When some people look for inspiration, they flip open a magazine, click through Pinterest, or take to the streets for some old-fashioned people-watching. While I’ll never turn down any of these worthwhile pastimes, when I’m looking for the ultimate stimulation, I turn on a film.
Therein lies magic.
When done right, every detail of the film’s aesthetic has been considered. From the ingénue’s lip color to the height of her ponytail and shape of her eyebrows, the smallest details help masterfully execute the film’s vision. While this can also be said about fashion spreads or even blogger outfits, the real wonder for me is seeing this beauty in motion. So, after twenty-something years of painstaking research, I carefully curated a list of ten films that forever shaped my perception of beauty.
Read on to see what tops my list.
Long before Cara Delevingne, another ingénue claimed the title of “Best Brows”: Brooke Shields. Her role in the iconic ‘80s flick The Blue Lagoon taught me quite a bit about survival—never eat the poisonous berries, guys—but my biggest takeaway of all was the importance of great eyebrows. Those bushy, perfectly natural brows stole the show—not easy considering her flawless golden tan and beachy hair—and kicked off my lifelong obsession with giving good brow.
No one ever made a girlish side part look cooler than the chain-smoking, flatly charming Margot Tenenbaum. Her raccoon eyes and sleek strands, which offered a curious mix of nonchalance and innocence, inspired my future Halloween costumes in her honor.
The 1956 film that launched Brigitte Bardot to stardom and defined the term “sex kitten” may be solely responsible for my lifelong loyalty to eyeliner. The actress’ voluminous waves, cat eyeliner, and pale pink pout spawned generations of imitators, my adoring self included.
Sofia Coppola’s 2006 retelling of the life and times of France’s iconic Queen is packed with aesthetic inspiration. From the extravagant wardrobe to Dunst’s powdered complexion, pinched cheeks, and stained lips, this film is a visual smorgasbord that always encourages me to embrace the elaborate.
While it’s hard to pinpoint one Monroe movie that encapsulates her glamour in totality, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a strong choice. As part of a generation that sometimes seems to prefer low-maintenance beauty, I was utterly mesmerized by Monroe’s done-up look, including her arched brows, winged eyeliner, and artfully decorated lips.
Half-Elven and full babe, Liv Tyler as Arwen in Lord of the Rings is the ultimate in ethereal bohemian inspiration. Her dewy skin and Rapunzel-esque waves left me totally inspired—and reaching for a face mask and a bottle of biotin…
Before Penny Lane stole my hippie-loving heart in Almost Famous, Jenny from Forest Gump taught me that being a flower child meant growing your hair long and keeping your face bare. While I was less enthused about her life choices (come on, Jenn-ay), at 7 years old I firmly believed Jenny was the coolest, most beautiful person on earth.
What would a roundup of inspiring films be without the ever-imitated Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The first time I watched Holly Golightly prance across my screen, I was so enraptured with her bushy brows and fluttering lashes that I was clueless about the plot. Though her beauty has been copied to the point of cliché, it will always hold precious real estate in my nostalgic heart.
Everyone loves a good makeover and no one did redemption better than Julia Roberts—in all her smiling glory—as Pretty Woman’s Vivian Ward. As a pre-teen I was mysteriously, and regretfully, obsessed with Roberts’ blonde street-walking wig, but as an adult I’m wholly smitten with her bold lipstick and unapologetic curls.
No one changed my perception of what eye shadow can do more than the elegant Catherine Deneuve in Belle du Jour. While the fantastical plotline was admittedly distracting, I found myself captivated by Deneuve’s icy glamour—those bouffant curls that never moved, that pastel pout, the pale eye shadow contoured with dark gray accents along the crease line. If you’re ever on the lookout for the definition of 60’s glamour, look no further.