Oi Polloi

Films and Things: Big Coats

Published: Thu Nov 23 2017

Akin to a radiant beam of sunshine, big coats are always a welcome sight during these grey winter months – and offer a bulky line of defence for when going outside feels like falling into a vat of liquid nitrogen.

Historians reckon the first ‘big coats’ were invented by Canada's Caribou Inuits to keep them warm while hunting and kayaking, and were typically made from assorted bits of seal, like guts, intestines and fat.

Luckily for those adverse to wearing animal innards, in the 1950s the U.S. military came up with N-3B parka — a thick, lined, nylon parka designed for those stationed in frosty zones, and the archetype big coat was born.

Since then on, serious jackets have become a fixture in films. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best big coats cinema has to offer...


Bit of a curveball to start off with here, but hang on, I’ll explain myself.

Kurt Russell’s jacket often receives the majority of coat-based appreciation, but let’s take a moment to give kudos to the other players in The Thing.

The Thing is the heart-warming story of a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates and imitates other organisms, which infiltrates an Antarctic research station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs. Needless to say, it causes a right kerfuffle.

While Kurt’s coat is dead good, it’s not quite a ‘big coat’ – it’s more akin to a flight jacket or something of that ilk. I mean, the man is a renegade; you need only take a look at that cowboy hat for evidence. But for those more sensible (and realistic), the parka is pretty much the only way to get about in arctic conditions.

Here’s a controversial point: what if I were to suggest that it’s perhaps not Kurt’s jacket and flamethrower-wielding badassery that steals the show, it’s his unfortunate pal’s coats that are the true heroes? They’re realistic, they’re honest, they’re normal, everyday geezers, just like you and me.


Next up we've got Frances McDormand in Fargo. Fargo tells the morbidly funny tale of a pregnant Minnesota police chief (McDormand) who's investigating a spate of roadside homicides, and if you've ever ached to see poor Steve Buscemi head-first in a wood-chipper, this is the film for you.

In bitterly frosty Minnesota landscapes, parkas are probably a good call if you don't want to freeze to death, regardless of whether you're with-child or not. I can only imagine they might also help you keep warm, collected and on-the-ball when faced with seeing America's favourite character actor unfortunately jammed into a wood-chipper.

If there was an Academy Award for best big coat-wearer, I’m sure Frances McDormand would be a double winner for Fargo.


Here we've got a double blast of heat-retaining power from David Naughton and Griffin Dunne from the cult-classic An American Werewolf in London.

This is the story of what happens when two young American college students are attacked by a werewolf on a backpacking holiday in Yorkshire, (although for some reason, David ends up in a hospital in London?) and the following full-moon-based annoyances which befall David.

Needless to say, werewolves are not the only danger whilst holidaying in England. The bitter cold and surprise downpours have caught out many a wide-eyed tourist – and those unprepared and un-jacketed can be left lobotomised by the harsh climates.

However, looking at those big down coats the boys are rocking, it seems this lot did their research. Unfortunately, those jackets weren’t werewolf proof, but at least these American chaps enjoyed warmth and comfort before they were savaged by a creature of myth.


Here he is, the coolest man alive, wearing the warmest garment in existence. I guess opposites really do attract...

The Empire Strikes Back is the second film in the Star Wars trilogy, and is a surprisingly dark, defeatist and depressing family film. Needless to say, it's the best out of the three.

Whilst searching for a decent photo of Mr Solo, I came across a deep sub-section of the internet, a dark-web, where a rare breed of Star Wars clobber enthusiasts debate the colour of Han Solo's coat with passion and ardour. Very rarely do more than two people agree at a time.

Is it navy blue? Is it brown? Reams of debates litter these forums, yet no conclusive answers seem to be present. However after shopping it round the office, I was met with a resounding “It's definitely brown. Not sure what those internet muppets are on about.”

That settles that then. Whatever colour it is, I'm sure Han Solo is as toasty as a crumpet in a hot tub, and I'm certain that he looks incredibly slick.


Finally we've got Scatman Crothers, looking extremely smitten to be downed on the floor with a log-splitter in his chest. He's probably just happy to be wearing that delectable parka.

The Shining concerns itself with Jack Torrance and his gradual mental deterioration whilst care-taking the Overlook Hotel, a residence plagued by murderous ghosts, a bartender who gives some really terrible advice and a pair of proper creepy twins. Scatman plays the psychic chef of the hotel, who can communicate with Danny, Jack's son, see into the past, sense when people are in trouble but somehow can't sense when someone is going to spring from behind a podium and swing an axe into his chest.

Parkas can do many things: they'll keep you warm, they'll keep you dry, they'll even make you look slicker than a bowling alley floor covered in marmalade... but they don't protect you from axe-wielding mad-men.


There you have it; the best big coats cinema has to offer. Remember, you don't have to be a movie star to relish the heat-hoarding power of a parka. Every winter requires one, every person deserves one.

See some of our favourite non-film big coats here.