What makes a movie character iconic? Is it the role, the quality of the acting performance, or perhaps the costume or effects used to accentuate the part?
One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of characters that stand out from the crowd, and surprisingly a large number who are as well known for their choice or mode of eyewear almost as much as the lines they utter.
The use of glasses is something of a trope in some genres. In a makeover movie, you’d tend to have a dowdy-looking female lead who magically transforms once her glasses are removed. Similarly, a male character wearing glasses tends to signify an altogether more intelligent, perhaps dull, gentleman.
Fortunately, the selection of characters we’ve chosen for this list doesn’t tend to follow these stereotypes.
To help illustrate our point, here’s a list of seven iconic characters who would be nothing without their glasses! Indeed some of the items worn have almost become celebrity glasses themselves.
It’s hard to believe it’s now over 20 years since Neo Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and co blew our collective minds in this sci-fi thriller. Of all the characters on show, it was perhaps Morpheus that stole the show, with Laurence Fishburne acting Reeves off the screen at every opportunity.
His choice of eyewear in the original trilogy, a fourth film is in the making, was more than iconic, his stylish shades giving the role that added mystery. One wonders if we’ll see a similar iconic look for the fourth installment?
The boy wizard was, of course, the subject matter of a series of books that sold an astonishing 500 million-plus copies, and the film franchise that grew from the written word has made over $9 billion since it first hit our screens back in 2001.
Harry was, of course, an iconic character, and his choice of eyewear was a big part of that, and it led to a growing interest in kids’ eyeglasses, whether they needed them or not. They are now adorned by all those who seek to replicate the Harry Potter look, complete with lightning bolt scar.
This 2004 indie-flick became a roaring success, and its lead character’s eccentric style was topped off by a pair of the chunkiest of glasses. Indeed the eyewear is what really sells the overall Napoleon look.
The film has become a cult classic, and the movie’s overall theme, about a socially awkward teen, has led to a flurry of imitators and (much like with Harry Potter) spawned a slew of fancy dress opportunities.
It doesn’t matter which version of the classic superhero caper movies you watch invariably, the mild-mannered Clark Kent will be wearing a pair of typically sensible glasses when he’s not being Superman. The idea being that while wearing the glasses, he becomes instantly unrecognizable, which is a bit of a stretch.
Again the eyewear is iconic, and a Superman without glasses just wouldn’t work at all, even though the narrative reason for wearing them is bizarrely ridiculous, to say the least.
One of the earlier iconic glass-wearing film characters comes in the form of spy Harry Palmer, brought superbly to life by a young Michael Caine.
The plain spectacles worn by the sardonic lead in the series of films in the 60s could now be considered hipster-like in their style; back then, they merely gave Caine’s character the ability to blend into the background.
Agent K and Agent J
There was something about the 90s and movies where lead characters wearing fashionable sunglasses became all the rage. The two leads in the Men in Black series, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, wore a uniform of sorts, and their pristine suits were topped off by matching shades.
These sunglasses made them look kick-ass and cool and also happened to protect them from that contraption that erased the memory of any poor innocents who happened to see the aliens living among them in plain view.
Clearly, everything on show in the Devil Wears Prada is styled to perfection, that is, after all, the overall premise of the movie. Still, close attention and praise should be made to those who put together the wardrobe worn by the cuttingly brash editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly.
Her overall look is topped off to perfection by the exquisite range of eyewear she wears, making the Meryl Streep character unforgettable not only in her demeanor and attitude but also in terms of her sartorial elegance.
Now, this final character isn’t as well known as those previously listed, but it’s no less iconic than what’s come before. Colin Firth’s role as a gay college professor who is in the midst of an ever-deepening crisis is not only a tour-de-force of acting; it’s a film that’s styled to within an inch of its life.
The lead character is perfectly manicured, and his whole look is flawless, and this is down in no small part to the fact that the film was directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, who has his lead wearing the classiest pair of glasses known to man.
Dr. Ian Malcolm
Back in the mid-90s Jeff Goldblum, a habitual glass-wearer on the big screen was something of a sex symbol and for his turn, as a cynical doctor in Steven Spielberg’s massively successful Jurassic Park, he wears a trendy pair of glasses that are a tad tinted.
They pair well with his leather jacket and his inspired dialogue and give his character the gravitas it needs as he seeks to keep all and sundry clear of the deadly dinosaurs.
There are of course countless other glass-wearing movie characters of note and honorable mentions must go out to Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Big Lebowski and Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird.