10 iconic hair moments from movie history
From "Foxy Brown" to "Mommy Dearest," these are best 'dos to hit the screen.
i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture and the times we live in.
In Hollywood, a signature hairdo is almost as easy to come by as a suntan or a green juice. But while every actor's got one, not every actor's coif goes on to become a legendary part of pop culture history. In fact, it often seems there isn't room for great acting and great hair to share the same screen. Which is why more often than not, the best 'dos can be found in the oddest corners of the cinema world (just look at the works of John Waters or Tim Burton). While many of the cult classic movies on this list may never grace the AFI's prestigious Top 100, the hairstyles they feature will live on forever.
David Bowie in Labyrinth
It's hard to pinpoint a moment in Bowie's life when his hair wasn't iconic, but to play the role of the Goblin King in Labyrinth, he took things to all new heights… literally. To get into character, the musician rocked a hairstyle that can only be described as somewhere between Kate Gosselin's asymmetrical mullet and a bichon frise who's been attacked by a hair straightener. It's a gravity-defying combination only enhanced by his choice to dress strictly in 18th-century garb. In other words, just another day in the life when you're Bowie.
Rose McGowan in The Doom Generation
Even if you haven't watched The Doom Generation, you have undoubtedly seen one of the many later films influenced by this hyper-stylized dystopian classic. A 16-year-old Rose McGowan plays Amy Blue, the prototypical 90s It-Girl. One who faces down the apocalypse by going on a killing spree with her asexual boyfriend and a man who may or may not be the Devil incarnate. If all of that nihilistic teenage angst — set in a monochromatic future curated by Satan — isn't enough to convince you of this film's must-see status, McGowan's blunt banged bob, worn with Lolita-esque sunglasses and a collection of transparent raincoats, should pique your interest.
Robin Tunney in Empire Records
While the cast of Empire Records included a teenage Liv Tyler and a young Renée Zellweger, it's Robin Tunney in the role of Debra who really steals the show. The film follows a group of ragtag teens going through the pangs of growing up (à la The Breakfast Club) as the record store they work for, and the music industry at large, begins to crumble around them. Tunney's character provides the perfect foil to Liv and Renée's seemingly perfect manic pixie dream girls — from the moment she shaves off her hair with a Lady Bic razor after a failed suicide attempt to the impromptu faux funeral she holds for herself in the break room.
The Haircut Scene in Mommie Dearest
There are so many chilling, hard-to-watch scenes in Mommie Dearest that it's impossible to pick the most haunting. But the haircut scene certainly casts every fight you ever had with your mother in a much more forgiving light. After catching her daughter putting on her makeup and using her comb, Faye Dunaway in the role of Joan Crawford, becomes unglued, berating her child, brutally combing out her hair, and ultimately giving her what is undoubtedly one of the worst haircuts of all time. It's enough to make even your most embarrassing middle school bowl cut seem not so bad.
Divine in Pink Flamingos
There never has been and never will be anyone quite like Divine. Before she took the drag scene by storm, with a little help from John Waters, the subculture was comprised almost exclusively of men imitating major celebrities of the day like Elizabeth Taylor or Jackie Kennedy as accurately as possible. Divine introduced a totally new way to perform femininity, creating an enduring legacy of personal expression within the drag community. Although perhaps best known for its notorious feces scene, Waters's movie Pink Flamingos will also forever be known as the moment when Divine, with her receding hairline and yellow bouffant, truly became a star.
Pam Grier in Foxy Brown
With her quippy one-liners, streetwise attitude, and penchant for bell bottoms and tiny crop tops, Pam Grier's Foxy Brown was always destined to be a style icon, but add in her signature afro and you've got a beauty look for the ages. Though many African-Americans were wearing their hair natural in the 70s, Grier brought the style into the mainstream. In the process, she helped turn Blaxploitation films like Foxy Brown, which although arguably exploitative offered one of the few ways for African-Americans to break into the film industry, into cultural touchstones of pride for a community still afflicted by perms, chemical processing, and shame surrounding their authentic hair texture. Plus, you've got to admit pulling a gun out of your hair in the middle of a showdown is pretty much the definition of badass.
Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element is a film light-years ahead of its time, not only in terms of its content but also thanks to the custom, avant-garde costumes that Jean-Paul Gaultier made especially for Milla Jovovich. In the role of Leeloo, Jovovich not only successfully made the transition from modeling to being a fully fledged actress (after a memorable turn in Dazed and Confused, of course), but her neon orange hair also launched a thousand follicular imitations, and even more Halloween costumes.
Tommy Wiseau in The Room
Just as The Room has been unequivocally named the worst film of all time, Tommy Wiseau's hair in this masterpiece is undoubtedly one of the saddest clusters of locks to ever grace the silver screen. Whether he's shaking it around to demonstrate a point, raking his hands through it in anguish, or standing in a wind-machine as he plays a quick game of catch with Danny on the roof, Wiseau's wavy, uncombed straggles often wind up doing more of the heavy lifting acting-wise then he does. While it's clear the film's star, writer, producer, and director fancies himself a descendent of Fabio, the reality is something much more akin to Nicolas Cage circa Con Air, although even that character appears to bathe with more regularity. Basically, we can't really blame Lisa for tearing him apart.
Edie Beale in Grey Gardens
Grey Gardens didn't just provide us with one of the greatest and strangest documentaries ever, it also introduced us to two of the most eccentric fashion figures of all time. When she was in her late 30s, one of the film's stars, Edie Beale (better known as "Little Edie," the first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill), developed alopecia which caused her hair to fall out and inspired her collection of signature headscarves that matched her costume of the day. But, according to her cousin John Davis as told to Gail Sheehy in an article for New York magazine, the real source of her baldness stems from an incident in which she once climbed a tree at the house and set her hair on fire. Whether caused by stress or self-immolation, however, the image of Little Edie dancing around in a headwrap while waving an American flag is nothing short of legendary.
Marlon Wayans in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
Marlon Wayans in Don't Be a Menace displays the type of follicular ingenuity stars like Lady Gaga and Jaden Smith can only dream about. Tying up his fro into three tiny pigtails on each side of his head, Wayans as Loc Dog seems to use his hair in lieu of pockets, hanging anything and everything he can find off the ends, from baby pacifiers to bags of weed, and even a few dice. While the movie is a parody of the Spike Lee classic Menace II Society, it has quickly become equally if not more popular than the original — thanks in no small part to those enviable found-object coiffures.
Text Emily Kirkpatrick
Screenshot via Youtube