GUEST EDITORIAL: Iconic Smoking Scenes in Movies


by Haroon Rasheed

Movies are just a montage of pictures. Skilled filmmakers painstakingly select appealing images to anchor their narratives and guide viewers from one to the next. That’s just another way of saying excellent movies are made of iconic visuals.

Pictures have formed patterns and clichés during the last century. Smoking Scenes is one of the most famous and reoccurring images in cinema history. Here are some instances.


“Casablanca,” directed by Michael Curtiz, is unanimously regarded as one of the best films ever made. Characters don’t use airport batteries to smoke, but they do so for dramatic effect. Smoke “popped” off the screen in black-and-white films if correctly filmed. \

Old-school cinematographers would light the dark negative-space places where smoke would escape (think dark walls or ceilings). The smoke curled and moved as it vanished. “Casablanca” features multiple examples, as do most film noirs of the era.


“Ghostbusters,” directed by Ivan Reitman, is a near-perfect film starring three of the best comedic actors ever. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramiz may become hysterically humorous if given cigarettes. At one point in the film’s “Slimmer” sequence, Murray holds his cigarette to his lower lip and lets it fall almost completely perpendicular to his mouth. As any smoker knows, it’s not easy.

GUEST EDITORIAL Iconic Smoking Scenes in Movies


Cigarettes can help inspire a wide range of emotions in films, from laughter to lust. One sequence in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 sensual film “Basic Instinct” made Sharon Stone an instant Hollywood sex icon.

Inquiry into her lover’s death. She wakes up to learn she can’t. “What will you do?” she asks calmly. “Arrest me?” he sexily drags. With her seductive smoking, the interrogation room’s harsh blue walls, and a white clothing that leaves little to the imagination, this scene makes the list.


Let’s talk about a big space slug smoking a hookah for a moment. Every shot of Jabba the Hutt in the third Star Wars film is noteworthy due to the character’s distinctive appearance. But at one point, the man definitely pulls out whatever the cosmic equivalent of the water pipe is in this short video.

A figure from the film Casablanca or the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland may be the inspiration for this piece. The image of a huge, lounging character with a hookah deserves to be included in this discussion.


Finally, smoking in movies goes beyond cigarettes. “Friday,” directed by F. Gary Gray, is a confluence of the stoner films of Cheech and Chong, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and Dazed and Confused.

Ice Cube and Chris Tucker smoke and misbehave, paving the path for following films and modern stoner comedies like “Half-Baked”.

Smoking in cinema has, unsurprisingly, gone out of style, but film is eternal. These famous scenes will always be a part of Hollywood history.