Pop culture's most iconic poolside moments

To celebrate Prada getting aquatic, take a dip with our slickest on-film moments

Fashion Top Ten
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Milan called this week – and it wants us to jump in the pool. Prada led the pack with its runway that doubled up as a handy pool covering – models snaked between massive white colonnades in an indoor pool that that had an atmosphere of ancient grandeur. Miuccia’s navy two-pieces and contrast stitching lent a submerged vibe to proceedings that was less Popeye the Sailor than Trois couleurs: Bleu. Versace followed (swim) suit, with models espousing a glamorous approach to pool gear: tiny white speedos, logo-emblazoned towels and pink linen suits all added up to a relaxed holiday mood. And if the key to a successful pool party is a more-is-more approach, then Philipp Plein wrote the rulebook: his SS15, shown in an abandoned public swimming pool, saw male models up against synchronised swimmers and rappers on jet skis (seriously). Milan’s take on summer might be miles away from your local lido, then, but the Italian menswear shows do join a long-running heritage of iconic poolside moments. Take a dip with our top ten.

HELMUT NEWTON

Helmut Newton’s lens imparted icon status unto all those who stepped before it: Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking, the 1970s Playboy bunny and the swimming pool. Newton shot poolside throughout his career, lending the familiar pools of grand hotels and Hollywood apartments his personal power to seduce – and shock. Poolside observations can make us all feel like voyeurs, and Newton’s polarizing shots play upon the voyeurism inherent in the act.

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Helmut Newton for Vogue Italia, 1976 pinterest.com/abetheape

BOOGIE NIGHTS

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Boogie Nights may have made a star of director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Mark Wahlberg, but the 1997 film also produced one of the most iconic pool scenes committed to celluloid. Chronicling disco, drugs and the porn industry at its dizziest late 70s heights, the narrative is punctuated by several poolside scenes. Widely regarded as one of cinema’s best tracking shots, the scene shows that no-one did pool party glamour quite like the 1970s.  

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH

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The definitive "teen sex comedy", 1982's Fast Times At Ridgemont High features the kind of pool scene that's been scoured for on YouTube for generations since. Featuring a memorable early apperance by Sean Penn as a perenially stoned surfer bro, it's the pool scene with high school hot tamale Phoebe Coates (Linda Barrett) that really makes a splash. The Cars provide the perfect 80s soundtrack to this short tale of red bikinis and unlocked bathroom doors. 

POST-OSCAR WIN FAYE DUNAWAY

In the camera flash circus of Oscars night, not many would pause to think of the morning after as a worthy subject. On 29 March 1977, Terry O'Neill was one of the first – his photo of Faye Dunaway taking breakfast by the pool after her Oscar win (for Network) would become one of his most iconic. Taken at the Beverley Hills Hotel, the pristine water complements the scattered newspapers to capture something of the public chaos and personal quiet of such a morning. The story of the photograph would keep on unravelling for years to come: O'Neill would marry Dunaway six years after the photo was taken, and divorce her three years after that.

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WILD THINGS

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A classic of the 'late-90s erotic thrillers with lesbian overtones' genre – Cruel Intentions, anyone? – Wild Things saw Denise Richards and Neve Campbell play high-school students at the centre of a conspiracy accusing teacher Matt Dillon of rape (it’s also got Kevin Bacon, and a pre-renaissance Bill Murray). What everyone really remembers, however, is a memorable night-time dip in the pool by its two leading ladies – a steamy kissing scene that, as most YouTube viewers agree, is “not long enough.”

BRAD ELTERMAN

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Kim Fowley Dog Den Pool, 1979 Photography by Brad Elterman

Prolific pool party host Brad Elterman is notorious for his waterside shots, whether planned photo shoots with 80s models or off-the-cuff shots of anonymous party-goers. Chronicling cult figures on the punk scene as well as Playboy bunnies, the pools he documents are as much the subject of his portraits as the people: he recalls those pools belonging to his friends, his own apartment pools and hotel pools on his website’s archive

SEXY BEAST

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Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast idfilm.net

Post-Sexy Beast, we would never look at Ray Winstone in quite the same way again. Jonathan Glazer’s 2000 film about a retired gangster (Winstone) forced into a criminal comeback by a former associate (Ben Kingsley) boasts one of the most confident opening shots of the noughties: our reddening, bloated protagonist, lying on a sunlounger in yellow Speedos, Ray Bans and a thick gold chain. Something of Versace SS15, if you will. And we haven’t seen such a striking use of hot pink title credits since Rosemary’s Baby.

SPRING BREAKERS

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“I got my dark tannin’ oil…lay out by the pool, put on my dark tanning oil…I got machine guns!” So says James Franco in his bravado-bro performance as gangster Alien in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012). Pools feature in almost every scene of Spring Breakers, from the Skrillex-soundtracked MTV parties to that neon-soaked, gun-slinging finale. And who could forget Franco’s sunset rendition of Britney’s ‘Everytime’: beachside, poolside, balaclava-clad. The steamiest scene is in the water, however, with this Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Franco three-way.

SHOWGIRLS

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A bomb at the box office, Paul Vervohoen’s perhaps misunderstood Showgirls (1995) starred Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi, a dancer-turned-stripper who tries to make it in Vegas. All About Eve meets Striptease, the moment anyone who saw it will most likely remember is that excruciating sex scene in Nomi’s boss’s pool (a post-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLahan). When it comes to this scene, it might be best to concentrate on the tasteful neon palm tree installations and dolphin statues instead. 

SLIM AARONS

Slim Aarons, best known for his photographs of high society’s best and brightest, was originally a combat photographer in World War II. His wartime experiences taught him that the only beach worth landing on was “decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun.” One of his favourite subjects was pools and everything that went with them – a 2007 book, Poolside with Slim Aarons, is dedicated to his best shots. 

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Catherine Wilke sunbathing, Aaron Slims lifeaccordingtocelia.com
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