How Blockbusters Quit Smoking

Cigarettes used to be cool, and it showed in our taste in movies. But as time passed, Hollywood began to leave smoking on the cutting-room floor. Witness the transition in these 10 classic summer flicks.

1 of 10

jaws.png

Title: 
Jaws (1975)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Like many fathers of the '70s, this father of summer movies smoked heavily and often. Smoking happens everywhere in Jaws, like it's no big deal—1975 was still the dawn of anti-smoking legislation, after all. Smoking is just a fact of life. Even the mayor smokes in the hospital! A cigarette co-stars in perhaps the most famous scene in the movie, dangling from Roy Schneider's incredulous lips as he, after seeing for the first time how big the shark really is, tells Robert Shaw's character that he's “gonna need a bigger boat.”

blade runner.png

Title: 
Blade Runner (1982)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Apparently unable to predict just how effective anti-smoking policies will be, people still casually smoke indoors in this early-'80s vision of a dystopian future. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a titular "Blade Runner," whose job it is to identify and “retire” replicants—bioengineered beings that can only be identified as non-human with the Voight-Kampf empathy test. One suspected replicant, Rachael (Sean Young), smokes throughout the entirety of her testing. The scene is celebrated by film buffs for its use of light and smoke, and also melts the hearts of fans with Rachael's seductive puffing. When confronted about her habit, she told the Washington Post: “I know, I know—my big selling point is being sort of like a virgin, kind of naive. They made me smoke in [Blade Runner] I guess to look older.”

ghostbusters.png

Title: 
Ghostbusters (1984)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Everyone's favorite paranormal clean-up crew bled coolness in the way they confidently bantered in the face of spooky specters most of us shiver from just thinking about. But these fearless experts were also practically billboards of how cool smoking is (or was). Dan Akyroyd's character Raymond Stantz lets his cigarette dangle from his gaping maw when the crew first encounters Slimer, while Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Stantz contemplate the apocalypse over cancer sticks as the guys cruise in their converted ambulance. At the end, Stantz lights up in front of a cheering crowd, Marlboro man-style. Fortunately for their lungs, they had all kicked the habit by the time of the 1989 sequel.

back to the future.png

Title: 
Back To The Future (1985)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly in this Oedipal time-traveling romp where the differences between the past and the seemingly unlikely future (“Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha!”) are a running joke—including attitudes on smoking. During the pretty uncomfortable scene in which Marty's future mom unwittingly makes a move on her son-to-be, Marty stops Lorraine from smoking. After snatching a liquor bottle out of her hands, she attempts to light up and he says, “Jeez, you smoke too?” Exasperated, she replies “Marty, you're beginning to sound just like my mother.” Only rebellious teens from 1955 smoke, and the teens of 1985 know better, it seems. As a bonus, Back to the Future II (1989) depicts Biff Tannen's alternate present as so warped that a sign of the times reads, “Smoking Required.”

die hard.png

Title: 
Die Hard (1988)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Barefoot everyman hero John McClane is a real guy's guy, wisecracking his way through a hostile terrorist takeover when all he really wants is to be spending a nice Christmas with his wife. He's such a cool guy that the filmmakers could only think of one way to make him cooler: smoking. “Mnn, these are very bad for you,” he chides as he nicks a pack of cigs off a baddie's corpse. He then uses the cigs to bolster the manliness of his smartassed comments to Hans Gruber—including when he signs off from a radio chat with Gruber with his trademark catchphrase: “Yippee ki yay, motherfucker.” Probably the only reason he isn't smoking during the final scene against Gruber is because he needed both hands to reach the gun taped to his back.

terminator 2.png

Title: 
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Though widely regarded as the best Terminator, this sci-fi action hit didn't do anything to terminate smoking. Ah-nold's titular Terminator, despite being the epitome of leather-clad masculine coolness to teens everywhere, doesn't smoke. But it's probably got more to do with him being a cybernetic organism than being a role model, considering how Sarah Connor, mom to humanity's future savior, lights up when her emotions run too high. Smoking is used here as a way to drive home how human Sarah is and the pressure she feels at having the fate of the world upon her shoulders—unlike the T-101 who, despite looking like a human and bearing the same burden, asks things like why people cry.

jurassic park.png

Title: 
Jurassic Park (1993)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

This cautionary tale of man's arrogance in playing god had Samuel Jackson playing chain-smoking computer whiz Ray Arnold. Arnold is literally always smoking in the movie, to the point where it almost seems like a parody. He's a pretty clear-cut good guy who is central to the plot, attempting to undo all the “hacker shit” that sent the living dinosaur theme park out of control in the first place. Although the script’s first draft had park creator John Hammond expressing great concern over Arnold's health from all his smoking, the version that hit the theaters just featured a cool go-to tech guy whose smoking only served to make him seem chill—and to pun up what became his catchphrase: “Hold on to your butts.”

x men.png

Title: 
X-Men (2000)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

The dawn of the modern superhero movie brought us X-Men, which claims among its ranks the bad-termpered Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a cigar-chomping Canadian with invincible adamantine bones and claws. Wolverine’s cigar-smoking is something he's done since he first appeared in the pages of the X-Men comic books—but to counterbalance any bad influence he may have on kids, it's always been explained that he's allowed to smoke all the time because his healing factor will never allow his habit to mutate into cancer. Like a lot of things in comic books, that explanation seems a bit convoluted. The ball-of-raw-aggression Wolverine is never set up to be a role model, anyway.

dark knight.png

Title: 
The Dark Knight (2008)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Who could forget Heath Ledger's haunting final performance as the Joker in this runaway hit? At the center of this movie are two very cool characters who never, ever smoke, Christian Bale's Batman and Ledger's Joker. There's only one incident of smoking in the entire movie: the cigar of an unnamed Chechen, which is quickly whisked away from his mouth by the Joker and used to burn a giant pile of money. It's a prop taken from a minor, unnamed character that is destroyed to create a fiery spectacle. “You see, I'm a guy of simple tastes,” Joker explains. “I enjoy dynamite, and gunpowder and gasoline.”

avengers.png

Title: 
The Avengers (2012)
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Despite having a burgeoning cast of diverse characters, last summer's biggest hit had no smoking in it at all. This is despite the fact that some of the characters have smoked before. Tony Stark/Iron Man enjoyed a few cigarettes in the comics, but Robert Downey Jr.'s version doesn't. A cigar has long been a part of SHIELD boss Nick Fury's image, almost as much as his long coat and eye patch, but Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury is entirely smoke-free. Between this and Iron Man 3's vetoed alcoholism sub-plot, it seems Marvel is pretty determined to keep their franchise family-friendly—which, unlike the big summer hits of yesteryear, means no smoking.

Bryan Le is a staff writer for The Fix.