Ten great hat movies

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Read Time Out's top ten hat movies to celebrate the release of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'

The Fedora as seen in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ (1948)

Cinema’s Hatmaster General, Humphrey Bogart was rarely known to go headnude onscreen. But his finest hour as a milliner’s model has to be John Huston’s 1948 masterpiece of greed and loathing ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’. Indiana Jones may have lifted the battered fedora look wholesale, but even after wiping out half of Hitler’s army his headgear could never look as knackered as Bogey’s does here, barely holding a recognisable structure as it clings limply to the crown of his sweaty head. Add to this toothless Walter Huston’s wide-brimmed felt number and even a sneering Federale called Gold Hat (who utters the immortal ‘stinkin’ badges’ line, No 36 in the AFI’s list of all time movie quotes), and you’re looking at a hatophile’s dream made celluloid.Read Time Out's review of 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'

The Fez as seen in ‘A Night In Casablanca’ (1946)

As the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal all but banned the Fez, but in Hollywood, a whole bunch of young turks fell in love with that masterly piece of truncated conical maroon headgear. In 1946, the Marx Brothers got back together to help resolve Chico’s ‘financial difficulties’, and set up the Fez-fest that was 'A Night in Casablanca'. When Warner Brothers claimed rights over the city’s name, Groucho penned his own legal defence: 'I just don't understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.'Read Time Out's review of 'A Night in Casablanca'

The Mortar Board, Stetson and Western Bowler as seen in ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980)

A veritable gallery of dun-coloured headgear is sported in Michael Cimino’s unfairly maligned epic oater, as Kris Kristofferson graduates from college (cue frisbeeing mortar boards), heads out West and purchases a magnificent Stetson, only to be betrayed by smoke-filled John Hurt and his gang of seedy bare-headed cattle barons, leading to the infamously bloody Johnson County War sequence which, thanks to an injudicious application of fashionable editing techniques, actually lasts slightly longer than the war itself. But the best headwear is to be found in the titular roller rink, where a glimmering array of grubby international character actors (Brad Dourif, Isabelle Huppert, Joseph Cotten) while away the days drunkenly trying on many and various cheeky bowlers, frilly bonnets and ten gallon shitkickers, until Chris Walken’s sneeringly fedora’d villain comes and blows ‘em all to hat heaven.Read Time Out's review of 'Heaven's Gate'

The ‘Foam Dome’ as seen in ‘Strange Brew’ (1983)

Invented during a coffee break by Manhattan Project lynchpin Robert Oppenheimer, the beer hat – or ‘foam dome’ – has gone on to enjoy a surprisingly rich cinematic heritage. Although nothing more than a couple of brewskis casually tied to a baseball cap and a bendy straw, the foam dome represents a level of cultural sophistication that lends any film in which it is featured a complex mix of suburban ennui and Neanderthal bonheadedness. Nowhere are these qualities more openly exploited than in the 1983 Rick Moranis comedy ‘Strange Brew’. If the concept of recasting ‘Hamlet’ as a farce set in Elsinore Breweries was radical, the idea for Moranis to sport a beer hat throughout gave the film the blue-collar underpinnings so essential in winning over wary multiplex audiences.Read Time Out's review of 'Strange Brew'

The Flat Cap as seen in ‘Batter up! – The Harry Ramsden Story’ (1958)

Although a staple of many a glum kitchen-sink drama and cheerless chronicle of mining woe, the film that most viewers associate with the flat cap is the biopic of fish ’n’ chip entrepreneur, ‘Batter up! – The Harry Ramsden Story’. Born in the hold of a North Sea fishing trawler, Harry had fish in his veins from the very beginning. A tiny baby, his father joked that he could ‘fit in my hat!’, and from that day on Harry was never to be seen without his trademark headgear. He set up his first fish ’n’ chip stall at the tender age of three, and by nine controlled most of West Yorkshire like a child emperor. By 12 he was dead, but not before having established a chip shop on every high street in the land. A grand and sweeping film, it was favourably compared to ‘Citizen Kane’ upon release and sales of flat caps subsequently soared across the world.

The Tricorne as seen in 'Napoléon' (1927)

The three-cornered hat, or tricorne, is a hat heavy with revolutionary symbolism. Both the French and American Revolutions were fought in this curiously pointless little number and filmmakers seem to fall over themselves to make movies that showcase their odd lines, because nothing cries ‘Oscar!’ quite like a historical epic. Sweeping aside ‘Barry Lyndon’, ‘Billy Budd’ and ‘Master and Commander’ on his way to the golden hatstand in this category is Corsican lunatic Napoleon Bonaparte, who, while actually favouring a modified two-and-a-bit-cornered descendant known as the bicorne, takes the honours by virtue of sheer bloody-mindedness. Napoleon’s life has been put on film by all manner of directors and portrayed by actors ranging from Marlon Brando to Ian Holm, but it is Abel Gance’s 1927 version that remains the benchmark. Our hat is still off to you, Monsieur! Read Time Out's review of 'Napoléon

The Sombrero as seen in ‘

¡Three Amigos!’ (1986)

Three comedy giants at the top of their game (four if you count co-writer Lorne Michaels) get together for an uproarious south-of-the-border romp, in which the plot of 'Seven Samurai' (or 'The Magnificent Seven' if you prefer) serves as the template for a series of piñata-based pranks, hispanic hilarity and spicy-cheese send-ups. (Also, gringo gaffes. And burrito bloopers. And Mexican mirth. I could go on.) But of course the three stars are effortlessly outshone (and comically overbalanced) by their stupendous silver-studded sombreros, built extra-large so that they can a) expand to accommodate Chevy Chase's rapidly swelling head, b) serve as a handy storage pouch for Steve Martin's special smug-inducing medications and c) distract the audience from the deafening engine roar emitted by Martin Short's nosediving career. Read Time Out's review of '¡Three Amigos!'

The Homburg as seen in ‘Miller’s Crossing’ (1990)

The Coen Brothers hit it out of the American indie park with this Byzantine post-noir head scratcher from 1990, a film so indelibly linked with the playful mystique of quality headgear that it was originally to be titled, ‘Milliner's Crossing’. Gabriel Byrne delivers his finest performance to date (and yes, we're including ‘Frankie Starlight’) as the one-step-ahead super grifter who effortlessly plays two rival gangs against each other in an unnamed US township. He also spends his nights dreaming that his hat is blowing away in a desolate forest, a motif that one might read as the hat representing Gabe’s dwindling dreams…but perhaps not. Also in the mix is John Polito’s gravel-voiced Noo Yoik maniac Johnny Casper who's constantly worried that people are giving him ‘the high hat’! What more could a hat-lover want?Read Time Out's review of 'Miller's Crossing'

The Propeller Hat as seen in ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986)

The odd, seemingly superfluous phenomena of the trusted propeller hat has never made its way over to these hallowed isles, but when it crops up in a movie, it is usually as an ironic evocation of buttoned-up 1950s suburbia, where Pop accompanies his roast beef dinner with a Single Malt and a Chesterfield, mom spends her days wondering whether to spend her allowance on Rinso or Tide, and Son tries to lose his cherry at the drive-in. Add Dennis Hopper's unhinged suburban crime-boss hauling around a canister full of happy gas, Isabella Rossellini’s tortured cabaret chanteuse and Dean Stockwell singing doo-wop medleys into a lamp to the mix, and you've basically got David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet'. How’s that for the ultimate 'heli-hat' hat movie. And more!
Read Time Out's review of 'Blue Velvet'

The Beret as seen in ‘The Green Berets’ (1968)

This classic of soft millinery has been a cinematic favourite to denote artistic pretension (‘The Rebel’) or kookiness in a female character (everything else). It reached its apogee in John Wayne’s paean to the men who brought you Agent Orange: ‘The Green Berets’. The Duke pitched his Special Forces ‘Nam romp at exactly the level that worked so well for the flag-wavers he’d starred in during WWII, crafting a passable war movie that had nothing to do with the reality of Vietnam. Wayne and his gung-ho baby have been singled out for criticism, but both were part of a pro-war culture buried along with surf duo Jan and Dean’s ‘Ballad of Lt Calley’ and Victor Lundberg’s spoken word hit ‘An Open Letter To My Teenage Son’ that ended ‘If you burn your draft card, from that moment: I. Have. No. Son.’Read Time Out's review of 'The Green Berets'

Author: Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, David Jenkins, Tom Huddleston


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