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The 60 Greatest Capes in Movie History

From Cleopatra to Lando Calrissian, we showcase the greatest movie capes.
Best Movie Capes
Columbia Pictures
By  · Published on August 1st, 2018

She Killed In Ecstasy (1971)

She Killed In Ecstasy Purple Chenille Cape

If you’re going to murder a bunch of people as revenge for their role in the suicide of your beloved late husband — and one hopes you never do, but if you’re going to — Spanish exploitation film director Jesús Franco’s She Killed in Ecstasy teaches us that it’s probably best to do it while wearing a purple, chunky-knit chenille cape. It doesn’t provide any discernible advantage over your foes. Actually, it probably works against you, a purple, chunky-knit chenille cape not being the sort of thing witnesses would forget seeing. However, it looks really cool.

Salomé (1922), the dressing room capes

Salome Big Ass Capes

Now, I know I said that capes can’t be functional, but sometimes that just isn’t the case. In the 1922 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé,” a quartet of handmaidens wear very wide, stiff capes—essentially walls strapped to their backs—that allow them to form a sort of mobile dressing room so Prince Salomé can conduct quick costume changes without inadvertently showing any nip. Practical and avant-garde.

When Were You Born? (1938)

When Were You Born Cape

When Were You Born is a weird little movie where Anna May Wong solves a murder mystery through the use of astrology. She also has a pet monkey, because sure, why stop at one blatant stereotype about Asian people when you can have two? Wong wears two capes during the film, both of them boasting clean, fashionable lines befitting the dignity of her character. Only one of those capes, however, comes with a pencil worn around her neck so she can whip up your horoscope at a moment’s notice.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Man From Uncle Cape

I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Debicki could wear a sack made of Whoppers wrappers that have been moldering for two months in a dumpster, serving as a nest for a colony of feral rats, and still look like she just walked off the runways of Paris. This ‘60s mod cape from Guy Ritchie’s impeccably styled The Man from U.N.C.L.E. may not have represented a particularly high bar of difficulty for someone of her clothes-wearing prowess, but damn, does it look good anyway. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Hot people wearing fashionable clothes. Sequel, where are you?

Cleopatra (1963)

Cleo Cape

Joseph L Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra is a famously bloated snoozefest, so expensive to make and market that it almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox despite being the highest-grossing movie of the year. It’s a strangely discordant film, its old-fashioned, stodgy retelling of the life of Cleopatra at odds with star Liz Taylor’s va-va-voom sexuality. But hey, the $44 million budget (over $300 million today) bought a lot of capes. The most eye-catching is the gold number that Cleo wears upon her arrival to Rome and again on her bier after committing suicide by snake. If a movie can’t be good, at least it can have good clothes.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic At Hanging Rock Cape

In Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by Peter Weir and based on a novel by Joan Lindsay, three schoolgirls and one of their teachers disappear while on a day trip out in the Australian countryside. Ostensibly a mystery story, Picnic at Hanging Rock is also about the how society fears young women’s sexuality. The students at Appleyard College are introduced dressed mostly in white, all purity and innocence. Later on, they’re shown in sedate blue outfits, skirts below the knee and shirts buttoned up to the base of the throat. It’s a visual jolt, then, when one of the missing girls—Irma, the only one to be discovered—returns to visit her old classmates dressed in a scarlet cape, a slash of blood red against a background of schoolgirl outfits and pigtails. The cape visualizes, better than any dialogue could, Irma’s transition to adulthood.

Libeled Lady (1936)

Libeled Lady Cape

Movie capes were abundant in the 1930s, as a great way to zhuzh up a leading lady’s evening gown with an extra little bit of drama. Case in point: this voluminous fur cape worn by Myrna Loy in the 1936 screwball comedy The Libeled Lady.  There’s no reason that glamour cannot also be snuggly. If it’s the sort of cape one can hypothetically toss in front of a roaring fire and bone down with William Powell on, that’s just a bonus.

Princess Tam Tam (1935)

Princess Tam Tam Cape Striped

Actress/dancer/spy Josephine Baker’s best-known outfit might have been her famous banana skirt, sans top, but the woman wore some pretty damn good capes throughout her decades-long film history as well. In Princess Tam Tam, her street urchin character wears this striped number shortly after being chosen by a French tourist for a crash course in “civilized society.” The cape is elegant, light, and unfussy, with the stripe pattern making its wearer stand out against a backdrop of more stuffy, constricted folks.

Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

Troop Beverly Hills Cape

Every item of clothing that touches Shelley Long’s body in Troop Beverly Hills is divine, but none is quite so transcendent as the gold-lined cape that she whips about at her fashion show/cookie shakedown. It’s khaki wishes and cookie dreams, indeed.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Hello Mary Lou Possessed Murder Cape

The cape in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II doesn’t look like much. It’s given to the eponymous Mary Lou for being named prom queen. This isn’t a high school that shells out for glamor, and as a result the cape is cheap and scratchy looking. It’s also possessed by Mary Lou’s spirit after she burns to death right after being crowned, so… that’s the unusual bit, really. Look. This is a possessed cape that murders a pregnant teenage punk. You get on this list based on that alone.

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