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)
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 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)
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.
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.)