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Ten of the most gloriously iconic hairstyles in film

Can you even imagine Spring Breakers without James Franco’s cornrows?

Ask yourself this. What would Pulp Fiction be without Uma Thurman’s jet-black bob? What would Road House be without Patrick Swayze’s mullet? Can you even imagine Spring Breakers without James Franco’s cornrows? The answers are quite clearly: nothing, nothing, and no. It’s amazing, if we’re being honest, how many films truly hinge on a gloriously iconic hairdo. When you remember certain movies, that’s often the thing you remember. Think of Amelie. The plot is perhaps a little fuzzy, but that short French bob is crystal clear. Or to put it another way: a great movie haircut sears itself into your memory as if it were the only thing worth remembering. From the weird and the wonderful to the god-I-wish-I-had-that hair, here are some of the styles you’ll perfectly picture till the day you die.

Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice

Pluck a Winona movie out of a hat and you’ll likely find a role with an enviable hairdo. Beetlejuice surely comes top though. It features Winona as Lydia Deetz, a teen goth to rival Wednesday Adams. Her hairstyle sort of looks like a black claw is clasping the roof of her skull. Spiky fingers creep down towards her eyes. Judging from appearances, there’s a strong possibility she’s related to Robert Smith. If her all-black-everything look and that razor-sharp hair isn’t enough to win your heart, however, she does possess some sunny moves. Shake, shake, shake, Señora.

Jack Nance in Eraserhead

The plot of Eraserhead is supposed to be confusing, like a dizzying nightmare. Again, you can be forgiven for forgetting its finer details, but that hairdo? That’s something you absolutely cannot forget. The protagonist, an oddball loner played by Jack Nance, wanders through Lynch’s gloomy industrial underworld, looking as though he just stuck his fingers in a plug socket. His hair stands erect with a slight slapstick bounce, like Kramer’s fuzzy top in Seinfeld. And we can’t forget Lynch himself, of course, renowned for his own beautiful silver surf of hair.

Ricki Lake in Hairspray

Tracy Turnblad’s haircut is the kind that makes you want to sing Motown songs into a hairbrush and dance in front of your bedroom mirror. It’s also the kind that requires a whole lotta hairspray and whole lotta brushing. Her friend Penny Pingleton calls it the “flamboyant flip” and says it’s “all the rage”. In John Waters’s 60s-set camp caper, it’s a haircut that makes perfect sense, even if in our world it looks like two hairstyles combined, the equivalent of a guy wearing two shirts at the same time. Ricki Lake rocks it. Now hold your breath and spray.

Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element

Jean Paul Gaultier may have provided the lavish costumes, but the hair department totally stole his thunder. The hair of one man, Chris Tucker, to be precise. As Ruby Rhod, Tucker has two unforgettable hairstyles. The first is like an exaggerated Elvis quiff, but blonde and slightly more…phallic. The second features round blocks of hair (a wig, apparently). Add to that a leopard print suit and a headset, and you’ve got yourself a flamboyant pop star of the future. Tucker imagined his character as a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince, but style-wise, Ruby Rhod’s hair is like nothing this planet has seen before or since.

Angelina Jolie in Hackers

Kate Libby, aka Acid Burn, is a hacker, a rollerblader, and a video game queen. Her cyberpunk-inspired look features leather motorcycle gear and luminescent Quicksilver turtlenecks. To top it all off, there’s her pixie-like hairdo: short, sleek, and straight outta Star Trek. It’s the perfect antidote to the peroxide blonde buzz of Johnny Lee Miller, aka Zero Cool. The biggest takeaway from re-watching the movie? The weak hacker aliases could never quite match their great hair.

Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie

French New Wave movies are a treasure trove of inspired hairstyles. Jean Seberg in Breathless, Chantal Goya in Masculin Féminin, and of course, Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie. Karina’s inky black bob is a throwback to Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box. It’s similarly sophisticated and stylish, though less defined, as befits a Parisian girl in her early twenties who works in a record shop. As Nana, Karina goes to the cinema and cries at old movies, she smokes and smokes, and then she smokes some more. Did I mention it’s a Paris-set movie made in the early 60s by Jean-Luc Godard?

Christopher 'Kid' Harris in House Party

Christopher 'Kid' Harris is best known as one half of rap duo Kid ‘n Play. He’s also known for his gravity-defying hairdo, which never looked better than in House Party. Back then, the fresh fade haircut – which made a tentative comeback in recent years – was at its peak. Think Fresh Prince or Posdnuos from De La Soul in the early days. In House Party, Kid took it to the next level, literally giving the cut a fair few more inches of elevation. Watching him, you’re curious to know how such a hairdo affects your special awareness when entering pubs with low ceilings. Fun fact: the lead roles were originally written for The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Makes sense.

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

Every hot guy in the 50s had James Dean’s pompadour. But no one wore the look better than him. The bad boy greaser in tight denim could entice Natalie Wood by little more than leaning on the hood of a car. That tortured stare! That up-turned collar! That hair that swoops so naturally, as if carved by the wind from an open top car! Dean’s do has inspired many pale imitators. Head to any barbers in Shoreditch and you’ll find some variation of the 50s greaser look. But Dean’s rebel is the real deal, with a cigarette hanging between his lips so naturally it looks as if it was there when he was born.

Pam Grier in Coffy

One of the most iconic afros in the history of cinema sits atop the head of Pam Grier in Coffy. In the 70s blaxploitation classic, she plays a gun-toting nurse who fights inner-city drug dealers by night. She’s “the baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town,” says the movie’s poster, which shows Grier clutching a shotgun, hand on hip, gold hoops dangling beneath her era-defining afro.

Faye Wong in Chungking Express

Like Jolie’s hacker hairdo, Faye Wong’s short cut is simple and subtly iconic. With it, she oozes fun, hopping around the fast-food joint where she works, dancing to California Dreamin’, which she plays on repeat. Wong’s pixie-like haircut and gleeful prancing are probably reasons why the Manic Pixie Dream Girl tag is typically tossed her way. And yet, in Wong Kar-wai’s dreamy mid-90s love story, she’s more charming than irksome.