/Answers: The Greatest Coats And Jackets In Movie History

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the release of Blade Runner 2049, this week's edition asks the question that is on everyone's mind: "What is your favorite coat or jacket in movie history?" What? Did you think we were going to go with "favorite sci-fi dystopia"?

Blade Runner

Jacob Hall: Rick Deckard's Coat in Blade Runner

Blade Runner's unique flavor of cool is derived from its collision of the past and the future. Here is a science fiction tale set in the distant future of 2019 (ha) that is paced and told like a film noir torn out of 1940s Hollywood. It's very much a blend of instantly attractive aesthetics: a neon future where everything goes and a flashback to a time when the default clothing for any movie character was so much slicker and so much more stylish than anything we wear today.

And while director Ridley Scott and his crew do a fine job of balancing these elements in every frame of this masterpiece, it really does come down to that coat Harrison Ford wears throughout the movie. That coat is just plain cool and it's just plain cool because it's "Bogart in the future" – recognizable as a classic noir look, tweaked to fit a future where fashions have changed. It sits on the crossroads of old and new. No one has topped this.

mildred pierce

Hoai-Tran Bui: Mildred's Shoulder-Padded Fur Coat in Mildred Pierce

Luxurious fur screams femme fatale just as much as shoulder pads scream Joan Crawford. So it's natural that the two of them would combine in Crawford's noir-melodrama Mildred Pierce. Clad in a lavish fur coat with her signature sharp shoulder pads and an embellished dress – this is how we're introduced to Crawford's shell-shocked Mildred Pierce at the beginning of the film. Softly lit by moonlight and street lamps with a tormented expression on her face, Crawford has all the markings of a classic noir femme fatale, especially as she begins to weave the tale of her life's story leading up to her second husband's murder.

It's an ironic revelation then, that Mildred Pierce would end up being one of Crawford's least glamorous roles. Mildred is a dowdy middle-class working mom who works her way up to being a successful businesswoman — albeit with a vain and greedy daughter. The fur coat is what bookends Mildred's plainer outfits in this movie, much as the noir story envelops the melodramatic narrative. The fur coat too speaks to Joan Crawford's own glamorous Hollywood image that inevitably creeps through the film — Crawford was indignant at giving up her fashionable frocks and shoulder pads in service to a working-class character. And so comes the fur coat: equal turns glamorous and gaudy, both like a working-class woman faking her wealth and like a Hollywood actress who can't help showing a bit of flair.

mad max

Matt Donato: Max Rockatansky's Armored Leather Jacket in Mad Max

While Mad Max: Fury Road may have been George Miller's latest dystopian dirt-spitter, my favorite cinematic jacket turns back the filmmaker's doomsday clock a few decades. Before Imperator Furiosa, before Tom Hardy, way before all the costumes got a sweet upgrade. To me, there's nothing better than a classic, and it doesn't get more classic than Mel Gibson's lawman's jacket in 1979's Mad Max. Where it all began.

As a point of fashion, what desert-cruising desperado wouldn't look positively renegade in black, streaky leather? Shoulder pads are bolted for "protection" – pretty minimal surface coverage, though – while a massive turn-down collar gives a bit of attitude (very cowboy-esque). It's like biker-meets-functional-meets-gang-warfare, and what a dashing ensemble finisher it is. Metallic accents adding a final reflective touch. Be honest – who hasn't envied a body-hugger like this in their lives?

As a defining characteristic, go ahead and picture Max without his warrior's garb. Sans cover up, he's just a regular, short-haired, leather-chapped roadster. The jacket is what helps Max stand out from the crowd. A symbol of power when glimpsed cruising down Australia's savage roadways. Mad Max: Fury Road went hog-wild on costumes and makeup (same for Road Warrior/Thunderdome), but Mad Max was a more barebones action thriller. Zany and anarchistic, but still with restraints. So why is it whenever you think of Gibson's first go as Max does everything you picture fade to black? The jacket envelopes all. Exactly.

It's not bulletproof or magic, but for George Miller, Mad Max came to life because of the way Mel Gibson rocked that policeman's uniform. On the poster, in the film, it doesn't matter. Without the jacket, he's just Max Rockatansky. Lame, right? But with the jacket, he's Mad Max. Fighter of the Glory Riders, ruler of the motorway. One studly article of clothing so representative of strength, influence and runway appeal.

Plus, it just looks cool. Can't that be enough sometimes?

the force awakens

Lindsey Romain: Finn and Poe's Shared Jacket in Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

The jacket that launched a thousand fanfics. And rightfully so. Not only does it lead to that dreamy Dameron lip-bite, but it's also a key piece of The Force Awakens' plot, and a visual aid for the character development of Finn. Resistance pilot Poe's sacrificial outerwear is both a keepsake for his new friend Finn and a representation of Finn's transition from Stormtrooper to good guy. Wearing the jacket makes Fin a better man – it reminds him of Poe's inherent goodness, which in one short moment gave Finn a name and a whole new identity. Poe's heroic sense of self is imbued in that jacket – which, apart from being meaningful, also looks super badass – and when he returns from his apparent death and bestows it to Finn, it's a passing of the torch. You're one of us now, dude.

On a more sentimental note, the jacket has had a real pop culture moment outside of the film. I've attended several comic conventions in the last few years through work, and it's hard to keep a dry eye whenever I see a young black or brown kid donning the jacket in his first attempt at cosplay. The same way little girls in Rey costumes warm my heart, little boys in their Finn attire remind me how important that sort of representation is. And that I recognize the outfit and character the moment I see it speaks to how instantly iconic the jacket is.

Sadly, the jacket took a slicing at the end of The Force Awakens – but it looks to be back for The Last Jedi, with some handy stitch work keeping it together. I can't wait to see it in action.

wild at heart

Chris Evangelista: Sailor's Snakeskin Jacket in Wild at Heart

"Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?" asks Nicolas Cage in Wild at Heart. David Lynch's loony love story set finds Cage's Sailor and Laura Dern's Lula on the run, riding across the country, encountering one lunatic character after another. Through most of it, Cage sports a snakeskin jacket that has to be seen to be believed. But here's the best part: the jacket was actually Cage's to begin with. He asked David Lynch if he could wear it in the film, and Lynch said yes. "[H]e called me one day and asked me if he could wear a snakeskin jacket," Lynch said. "It thought it was perfect, so I wrote that into the script, too. For me, the joy of filmmaking is that many people tune in to something, one thing leads to another, and you're off on a fantastic trip. After shooting had wrapped, Cage gave the jacket to Laura Dern. I was unable to find anything confirming Dern still has the jacket, but I'd like to think she does, hanging in a closet somewhere, ready for a new adventure.

back to the future part II jacket

Ethan Anderton: Marty McFly's Futuristic Jacket in Back to the Future Part II

You can pick jackets/coats that have more style than function all day long, but for my money, Marty McFly Jr.'s jacket from Back to the Future Part II brings both the cool factor and plenty of helpful features.

First of all, this is a jacket that fits to the size of the wearer. If you've got big lanky arms, that jacket is gonna fit perfectly. If you're shorter in stature like a young Michael J. Fox, that jacket will feel like it's tailor-made for you. With the touch of a small button, that jacket will be yours.

Next up, this is a jacket that dries itself if it gets wet. I'm also taking that to mean that the jacket can also make you warmer when it's cold outside, which is a pretty damn sweet feature for a coat to have.

Furthermore, I've just always liked how cool this jacket looks. Though the forecast for 2015 may be dated and silly now, I think this jacket stands strong as a great piece of fashion for the future. I've seen far more ugly and stupid jackets become popular in the real world today when this one looks infinitely better and serves a practical function. It even has pockets good for today's media devices. The only thing that might make it better is if it had Bluetooth capabilities to blast music out of it. But hey, since we don't know the full capabilities of this jacket, there's always a chance it does.

penny lane coat

Vanessa Bogart: Penny Lane's Fur Coat in Almost Famous

As a girl starting to realize she was interested in boys and coming up on the cusp of those crucial years of confusion and self-identification, there was no cooler idol than Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and her amazing fur-lined 1970's-tastic coat.

After Will, a quiet little 15-year-old boy surrounded by personalities and a world bigger than he can imagine, tries his damnedest and fails to get in backstage at the Black Sabbath concert, he turns to see Penny Lane at the top of the loading area. She makes her grand introduction, blonde hair waved to her shoulders, tinted blue glasses, and a jaw-dropping brown coat that frames her angelic face with an exaggerated fur collar and lapel. The coat is more than a random piece of costume fashion from the time period. That coat immediately tells the audience that she is important, that she is on the level of the band, that she is going to be an instrumental piece to Will's story. She is not a groupie, she is a bandaid, a modern day muse during one of the most influential periods in music of all time.

Even though our protagonist is Will, Penny Lane becomes the tragic mystery that steals our attention and our hearts. That coat embodies her over-the-top and entrancing lifestyle but it also swallows her whole. It may be the coolest coat I have ever seen and I begged and begged my mom to get me one just like it, but as I watch Almost Famous as an adult, I can't help but notice that the coat weighs her down. Penny Lane, who I once idolized as being the kind of petite, blonde, cool girl that I wanted to be, was consumed by her own adventure and she was as much a victim of the artists as she was their inspiration. That coat is the whirlwind of the music world in the '70s engulfing her. It is beautiful and it is tragic. I still want one. It will forever have an air of mystery, because of the just-barely-a-woman who brought it to life.

Ferris Bueller jacket

Ben Pearson: Ferris Bueller's Leather Jacket in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris's leather jacket from Ferris Bueller's Day Off may not be the most eye-catching piece of clothing in movie history, but allow me to make the case for its perfection within the context of John Hughes' 1986 classic comedy. If Ferris himself were a piece of clothing, this would be it: he's a chameleon in school, able to blend in with all sorts of social groups ("The sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him") in the same way this jacket can fit a myriad of social situations. I mean, think about it: he wears it to a baseball game, a museum, and an uber-fancy lunch restaurant all in the same day. Talk about versatility! The jacket itself is a mishmash of colors and styles: it has zippers and rivets, and yes, it's leather, but look at the ends of the sleeves – those rings around the wrists almost look like something you'd see on a letterman's jacket. Ferris would never be caught dead in one of those, but the fact is that this jacket is an encapsulation of his character: it fits whatever situation he needs so he can ease through high school with as few obstacles as possible.

Plus, look at the way it billows out in that slow-motion shot as Ferris uses a child's trampoline to spring over a fence during his race home at the end of his day off. The fact that this is a slow-mo shot is no accident: Hughes lingers on the air filling in underneath that jacket and frames it like a cape, further emphasizing the idea that Ferris is his own one-of-a-kind version of a cinematic superhero.

blade runner 2049 trailer

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