Ah, the 90’s. The fashion was tacky, the music was awesome, and the movies were surprisingly good. All in all not a bad decade for pop culture. Some of the most memorable movies of all time* came out of the 90’s. I’m not saying they were all good, for every Apollo 13 there just as many Showgirls, but there was a staggering number of iconic characters and stories to come out of this decade. Here’s a rundown of the most iconic** movie glasses and the characters we remember fondly from the 90’s.
The Most Iconic Movie Glasses of the 90s
On the tail end of the decade we have one of the greatest sci-fi action movies of all time, The Matrix. Straight from the brains of the then Wachowski Brothers, this film launched a thousand conspiracy theories about our reality and had a lasting effect on how actions movies were filmed with the introduction of ‘bullet-time’ and wire fighting effects. So who is the glasses icon in this film? Basically everyone.
When our heroes enter the Matrix, they arrive in snazzy leather trench coats and some badass sunglasses. As far as uniforms for what are basically superheros, they are pretty unforgettable. If you comb the internet you’ll find enough theories about why they wear glasses to make a movie nerd weep tears of joy, but I’m not going to get too deep into that. I will say that most of the iconic scenes to come out of that movie have characters wearing their signature sunglasses. Take this scene, red pill or blue pill? Morpheus’ armless glasses were pretty mind blowing. How about the lobby fight? You can’t beat the crap out of Agent Smith’s henchmen without your rimless glasses.
And on and on. These are just a few of the iconic scenes from a movie chock full of iconic scenes.
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski is probably the only film on the only film on this list to spawn it’s own religion, Dudeism, along with its tshirts and catchphrases. This noir-of-sorts centers around a case of mistaken identity that leads to The Dude Lebowski trying to solve the mystery of millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski’s ‘missing’ girlfriend (It’s a lot more frustratingly complicated than that, but for the sake of brevity that’s what it boils down to). Along for the ride are his weirdo friends, most notably the undeniably insane, trigger happy Walter Sobchak played by John Goodman and his yellow lens aviators that he doesn’t take off for the entire film.
The Dude’s sunglasses, which he frequently wears inside or at night, perfectly sum up his California slacker/stoner attitude. His Dudeness, Duder, El Duderino or whatever you want to call him is actually based on a real person, which makes this whole surreal, funny adventure even more amazing.
With, it’s trippy dream scenes and liberal amounts of violence this film wasn’t an immediate hit, especially since it came out after the critically lauded Fargo but has certainly found a place in best of lists since. Abide.
3. Leon: The Professional (1994)
Leon: The Professional is a heartwarming (read: amazingly violent) tale of the titular hitman (Jean Reno) who reluctantly takes in an orphaned 12 year old girl Mathilda (Natalie Portman) and helps her avenge her family. Reluctant is an understatement as Leon is a very closely guarded man who claims his only friend is a houseplant and takes his job as a ‘cleaner’ very seriously. But when he opens his apartment to Mathilda she eventually breaks through his gruff exterior to expose his deeply caring side.The two develop a strange not-quite-parental-but-not-totally-appropriate relationship.
The characters are not only spectacularly acted, but immediately recognizable to anyone who has seen the movie by their iconic outfits. Leon with his white tank tops and small round sunglasses and Mathilda with her blunt short haircut and black choker necklace. The beautifully shot film was hit at the box office and remains a classic.
4. Office Space (1999)
If you haven’t seen Office Space and have ever worked in a cubicle stop what you are doing and watch it RIGHT NOW! Did you watch it? No? I’ll wait. Done? Good.
To get away from the ultra violent spectrum of films for a second, Office Space is a light hearted comedy about people going to work in an office..just like the rest of us! This Mike Judge directed movie is technically about Peter Gibbons(Ron Livingston) and his quest to get fired from his awful job at Initech, but while he is hilarious, his quirky co-workers steal the movie. To start, his TPS report obsessed boss Bill Lumbergh(Gary Cole) who gets a ton of the quotable moments from the film.
And Tom Smykowski, the one with ‘people skills’. Both wear aviator style eyeglasses. This movie is a temple to bad 90’s office fashion.
But by far the most memorable of the cast is Milton Waddams, the stuttering, stapler obsessed co-worker who, as it turns out, was fired years ago but was never informed and due to a glitch is still getting paid. He is played brilliantly by Stephen Root and is immediately recognizable with his giant magnifying glasses. He also has one of the best lines in the movie.
(Movie Geek Side Note- I love this movie so much that I own a red Swingline stapler. They were never actually produced in the red color prior to this movie, the props department painted one for the film, and Swingline produced a few after the film came out 15 years ago. I also used to have a coffee mug with the Initech logo on it, but it was sadly stolen from my cubicle at a previous job, no joke.)
5. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Probably the best heist film that never shows the heist (probably the only one?), Reservoir Dogs is a classic of independent cinema about eight men gathered together to run a jewel heist. The heist goes wrong and one of them is suspected of being an undercover cop. This was Quentin Tarantino’s first film and right out of the bag he made himself known for this great writing and immeasurable love of violence.
That’s a well dressed group of thieves right there. As any good criminal knows, you need to protect your identity. Funny names like Mr White and Mr Pink and some well tailored suits and sunglasses did the trick for these gentleman. The whole group wears wayfarers except for Mr Orange (Tim Roth) who rocks the clubmasters while trying not to be outed as the aforementioned undercover cop.
This movie also contains that has to be one of the most famous torture scenes ever committed to celluloid and an epic Mexican standoff resulting in, spoiler alert, everyone dying. How very Tarantino of him. I have a feeling that Quentin Tarantino has stock in some faux blood companies.
That’s it for part one! Be sure to check out part 2 of our Iconic 90’s Movie Glasses roundup.
What was your favorite 90’s glasses movie moment?*This is entirely my opinion and is probably totally not even remotely true.
**Note- These are in no particular order. This also could have been a MUCH larger list, but I tried to go for diversity in types of glasses and glasses that were central to the story where applicable. A lot of the glasses that I left out can also be considered iconic, but we don’t want to be here all day.