15 Trenchcoats that Stole the Show in Movies

Yusuf Laher
Yusuf Laher
Scribol Staff
Pop Culture, October 11, 2013
  • From burnt-out detectives to comic book heroes, countless iconic Hollywood characters have worn trench coats to add mystery, intrigue and gravitas to their personas. Traditionally, these coats have gone arm in sleeve with film noir-style narration by a chain-smoking, dame-loving doomed protagonist. And, once in a while, a giant mutant ninja turtle just wants a night out in New York without drawing too much attention to himself. Read on for the 15 of the most memorable Hollywood trench coats.

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  • 15. Detective Lt. William Somerset – Se7en (1995)

    Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman used a classic detective’s trench coat to help establish the wily credentials of his character, retiring detective William Somerset, in David Fincher’s dark, critically-acclaimed 1995 crime thriller Se7en. Incoming detective David Mills (played by Brad Pitt) is bound to feel more at ease partnered with such a classic-looking gumshoe type – complete with sleuth hat and hardened outlook on life. Still, Freeman’s projected wisdom and well-crafted “seen-it-all-before” demeanor help Somerset rise above typical detective stereotypes. Also, in keeping with the old dog-meets-new rookie neo-noir dynamic, Mills wears a contrastingly edgier all-leather trench coat.

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  • 14. Col. Hans “Jew Hunter” Landa – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

    Austrian actor Christoph Waltz’s career blew up after he played Nazi colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s over-the-top 2009 fictional World War II movie Inglourious Basterds. Waltz is mesmerizing in the film’s opening scene, strolling onto the farm of suspected Jew-harborer Perrier LaPadite (played by Denis Menochet) in a striking Nazi leather trench coat. The way Waltz interrogates LaPadite, expertly balancing genuine-seeming warmth with a dangerous undercurrent of menace and guile – backed up by the unnerving authority of his SS trench coat – is simply breathtaking. Waltz deservedly won a slew of awards for his performance, including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. We just hope he thanked the coat, as the scene wouldn’t have been the same without it.

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  • 13. Walter Kovacs/Rorschach – Watchmen (2009)

    With his grizzly-voiced narration, signature gumshoe fedora and matching waxed trench coat, anti-hero Walter Kovacs, better known as Rorschach, added an element of classic film noir to the 2009 big screen version of graphic novel classic Watchmen. And it seemed to work, as crime-solving Rorschach – played by Jackie Earle Haley – walks the rain-soaked streets of New York in full-on private eye mode, trying to work out who killed fellow superhero The Comedian (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and unravel his own conspiracy theory. Rorschach’s Raymond Chandler-esque private dick look, complete with his signature ink blot mask, has gone on to become a go-to Halloween option for costume-loving nerds everywhere.

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  • 12. Uncle Fester – The Addams Family (1991)

    Christopher Lloyd was barely recognizable as loveable hairless ghoul-type Fester Addams in director Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1991 big screen take on popular cartoon The Addams Family. “Uncle” Fester’s look was completed by dark purple rings around both eyes and a heavyset all-black trench coat that appears like something Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Igor might wear on a first date. Interestingly, the coat concealed a fat suit that was given to Lloyd by actor Bruno Kirby, who had used it to artificially beef up for his role as a younger version of “Fat” Pete Clemenza in Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic 1974 mafia film The Godfather: Part II. It’s a simple look, but it works.

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  • 11. Kyle Reese – The Terminator (1984)

    Not everyone may remember his name, but Michael Biehn became an unlikely style icon when he played time-traveling soldier of the rebellion Kyle Reese in James Cameron’s classic 1984 sci-fi blockbuster The Terminator. For some reason, time travelers in the Terminator series travel naked, so the first thing Reese does when he arrives sans-clothes in 1984 Los Angeles is grab a pair of Nike Vandals, a trench coat and a shotgun. Luckily, he just happens to be heroine Sarah Connor’s (played by Linda Hamilton) idea of tall, dark and handsome, and together they manage to fend off the Terminator (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) and find time to conceive future leader of the human rebellion John Connor.

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  • 10. Blade – Blade (1998)

    With his dark Black Fly shades and his oh-so-‘90s fade hairstyle, Wesley Snipes kicked some serious Nosferatu ass as day-walking half-vampire and Dracula-killer Blade. However, it was the character’s slick, Gestapo-esque leather trench coat that really completed the Marvel comic book hero’s onscreen look. As the series evolved, Blade’s coats, sunglasses and weapons seemed to become increasingly elaborate, but the functional, all-black “vampire-SWAT” style he pioneered in the original 1998 action horror is the reason Blade makes our list of trench coat-wearing movie icons.

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  • 9. Dr. Malcolm Crowe – The Sixth Sense (1999)

    M. Night Shyamalan’s movies often take place in a kind of stylized “horror noir” world that’s moodier and more psychologically uncanny than real life. In Shyamalan’s breakout 1999 hit The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis uses a trench coat to channel his inner paranormal detective as child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe. Crowe’s strange, unsettling trench coat-aided demeanor suits the film’s eerie feel perfectly and makes you somewhat suspicious of him until the big reveal at the end. It’s the kind of coat that says a lot without even trying, if you’re paying attention.

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  • 8. Raphael – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

    After his solo night out in the city in 1990 live action turtles debut Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, temperamental Raphael – portrayed by Josh Pais – bumps into wannabe vigilante Casey Jones (played by Elias Koteas). Following the pair’s sports-themed encounter, the spell Raphael’s trench coat casts over his exposed and blatantly green legs and face is momentarily broken when a taxi driver bumps into him in the street. “What the heck was that?” asks the passenger. “Looks like sort of a big turtle in a trench coat,” replies the driver. Amusingly, Jones calls Raphael Bogey at one point, referencing trench coat pioneer Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Rick Blaine in 1942 classic Casablanca.

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  • 7. Connor MacLeod – Highlander (1986)

    Backed by a bombastic Queen-fueled soundtrack, U.S.-born French actor Christopher Lambert stars as the Immortal Connor MacLeod in cult 1986 fantasy adventure Highlander. MacLeod is a warrior who understands the mysterious and introverted allure that an oversized trench coat can lend to your persona – and it also helps when you’re trying to conceal a 593 B.C. Japanese katana. MacLeod, a true pioneer of the underused Japanese sword and trench coat look, went on to star in three Highlander sequels and even inspired a ‘90s spin-off TV series featuring clansman and fellow trench coat aficionado Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul). Evidently, there can be only two.

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  • 6. Dick Tracy – Dick Tracy (1990)

    With his bright canary trench coat and matching black striped yellow fedora, comic book hero Dick Tracy defies the usually more inconspicuous private eye guise. Directed by Warren Beatty, who also stars as the eponymous detective, the 1990 film adaptation of the popular 1930s comic strip intentionally used a limited color palette that mimics the look of the comic books. And as a fan of the Tommy gun, Tracy often seems more like a camp 1930s gangster than a police detective – which probably helps when you’re taking on a bunch of disfigured villains led by Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice (portrayed by Al Pacino). Still, it’s a look that works, as square-jawed Tracy juggles his demure girlfriend Tess Trueheart (played by Glenne Headly) and the sultry Breathless Mahoney (played by Madonna).

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  • 5. Rick Deckard – Blade Runner (1982)

    Played by Harrison Ford, almost washed-up L.A.P.D. replicant-hunter Rick Deckard is another character who taps into the iconic film noir detective look that trench coats bring to the table, this time in Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Deckard’s coat, which has gone on to become almost as popular as the movie itself, adds to his part as the jaded retired police detective called in to embark on one last big mission. The look was complemented by contentious noir-style Deckard narration that was eventually cut from newer versions of the film. The coat, which was designed by costume designer Charles Knode, sold for just over $15,000 at auction.

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  • 4. Dr. Dana Scully – The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

    The X-Files did more for trench coats than most other television shows could ever dream of doing. Adding an element of classic detective chic to their paranormal pursuits, FBI special agents Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Dana Scully became as known for their oversized trench coats and flashlights as they were for the crackling will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between them. Anderson became a ‘90s style icon and geek-worshiped sex symbol who inspired women everywhere to tap into their inner sleuths. And when the series made the leap to the big screen with 1998’s The X-Files: Fight the Future, Scully wore a clingier-looking fitted black trench coat that modernized the look and made geeks fall in love with her all over again.

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  • 3. Eric Draven/The Crow – The Crow (1994)

    The Crow is another comic book character-turned-movie hero who owes a lot of his cult status to a stylish black leather trench coat. Ill-fated Brandon Lee starred as Eric Draven in the original 1994 film. After Draven is brutally slain and his fiancée Shelly Webster (played by Sofia Shinas) is raped and battered the night before their wedding, Draven rises from the grave thanks to a supernatural crow with an obvious fondness for revenge. Renamed “The Crow,” Draven’s gothic rock star rebirth is completed by his now iconic white and black face paint and black leather trench coat look, which has been imitated by countless unimaginative Halloween partygoers ever since.

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  • 2. Thomas A. Anderson/Neo – The Matrix (1999)

    Wooden actor Keanu Reeves and his posse of real world rebels must have given a boost to the trench coat industry in 1999, in the wake of stylish sci-fi box office behemoth The Matrix. The New York Times even described the resulting pop cultural backlash as “that Matrix look.” In the film, programmer and hacker Thomas A. Anderson turned messiah Neo – a.k.a. the One – proves that all it takes to storm the castle and overthrow the machines is a black trench coat full of guns and a crew of like-minded fashionistas. Interestingly, Reeves beat Johnny Depp to land the role of Neo after it was turned down by Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt.

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  • 1. Marv – Sin City (2005)

    Mickey Rourke stole the show as flat-faced, dame-loving brute Marv in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s cult 2005 neo-noir thriller Sin City – and his trench coat deserves much of the credit. Frank Miller, who also wrote the original Sin City graphic novel series, describes Marv as “Conan in a trench coat,” and it’s not hard to see why. Whether the character is dropkicking a police car or flying through the air, Marv’s coat acts like an extension of himself. Oh, and Marv is also an aficionado of the style. “That’s a damn fine coat you’re wearing,” he says, if one of his victims is wearing a coat that catches his eye – before he steals it and adds it to his collection.

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  • Bonus: Silent Bob – Clerks (1994)

    He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, he makes it count. Director Kevin Smith made the trench coat cool again when he played near-mute anti-hero Silent Bob in his own 1994 cult comedy Clerks. Bob is the sane sidekick to Jason Mewes’ more animated – and offensive – Jay, and the stoner duo have appeared in six Smith-directed films, including the 2006 sequel Clerks II. While Jay dabbled with the trench coat look, Bob stuck to it religiously, creating his own blend of underachieving geek chic that has gone on to become another popular Halloween costume choice. And, highlighting his dedication to the cause, the coat Smith dons in Clerks is custom made.

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