fashion choices of many young men and women during that era.
While we could reasonably place a number of outfits from this film on this list, none of them provided quite as much of a splash in 1985 as the yellow plaid jacket that spoiled rich kid Cher (Alicia Silverstone) flaunts in the film.
Alicia Silverstone wears a yellow plaid jacket as Cher Horowitz with Stacey Dash in a matching plaid set as Dionne Davenport in the 1995 American coming-of-age teen comedy film Clueless (Credit: Paramount Pictures)
Oddly enough, despite the unlikable nature of the character, her iconic styling still managed to influence the fashion of young women of this time.
I guess it was just too difficult to look away from that bright yellow jacket and skirt combo (which was designed by Dolce & Gabbana, we might add).
8. The Dark Shearling Trench Coat – Candyman (1992)
Particularly popular with black audiences due to its revolutionary depiction of POC characters in an urban Chicago setting, Candyman was certainly one of the more unique films in the 1990s canon of slasher-horror that pervaded the decade.
It almost seems like a given that each slasher villain will have an iconic piece of clothing. Michael Myers has his William Shatner mask. Jason Vorhees has his vintage hockey goalie mask. Freddie Kruger has his striped sweater.
Tony Todd wears a long shearling coat in the 1992 American gothic supernatural horror film Candyman (Credit: TriStar Pictures)
The Candyman has his dark, long shearling coat, which has become just as recognizable as the other pieces of wardrobe mentioned – partly due to the fact that it sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the clothing choices of all of the other characters of the film.
9. The Black Bomber Jacket – Trainspotting (1996)
Another iconic film of the 1990s, Trainspotting managed to put Scottish cinema on the map with its brutal depiction of heroin addicts and their struggles in impoverished areas of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Although there is a core cast of five heroin addicts that are portrayed in the film, the most iconic (and popular) is none other than Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, who is played by a young Ewan McGregor in his breakout role.
Ewan McGregor wears a black bomber jacket as Mark “Rent Boy” Renton in the 1996 Scottish black comedy-drama film Trainspotting (Credit: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment)
Mark “Rent Boy” Renton is almost never without his dingy black bomber jacket, which quickly became a popular style among young people in the 1990s.
The character even continued to wear the jacket in the sequel, T2 Trainspotting, which was released 21 years later, in 2017.
10. The Camel Trench Coat – Casablanca (1942)
Flipping back to the golden age of Hollywood, it’s nearly impossible to think of the city of Casablanca without thinking of this iconic piece of Hollywood history.
Of all the looks present in the film, perhaps none has become more emblematic of the time period than Rick Blaine’s (played by Humphrey Bogart) camel-colored trench coat, which he wears during some of the most famous scenes of the film.
Humphrey Bogart wears a trench coat as Rick Blaine with Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund, Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, and Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo in the 1942 American romantic drama film Casablanca (Credit: Warner Bros.)
There’s something about the dark, rainy scenes that pair beautifully with the lightly-colored coat, and the look definitely managed to stick around in the minds of audiences during the 1940s.
Burberry provided the coat for the film, and the company is credited with creating the iconic design of the trench coat as a whole. It doesn’t get more iconic than that.
11. The Top Gun Jacket – Top Gun (1985)
Maybe it’s recency bias talking, but we always thought that Maverick’s (played by Tom Cruise) sweet pilot jacket that he dons in both the original Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022) is grossly underappreciated when compared to some of the other famous jackets featured in this list.
Tom Cruise wears a leather G-1 jacket as as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the 1986 American action drama film Top Gun (Credit: Paramount Pictures)
Maverick’s classic look definitely inspired the looks of some Top Gun wannabes in the 1980s, and we’re certain that we’ll be seeing more of these pilot jackets around the neighborhood with the recent popularity of the sequel, which has been enjoying a top spot at the box office since its premiere in May.
There’s just something undeniably charming about the olive green jacket, which comes complete with a variety of colorful patches.
12. The Red Leather Jacket – Fight Club (1999)
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the red leather jacket that Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt, but you probably know that) wears throughout Fight Club.
Since this was one of Brad Pitt’s breakout roles, the red leather jacket has become almost ubiquitous with the actor (who is still one of the coolest actors in Hollywood, even at the age of 58).
Brad Pitt wears a red leather biker jacket as Tyler Durden with Edward Norton as the Narrator in the 1999 American film Fight Club (Credit: 20th Century Fox)
According to popular legend, the wardrobe supervisors working on Fight Club found this leather jacket at a vintage clothing and consignment store in Los Angeles and instantly decided to use it as the main look for the most recognizable character in the film.
Since Tyler Durden ends up being an imaginary figure in the film, we think no one on earth (other than Pitt of course) could pull this look off.
13. The Brown Leather Jacket – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Although this list is in no particular order, if it were, it would be hard to not put this enigmatic jacket at the very top of the list.
From Raiders of the Lost Ark to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), the character of Indiana Jones (famously played by Harrison Ford) is rarely seen without his dusty brown leather jacket, often accompanied by his leather hat to form one of the most recognizable outfits in Hollywood history.
Harrison Ford wears a brown leather jacket as Indiana Jones in the 1981 American action-adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark (Credit: Paramount Pictures)
Interestingly enough, the jacket used in the film was designed and produced by Weston Leather Co., a small clothier located in Kent, England.
The company (which specialized in leather jackets) has produced costumes for a variety of famous films, including Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and multiple films within the James Bond 007 series.
Die-hard fans of the Indiana Jones character can actually purchase a brand-new replica of the famous jacket, which the company still produces to this day.
14. The Mink Fur Coat – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
As a fan of Wes Anderson and his famous aesthetic style, it’s difficult to write a list of famous outfits without mentioning one from one of his most popular films, The Royal Tenenbaums.
While several stylish and recognizable jackets could reasonably be included in this list, our pick is definitely for the eye-catching mink fur coat worn by Margot Tenenbaum (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), a character who embodies traits from a variety of famous figures, such as Courtney Love and Sylvia Plath.
Gwyneth Paltrow wears a Fendi mink coat as Margot in the 2001 American comedy-drama film The Royal Tenenbaums (Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)
When Margot is present on-screen in this light brown mink fur coat, it’s hard to take your eyes off her.
15. The Leather Biker Jacket – The Wild One (1953)
Capping off this list is a look that definitely drew the attention of your grandparents.
When Marlon Brando adorned the silver screens as biker gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild Ones, he shocked audiences due to his ruthless and violent characterization, and due to his badass look, which was typified by his slick black leather biker jacket.
Marlon Brando wears a Perfecto-style motorcycle jacket and a tilted cap as Johnny Strabler in the 1953 American crime film The Wild One (Credit: Columbia Pictures)
The film managed to stick around in the public conscious, most likely due to the fact that it was one of the first films to address the growing subculture of American biker gangs.
Biker gangs in cinema (and the leather jackets that they wear) have never been the same since.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective look at some of the most iconic jackets in cinema history. We’re hoping that there will be more inclusions from recent films in lists like these in the future!