Film

Hot fuzz: The most glorious moustaches in movie history, ranked

Our run down of the most famous moustaches in movie history, from Bert Reynolds' luxuriant lip warmer to Kenneth Branagh's feat of engineering

Kenneth Branagh with a big moustache

Kenneth Branagh in Death on the Nile, 2022. Image: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

One thing you can say about Kenneth Branagh’s recent screen take on Hercule Poirot: those little grey cells come with an impressively large moustache attached. But if the cinematic popularity of handlebars, walruses and banditos has waxed and waned over the last 50 years, there have still been plenty of notable examples. Let’s pluck a few hairy highlights.

The Godfather (1972)

Marlon Brando in The Godfather
Image: Allstar Picture Library Limited. / Alamy Stock Photo

One moustache casts a long shadow over 1970s cinema. But before we get to Burt, an honourable mention for Marlon Brando’s relatively discreet effort, tucked neatly between those regal cheeks. Midway through Francis Ford Coppola’s ravishing mafia saga, a drained Don Corleone is recuperating in bed. Then a slow cross-fade to rural Sicily makes his lip-warmer appear to bloom into a tree. It’s a slice of movie magic, via moustache.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Burt Reynolds in a car wearing pink shirt and cowboy hat
Image: UNIVERSAL PICTURES / Album/Alamy

Burt Reynolds was clean-shaven for his breakout role in Deliverance (1972) but he soon embraced the moustache lifestyle, which only seemed to enhance his screen image as an incorrigible show-off and lothario. Those career-long qualities were enshrined by his speeding bootlegger in the slapdash Smokey and the Bandit, where Reynolds rocks a macho caterpillar almost as wide as his cowboy hat.

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The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Lando Calrissian in Empire Strikes Back
Image: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

There are mutton chops and facial fuzz galore in a galaxy far, far away, a byproduct of the original Star Wars recruiting local extras while filming at Elstree Studios in the mid-1970s. But it took Billy Dee Williams as suave rascal Lando to bring a moustache to the fore. One bright spot in the otherwise gruelling The Rise of Skywalker (2019) was seeing it return after all those lightyears away.

Tombstone (1993)

Four men in Wild West attire
Image: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

If moustaches felt rare in contemporary 1990s films, this rugged retelling of the notorious gunfight at the OK Corral took up the slack. All three strapping Earp brothers – played by Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott and Kurt Russell – boast grand soup-catchers of increasing bushiness, reflecting their fraternal hierarchy. (Val Kilmer’s prickly Doc Holliday prefers something a little smaller and sharper.)

Gangs of New York (2002)

Daniel Day-Lewis in top hat and moustache
Image: AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo

Hygiene was clearly not a priority on the mean streets of 1860s New York, as realised in Martin Scorsese’s chaotic period punch-up. Terrifying crime kingpin Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) has the lankest of hair yet also maintains a magnificent waxed moustache. As Bill’s vengeful protege, Leonardo DiCaprio is given the wispiest of stage-hypnotist goatees presumably just to emphasise the unbridgeable gulf between them.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Will Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004).
Image: AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo

Are moustaches inherently funny? Thanks to Will Ferrell’s trademark film role, they have become a handy screen shorthand for a certain type of puffed-up, self-sabotaging idiot. The one-two punch of Anchorman and then Borat (2006) – with Sacha Baron Cohen’s thick ’tache far more substantial than his mankini – helped solidify this whiskery comic trope in the 2000s.

Miami Vice (2006)

Colin Farrell with a moustache
Image: Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Michael Mann’s belated film sequel to his sun-kissed, pastel-positive 1980s TV hit failed to connect with audiences and critics on release, perhaps because they were expecting something ironic. Driven vice cop Crockett’s handlebar is notable because – like the rest of this tough-minded, grittily realised crime thriller – it is played entirely straight. Colin Farrell has rarely looked hotter.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Henry Cavill with a moustache
Image: Collection Christophel / Alamy Stock Photo

Slapping a big pushbroom on an even bigger Henry Cavill seemed like a typically tricksy Mission: Impossible fake-out: surely it was too much of a cliche for his imposing CIA stooge to be a moustache-twirling villain? But when Cavill had to contractually keep the facial furniture even while doing Justice League (2017) reshoots, his not-so-secret ’stache gained some unexpected notoriety. (The result was some shonky CG hair removal for Superman.)

Death on the Nile (2022)

Kenneth Branagh close up
Image: Disney+

In Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Branagh unveiled his signature look for Poirot: a grand, sweeping moustache that seemed at odds with the detective’s fusspot nature. This week it returns as the Belgian sleuth tangles with a psychic in Venice. But it was Death on the Nile that explored the tragic origin story of Poirot’s bristly affectation via a black-and-white flashback to the first world war. If Branagh’s Belfast was a love letter to the city that shaped him, his Poirot trilogy has turned out to be a surprisingly moving tribute to moustaches.

A Haunting in Venice is in cinemas from 15 September

Graeme Virtue is a film and TV critic

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