In the world of cinema, a costume maker plays a vital role; it is their job to create iconic movie costumes that tell a story about our favourite characters, which regular dialogue could not achieve on its own.

Most of the time, a costume design will naturally blend into the narrative and act as an accepted piece of the movie set. But that does not mean these costumes go unnoticed. In fact, over the years, costume makers have been idolised in the eyes of cinematic fans, with their designs sculpting fashion outside of cinema too. In this article, we will explore our top five iconic movie costumes of all time and what makes them so breathtaking.

iconic film costumes

Star Wars – Darth Vader

Even if you have never watched Star Wars, it’s likely you will still recognise one of cinema’s most iconic villains– Darth Vader. Despite the fact Darth Vader’s face is absent for most of the Star Wars trilogy, he still radiates villainous energy. His dark, ominous presence can almost entirely be attributed to his iconic jet-black suit.

What makes his costume so eye-catching is the stark contrast between his appearance and that of the other Star Wars characters. Luke and Obi-Wan often wear simple white and brown fabrics, yet Darth Vader appears as a more modern beast. The control panel on his chest hints at the fact that he is more machine than human, and his mask has an uncanny resemblance to an alien-like skull. To complete his devilish look is the classic symbol of evil – a black cape.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Ever since the original movie was released in 1971, there has been speculation as to whether Willy Wonka is a magical being or simply an eccentric maniac. His colourful and eye-catching suit, designed in vibrant tones of purple, adds to this mystery. Adorning his suit is his large top hat, over-sized green bowtie and authoritative cane, all of which create an obvious power imbalance between himself and his more casual guests at the Chocolate Factory.

The Matrix

This thrilling science-fiction movie is packed with action and touches upon abstract ideas, including society’s caution towards technological advances. To mirror these unique and modern topics, the lead character Neo is dressed entirely in black, accessorised with small sunglasses and his iconic, full-length coat. Trinity, the lead female character, is also dressed in an all-black, slick outfit. These iconic movie costumes have become synonymous with the characters’ identities and a recognisable feature of the movie franchise.

trinity costume - the matrix

The Dark Knight – Joker

Since the 2008 release of The Dark Knight, the Joker’s outfit has been the inspiration of countless Halloween costumes, making it one of the most iconic movie costumes of all time. His suit alone, designed in deep shades of purple, connotes that the Joker is little more than an eccentric man. However, his terrifying and disfiguring face paint introduces a stark contrast, depicting him first as a natural entertainer but also someone capable of vicious violence.

The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy

As the audience is guided through the magical world of Oz, they are grounded in reality by Dorothy’s classic attire. From head to ankles, she wears a simple, child-like outfit consisting of a blue and white farm-girl dress and cutesy pigtails tied with matching blue ribbon. But what makes Dorothy’s costume stand out are her dazzling red slippers. Her footwear hint toward the dramatic and unpredictable journey she embarks on as she navigates the yellow brick road of Oz. In fact, her slippers are so symbolic that they are named as treasures of American history by the Smithsonian, coining Dorothy’s wardrobe one of the most iconic movie costumes of all time.