Sometimes it only takes a dress to create a memorable movie moment. That said, the amount of work that goes into creating costumes such as these is unfathomable. These 40 dresses are among the very best, and they influenced fashion in the real world as well. Get ready to clear some space in your closet…
40. Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
Kate Hudson wore a beautiful yellow dress at the end of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days – and then she lost it! No, really. In 2021 the actress told Elle magazine on the Golden Globes red carpet, “I know it was [designed by] Carolina Herrera and our amazing costume designer designed the dress with [her] team. I do not know where it is, but I feel like we should find it!” Yes Kate, please do.
39. Claire Danes in Romeo and Juliet
Okay, it’s the angel wings everyone remembers about this outfit, but they wouldn’t have had as much impact without the dress. Claire Danes’ Juliet wore this simple but stunning white gown when Romeo noticed and fell in love with her. If only she’d been wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead, perhaps the whole tragedy could have been avoided.
38. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind
Vivien Leigh wore so many great dresses in Gone With the Wind that it’s hard to choose just one. But the green velvet, gold detailed gown she wore while talking to Rhett about children has got to be up there. It’s so iconic that it’s kept in a museum these days and carefully conserved by experts.
37. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchetts’s Queen Elizabeth II stood out from her royal courtiers in this incredible yellow dress, which was created by acclaimed costume designer Alexandra Byrne. People have questioned the historical accuracy of the actual film, but you can’t deny how gorgeous the dresses were. And they won Byrne her first ever Academy Award.
36. Natalie Wood in West Side Story
Who says you have to wear white on your wedding day? When Natalie Wood’s Maria married Richard Beymer’s Tony in West Side Story she wore only a simple light yellow dress to go with her veil. It looked great on her – enough to make anybody reconsider the traditional wedding gown.
35. Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Where would a list of movie dresses be without the great Marilyn Monroe? She wore some of the most fabulous, luxurious outfits ever put to film. Take this pink strapless number she wore for the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” sequence in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – it’s just so perfectly Marilyn!
34. Cate Blanchett in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
What would you wear if you were an immortal, ethereal elf? Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel got a gorgeous floaty white dress in the first The Lord of the Rings film. Costume designer Ngila Dickson set out to make Blanchett look as beautiful and elegant as possible. To be fair, that probably didn’t take a lot of work, but the white dress just elevates her even more.
33. Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth
Jennifer Connelly had it pretty good in Labyrinth, didn’t she? She had David Bowie as a romantic interest and she got to wear some great clothes. Her puffy white ballroom gown with its gold and sparkles is probably the second most talked-about outfit in the movie… you all know the first.
32. Julia Roberts in Hook
So, you might know already that Julia Roberts didn’t get along with director Steven Spielberg during Hook. Things got so bad that Spielberg reportedly swore he would never work with her again! But none of that takes away from how fantastic she looks in this ballroom gown created by Oscar nominee Anthony Powell.
31. Naomie Harris in Skyfall
One of the perks of being a Bond Girl is that you get to wear all sorts of amazing dresses. Naomie Harris’ Eve Moneypenny had on this beautiful, undeniably sexy golden gown during the casino scene in Skyfall – a creation of costume designer Amanda Wakely. Naturally, Bond couldn’t keep his eyes off her!
30. Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing
Baby’s journey throughout Dirty Dancing is explored via the clothes she wears. The star goes from frumpy clothes to feminine ones, and this all cumulates with the floaty pale pink dress she wears to dance with Johnny. It might be one of the most desirable movie dresses ever – whether you’re a dancer or not.
29. Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
The ’40s were a pretty amazing time for women’s fashion, and perhaps nowhere is that better displayed than in Casablanca. This white dress with brooch – worn of course by Ingrid Bergman and created by famous costumer Orry-Kelly – is one outfit that deserves to be taken into in the modern day.
28. Billie Burke in The Wizard of Oz
Maybe you don’t think of The Wizard of Oz as being a showcase for fashion, but how many of its dresses have become iconic? Take the pink dress worn by Billie Burke’s Glinda. It was actually a recycled piece from an older movie, as was common in Hollywood back then. Jeanette MacDonald actually wore it in 1936’s San Francisco. But Oz costume designer Gilbert Adrian transformed it into something new and beautiful.
27. Diana Ross in Mahogany
The 1975 Diana Ross movie Mahogany didn’t get great reviews on release, but it was an absolute showcase of style. Ross played Tracy Chambers – an aspiring fashion designer who becomes a world-famous supermodel. And among the outfits she wore on the catwalk there was this utterly to-die-for embroidered peach number.
26. Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Before Elsa came along, there was another ice queen with an even better sense of style. This was the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – portrayed by Tilda Swinton. Designer Isis Mussenden talked to Variety magazine in 2006 about the months of work she put into the outfit. She said, “I didn’t want to think that she went into the wardrobe and pulled her dress out.” Maybe Mussenden forgot the title of the movie?
25. Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady costume designer Cecil Beaton won the Best Costume Design Oscar back in 1964. You can see why, right? The “Ascot dress” looked utterly stunning on star Audrey Hepburn. It was auctioned off by Profiles in History come 2011 and reportedly made a record-breaking $4.5 million.
24. Amy Adams in Enchanted
In Enchanted, Amy Adams plays a Disney princess come to life. So, obviously her signature outfit had to be the most frilly, girly, over-the-top princess dress ever. And designer Mona May not only had to create such a look, she also needed to make sure it looked as good in animation as it did in real life.
23. Naomi Scott in Aladdin
For the live-action version of Disney’s Aladdin, designer Michael Wilkinson had to recreate Jasmine’s looks from the original and also make them appropriate to the movie’s place and time. Regardless of what you think of the movie, he did a good job, no? Scott looks particularly great in the pink outfit worn for the “Speechless” sequence.
22. Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In between fighting for her life in the dystopian Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss got to wear some spectacular dresses. Perhaps the best one of all was the “Mockingjay” dress, though. This piece appeared to be a wedding gown until it transformed into the shape of a Mockingjay – the symbol of the rebellion.
21. Lucy Liu in Kill Bill: Vol 1
Kill Bill was so epic it required two costume designers: Catherine Marie Thomas and Kumiko Ogawa. They created the iconic looks of the movie – including Lucy Liu’s beautiful fighting dress. It was pure white, and if you guessed at the beginning it would end up with artistic red bloodstains on it, you’d be correct!
20. Lily James in Cinderella
This shimmering blue dress is jaw-droppingly pretty, but it came with a major controversy. Actress Lily James revealed in an interview that she’d gone on a liquid diet just to fit into that and the matching corset. She also said it wasn’t a great experience, and we can understand why. A gorgeous ballgown like this deserved to be worn without anyone having to worry about digestion.
19. Grace Kelly in Rear Window
Did anyone in the entire history of movies wear a floaty dress better than Grace Kelly? This black and white one with a dazzling tulle skirt was worn in the Hitchcock movie Rear Window and designed by the legendary Edith Head. Though don’t forget those white gloves if you want the full Kelly look…
18. Emma Stone in La La Land
Emma Stone’s beautiful La La Land dress was inspired by one she’d previously worn. At the premiere for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014 she dazzled in a yellow Atelier Versace piece. Costume designer Mary Zophres then decided to use that color for her character in La La Land. It was a very good choice, wouldn’t you say?
17. Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette
We all know what happened to Marie Antoinette, but before that she wore some extremely extravagant dresses. So, when cast to play her in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 biopic, Kirsten Dunst got to do that, too. Antoinette’s white ballgown – designed by Oscar winner Milena Canonero – is to die for. But not literally, of course.
16. Fay Wray in King Kong
What, you thought the giant monkey was the star of King Kong? Nope, it’s Fay Wray’s lovely and slightly daring white dress! Had the film been released a few years later, her outfit wouldn’t have made it past the censors. All “suggestive” clothing was banned when the Hays Code went into effect in 1934.
15. Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan
Jennifer Lopez wears this peach gown for Ralph Fiennes in the romcom Maid in Manhattan. And he’s very impressed! When she informs him their relationship can’t progress any further, he tells her, “Then you should have worn a different dress.” Smooth! But who wouldn’t fall for J-Lo in such an outfit?
14. Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians
Constance Wu made every woman in the audience green with jealousy when she wore this fairytale-like dress in Crazy Rich Asians. The item is so iconic, in fact, that it’s actually in the hands of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History now. But Marchesa had a sleeved version in their fall collection, so you can buy it… if you happen to be crazy rich.
13. Sissy Spacek in Carrie
Some might say the real tragedy of Carrie is that the gorgeous pink dress she wears ends up soaked in blood. Well, maybe that’s taking things a bit too far. But the gown Sissy Spacek wore in the 1976 horror movie remains one of the most iconic in cinema. Just don’t wear a replica to your own prom unless you really trust your classmates.
12. Kate Winslet in Titanic
Every girl in the world wanted to be Rose Dewitt Bukater when she arrived for dinner in this gorgeous sparkling dress. Even if she did have to wear a corset underneath it – oh, and was on a doomed ocean liner. Unsurprisingly, Titanic’s costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott won an Academy Award for her work.
11. Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen
Dorothy Dandridge is still a fashion icon long after her death. The red-and-black dress she wore in the movie Carmen is probably the outfit most associated with her, and it definitely deserves to be. Dandridge’s performance in the movie also netted her an Oscar nomination – the first ever one for an black actress.
10. Keira Knightley in Atonement
If the film Atonement taught us anything it’s that Keira Knightley looks really good in green – especially that one particular clingy green dress. Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline Durran has expressed surprise that the gown became as popular as it did. But when your model is Knightley, what else could’ve happened?
9. Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra
Cleopatra has long been noted for its extraordinary costumes. Among the best of them is this incredible gold ensemble which leaves no doubt whatsoever about the kind of woman Cleo is. According to Another Magazine, Elizabeth Taylor’s wardrobe budget for this movie was $194,800, but surely no one would begrudge her the result.
8. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
Vivian’s red dress in Pretty Woman was originally supposed to be black, but costume designer Marilyn Vance insisted it be red. Julia Roberts had red hair, so it made sense. After many rounds of color testing the shade for the gown was finally decided on, and the result was a fantastic movie moment.
7. Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard
Superstar Whitney Houston showed off some of the most amazing fashion ever put to celluloid in 1992’s The Bodyguard. Though at the same time, she also demonstrated that sometimes less is more. This spectacular sparkling headpiece was matched with a simple but sexy black dress, and we’ll always love it.
6. Rita Hayworth in Gilda
Rita Hayworth’s clingy black dress in 1946’s Gilda – designed by Jean Louis of Columbia Studios – was stunning and pretty daring for its era. One old story claims that Hayworth was once asked what kept the dress up as she performed the “Put the Blame on Mame” scene. And she replied simply, “Two things.”
5. Carrie Fisher in Star Wars
Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia dress in Star Wars was so simple – it was white, plain and practical – but it looked so good on her. According to Fisher herself, though, director George Lucas was absolutely adamant she couldn’t wear underwear underneath it because none of that existed in space. Right, okay...
4. Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
It was actually Julie Andrews’ husband Tony Walton who Walt Disney hired to create the costumes for Mary Poppins. Perhaps that’s why they suit Andrews so perfectly? The most iconic dress of all from that movie is the one from the “Jolly Holiday” scene. In fact, it’s still a popular Halloween and fancy dress party choice even decades on from the film.
3. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Would Breakfast at Tiffany’s even be so iconic without Hepburn’s little black dress? Luckily, we’ll never have to find out. Fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy probably didn’t know that Holly Golightly elegantly posing in a Coco Chanel-inspired gown would become one of American cinema’s most famous images. But, of course, it did.
2. Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
Everything about The Wizard of Oz is engrained in cultural memory. You’e got the Wicked Witch, the Yellow Brick Road, the red slippers… and the blue gingham dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy. Copies of the dress made for the film are still out there, and they sell for an Oz-stounding amount of money.
1. Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch
Maybe you haven’t heard of the film The Seven Year Itch, but you definitely know one scene from it. The iconic image of Marilyn Monroe in a white dress, smiling as a gust of wind blows her skirt up? Yeah, it’s from there. That one gown – and of course the woman wearing it – went down in pop culture history forever.