Movies have the ability to squeeze out any and all emotions from us. They can confuse us, have us howling and leave our jaws on the floor. They can expand our minds, introduce us to new ideas and inspire us. The most memorable ones can do it all.
Directors can get their story across through dialogue, structure, music and a whole host of different techniques, but the clothes their characters wear are just as instrumental. A wardrobe can tell you something about a character’s status or how to predict how future generations will dress. At the least, they should help the story. At most, a film’s wardrobe has the power to change fashion itself.
If you have some spare time not dedicated to baking bread or fixing up the house, we have a handful of stylish movies to keep you occupied and just might inspire you to get dressed.
Dogtown and Z-Boys
Skateboarding and surf culture have dominated style for years, influencing scores of impressionable youth and fashion designers alike. Case in point: Supreme went from a New York City skate shop to a worldwide phenomenon with an evaluation of $1 billion as the fashion landscape shifted its gaze from the catwalk to the street along the way. Fashion heads may have gawked at the vintage skate tees and baggy jeans that overloaded Mid90s, but if you want to get to the heart of it all, Dogtown and Z-Boys is where you should start.
Directed by OG skater Stacy Peralta, the documentary catalogs skating in the 1970s and follows the story of the legendary Zephyr skate team. Skateboarding was on the decline, doomed for extinction before the Zephyr team — the Z Boys — changed the sport forever, bending the stiff riding style of the time and carving it with surf influences. The band of outsiders revolutionized skateboarding, turning heads at competitions and transforming backyard swimming pools into skating paradise, all while sporting long hair, slim jeans and dark blue Vans sneakers.
Do the Right Thing
As what is perhaps Spike Lee’s magnum opus, Do the Right Thing is as relevant today as it was back in 1989. The comedy-drama addresses race relations through Lee’s inimitable lens as its cast of characters fight with a local pizza shop owner over its homogenous wall of fame, a gallery of all white men, in the primarily black neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. It takes place during a hot New York summer and showcases hip-hop-influenced style which still feels fresh today. The costumes are colorful and cool and will have you looking for a fresh pair of Nike’s to go with your baseball jersey or bright tank top.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Directed by Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr. Ripley is based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel and stars Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett. The psychological thriller is set in the 1950s and tracks Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) as he attempts to lure Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) back to America at the behest of Dickie’s father. Ripley comes to envy the lavish lifestyle of Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the film tracks his dark transformation. The idyllic Italian coast is the perfect backdrop for the midcentury style which is replete with American trad clothing, open-collar shirts, linen trousers and Gucci loafers. With spring and summer in sight, it’s a movie worth referring to.
Serpico is a neo-noir film that’s worth the watch for the wardrobe alone. It stars Al Pacino as real-life NYPD undercover cop Frank Serpico as he fights to expose the force’s corruption. Along the way, Pacino gives a masterclass on layering, textures and how to do army surplus right. It’ll make you want to pore through eBay and Etsy for vintage military jackets and Daisy Mae hats to go with your newly minted quarantine beard.
Bill Cunningham New York
Legendary street style photographer Bill Cunningham was snapping photos before the genre had a name. For decades, he captured the latest trends and fashions making their way down 5th Avenue, the runway and everywhere in-between, often from the vantage point of his bicycle. Bill Cunningham New York is a documentary that takes an extremely intimate look at the enigmatic artist and private figure whose New York Times column ‘On the Street’ paved the way for other anthropologists after him.
It highlights his love for clothes and his devotion to his work while also exploring philosophies of getting dressed. In contrast to the flock of peacocks that pose for his camera, Cunningham’s trademark uniform of a French blue chore coat and khaki pants is a singularity and makes the case that true style isn’t necessarily acquired through a full closet.
20,000 Days on Earth
20,000 Days on Earth is a shadowing of musician and cultural icon Nick Cave over the period of 24 hours. Co-written by Cave himself, the musical documentary dramatizes a day in the life of the one-of-a-kind rock star during the recording of his album, Push the Sky Away, taking the audience from therapy session to studio to stage. It may not be a film that truly gets behind the curtain, but it’s one stylish look at one very stylish artist. Plus, it’s free on Youtube and Amazon Prime.