Smoking as portrayed by hollywood: The most iconic smoking scenes from movies

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV
“What are you going to do, charge me with smoking?” asks actress Sharon Stone, as she lights a cigarette in the “interrogation” scene in Basic Instinct. This scene is arguably the most famous scene involving smoking in film history. The glamour of Hollywood and smoking go hand in hand.

Smoking has taken all types of forms in Hollywood’s biggest films — from seduction, to giving a character an edge and even for recreational drug use.

Stone is one of many women portrayed in film who smokes in a seductive way. The 1967 film The Graduate features a young Dustin Hoffman being seduced by an older Mrs. Robinson with cigarette in hand. In that scene, Hoffman nervously says, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me… Aren’t you?”

Lastly, Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, who is smoking a cigarette right before her and John Travolta’s character compete in the “twist” dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slims. Thurman is also featured on the posters and the cover art for the VHS, DVD and Blu Ray of Pulp Fiction with cigarette in hand.

Where women are shown to be smoking in a seductive way, men in film are shown with an edge to them — a bit rough around the edges. From Al Pacino smoking cigars in Scarface to the two brothers from The Boondock Saints smoking cigarettes after leaving church, it really shows how “bad ass” these characters are.

Clint Eastwood plays Blondie in the 1966 spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and has a cigar in his mouth throughout the “Mexican standoff” at the end of the film. Blondie doesn’t flinch, nor does he drop his cigar, as he shoots the bad guy, Angel Eyes, into a grave.

A more subtle smoking scene involves Robert De Niro in the 1990s critically acclaimed organized crime film Goodfellas. De Niro’s character, Jimmy Conway, is a member of the local mob, and in one of the more famous scenes it features De Niro smoking at the bar. Nothing is said or heard (except for the background track of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”), but you can see him smoking a cigar with shifty eyes and you can tell that he is beginning to mistrust, and is ultimately thinking of “whacking,” someone in his gang.

Aside from smoking cigars and cigarettes, there are Hollywood portrayals of smoking other things, like recreational drugs. For instance, in the movie Friday, Ice Cube and Chris Tucker’s characters, Craig and Smokey, smoke marijuana on the porch. Smokey convinces Craig to smoke marijuana and ends up hallucinating.

Much like Friday, in the 2001 film Training Day, Denzel Washington’s character tries to convince Ethan Hawke’s character to smoke marijuana. Washington’s character is a senior narcotics officer that can help Hawke’s character advance in his career. Through pressure from Washington, Hawke’s character finally gives in and smokes the pipe of marijuana, only to find out it’s been laced with PCP. Hawke’s character hallucinates just like Ice Cube’s character does, but in a much less comedic fashion.

Lastly, and maybe most peculiar because it is in a children’s movie, is the animated Disney film, Alice in Wonderland. While on her adventure, Alice runs into a caterpillar who is smoking hookah. The caterpillar proceeds to smoke himself into a butterfly in front of Alice’s very eyes. Definitely an iconic smoking scene that people of all ages can remember.

Despite worldwide knowledge of its health effects, smoking has always, and probably always will be, a sign of sexuality or masculinity in film — or at least a staple in pop culture.

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