The best movie mustaches of all time: warning it gets hairy

Kenneth Branagh in A Haunting in Venice
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

When Kenneth Branagh took on the role of Agatha Christie’s dapper Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, he gave the famous sleuth an outsized mustache of luxuriant eccentricity. 

And now he's back with his extravagant tache for his third Poirot movie, A Haunting in Venice.

How, though, does Poirot’s giant soup strainer measure up against cinema's greatest ever ’staches? Find out with our chronological selection of ten of the best... 

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin in City Lights

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: The Tramp 
  • Film: City Lights (1931)

When Charlie Chaplin was piecing together the various features that would make up his iconic screen persona, he says he hit upon the notion of that famous toothbrush mustache to “add a comic touch”. Some reckon that Adolf Hitler was a big Chaplin fan and copied the star’s distinctive mustache. This only added to the fun when Chaplin mercilessly lampooned the Führer as strutting, blustering dictator Adenoid Hynkel in his 1940 film The Great Dictator

Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx in Duck Soup

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Rufus T. Firefly
  • Film: Duck Soup (1933)

The bushy eyebrows, the glasses, the large cigar and stooping walk are all essential components of the wisecracking screen persona that Groucho Marx displayed in the Marx Brothers’ anarchic comedies, but it was of course his trademark painted-on mustache that supplied the perfect final flourish. How did it come about? The story goes that Groucho was late arriving at the theatre for a performance and unable to find his fake mustache in time to go on stage — so he used grease paint to create a thick black stripe on his upper lip. This was so much easier than fiddling with a stick-on mustache that he used the technique for the remainder of his career.

Clark Gable

Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Rhett Butler
  • Film: Gone With The Wind (1939)

Voted “King of Hollywood” in a 1938 poll, Clark Gable was ideal casting for the role of debonair gambler Rhett Butler in epic romance Gone With the Wind (author Margaret Mitchell’s description of the character’s "close-clipped black mustache" could have been written with Gable in mind). The dashing star was rarely seen on screen without his signature pencil-thin mustache — a perfect enhancement for his knowing smile in film after film. However, the first time he appeared with whiskers on screen — in the 1932 movie Strange Interlude — the mustache was a fake, put on to show his character ageing.

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds for Smokey and The Bandit

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: The Bandit
  • Film: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Hollywood’s most bankable star in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Burt Reynolds usually appeared on screen with a twinkle in his eye and that magnificent mustache on his lip. The star and his ’tache are at their charismatic peak in action comedy Smokey and the Bandit in which Reynolds’ roguish good ole boy trucker runs rings around the law as he transports 400 cases of beer on a round trip from Georgia to Texas and back again.

Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Jules Winnfield
  • Film: Pulp Fiction (1994)

Samuel L Jackson’s blood-soaked, Bible-quoting hitman in Quentin Tarantino's iconic thriller would be a scary enough badass anyway, but somehow his bushy sideburns and awesome handlebar moustache make him an even more terrifyingly imposing figure.

Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: The Stranger
  • Film: The Big Lebowski (1998)

On and off screen, Sam Elliott's whiskers are legendary and they are a perfect fit for the drawling cowboy narrator of the Coen Brothers’ sprawling comedy thriller. According to the Coens, Elliott’s bushy walrus mustache also proved handy when they were editing the film, enabling them to move lines around without worrying that the actor’s lip movements would go out of sync with his words. Of course, Jeff Bridges’ unlikely stoner hero The Dude also sports some notable facial fuzz in the film. 

Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell in Anchorman

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Ron Burgundy
  • Film: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Will Ferrell’s old-school groomed mustache is perfect for the character of the buffoonish, incompetent, idiotically chauvinistic San Diego TV news anchor in this hilarious satire — and it’s perfect, too, for the fashion-disaster look of the film’s 1970s setting. As a bonus, it adds an extra comic note to Ron Burgundy’s ludicrous jazz flute playing as well.

Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Borat Sagdiyev
  • Film: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

The thick black moustache sported by idiot Kazakh reporter Borat in Sacha Baron Cohen’s outrageous mockumentary was almost as tasteless as that lime green mankini he wore on the beaches of America. Back in 2006, a special treat in the promotional kit handed out at special screenings of the film was the official Borat Seksy Moustache with “Female Success Guarantee”. A collector’s item, for sure.

Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Role: Hercule Poirot
  • Film: Murder on the Orient Express

Having grown accustomed to David Suchet’s fastidiously neat mustache in the role of Hercule Poirot, many fans of Agatha Christie’s dapper Belgian detective bristled at the sight of Kenneth Branagh’s outsized whiskers when he first played the character in Murder on the Orient Express. The film’s crew were so taken with Branagh’s extravagant facial hair they gave it the on-set nickname “The Badger”! 

For Death on the Nilehis next film as Poirot, Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green treated the mustache to its own backstory with a tragic prologue set during the First World War that explained why Poirot adopted this peculiarly striking adornment.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.