Where would your favourite movie or TV show be without face masks? Over the years, in popular culture they have become synonymous with superheroes and villains, hiding the lead character’s identity or concealing a grotesque disfigurement.
In recent times, we have all seen some pretty impressive masks – so we have put together 12 of the World’s most famous Face Masks...
1) Darth Vader
Arguably the mask worn by Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy is the most famous of them all. The iconic shiny black mask was designed to keep the young Anakin Skywalker alive after his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Resembling a skull, the mask no doubt struck fear in all of us when we were children and any Star Wars fan will remember where they were the first time that they saw Darth Vader take the mask off and speak with his son Luke.
The legendary mask made a return to the big screen a few years back when the character of Kylo Ren discovers the mask in the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens episode.
2) Iron Man
Of course, it is not just villains that wear masks and Marvel Comic’s all-fighting Iron Man’s distinctive red and gold mask has become synonymous with Superheroes. Just like Darth Vader though, Iron Man’s mask is part of a wider suite that is designed to help keep him alive.
Since the character made his first appearance back in 1963, the suit has undergone many different variations. For many of us though, it will be the glowing eyes and vivid colours of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal in the 2008 blockbuster that will stick in the mind!
Whilst Iron Man and Darth Vader’s masks are all-compassing creations, the simple bandana style of Zorro shows that to be legendary, a mask does not need to be complex!
The fictional character of Zorro dates back to 1919 when American author Johnston McCulley brought the dashing masked vigilante swashbuckling his way into the world. Rather than a fancy superhero mask, Zorro simply attaches a black mask around the top of his head, cutting two eye holes out so he can see, and completing the look with a black sombrero cordobés.
If you’re stuck on ideas for your next fancy dress costume idea, the Zorro mask is always a simple and effective design!
Since Batman first began back in 1939, the batsuit has undergone many different transitions – but one thing has remained constant throughout the mask. Although it too has changed over the years, they have all shared the similar pointy bat ears and covered eyes, with only the mouth visible.
For many people, the epitome of the batman mask is the version from the 2005 movie, Batman Begins. The matte black helmet, with large pointy ears and solid construction, meant Christian Bale’s Batman was an ominous and powerful figure
5) The Mask
Jim Carey’s hilarious The Mask was a blockbuster movie based entirely around a mask, so of course, it had to make our list! The mystical wooden mask would turn the wearer into an over the top mischievous gangster who could change himself and the environment around him at ease.
The 1994 movie was a huge success, being nominated for Golden Globe and an Academy Award. It also spawned multiple spin-offs, including the Son of Mask, a children’s cartoon, and even a video game – there are even talks of a possible sequel following soon!
The Predator mask is one of the most famous science fiction masks of all time, becoming an instant classic from the moment Predator was introduced onto the big screen in 1987. Since then, the franchise has gone on to create multiple movies, novels, video games, and comics; with the iconic mask remaining constant throughout.
The fearsome mask, with its wild dreadlock style hair and scowling face, was able to strike fear in viewers of all ages. Throughout the franchise, the producers have made minor redesigns of the mask, adding more unique designs as well as teeth, but the overall image has remained the same.
7) Gladiator (Maximus)
OK, this might technically be more of a helmet than a mask but given it is covering his face we are calling it a mask! The metal mask was used by the film’s protagonist Russell Crowe to hide his identity before uttering that immortal “my name is gladiator” speech – arguably one of the most legendary moments in movie history.
Since its launch in 2000, Gladiator has gone on to become a modern classic and most men of a certain age will likely have pretended they were Maximus Decimus Meridius at some point in their life!
Arguably the most terrifying mask on our list, the prison mask that is worn by Hannibal Lecter is instantly recognisable and capable of sending a shiver down the spine of anyone. In the film, it was created to stop the protagonist from eating people’s faces – however as anyone who has watched the movie will know, that does not quite go to plan…
Despite its dark and scary connotations, the Hannibal mask has become one of the most popular in history and is frequently a go-to solution for those looking for a quick and easy Halloween or fancy dress costume.
Another very popular Halloween mask is the infamous Scream mask – in fact, at some point, almost everyone would have had a friend wear the mask, or wore it themselves! In a movie genre that has produced some legendary scary masks, the Ghostface mask (as it is better known) is one has to be the most famous of them all.
Reminiscent of a painting by Edvard Munch, the white and black mask depicts a weeping skull, hidden away behind a black hood, and has been featured across the Scream series.
10) Guy Fawkes mask
The Guy Fawkes mask was first introduced in the V for Vendetta graphic novel in the 1980s but it rose to prominence following the 2005 dystopian film of the same name. With a wide moustache, thin vertical beard, and pale face, the mask is designed to hide the face of the wearer and make them the face of the people.
Since the movie, the mask has become a common appearance at protest marches and has also been adopted as the figurehead of online activist group Anonymous, with the group adopting the mask for any public speeches.
Just like all superhero masks, Spiderman’s mask is designed to keep peter parker’s identity a secret when out protecting the city. The now-iconic red, blue, black, and white mask is part of an overall suite and features a spider’s web pattern across the mask with two plastic lenses for the eyes; allowing Peter to see out but no one else to see his eyes.
Although the red and blue design is the most iconic, over the years there have been various styles of the legendary mask – including a fearsome all-black version known as the Symbiote Costume.
12) Phantom of the Opera
Another very simple design, the Phantom of the Opera mask has changed over the years. Not many realise that the original mask, as depicted in the Leroux book was actually a black cloth!
However, the version that sticks in the mind is the pure white version used in the musical. In this adaption, the mask covers half of the character’s face, revealing his deformed lips, mismatched eyes, and missing eyebrow.
The mask has inspired thousands of theatre students around the world and made the phantom one of the most recognisable stage characters of all time.
Of course, these are just 12 of the hundreds of iconic masks in pop culture.
Masks are able to underline the entire premise of the movie - just imagine what these movies would be like without their lead characters putting on their face mask!