It's October! You know what that means ... Halloween! And this year, Halloween falls on a weekend (Sunday, to be precise) which means you're going to be flooded with party invitations for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. I don't know how parties rank in your experience, but I find that if Halloween is officially on a weekend, the costume expectations are much more intense. You can't just show up and claim you're a homicidal maniac "because they look just like everyone else." That's for a midweek Halloween where you eat some cake at the office, and go home to watch Ghost Hunters Live. For a Saturday night, you need to look really cool.
Don't fret about this year, though! I'm here to help. Costumes are an embarrassing specialty of mine, especially ripped-from-the-movie-screen costumes. I've compiled a list of the best characters to dress up as for men and women. (I've tried my very best to exclude sexy costumes, and offer ideas for the tough, rebellious girl looking to buck the trend.) Some are "traditional", some are offbeat, but all are doable depending on your level of dedication. I promise every one of them is going to be an attention getter. Who knows? You might even win a prize!
For the Men
1. Indiana Jones
This is a classic! It's also very easy. You need a brown leather jacket, preferably well worn. (Black will work in a pinch, especially if you're going to be in the dark.) Khakis, a white or khaki shirt, a satchel, brown work boots, and a well-bent fedora. Remember not to shave the day before. Guys who want to go the extra cosmetic mile can add dirt, blood, cuts, and bruises to the face. Really, really dedicated men who lack a jacket, and live in a warm climate can go as "Temple of Doom Indy" with a shredded shirt and the appropriate injuries.
2. The Man With No Name
Clint Eastwood doesn't really get any props on Halloween. Why is that? All you need are some black jeans, a blue shirt (preferably well washed), a sheepskin vest, boots, a gunbelt, a hat, and a serape. Oh, and a cigar. You might need a little ingenuity for the green serape (or big bucks if you want to buy a Mexican replica) but it's doable. Skip shaving, and squint, sneer, and say very little.
However, if your serape falls through and you really had your heart set on being Clint, may I suggest a quirky and cheap alternative: Philo Beddoe. White t-shirt, jeans, a stuffed orangutan, and a healthy sense of humor to see who gets it.
3. Any Daniel Day Lewis character
The man is a walking costume collection. If you're feeling gaudy and jaunty, tweak an Uncle Sam costume and go as Bill the Butcher. If you're feeling bombastic, go as Daniel Plainview. (Bonus – your girlfriend can go as H.W. if she's got good cinematic taste and is appreciably smaller than you are.) If you're handsome and secure in yourself, go as Hawkeye. If you're feeling super cheap, get a buzzcut and go as The Boxer, or put on dark sunglasses, a suit, and an Italian accent to be Guido Contini. The really, really ambitious can try John Proctor, and the very sarcastic can go as Day Lewis the Cobbler and see who figures it out. It's all about the voice and mannerisms, so practice a lot. There's nothing worse than a weakly voiced Plainview.
4. Any Johnny Depp character (but especially Jack Sparrow)
Like Day Lewis, Depp is a walking cornucopia of costume ideas, and I can guarantee you'll be pressed with phone numbers with any of them. (My sister's boyfriend – hi, Michael – is a Jack Sparrow. I know of what I speak.) You can go as Jack Sparrow, Sweeney Todd, Don Juan DeMarco, Ichabod Crane, Ed Wood, the Mad Hatter, or Willy Wonka. You could even try out John Rochester of The Libertine. They're all kind of complicated, but I can guarantee you'll have a giggling flock of girls (or guys!) at your elbow if you put in the effort. Having good cheekbones helps.
5. The Dude
This is for the man who forgot it was Halloween until the last minute, and someone he was good friends with said "Dude, you're coming to my party, right?" The really easy version is to don a bathrobe, a grimy t-shirt, some pajama pants, and some sunglasses. Flip flops or jelly shoes complete the ensemble. The Dude is all about your crappiest clothes, a state of mind – and a White Russian in your hand. (Women can do this too. I did!)
6. Nikolai in Eastern Promises
For the man who wants to shock – and who is either married, dating, or good friends with a talented and patient artist. Put on a towel (make sure it stays up – sew it to your underwear), and have someone go to town drawing the appropriate Russian prison tattoos. Don't forget the vory v zakone stars above the heart, and on the knees. For heaven's sake, don't wear this anywhere you might actually run into some Russians.
7. Jules Winnfield
Jules is one of the few male Tarantino characters you can pull off solo. To really be a Reservoir Dog, you need a group, and Vincent Vega is no fun alone. But Jules is perfect, presumably because he gets so many good lines. All you need is a sharp suit, an Afro, and a suitcase. Ideally, you will also have the "Bad Motherf*cker" wallet, just for the spirit of things. Oh, and Ezekiel 25:17. Everyone is going to ask you to recite That Bible Quote, so you better be prepared.
The best thing about Wolverine is that you can go sloppy (tank top, jeans, boots, claws) or elaborate (the entire X-Man suit) and everyone will still recognize you because it's all about the hair and claws. Don't skimp on the claws if you can help it – there's nothing sadder than a Wolverine with homemade tinfoil claws – and be sure to grow your own muttonchops.
I have to give DC its due, and Batman is a cool costume, period. You have many variations to pick from, too. You can be Michael Keaton, Adam West, or Christian Bale. Don't ask me how to make this one from scratch. You're on your own. If you find yourself at a loss come October 30, then just put on a suit and go as Bruce Wayne. (Or add sunglasses and go as Tony Stark.)
10. Tony Montana
White suit, red shirt, a big gun, and a scar ... and a line you can annoy everyone with all night long. You can't go wrong! Pinstripes or a hula shirt will work, too. It's less about the clothes, and more the voice, impression, and possibly un-PC bronzer you might need to use. You might also want to bring some prop cocaine just for laughs.
For the Women
1. Beatrix Kiddo
So many variations! You can do the yellow tracksuit (companies even sell the leather motorcycle suit if you have money to spend), the black leather jacket and blue skirt, or a beat-to-hell wedding dress and pregnant stomach. If you're clever, you can even make scrubs work. You can add as much or as little blood as you like. It's all about the katana ... and attitude. You can't be a shrinking Beatrix, so be prepared to be swinging with this one.
2. Princess Leia
Even Slave Leia can't kill the coolness that is a really good Princess Leia costume. I suggest avoiding the metal bikini, and pick one of her battle friendly ensembles instead. Hoth Leia has always been my favorite (so warm!), but you can't go wrong with the white dress and cinnamon bun hair. If you really want to be unusual, see if you can find a camouflage poncho, Swiss braid your hair, and go as Endor Leia. The best part is that none of them require a Han Solo. You can rock this alone, and everyone will admire you for it.
I said there would be no sexy costumes – but Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman doesn't fit the trampy mold I'm referring to. It's a complicated one, but it's instantly recognizable and well worth the effort. The make-up is fantastic, too. Just memorize her best zingers to Batman, and don't forget the whip. If anyone at the party gets fresh or hands-on, you'll have a good defense. As tempting as it might be, don't equip the seam ripper claws. You'll put someone's eye out.
4. Sarah Connor
Nothing is cooler than a James Cameron action heroine, and Sarah Connor is fairly easy and instantly recognizable. You just need a black tanktop, black pants, some sunglasses, and a really big gun. Depending how much time or money you have, you can even accessorize with a flak jacket and more weaponry. If you're not blonde, do the trucker / military hat variation. If you're feeling gory and greasy, you can be Conner post-battle with the T-1000, and give yourself lots of injuries. I guarantee you'll be the only one who thinks of this at any given party.
5. The Bride of Frankenstein
You could complain that the only cool horror costumes for women are essentially brides of some creature or other ... or you could just put this on because she's so iconic, cool, and murderous. It's also very warm because it's surgical draperies, well-wrapped arms, and a thick zigzag wig. Luckily, you can now buy that classic coif (inspired by Queen Nerfertiti's bust) which allows you to spend your energy hissing like a cat. Be sure to give yourself a good corpse pallor. You're assembled out of dead bodies, you're not meant to be a beauty queen! (But if you cave and give yourself 1930s makeup, you will be forgiven.)
6. Marion Ravenwood
Everyone's favorite Jones heroine! You can wear this with an Indy you're fond of or wear it solo. You have multiple costumes to pick from – the drinking ensemble of the beginning, the shredded white dress (don't forget the snakes and wear only one shoe) or the red pants and Romanian blouse. If you're feeling really lazy – and you have an Indy accompanying you for easy identification – you could even get away with the pink silk negligee. Just dirty it up first, and top it with Belloq's jacket.
7. Shosanna Dreyfus
Tarantino movies are full of awesome Halloween costumes, period. It feels cheap to have two on the list. But Shoshanna's red dress and black hat was such an instantly iconic scene (and the red creme blush war paint would be so fun) that it's too tempting not to include it. Plus, it hasn't been as overdone as Mia Wallace has, so you'll impress everyone. Bonus – it's a costume that's reusable. That retro red dress can be worn anywhere, and no one will be the wiser.
8. Any Sigourney Weaver character
This was originally meant to be Ripley – which you can do in so many ways, and even in the white t-shirt and underwear if you really must be all sexy and shocking. But then I remembered Dana Barrett, and her glittery, off-the-shoulder ensemble as The Gatekeeper in Ghostbusters. (Think of how awesome her shimmery smoky eye makeup is!) If you're talented at sewing and feeling buxom, you can be Gwen DeMarco of Galaxy Quest. And if they all fall through at the last minute, or you receive an impromptu invite, you can put on some hiking boots, jeans, a blue hoodie, braid your hair, and haul a plush gorilla around. Clever and quick is always appreciated by a good crowd of friends.
9. Mrs. Lovett
You can pair it with Sweeney Todd, or go it alone. You can do it simply (Angela Lansbury's Broadway costume is quite plain) or you can be all elaborate and Tim Burtonish. It's fun because you get to carry a rolling pin or a meat cleaver, sing loud songs, and be a really loveable serial killer. You can even add a lot of blood to the dress and hands if you want (hey, she had to cleave that meat), though flour would be better. Just be sure you include the iconic devil-horn hair, and haul out your most cartoonish Cockney.
10. Sally Bowles of Cabaret
I realize my list is a little gun and action heavy, so here's a compromise. Sally is sexy, but not as trampy as any Sexy Whatever costume you'll find on the market. Look closely at Liza Minelli's one piece – it had shorts and a man's vest! It wasn't just a unitard or corset. It's also simple, glamorous and tragic. Great make-up, too. And the hat! How many feminine costumes allow you to wear a bowler? Just stay warm out there, ok?