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Fifth Element
Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element, 1997

Seven of the most iconic male beauty looks in film

TextOliver Lunn

From Cry Baby to Patrick Bateman, we round up some of our fave male beauty looks in cinema

Welcome to Behind The Masc: Rethinking Masculinity, a campaign dedicated to exploring what ‘masculinity’ means in 2019. With photo stories shot in Tokyo, India, New York, and London and in-depth features exploring mental health, older bodybuilders, and myths around masculinity – we present all the ways people around the world are redefining traditional tropes.

Don’t get me wrong. Great acting is great acting, but a truly amazing, iconic role is almost always tethered to an iconic look. Think Tony Montana, Marty McFly, Travis Bickle. They all have their look. You can easily dress up as them, head to a party, your friend immediately pointing, Travis Bickle, am I right? Which is to say: a great performance isn’t anything without a great look. And the movies are like a treasure trove of iconic male beauty looks. Here are some of those gems. 


Patrick Bateman’s 80s yuppie style is rooted, partly, in his meticulous morning beauty routine. “I believe in taking care of myself,” he says, before listing the endless ‘gel scrubs’ and creams that underpin his hard-fought good looks. He does an ice pack (“if my face is puffy”) and swears against using anything with alcohol, because it “dries your face out and makes your skin look older”. Finally, he peels off his ‘herb-mint facial mask’, which has been on for exactly 10 minutes. Add to that his golden retriever haircut, with the faintest whiff of a mullet, and you’ve got a grooming regimen of one psychopathic dude.


As Howie Blitzer, young Paul Dano has the teen skate rebel look of the early 00s: short gelled hair with a quiff, a choker, braces, small stud earrings, and a short-sleeved shirt worn open. His memorable moment, in amongst all the scenes of sexual awakening, comes when he finds his mum’s lipstick and experiments with it. He applies it slowly, curiously, seeing how it looks with his braces in the mirror. And why not?


Johnny Depp’s teen rebel Cry Baby is the ultimate 50s greaser. His hair is swept back with heaps of Brylcreem, with that one strand falling in his eye. He sports a leather jacket, fresh white tee, and straddles a motorbike. Okay, he’s masculine, but with a sensitive twist. He has baby-like smooth skin and, most peculiarly, cries when he picks up prissy girl Alison, her beauty tear-inducing as it is. He’s like Kenickie from Grease, only less oily and more emo.


Kiefer Sutherland’s bad boy look is all in his bleach-blonde mullet. A reimagining of the classic ‘business up front, party in the back’ do, he has short spikes on top, a horse-like tail behind. He also has a couple of days’ stubble to give him that late-night vamp look. Couple that with his single silver earring, long black trench coat, and most importantly, the actual fangs, and this is surely a badass vamp to stalk your nightmares. 


Chris Tucker is the very picture of flamboyance in The Fifth Element. Jean Paul Gaultier’s eye-popping leopard print jumpsuit helped, of course. But that hair! His most out-of-this-world hairdo (he has two in the movie) is a blonde, hugely exaggerated Elvis quiff that can only be described as, well, phallic. His eyebrows are razor-sharp, and his silver headset works as another accessory, matching his cosmic gemstone necklace. It makes total sense Tucker imagined his character as a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince.


With his fair Irish complexion, and cherubic curly hair, Ryan O’Neal was born to play a pasty 18th-century soldier. As Barry Lyndon, his face is powdered pale white with subtle smears of rosy red above his cheekbones. His hair is perfectly combed in some scenes so that it looks like a barrister’s wig. The curls form like horns above his forehead. It’s a Mozart style made complete with the addition of a long smoking pipe. Or a musket. Or both. 


You suspect creating Bowie’s android in this movie didn’t take too much work. He was halfway there. Rake-thin, angular facial features, skin that’s never seen our solar system’s sun. This mid-70s Bowie has yellow cat-style eyes that he hides with human-like brown lenses. His shock of orange hair is combed back, with the front hair often falling towards his dark shades. Even when he’s trying to blend in as a human, he looks out-of-this-world beautiful. 

Read more from Behind The Masc: Rethinking Masculinity here.

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