Five Iconic Bomber Jackets In Movies
Mr Alain Delon in Once A Thief. Photograph by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
The best flight jackets in cinematic history.
In screenwriting terms, creating characters who have their own identity is about as important as it gets. A sense of personality is what helps audiences relate to and remember the fictional people they see on screen.
While it might sound tricky to paint a complete picture of a personality in 90 minutes (and, as many screenwriters will attest, it is), there are some shortcuts that can help a character come to life. Sometimes it’s a standout behavioural cue. Sometimes it’s a memorable chunk of dialogue. And sometimes it’s simply an item of clothing that burns a character into our collective memory.
If the way a character dresses functions as a way to help audiences quickly understand and connect with their identity, then the bomber jacket must be one of the easiest, clearest ways to say this guy is dangerous, an outsider, a rebel. Bombers were originally worn by American aviators in WWII, before being adopted by every counter-cultural group from motorbike gangs to skinheads.
There are plenty of larger-than-life characters who, thanks to the bomber jacket, have made their mark on movie history. Here are some of the most notorious.
01. Mr Marlon Brando
Photograph by Warner Bros/Photofest
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
There are few characters in cinematic history with more brooding, tormented masculine intensity than Mr Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski. He paces the set like a caged animal, brow furrowed, coiled like a spring. There are very few aspects of Kowalski’s persona that you should emulate. We don’t recommend flying into a drunken rage at any point, for instance. But the leather bomber he wears is, it has to be said, on point. Pair it with a black T-shirt and slacks.
02. Mr Steve McQueen
Photograph by Alamy
The Hunter (1980)
Before the words “movie badass” leave your lips, many people will simply blurt out “Mr Steve McQueen”. And it’s fair enough. Iconic roles in The Great Escape and Bullitt set the benchmark for rebellious outsider characters. In Mr McQueen’s final role in The Hunter, before his death in 1980, he plays a bounty killer. The flick may have been a critical flop, but at least he looked the part. Yes, that’s an original MA-1 jacket, perhaps the most iconic bomber of them all. Its spartan lines and utilitarian silhouette are designed for one thing only: function. Perfect for a character who needs to show he means business. The MA-1 will never not work with a fresh white T-shirt and black jeans.
03. Mr Rob Lowe
Photograph by MGM/The Neal Peters Collection
Oxford Blues (1984)
A popular starting point for a movie plot is to transplant a character from his home environment and force him to adapt to somewhere new. One of the more well-used versions of this trope is to shove an American into the stuffy, uptight, etiquette-bound world of British polite society. In Oxford Blues, Mr Rob Lowe’s gambling conman Nick Di Angelo follows the woman of his dreams to England in order to win her heart. His Letterman jacket, straight from the Ivy League, accompanies him across the pond. It telegraphs his outsider status to us and, perhaps, hints towards his inevitable outcome as a winner. Try pairing yours with all-American blue jeans and white sneakers.
04. Messrs John Cassavetes and Mark Rydell
Photograph by Everett Collection Inc/Alamy
Crime In The Streets (1956)
In the 1950s, if you wanted your street gang to be taken seriously, you needed matching bomber jackets. Take the Hornets, the crew of hoodlums who star in Crime In the Streets. How would we know they were up to no good if it weren’t for their identical leather numbers, each featuring, of course, a hornet on the back? As Messrs John Cassavetes and Mark Rydell engage in increasingly serious acts of juvenile delinquency, their bombers keep them bonded together. Nothing beats a little teamwork. Wear yours with a crew-neck sweater and indigo jeans for maximum street cred.
05. Mr Alain Delon
Photograph by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Once A Thief (1965)
Sometimes referred to as “the male Brigitte Bardot”, Mr Alain Delon was undoubtedly French cinema’s most famous male star in the 1960s. In Once A Thief, he plays a brooding career criminal who’s trying to lead a normal life (sound familiar?) in San Francisco with his wife and daughter. So how do we know he’s a man with a chequered past? That’s right, his Harrington-style bomber jacket. It’s perfect for keeping you warm while you’re out and about with the family, and just as useful in a bank heist. Wear yours with chinos and sunglasses, and make sure you don’t get caught.
Super bombers, man
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