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The 10 Greatest Hollywood Props Of All Time

by Simon Martin
16 December 2013 35 Comments

With not a sniff of a James Bond gadget, here are some of the best props to make it onto celluloid.

It looks very clean

I gave myself two rules when approaching this subject first to ignore big rugby b***ards like Jason Leonard and secondly NO JAMES BOND.  Yes Bond has fancy gadgets but we all know he did and me banging on about Odd Job’s bowler hat or Scaramanga’s fancy golden gun is not very interesting. Now I have given myself loads of pressure to actually be interesting, here goes.

Superman’s Specs – Superman (1978) – Richard Donner

Call me cynical but them specs are not fooling anyone. Clark Kent has the same face, the same shape, the same hair as Superman and seeing as Lois has been shagging him she’s not very observant for a reporter. Poor show if you ask me. At least Marvel comics were a bit more subtle, if you ran into someone whose first and last name started with the same letter then you’d better expect some fireworks.

Butch Coolidge’s Watch – Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino

This vintage gold watch or “this uncomfortable piece of metal” was integral to the whole plot.  It lived an interesting life through several generations of Butch’s family then up Capt. Koons’ a** in Korea and because of it’s importance he goes back to collect it after the betting sting.  Had he not, he would not have killed Vincent Vega or run Marsellus Wallace over.

No-one criticised Steve McQueen too much when he was forever fiddling with s**t to draw the eye on every shot.

Brad Pit and Food – in Oceans Eleven (2001) – Steven Soderburgh

The cynic might say that he needs a good prop to detract from his lack of acting ability but I’d be more generous than that. He works well with what he’s got and no-one criticised Steve McQueen too much when he was forever fiddling with s**t to draw the eye on every shot. Well apart from Yul Brynner I suppose but who cares, McQueen was cool, Brynner was not. Watch Pitt’s Rusty Ryan and he’s forever munching on something. The official line is that Pitt thought his character would never have time to eat a meal therefore ate on the hoof all the time.  There is also a gag at the end where he get’s heartburn and wangs the food away, which is a nice touch.

Floating Oriental Café –The Fifth Element (1997) – Luc Besson

If I lived in a flat like Corbin Dallas, which I don’t and if floating dim sum and noodle bars existed then I would be a lot fatter than I am now. I always thought that this was a nod to Blade Runner where Deckard eats similar fare in the bowels of the city.  It’s a nice touch for foodies and in a film full of stylish touches it still stands out.  The film’s plot though unfortunately sags a bit and has Chris Tucker in it.  Oh dear.

Herbie – Herbie goes to Monte Carlo (1977) – Vincent McEveety

I wonder how many Beetles these films sold for VW?  S**tloads I imagine. Variants were popular with the surfing set in the 60’s and 70’s but Beetles were cheaper and became vogue.  I had one, it was truly horrible.  Slow, cold, thirsty and going downhill in snow made the Cresta Run feel like taking a maiden aunt for a stroll in the park.

In one sentence “this is a knoife”, we cheer as the bad guy s**t’s himself at Mick’s fearlessness.

Crocodile Dundee’s Knife – Crocodile Dundee (1986) – Peter Faiman

Show me someone who does not love the scene where the mugger pulls the flick knife on Mick Dundee and gets with the “call that a knife” speech and I will show you someone with no spirit.  In one sentence “this is a knoife”, we cheer as the bad guy s**t’s himself at Mick’s fearlessness and laugh as he cuts up the awful Michael Jackson style leather jacket.

Elmira Gulch’s pushbike in Wizard of Oz (1939) – Victor Fleming

I only include this because growing up (and beyond) any kid who had bike with any hint of sh**ness would get calls of “Dorothy!!” in a high pitched Miss Gulch voice. Kids eh?

Bob Falfa’s ’55 Chevy in American Graffiti (1973) – George Lucas

Such a beautiful car and a great film. Harrison Ford’s Falfa was an early Han Solo type.  The film is heavy on style and the car, skull hanging from the rear view mirror and the big cowboy hat is an iconic image.

Child’s Ball in The Changeling (1980) – Peter Medak

This film is as scary as chuff. Bereaved composer George C. Scott moved to a large old New England house for some peace and quiet but starts to hear noises. A small colourful ball keeps rolling into view in the hallway as he tries to work so both spooked and annoyed he drives to a bridges and flings it into the river.  As he returns it’s getting dark and as he enters the hallway the ball comes bouncing down the stairs.  I always sh** my breeks at this point and scamper upstairs to hide under the duvet.

Max’s Wolf Costume in Where the Wild Things Are (2009) – Spike Jonze

This is a beautiful film, it really makes you think about your responsibilities and what you promise your kids.  Last time I watched it the Beatle’s song “Don’t let me down” came to mind and I welled up a bit. Anyhoo the outfit Max wears get progressively more filthy and matted as the film progresses.  It looks comfy as owt though and I think I want one for knocking about the house.  If anyone knows where I can get one in Fat Yorkshireman sizes let me know.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Harold Shand 8:34 am, 3-Jun-2011

I stopped reading at "McQueen was cool, Brynner was not" Righto, Simon's obviously a Ted and a charlatan.

Simon Martin 9:39 am, 3-Jun-2011

So you read less than a third of the article and rated it really badly, thanks for that. Care to explain why I might be a Ted or a Charlatan? For the record I have never once considered doing the frock coat / crepe shoe thing or getting the quiff look on.

Monot 11:20 am, 3-Jun-2011

Loving the bonus apostrophes in this piece.

Simon Martin 11:46 am, 3-Jun-2011

Thanks Monot, I appreciate the job you are doing. It must be taking you a long time to correct the internet. Keep at it though as it's a job that clearly needs doing.

tony moon 12:42 pm, 3-Jun-2011

My own fav is The Dude in The Big Lewbowski and his White Russians had to have one as soon as I left the cinema.

griff 12:45 pm, 3-Jun-2011

like it simon, what about john candys trunk in planes trains & automobiles ?

Simon Martin 12:54 pm, 3-Jun-2011

Tony, so did I and have had many since. A bit like the Tequila Rapido in Betty Blue.

Simon Martin 12:57 pm, 3-Jun-2011

Cheers Griff, yep, great prop used well. The blue puffa coat too when he got the cuff straps caught in on the car seat. Genius.

CD 1:19 pm, 3-Jun-2011

I thought Chris Tucker was immense in the Fifth Element

Simon Martin 1:25 pm, 3-Jun-2011

Nah, not for me. Too high pitched and fast talking. He fitted the tone of the film though as it was like a competition for over acting.

Red or dead 4:00 pm, 3-Jun-2011

Couldn't read this due to shocking grammar. Might as well have potato printed it. You've let yourselves down badly allowing this onto your otherwise excellent site. Disappointing.

Simon Martin 4:13 pm, 3-Jun-2011

I love it when people police the internet for quality of written English. It really is a job thet needs doing and we are all very grateful for the effort you put in to save us from our poor syntax. It's epsecially good when, like Red or Dead just has just done, they say printing the article with a potato would have been as valid a tool for the publisher, because as we all know, the method of publication improves the quality of the grammar. Well done Red or Dead, you are a genius.

griff 5:14 pm, 3-Jun-2011

don't you just love it when people complain in a really patronising way about content they are reading for free written by an author who isn't getting paid. i've neglected to use punctuation in solidarity brother.

Barry Wang 5:23 pm, 3-Jun-2011

To be fair, if someone comes on and criticises your writing (not style, but use of accepted punctuation and syntactical norms - you're not Jose Saramago are you?) it'd be better to take on board than get all huffy.

Simon Martin 6:04 am, 4-Jun-2011

Barry, maybe if it was specific and valid examples were given perhaps. Or have I got it all wrong and the editors of ST are idiots and just publish any old shit. So on reflection I'll admit to defending my efforts and look forward to seeing great pieces by those who choose to criticise.

Simon Martin 6:11 am, 4-Jun-2011

Cheers Griff, in an age of text speak and most people not being able to manage a sentence without saying "nar'ameen" or "laeyk" it is a bit odd. I've re- read the piece several times and it may not flow like a poem it's not particularly grammar-wise for a list article which is intended to amuse.

Simon Martin 6:15 am, 4-Jun-2011

That would be "particularly bad, grammar-wise" before I get hung for the failings of my fat fingers on my iPhone.

Tim Pelan 11:27 am, 4-Jun-2011

Good, funny piece. I can't say I've noticed any grievous errors in grammer, etc in it. Believe me, I've noticed far worse sentence structure and repetition in other pieces, on other sites. Unless you're prepared to back up criticism, don't bother.

Tim Pelan 11:43 am, 4-Jun-2011

I'll add to that, the piece flows well, you have a good style. Ignore the numptys.

Simon Martin 1:58 pm, 4-Jun-2011

Thanks Tim, your comments are appreciated.

David L 6:16 am, 5-Jun-2011

Probably not a good time, then, to point out that the surname of Christopher Walken's character in Pulp Fiction is spelled with a K and that his ass was in Vietnam, not Korea, when he shoved a watch up it? Good article, keep 'em coming. I picked up a copy of Dead Man's Shoes based on your Noughties recommendations - still not too sure about Where The Wild Things Are, though, depite the repeated plugs. In terms of iconic movie props, I've always had a soft spot for Tony Montana's "little friend" in Scarface; the M16/grenade launcher combo he wields in the final shoot-out. Apparently - according to the receipts of the movie prop rental company that leased it to the Scarface production - the very same gun was dusted off a few years later and brandished by a certain Mr. Schwarzenegger in the film Predator, so bit of an all-round 80s superstar really. You can actually see that Pacino drops and breaks the weapon (the grenade launcher snaps right off) when he's first knocked to the ground by gunfire - but not to worry, it miraculously fixes itself in time for his final, final stand a few moments later.

KillMcKenzie 1:06 pm, 5-Jun-2011

Brad pitt always needs props, even if its his hands in se7en (their speeling not mine!)tapping the table and wobbling the gun at the end. Don't get why Lois Lanes aliteration(?) name means fairworks? Was Mo Mowlan a goer? How about the pen-knife (not knoife) in chinatown,the polaroid in Memento or voigts boots in midnight cowboy(polishing them, putting perfume in them,"where's ma boots, who took them off?" and finally binning them?

Nigel 2:37 pm, 5-Jun-2011

Bit corny, I know, but I've always liked Gaff's origami in Blade Runner.

Simon Martin 7:03 pm, 5-Jun-2011

Cheers David, what did you think of Drad Man's Shoes? Killmckenzie, I was referring to Marvel Comics' habit of naming their super heroes' secret real names with the same letter for fore and surnames. Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reid Richards, Sue Storm, etc. Nothing to do with Lois Lane or DC Comics mate. Sorry if I was unclear on that. Nigel, I actually thought of the origami but the significance is unclear and I would have liked to have dug deeper into it.

Nigel 9:04 pm, 5-Jun-2011

Thanks and respect, as always, for the continued interaction post-article. Your comment prompted me to look further into the Blade Runner origami thing. As with many aspects of the film, it has taken on a whole debate of it's own, especially the meaning and plot significance of the unicorn and the matchstick man. Worth a look, whenever you do have a moment.

David L 12:44 am, 6-Jun-2011

Simon, just watched Dead Man's Shoes. In fact, spent the best part of twenty minutes drafting a reply to your question before I clicked the wrong x on on my internet browser and killed the entire entry (which encompassed the inevitable Get Carter and First Blood parallels, the use of Citroen 2CVs as film props, Nick Love being a complete arse compared to Shane Meadows, and a completely gratuitous mention of my home cinema rig - 6' by 9' wide-screen projection and a Yamaha Dolby Digital amp, if you're interested), but, in the end, two words.....fookin' hell. I can't remember a (fairly) recent film that was quite so British; when The Rock upsets the crims in Walking Tall (also released in 2004), they fight back with the latest word in US military fully-automatic mayhem. In Dead Man's Shoes, when Paddy Considine shows he means business by brutally hacking a drug dealer to death in a toilet, Gary Stretch digs out a cardboard box from his spare bedroom that seems to suggest his entire defence budget consists of a £125 Visa payment to Battle Orders UK in Sussex. Absolutely and unreservedly brilliant.

Simon Martin 8:42 am, 6-Jun-2011

Hi Nigel, it's really interesting as is the whole "Is deckard a replicant" argument. Bladerunner has it's critics but I have always loved it. I find it visually stunning for the time, it has a great score and Rutger Hauer is superb as Roy Batty. For a film which is 30 years old you could release it today and it would stand up.

Simon Martin 8:53 am, 6-Jun-2011

Hi David, yeah I've done that's it's most annoying. It's a great film isn't it? I love the scene when Stretch et al roll up in the 2CV and Richard is standing by the garages. As confrontations go it's menacing but in a small town sort of way. Everyone who grew up in a small town of a certain vintage will have played around banks of run down garages. I love the fact that Stretch's gang is so small time they drive the 2CV, dress like tramps and drink supermarket beer upstairs in the pub. If I have one beef with Meadow's at all its the improvised ad-libbing he seems to encourage from actors that I just don't think are up to it.

DC 3:50 pm, 6-Jun-2011

Brad Pitt eats in every movie he's in - generally licking somethign off a spoon, or gazing at whatever he has on his cutlery before eating it. It's his acting leitmotif.

The Cush 1:54 pm, 15-Jun-2011

From my personal favourite film Batman (1989) i'd like to have The Jokers hand gun with the elongated barrell (which for no real reason turned it into an armour piercing super gun?). Would be plenty of jokes to be had pulling it out of your belt.

ric 12:37 am, 22-Aug-2011

I think the guy haroldshand meant he stopped reading when you said "yul brynner was not" cool. Me too. Glad I kept on going, though, liked the rest. Congrats

Mikie 4:09 am, 11-May-2012

You handle criticism like an obsessive stalker. Go out for a bit. Enjoy the elements.

Tony Gardiner 8:20 pm, 18-Aug-2013

To bring this up to date, how about the Gold teeth set in a plastic block in Breaking bad?

Tony Gardiner 8:21 pm, 18-Aug-2013

Just noticed that the title was "movie props" rather than TV stuff. Mmmmmmmm

paul 1:32 pm, 17-Dec-2013

and yet we all lap up Bukowski, regardless of crude writing or less than perfect grammer without anyone crying over their keyboards.. good grief.. let the artists write.. let the punter enjoy.. worry not in between..

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