Sunglasses have always more about signifying style and attitude then they’ve been about sun protection. Each pair has its own unique mood – whether its flamboyant, aggressive, or relaxed. The breadth of personalities that can be channeled by sunglasses is a large part of why it can be so fun to try on pairs in a mirror or with friends – simply by picking a pair up and sliding them on, one can briefly become a different version of themselves.
Hollywood, where there is a lot of money to be made by putting on different personalities, has had a long and loving relationship with sunglasses. Sure, it’s sunny in Southern California, but the real reason directors, stylists, and actors find themselves drawn to sunglasses is because it allows them to communicate something to their audience. Sometimes its as simple and unthinking as ‘look how cool I am’, while other times sunglasses can be used as a tool to help the audience better understand a character.
Inevitably, we end up falling in love with these props in much the same way we swoon over the actors that wear them. The only difference between the two? You can track down a great pair of sunglasses without getting a restraining order. And that is exactly what we did here in our roundup of the best movie sunglasses. Take a scroll through to see whether the pair you always wanted make an appearance.
Beverly Hills Cop
Vintage 1980s Porsche Design Carrera
Eddie Murphy’s shades in Beverley Hills Cop were, at the time of filming, cool, sharp, and able to switch to fit the situation – much like the character he payed. Made by Porsche Design, the sunglasses had the ability to easily switch out lenses. That meant without tools, the owner could simply pull out one pair of colored lenses, and throw in a different pair. While they aren’t being made today, it isn’t hard to find them on online auction sites.
Director: Martin Brest
Ray Ban Original Wayfarer Classics
Wayfarers are, alongside the Clubmaster, quite possibly the most frequently donned shades in the movie business. Developed in 1956, they were worn by musicians like Bob Dylan, actors like James Dean, and of course, by funny men John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd in this classic film. So while you could point to a dozen different examples of Ray Bans appearing in famous movies, none really beats out this comedy.
Director: John Landis
Ray Ban Outdoorsman
You’ve likely never heard of Cobra. That is probably for the better. The mid-1980s Stallone vehicle is just about as bad as they come. Those shades, however, are a different story. In fact, the wire-framed aviators may be the only redeeming part of this rote Hollywood shoot-em-up. They’re still made by Ray Ban, though we couldn’t find any with those cool blue-mirrored lenses.
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Ray Ban Balorama
Eastwood’s Harry Callahan is a cop so tough that he can shoot down criminals in the street while chewing on a sandwich And his choice in shades? As dead on as his aim. You can still pick up the early 1970s shades from Ray Ban online
Director: Don Siegel
Selima Optique Money 2
Drive was such an arresting movie, and Gosling’s unnamed driver so charismatic, that after seeing the film – full grown men went out and bought jackets with gigantic gold scorpions on the back. We’re happy to tell you, there is a more reasonable way to channel the style of Nicolas Winding Refn’s protagonist – by snagging a pair of his shades.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Ray Ban Clubmasters
Not a kid alive didn’t, at one point, want to be Ferris Bueller. The whip-smart teen and his antics won over an entire generation and then some. The movie still stands up as one of the greats to this day, much like the timeless shades Broderick’s character threw on while driving around Chicago in a red drop-top sports car.
Director: John Hughes
Oliver Peoples 523
The nihilism and post Cold War boredom of the 1990s was distilled nowhere better than in David Fincher’s rendition of Chuck Palahniuk’s great novel Fight Club. The dark, violent story stayed more or less true to the book, but distinguished itself in large part because of the striking visuals and sounds (cue The Pixies). Exploding buildings, clashing outfits, and Tyler Durden’s weirdo sunglasses all contributed to that. Like the rest of his personality, they are brash, wild, and clashing.
Director: David Fincher
Leon, The Professional
Jean Paul Gaultier 58-00072
Despite being made nearly 24 years ago, Besson’s character Leon is just about the spitting image of every freelance designer or web developer that works out of your neighborhood cafe. Sure, those hipsters may not kill for a living while still somehow having a heart of gold, but they definitely rock the look. The exact pair of sunglasses worn by Jean Reno in this early ’90s film are incredibly hard to find these days, but if you keep your eye out for a pair – they may pop up on eBay or other auction sites.
Director: Luc Besson
Men In Black
Ray Ban 2030 Predator
If the theme song for this movie immediately came to mind when you scrolled down to see this image, then you likely remember the frenzy around the movie sunglasses that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wore in Men In Black. These alien fighting super-spooks helped redefine what cool sunglasses looked like, and all while protecting earth from deep space monsters.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
North By Northwest
Vintage Tart Arnel Frames
Out of all of Hollywood’s leading men, Cary Grant remains among the coolest. He had a laid back, cool demeanor to him, but wasn’t too casual. A good distillation of his style, in fact, were the shades he wore in North By Northwest. The exact make and model of these sunglasses are much debated over – but from the research we did, it seems most likely that they were Tart Arnel frames. They can still be bought today, though they’re displayed on Tart’s site as having clear lenses.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Ray Ban Clubmaster
The scene of the gang doomed criminals walking out of a diner at the start of Reservoir Dogs, all with their shades on, is perhaps among the most iconic in all of Hollywood’s history. That’s saying something for an industry that makes its dough by creating moments and scenes. That is why we felt we had to include these sunglasses – even though they were already included above.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Tom Ford Marko TF144
When the costume designers began the task of putting together the most dapper spy in the world’s outfit – Bond watches and all – they also had to answer the question of what pair of sunglasses to have him wear. Should he go with something classic, or with something a little more contemporary. Well, they split the difference and gave him a pair of aviators made by one of the most well respected designers working today, Tom Ford.
Director: Sam Mendes
Arnold Schwarzeneggers breakout roll barely featured any dialog. It was just a lot of shots of him looking menacing and muscular. The pair of sunglasses he donned to help him do all of that scary-robot-ing? Gargoyles. The bulky glasses are still available today, though not quite in the exact same style as they appears in the mid 1980s classic.
Director: James Cameron
The Big Lebowski
For how chill and laid back The Dude is, his movie sunglasses were pretty high-end. Originally created in the 1960s, these big framed sunglasses have a kind of lovable quality to them not dissimilar from Bridge’s characters chilled-out protagonist.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
The Color Of Money
Vintage Cartier Aviators
As is always the case with gamblers, things at some point go south. When the relationship between Paul Newman and Tom Cruise’s characters do just that in The Color of Money, it is settled in a dramatic, televised game of pool. The pair of shades Newman wears while pocketing balls? Cartier.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Official BluBlocker Aviators
Not only have we all seen these sunglasses on Zack Galifianakis’ fuzzy mug, but we’ve seen them at pretty much every single costume party for the last decade or so. And fair enough. While BluBlockers definitely have a cornball vibe to them, they’re a fun oversized addition to anyone’s collection of shades.
Director: Todd Phillips
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Thierry Lasry Bowery
Spy movies, in large part because of Bond’s influence, always embrace the fashion of the time. So when the costume department was putting together items to be worn in Ritchie’s reboot of an old Spy Vs. Spy film, they were sure to include some 1960s-looking movie sunglasses for Cavill to sport.
Director: Guy Ritchie
The Thomas Crown Affair
If this list had been cut in half, we would’ve still included these Persol’s worn by McQueen. The blue-lensed shades are just about as classic as they come – and for what it is worth, they’re still pretty stylish even by today’s standards. While finding the exact blue-lensed version the king of cool sported in the late ‘60s film is a little difficult, they’re definitely still out there.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Retro Superfuture Flat Top
Out of all of our picks in this list, this pair of movie sunglasses plays the most pivotal roll in the movie they appear in. Once our protagonist George Nada puts them on, they reveal the world is being controlled by aliens and their sneaky, suggestive advertising. We couldn’t find the exact pair that Nada wears in the movie, but our closest guess was this pair from Retro Superfuture.
Director: John Carpenter
Randolph Engineering Concorde
Flyin’ jets and riding motorcycles in and above San Diego required only the best in eye protection, so naturally a young Tom Cruise gravitated towards Randolph Engineering’s American made sunglasses. These aviators widely loved not only because they were built right here in the states, but because they capture the timeless style perfectly.
Director: Tony Scott
5 Best American Made Sunglasses
Looking for some domestic shades? There aren’t a whole lot of companies out there doing it. That’s why we felt it was worthwhile to pull together the few that do it well in to a roundup of the best American Made Sunglasses.
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