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Best Sunglasses in Movie History

Sunglasses have made their mark on Hollywood by being a way for a director to show off a certain trait about a character, or in some cases define who a character is. They are a common prop in movies and usually go unnoticed, unless they are somehow involved in the plot or they catch someone’s eye. This article will focus on the best of the best, sunglasses that even the average film buff is sure to recognize. These unique standouts help make the character in question who they are and provide a way for the average person to connect with these movies.

  1. They Live (1988): Nada’s Knockoff Ray Ban’s

This movie is so 80’s it hurts: Tough guy Nada (played by Roddy Piper) discovers a pair of cheap looking glasses that allow him to discover aliens that are living among us. Looking past this relatively cheesy plot, this movie remains a cult classic even to this day. The movie itself speaks to a segment of people, who feel a lack of freedom and a sense that they are being controlled by some type of “Big Brother.” If the book 1984 and Rambo: First Blood Part 2 had a baby it would be this movie.

The entire film hinges on the glasses, because without them, Nada wouldn’t be able to distinguish friend from foe. The glasses themselves were purposely meant to look cheap, with their plastic rim and so on, so as to look like nothing special when Nada was wearing them in the film. Despite all this, the glasses were indeed the star of the show, and besides how could a movie that revolves around a specific pair of glasses not make the list?

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  1. Top Gun (1986): Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s Ray Ban 3025 Large Aviators

In the summer of 1986 the coolest occupation one could have was U.S. Navy fighter pilot. This film, about hot shot fighter pilot, call sign “Maverick,” was a huge blockbuster success and helped propel Tom Cruise to A-list Hollywood. The movie was released in the heat of the Cold War and gave many young men a revived sense of patriotism and prompted many to enlist in the Navy soon afterwards.

There were many, however, that were more interested in getting the aviators that Cruise was sporting throughout the movie. Aviators were widely used by pilots since WWII, but hadn’t really caught on with the general public. This film changed all that and according to Time Magazine, sales for the Ray Ban 3025 Large Aviators shot up 40% in the weeks following the movie’s release. To this day the glasses evoke images of fighters taking off into the sunsets, beach volleyball, and a general 80’s vibe.

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  1. Cobra (1986): Lt. Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti’s Ray Ban RB 3030 Outdoorsman

This 1986 police action movie starring Sylvester Stallone, is known for over the top action, explosions, and cheesy one liners.  The plot follows along the lines of: Bad boy cop has to play by his own rules if he wants to catch the bad guy. Despite this storyline sounding a bit played out today, the movie remains as fun and entertaining as ever.

Cobra’s style was very 1950’s, as he generally dressed the part and drove a ’50 mercury coupe throughout the majority of the film. He also rocked a custom pair of snake grips on his .45 auto, and not to mention his killer aviators. Indoors, Outdoors, nighttime: nothing stopped the Lt. from sporting his beloved shades everywhere he went. The very dark intimidating look was exactly what Cobra needed on the mean streets of L.A. Much like Top Gun the movie boosted sales on the then stagnant line of Ray Ban’s, due to people looking to capture at least a little bit of the Cobra style.

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  1. Terminator (1984): Terminator/ T-800 Model 101’s Gargoyle Sunglasses

One of the most popular movies of all time, about a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent from the future to kill the mother of the leader of the human resistance against the machines. The film spawned many sequels and is referenced and quoted constantly. The idea of ‘machines’ taking over the human race is something that keeps people up at night, especially after this movie’s release.

In the film, after the Terminator is shot in the eye, thereby exposing some of its machinery and wiring. It then uses the Gargoyle sunglasses to cover up the exposed metal and circuitry, which gives him a much more intimidating and cold blooded look. Day or night the glasses never leave his face, as he carries on his mission to change the future. Movie goers who wanted to capture some of this intimidating look tried to get their hands on sunglasses that had that same ‘Terminator’ look.


  1. Risky Business (1983): Joel Goodsen’s Ray-Ban 2140 Wayfarers

This 1983 coming of age film was Tom Cruise’s first big hit. Joel was a kid who did everything his parents told him until he became friendly with a female escort and got involved in some (you guessed it) risky business. The classic scene of cruise sliding down the hall wearing nothing but his underwear, button-down shirt, and Wayfarers, has spawned many “Risky Business” themed college parties where participates dress the part and go out wearing what Joel was in the movie.

Pictured right on the poster for the film is the iconic photo of a young Tom Cruise looking over the pair of Wayfarers, which are the glasses he wore throughout the film. This movie re-kindled the public’s interest in this style of glasses, that were very popular in the 50’s, and firmly established the wayfarers as THE sunglasses to have in the 80’s.


  1. Scarface (1983): Tony Montana’s Vintage Carrera Aviators

The early 80’s gangster movie about the story of one man’s rise to power and eventual fall, has captivated generations of movie goers. The story represents a sort of alternate American dream, in which one obtains power through violence and illegal activities. Despite the character of Montana being a ‘bad guy,’ Pacino plays him in such a way that forces the audience to feel for him despite all his faults.

For people that enjoy a nice pair of sunglasses, Tony Montana’s stick out as unusual and rather symbolic of his character. These vintage Carrera’s are unique to Tony, as Tony is unique to America. They are a rather different design with a unique shading as well, which helps to make Tony stand out even more.

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  1. X-Men (2000): Cyclops’ Red Shaded X Metal Juliet Oakley’s

Before the Superhero craze became what it is today, there was X-Men at the start of it all. People with extraordinary powers are considered ‘mutants’ and generally distrusted by the rest of the population and we see how Wolverine and the other X- Men find out where they fit in. The film went on to have many more sequels and spin offs, most recently X-Men Apocalypse.

Scott Summers (aka. Cyclopes) has the ability to shoot lasers out of his eyes that can cut through his foes and whatever else he wanted, the problem is the lasers constantly fire if his eyes are open. Enter: Oakley’s customized X Metal Juliet sunglasses. The lenses had to be red shaded, as no other shade would work to hold back cyclopes laser beam, other than that they were pretty much off the shelf. These ‘superhero shades’ were a hit with anyone that wishes they were part of Charles Xavier’s famous school.


  1. The Big Lebowski (1998): Walter Sobchak’s Yellow Tinted Ray-Ban’s

Originally considered a failure in the box office, The Big Lebowski went on to achieve the status of one of the defining cult classics of the 1990’s. “The Dude” is your typical slacker who gets in trouble with a case of mistaken identity and enlists the help of some of his bowling alley buddies to help him out.

John Goodman’s character in the movie is a no-nonsense, semi-unstable Vietnam veteran, who is anxious to get involved when The Dude needs his help. In the movie he sports a pair of yellow tinted aviators that are kind of an odd ball type of shades, perfect for the oddball character Goodman plays. These glasses are different than your run of the mill aviators, but to the many die-hard fans of the movie, they are an absolute must have.

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  1. The Hangover (2009): Alan/ Baby Carlos’s Demi Tortoise Nylon BluBlockers

This 2009 comedy was an instant success, depicting the struggles of three groomsmen getting too drunk and lose their, soon to be married, friend Doug in Las Vegas. The story resonates with everyone who secretly craves to head down to Vegas and have a night they will never remember. The movie had two sequels, although funny, weren’t able to capture the magic of the first film.

Early on in the movie Alan (Zach Galifianakis) comes upon a baby in his hotel, which he immediately takes in as his own. With the baby rocking a pair of his cheap Tortoise sunglasses, the image of Alan carrying the baby around in a harness is absolutely priceless, with many fans even going out and purchasing sweatshirts that depict this. The glasses themselves are relatively cheap and rather odd looking, which might be the reason the director choose Alan to wear them.

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  1. Dirty Harry (1971): Detective Harry Callahan’s Ray-Ban 4089 Baloramas

Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) set the stage for every cop movie made after its release. The then newish concept of a detective using any means necessary to crack the case, is something that is often imitated, but never duplicated. This film was so well received it went on to have 4 sequels made after it, with Eastwood staring in every one.

With the exception of his famous .44 Magnum Smith and Wesson, his sunglasses were one of his more popular accessories. The Balorama style was perfect for Clint’s character as it is a very tough, no BS type sunglass and that fits him very well. The style remains popular today, as does the man himself.

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