Sex on Screen: The 10 Most Iconic Swimsuits on Film

Words by Ellen Apswoude
Cinema is such a big part of our society. A timeless film can impact culture for decades to come, and a timeless costume can do the same for fashion. When it comes to costumes, there are few garments that draw more eyes, and create more memories, than swimsuits. We've compiled a list our favourite swimsuits on film; from the scene-stealers, to the star-makers.
 
10 – Bo Derek, 10
 
Bo Derek 10 Nude One Piece Swimsuit
 
Coming in at number 10 is Bo Derek, in the film coincidentally called 10. Much like many other women on this list, this was the role, and the one-piece swimsuit, that made Bo Derek a world famous sex symbol. Derek single-handedly brought nude tones back with this famous number.
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9 – Phoebe Cates, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
 
Phoebe Cates Fast Times at Ridgemont High Red Bikini
 
Phoebe Cates became the ultimate Girl Next Door fantasy after the release of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The image of Cates stepping out of the pool in a striking red bikini was burned into the mind of every teenage boy who watched the 80s classic. In fact, it resonated so much, that pop-punk band Fenix TX recorded a song about it. The track (subtly titled ‘Phoebe Cates’) describes the experience of lusting after the actress, and goes to show just how big of an impact this scene, and this bikini, had on the world.
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8 – Raquel Welch, One Million Years BC
 
Raquel Welch One Million Years BC Fur Bikini
 
In a practical sense, a fur bikini sounds pretty unpleasant. But practicality was thrown to the wind, when Raquel Welch donned her iconic fur bikini in 60s film One Million Years BC. In their review, The New York Times referred to her as “a marvellous breathing monument to womankind”. While this comment was a bit of a creepy thing to say in a film review, it represented just how big of an impact this look had on the culture of the day.
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7 – Sue Lyon, Lolita
 
Sue Lyon Lolita Print Bikini
 
In what may be a controversial pick, number 7 goes to Sue Lyon, in her role as the titular character in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. Sue, who was only 14 at the time of filming, wore a classic high waisted, print bikini. But what really sets this look apart, and makes it so memorable, is the amazing hat and sunglasses combo.
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6 – Kiera Knightley, Atonement
 
Keira Knightley Atonement One Piece Swimsuit
 
While it’s not the sexiest look on the list, Kiera Knightley’s white one piece in Atonement is unforgettable. It is a perfect visual representation of the restraint and refinement we see throughout the film. Despite being one of the most striking swimsuits of all time, this delicate white number isn’t even the most iconic costume in Atonement. The film’s costume designer, Jaqueline Durran, was nominated for an Oscar for her work, and as a result the film is littered with other amazing pieces. The most incredible of which, is the famous green dress also worn by Knightley.
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5 – Halle Berry, Die Another Day
 
Halle Berry Die Another Day Orange and White Bikini
 
In an homage to a later entrant on this list, Halle Berry stunned audiences with her bright orange bikini (complete with white knife belt) in Die Another Day. Berry’s whole look is flawless; from her cropped hair, to the bold colour combination of her outfit. While the film isn’t one of the best Bond movies, Berry is one of our favourite Bond Girls, and her sex symbol status went through the roof after this performance.
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4 – Pam Grier, Coffy
 
Pam Grier Coffy White Crochet Bikini
 
While Coffy didn’t make a huge impression on audiences, Pam Grier certainly did. She made such an impression, in fact, that she was cast as the lead in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown specifically because of this film. Despite being lesser known, we love this look, because a crocheted bikini isn’t something you see everyday. And it definitely isn’t something you see worn this well.
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3 – Ursula Andress, Dr No
 
Ursula Andress Dr. No White Bikini
 
Ursula Andress’ white bikini is so famous, and made such a huge impact after the release of Dr. No, that bikini sales soared, and the white number was later sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. Andress was the first ever Bond Girl, and this bikini without a doubt launched her career. On top of this, it was the inspiration for the orange bikini Berry wears in Die Another Day.
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2 – Pamela Anderson, Baywatch
 
Pamela Anderson Baywatch High Cut Red One Piece Swimsuit
 
While many would regard Ursula Andress and her white bikini as the most iconic swimsuit of all time, we beg to differ. When it comes to unforgettable, unmistakable swimwear, we can't go passed Pamela Anderson, and her alarm red, high cut one-piece swimsuit. The high cut swimsuit is currently back in fashion, and we couldn’t be happier.
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1 – Salma Hayek, From Dusk Till Dawn
 
Salma Hayek From Dusk Till Dawn Brown Thong Bikini
 
In what might be an unconventional choice, our number one pick is the incomparable Salma Hayek, in her star-turning role in From Dusk Till Dawn. There are other entrants on the list who may be more well known. But none are more unique, sexy, and powerful than Salma Hayek (at the time an unknown actress with a serious snake phobia) dancing with a boa in a rusty brown thong bikini.
 
 

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