THE WORD ‘INFLUENTIAL’ gets thrown around a lot in discussions of great films. A trip to the cinema promises escapism, entertainment, and an excuse to overindulge in popcorn consumption, but the best films offer more than that. An influential film will leave you thinking long after the curtains close. Some force a re-evaluation of a particular worldview, others, a deep introspection of your inner psyche. Irrespective of their precise impact, influential films will all influence the next generation of filmmakers. But incorporating profound philosophical meaning and the uncovering deep-seeded truths are not the only signifiers of influence. Some films are influential because of their styling.
A film’s costuming can be just as important as its plot, and as a result, a handful of films have had a marked impact on the off-screen fashion of their times. There’s a reason there’s an Oscar for best costume design, and these films, through a combination of top-level tailoring and fashion-forward thinking, have all influenced the wardrobes of viewers. Below, we break down ten of the most stylish films of all time.
Rian Johnson’s 2019 film is a kaleidoscope of vibrant costuming. Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc gets much of the spotlight, blending the aesthetics of a modern detective with a Southern gentleman with a range of tailored suits, floral ties and some quintessentially Southern suspenders. But Craig’s looks are not what brought Knives Out off the silver screen and into wardrobes. That honour belongs to Chris Evans, who plays spoiled scion Ransom Drysdale. More specifically, it’s Evans’ sweater that steals the show.
The only thing I will say about Knives Out is that, upon seeing Chris Evans in a sweater, the girl next to me gasped and said very softly and tenderly, “Sweater.”— Anna Menta (@annalikestweets) November 7, 2019
Evans’ crewneck, cream-coloured, Aran-style knitted sweater became an object of intense fascination upon the release of Knives Out, beginning a period of downright mania. In the month’s following the film’s release, retailers selling traditional Aran sweaters faced an unprecedented uptick in sales as sweater fever took over, leaving an indelible mark on modern men’s winterwear.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Going in, you just had to expect that Kingsman was going to showcase a range of sharp suits. After all, the film focuses on a spy agency headquartered within a bespoke tailor shop on London’s renowned Savile Row. A real-life Savile Row tailor—known as Huntsman—served as the shooting location for the HQ’s exterior, and the brand also collaborated with director Matthew Vaughn to create an exclusive collection of Kingsman suits donned by Colin Firth and Co. The Kingsman collection is still available to purchase, and if that doesn’t epitomise lasting style impact, what does?
The Ocean’s trilogy
A film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt as upscale hustlers sounds like a recipe for sartorial success. Expand that idea into a trilogy and you’ve got perhaps the most stylish franchise of all time. The Ocean’s cast wear a variety of threads that are so cool they’re criminal. Shockingly wide lapels, tinted sunglasses and charming finery are a mainstay in all three films of the trilogy. We can’t forget Don Cheadle’s seemingly endless range of silk scarves, either—or his appalling British accent.
The Great Gatsby
The roaring ’20s were a time of societal decadence and fashionable opulence. So when Baz Luhrmann—who had already pushed the boundaries of what is and isn’t stylistically acceptable in his floral shirt-filled remake of Romeo and Juliet—took the helm of The Great Gatsby, audiences knew they were in for more than two hours of stylish experimentation. Gatsby’s costume department enlisted the help of legendary fashion designer Miuccia Prada—and Prada’s extensive archives—to ensure they accurately portrayed the fashion of the era with a contemporary touch. It worked, lead designer Catherine Martin won two Oscars that year for best costume design and best production design.
Our list is looking slightly suit-heavy, so to shake things up, we turn to a film that is emblematic of ’90s streetwear. La Haine centres on a diverse group of young Parisians struggling amidst the social and economic upheaval of the city’s underclass. The film has been praised for its realism, and that includes costuming. The cast of La Haine are kitted out in popular apparel of the time, largely inspired by American hip-hop culture. Instead of sleek suits, La Haine’s leading characters sport recognisable brands like Lacoste, Carhartt, Nike and Reebok.
We’re not condoning the actions of American Psycho’s anti-hero, the murderous and sociopathic Patrick Bateman, but we can’t fault the man’s style. Set in ’80s Wall Street, American Psycho attempts to capture the essence of American yuppie culture—and it certainly does. With pinstriped shirts, boxy suits, classic Windsor-knotted ties, and an icon of the era, shoulder pads, American Psycho exemplifies the unofficial uniform of the 80s finance sector.
Casino follows a group of admittedly sleazy guys—from gambling addicts and mob enforcers to pimps and hustlers—so how does is it nab a place on this list? Well, covering up the repulsive personalities of much of the film’s main characters are a selection of ‘fits that typify the brash aesthetic of ’70s Las Vegas. Every scene features a garish shirt desperately vying for attention under a plain suit and Sharon Stone’s fur coats and flowing gowns tell you more about her character than any CliffsNotes page ever could. In particular, Robert De Niro’s Ace Rothstein is the owner of an admirable wardrobe.
If the only criterion was style, then American Gigolo might just be the most influential film of all time, if only for its role in bringing global attention to Giorgio Armani. The erotic thriller stars Richard Gere as a swaggering and effortlessly stylish male escort. Every one of Gere’s get-ups is seeping with sleekness. From a coat covered in camel hair to a pressed jeans and double pocketed Armani shirt combo, American Gigolo’s style pushed boundaries, thanks in part to a then little-know Italian designer named Giorgio Armani.
Armani wasn’t little-known for long. The film’s success brought his clean designs to a massive audience, and the Armani brand soon entered the mainstream.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include at least one Bond film on this list. But with 24 to choose from—all of which displaying commendable dressing efforts—narrowing down the selection proved a monumental undertaking. Ultimately, we landed on Goldfinger, which is the closest we’re likely to ever get to a Sean Connery runway show. Connery dons a range of outfits in the film that have since become synonymous with James Bond. Featuring Bond’s iconic three-piece glen check suit, a Slazenger golf jumper and perhaps most notably of all, the franchise’s first ivory dinner jacket, Goldfinger has a wardrobe that no other Bond film can match.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
We’re pretty sure the ‘old money’ aesthetic doing the rounds on TikTok was inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley. The film is set in the ’50s Italian Riviera and appropriately utilises a wardrobe inspired by both preppy Ivy League looks and seaside chic. Matt Damon and Jude Law are the highlights of course, wearing a range of dark suits, polo shirts and flowing loosely-buttoned button-ups.