53 Years After Starring In One Million Years B.C., Raquel Welch Came Clean About That Iconic Bikini

When you picture Raquel Welch, you probably see her standing in a furry bikini. That skimpy costume from One Million Years B.C turned the actress from an aspiring ingenue into a sex symbol; in fact, it’s stood the test of time better than the movie itself. And Welch has since come clean about the iconic outfit’s effect on her life and career – as well as her plans for the future.

As fans know, though, One Million Years B.C. wasn’t actually Welch’s silver-silver debut. That honor goes to Shelly Winters vehicle A House Is Not a Home. And while sci-fi Fantastic Voyage seemed set to be her breakthrough movie, the film’s release was ultimately delayed – meaning One Million Years B.C. came out first.

During a 2012 interview with GQ, Welch recalled, “The Ray Harryhausen special effects in Fantastic Voyage took something like eight months to complete. But that particular costume that I wore in One Million Years B.C. – that image of me was circulated all over the world even before Fantastic Voyage really hit the screen.”

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While One Million B.C. wasn’t particularly critically lauded, Welch was considered to be worth the ticket price alone. At the time, Variety magazine said of the movie, “The whole thing is good-humored, full-of-action commercial nonsense, but the moppets will love it and older male moppets will probably love Miss Welch.”

A fur-clad Welch even inadvertently played a role in a later, better-reviewed film: The Shawshank Redemption. At the end of the acclaimed drama, the prison warden hurls a rock at the One Million Years B.C. poster on a cell wall. That throw then leads him to reveal a secret tunnel dug by escaped prisoner Andy Dufresne.

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Welch herself approved of the poster being used in the movie. In her 2010 book Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, she said, “I was flattered when the director, Frank Darabont, asked permission to use my image to represent the passage of time from Rita Hayworth in the ’40s to Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s to Raquel Welch in the ’60s.”

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Yet the star also wrote, “In the film, it takes [Tim] Robbins 20-odd years to dig himself out of captivity and into freedom. There were times when I wondered if I, too, would ever dig myself out from behind that image and into the liberating light of day. But I’ve grown fond of my former alter-ego – cave girl Loana.”

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Welch mused, “[Loana] and I get along just fine now. After all, we’re basically different sides of the same personality. And if I ask her nicely, she steps aside and gets out of my way. Nevertheless, the loincloth is in mothballs now. When I look back at that poster today, I have to smile and say, ‘Who is she?’”

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By the time One Million Years B.C. came out and made Welch a pin-up, she’d already experienced a lot of life, in fact. She was a mom of two children, Damon and Tahnee, and had already married and divorced their father, high school boyfriend James Welch. It was this union from which the star had taken her surname.

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Growing up, Welch had been known as Jo Raquel Tejada, with that middle name coming from her paternal grandmother. And her father, aerospace engineer Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, was Bolivian, giving her Latin heritage – something that the actress has also spoken about in the past.

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For example, in 2002 Welch revealed to The New York Times that she’d initially had to downplay her roots. “You just couldn’t be too different,” she said. “[For] my first big breakthrough part in One Million Years B.C., they dyed my hair blond. It’s a marketing thing.” There was one thing that she ultimately refused to change, however.

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Welch told the newspaper, “I thought, well, if I can’t even have the Raquel, that’s really selling out completely. That’s really turning my back on everything that I really am.” Yet while the star obviously got to keep her name in the end, she has only portrayed Latinas in just two of her multiple movies.

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In a 2012 interview with Men’s Health magazine, Welch elaborated, “Americans were not sure how to deal with the exotic. I was lucky that one of my first movies, One Million Years B.C., was made in Europe by a British company. The Brits, and a lot of the rest of Europe, seemed to really love exotic women. The fact that I was American and exotic just made me more appealing to them.”

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Welch made multiple movies in Britain, in fact. These included Bedazzled, in which she played the personification of Lust, Fathom and 100 Rifles. Then, after returning to the States, she embarked upon filming arguably her most controversial movie: the Gore Vidal adaptation Myra Breckinridge.

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And during Welch’s Men’s Health interview, she didn’t recall Myra Breckinridge fondly, saying, “There’s not much you can do as an actor when a film is falling apart. I couldn’t control that the script wasn’t coming together. Each rewrite got further and further from making any sense… Everything about that movie, the good and the bad, it was if nothing else… A challenge.”

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The interviewer then suggested to Welch, “At least [Myra Breckinridge was] more challenging than One Million Years B.C.” To this, the actress answered gamely, “Oh, come on. You could say a lot of things about that movie, but challenging isn’t one of them.” Then, naturally, the subject of the famous fur bikini came up.

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Welch told the magazine, “I have people that handle my fan mail, and every day tons of photos come in with requests for autographs. The fur bikini is the perennial one. I do feel very fortunate, because I had no suspicion that a dinosaur movie would ever pay off for me as an actress.”

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The star went on, “It was great stuff for kids but maybe not the ideal way for an actress to enter the movie-making scene. I even complained to the studio. I was like, ‘Please, please don’t make me do the dinosaur movie.’ They were like ‘No, Raquel, you don’t understand. It’s a classic. It’ll live on forever.’ Turns out they were right.”

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In 2011 Time even named her famous outfit as being among the “Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture.” The magazine added, “Despite having a grand total of three lines in 1966’s One Million Years B.C., actress Raquel Welch managed to leave the film’s most-lasting pop-culture imprint thanks to the skimpy fur-lined bikini hugging her curvaceous figure on the movie’s poster.”

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And when the Men’s Health interviewer inquired as to the whereabouts of that bikini, Welch answered, “I’ve been told it’s in mothballs waiting to be hung in the Smithsonian museum. I suspect it was said in jest, but the idea of putting it in the Smithsonian has been tossed around.”

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The journalist then asked Welch, however, “Did you at least get the right of first refusal? If anybody deserves to have that famous bikini hanging in their closet, it’s you. It’s practically a family heirloom.” And while laughing, the star responded, “Oh stop! Actually, there was never just one bikini. They made several of them.”

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Elaborating on this bombshell, Welch told the magazine, “[The bikinis] were created by this wonderful costume designer, Carl Toms, and he had to do it in triplicate. As he explained it to me, at one point my character would get wet, and then there was a fight scene – [meaning] blood would get on [the bikini].”

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Welch went on, “So they had to have several versions of the same costume, and they all had to be form-fitting. He literally designed it around me. Carl just draped me in doe-skin, and I stood there while he worked on it with scissors.” Just like that, a legendary movie outfit was created.

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But as it turns out, Welch didn’t particularly enjoy making One Million B.C. She said to Men’s Health, “I went to the director, Don Chaffey, very early in the shoot and said, ‘Don, may I have a word with you?’ And he sighed and said, ‘Yeah, what is it?’ I could tell right away that he was not very interested. ‘Well, I’ve read the script,’ I said, ‘and I’ve been thinking…’ And he turned to me and said, ‘Don’t.’”

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Welch went on, “And I thought, okay, that in a nutshell is what it’s all about. They don’t want to hear anything from me. Just show up in the costume and take orders. [Don] said, ‘See that rock over there? That’s rock A. When I say action, you run from rock A, and when you get to the middle of the frame, you look up at the sky like there’s a giant turtle growling down at you. You scream, run to rock B and [then] we break for lunch.’

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Regarding Chaffey, Welch added, “He wasn’t unkind as a director. But when I wanted to possibly find ways to enhance my character, to make her more vulnerable or have some kind of backstory, he was not interested. That was the hardest part, to realize that I was really an object. Not just to Don, but to the film industry in general. I was a completely non-verbal object that wasn’t allowed to talk more than necessary.”

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The star continued, “I felt like there was always a struggle. There was this perception of ‘Oh, she’s just a sexpot. She’s just a body. She probably can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.’ In my first couple of movies, I had no dialogue. It was frustrating. And then I started to realize that it came with the territory.”

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And the actress made reference to another movie legend, saying, “Look at somebody like Marilyn Monroe. I always wondered why she seemed so unhappy. Everybody worshipped her, and she was so extraordinary and hypnotic on screen. But they never nominated her for any of her musicals or comedies, as good as she was. For some reason, somebody with her sex appeal, her indescribable attraction, is rarely taken seriously.”

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The star also said that she disliked modern attitudes to sex. Welch told the magazine, “I remember Jimmy Coburn once said to me, ‘You know what’s the sexiest thing of all? A little mystery.’ And he was so right about that. When you put it all out there, there’s nothing left to the imagination. So where am I going to participate?”

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Welch went on, “Where is the anticipation and the personalization? It’s all pre-fab now. You have these images coming at you unannounced and unsolicited. It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me. Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real-life girl that he cares about?”

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The Men’s Health magazine interviewer subsequently suggested that the actress seemed to be “railing against kids today.” Welch replied, however, “I don’t care if I’m becoming one of those old fogies who says, ‘Back in my day, we didn’t have to hear about sex all the time.’ Can you imagine? My fantasies were all made up on my own. They’re ruining us with all the explanations and the graphicness.”

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Still, even decades after that famous furry outfit made its screen debut, it continues to leave its mark on pop culture. In 2016 Welch even took the prize of “number one bikini body of all time.” In the poll, conducted by company Swimwear365, the star beat out other famous sex symbols such as Ursula Andress and Marilyn Monroe to take the top spot.

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And Welch spoke about the bikini once more in 2018, during an interview for newspaper The Sunday Post. There, she said that before One Million Years B.C. and Fantastic Voyage, she had been “low profile.” Following her turn as Loana, however, Welch had “found [herself] in demand” practically “overnight.”

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The star then said, “I’m often asked if I get sick of talking about that bikini, but the truth is, I don’t. It was a major event in my life, so why not talk about it? Almost every day I get copies of the photo sent to me for an autograph. I must have looked at that photo one million times!”

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It seemed, in fact, that Welch was simply happy to still be popular. She continued, “I get annoyed when I am appearing somewhere and people wait for hours just to wave to you, but the organizers rush you past them. That’s not fair. I like to at least have the chance to wave and, if we can, stop for a chat, photo or autograph. I don’t mind at all.”

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The actress also confirmed that her career wasn’t even remotely over yet. She said, “I am very selective about what work I accept, but I am nowhere near calling an end to it all. As long as people are still interested in me, then I’ll carry on working. What else would I do? I have been busy my whole life, and I can’t stop now.”

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Welch continued, “Of course I have great memories and some souvenirs [from the business]. I’m asked if I still have that bikini, but there were about six of them, and they’re probably in an archive somewhere. I’m not sure if I will ever wear it again, but you never know – perhaps one day the script will drop through the door for Two Million Years B.C.!”

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Nonetheless, Welch would have some stipulations should that sequel ever happen. She emphasized, “If it does [materialize], I hope it has more dialogue than the first one. I had three lines in that, [and] the rest was silent. I rehearsed those three lines over and over, really worried I’d get them wrong. As it turned out, I don’t think anyone would have really noticed if I hadn’t got them right!”

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Still, Welch told The Sunday Post, “[One Million B.C.] wasn’t about words.” She added, “No wonder people didn’t think I could act. I am glad things turned out the way they have. I should hate to be known as an iconic actress who never said anything.”

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Thankfully for Welch, that isn’t the case. During the interview, the then-77-year-old star also remarked, “I’ve made quite a few movies, TV shows and theater plays, and I think people realized that I was not just there to look good on a movie poster. I could really act too.”

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But Welch is hardly alone in sporting an outlandish costume on screen. In fact, the fur bikini looks downright tame when compared to some of the eyebrow-raising outfits film fans have witnessed over the decades. And here are 20 of the worst offenders in movie history – so far, anyway.

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20. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn hot pants, Suicide Squad (2016)

When she made her screen debut as a character in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was seen in a jester suit. But such an ensemble was nowhere to be seen in the 2016 movie Suicide Squad. Instead, actress Margot Robbie was dressed up like a weird and wacky sex symbol – all tight clothes and hot pants.

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In 2016 Robbie said to The New York Times, “As Margot, no, I don’t like wearing that. I’m eating burgers at lunchtime, and then you go do a scene where you’re hosed down and soaking wet in a white T-shirt. It’s so clingy, and you’re self-conscious about it.” Notably, for her second outing as Harley in Birds of Prey, that costume had changed.

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19. January Jones’ Emma Frost underwear, X-Men: First Class (2011)

The folks behind X-Men: First Class may have dropped the ball somewhat when it came to designing a movie version of Emma Frost’s costume. In comics, the character wears sexy, skimpy outfits all the time; what January Jones ended up being given, however, was a bunch of what was essentially just white lingerie, coats and capes.

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Fortunately, Jones actually liked her outlandish Emma Frost attire. In 2011 she told MTV, “I have a lot of very interesting costumes in that movie. There’s nothing like a cape that makes you feel really tough.” Movie critics, on the other hand, weren’t impressed by either the outfits in question or Jones’ performance.

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18. Malin Akerman’s latex, Watchmen (2009)

Malin Akerman’s character in Watchmen may be named Silk Spectre, but she actually wears a bright yellow-and-black latex leotard. And it doesn’t look like the most comfy thing to walk in – let alone fight in. Akerman seemed to feel that way, too. In a 2009 interview with MTV, she said, “The costumes were definitely a big challenge.”

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Akerman went on, “[My costume is] definitely not the most comfortable thing to wear for 18 hours straight. It’s very constricting, and then you add heels, the corset and a blonde wig to that. When they say, ‘Get up and fight,’ you go, ‘Excuse me, in this outfit?’ It also takes on the temperature of whatever the room is. If it’s really hot, you’re boiling. If it’s really cold, you’re freezing.”

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17. The Amazon warrior armor, Justice League (2017)

The Amazon armor in Wonder Woman was refreshing, as it seemed like the kind of stuff a person could actually fight in. When images of the Amazons in Justice League were released, however, fans may have been dismayed to realize that their outfits were much skimpier by comparison.

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Some even considered the armor change sexist. And Jessica Chastain appeared to agree, retweeting the pictures and writing, “Hey men, what would you wear to fight? Hint: don’t expose your vital organs. Ugh, I miss [Wonder Woman director] Patty Jenkins.” Still, the actresses portraying the Amazons actually revealed that they didn’t mind the new costumes.

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16. Ryan Reynolds’ CGI suit, Green Lantern (2011)

Superhero flick Green Lantern was unfortunately a disaster in almost every respect. It probably didn’t help that Ryan Reynolds wasn’t wearing a traditional costume; instead, everything about his Green Lantern suit was computer generated. And, in fact, the leading man didn’t even know what he looked like in the movie until its first trailer was released – though perhaps he wished he’d never known the truth.

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The Green Lantern costume was such a flop, moreover, that Reynolds ended up poking fun at it in the superhero comedy Deadpool. At one point, the eponymous character yells, “Please don’t make the super-suit green… or animated!” – a clear reference to the ensemble he was made to wear in the earlier movie.

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15. Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman costume, Batman Returns (1992)

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is generally considered to be one of the best-ever portrayals of the character. And the star still shone despite being in a tricky-to-wear suit. In 2017 Pfeiffer told The Hollywood Reporter, “It was the most uncomfortable costume I’ve ever been in. They had to powder me down, help me inside and then vacuum-pack the suit.”

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Pfeiffer went on, “I had those claws, and I was always catching them in things. The face mask was smashing my face and choking me.” Then, when Good Morning America asked the actress if she had any advice for the latest Catwoman, Zöe Kravitz, she said, “Make sure, whilst designing the costume, they consider how you’re going to go to the bathroom.”

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14. Milla Jovovich’s bandages, The Fifth Element (1997)

The Fifth Element’s costumes were created by director Luc Besson and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, and they were specifically designed to look totally out of this world. For example, Milla Jovovich – who played Leeloo – was given a dress that looked as though it was made completely out of bandages. And it seems that she had mixed feelings about it, too.

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In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 1997, Jovovich said that she had found the costume “a bit embarrassing,” adding, “In the fashion world, most of the guys are gay, and they have the etiquette not to notice. But those English guys working on the set were whistling and stuff.” She continued, “My character’s all about what’s inside. It’s not really about her clothes.”

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13. Jennifer Garner’s red corset, Elektra (2005)

Elektra saw Jennifer Garner reprising her role as the titular superhero – despite apparently dying in previous movie Daredevil. But while the makers of the follow-up promised that Elektra would have a more comics-accurate costume the second time around, that wasn’t actually the case.

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In a 2005 interview with the BBC, Garner discussed Elektra’s outfit and said, “I knew the comic book fans weren’t happy with her wearing black in Daredevil. So, it was important for her to be in red.” Those involved in making the attire perhaps should have been less focused on the color, however, and more alert to it looking like cheap underwear.

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12. Bryce Dallas Howard’s heels, Jurassic World (2015)

After the long-awaited Jurassic World came out, fans were left with a question – and it wasn’t dinosaur- or even science-related. Instead, viewers pondered why Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire never took off her very impractical heels throughout the duration of the movie. And even while running from danger, she never twists her ankle or injures her feet in any way.

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Howard herself didn’t agree with the criticism, though. In 2015 she told Yahoo!, “From a logical standpoint, I don’t think [Claire] would take off her heels… I’m better equipped to run when I have shoes on my feet. So, that’s my perspective on it. I don’t think she would carry around flats with her. I think she’s somebody who could sprint a marathon in heels.”

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11. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow suit, The Avengers (2012)

Spare a thought for the stars playing female superheroes, as they don’t always have it easy. During the press tour for The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson told Collider of her super-tight screen outfit, “It’s like 800 degrees in my costume… and it’s a unitard, and I have nothing underneath it!”

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It seems, too, that Johansson was terrified of her Black Widow garb from the start. Speaking on Inside the Actors Studio in 2017, she said of the costume, “I mean, who wants to get into something like that? You just think, ‘Oh God, really? Couldn’t it have, like, I don’t know, some sort of a peplum skirt or something?’”

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10. Carrie Fisher’s gold bikini, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The whole Star Wars franchise is packed with amazing costumes, but perhaps none is more famous than the gold bikini Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia sports in Return of the Jedi. Fisher admitted to some trepidation about the outfit, though, saying on a 2016 episode of Fresh Air that when George Lucas showed her the item, “[she] thought he was kidding, and it made [her] very nervous.”

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Still, there was an upside. Fisher continued, “What redeems [that scene] is I get to kill [Jabba the Hutt], which was so enjoyable. I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed him with. I really relished that, because I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn’t wait to kill him.”

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9. Olivia Munn’s purple latex, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Olivia Munn had been a big admirer of her X-Men character, Psylocke, before she was cast in the movie franchise. And the actress tried to make the superhero more than a costume. In 2016 she explained to Collider, “Just because [Psylocke’s] dressed like that, she’s not this promiscuous, slutty girl.”

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Before getting into the outfit, though, Munn had to rub lubricant all over herself; even so, she still broke the latex. Then, once the movie was released, the look was panned, despite it adhering more or less to the comic books. In a movie that contained some pretty serious scenes, the ensemble was judged as looking both silly and far too sexy.

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8. George Clooney’s Batsuit, Batman and Robin (1997)

Everything about Batman & Robin was a hilarious catastrophe. But if the script and comedic scenes were bad, the Batsuit was arguably even worse. For a start, George Clooney couldn’t get it off easily and thus had to pee in it. Also, it featured something not usually seen on superhero outfits: nipples.

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And years later, the Bat-nipples are still mocked. Yet director Joel Schumacher has stood by his decision. For the 2005 documentary Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight he said, “The bodies for the suits — the inspiration for them are Greek statues that have perfect bodies. It never occurred to me not to put nipples on the men’s suits because I didn’t know the male nipple was a controversial body part.”

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7. Raquel Welch’s fur bikini, One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Raquel Welch’s fluffy bikini in the movie One Million Years B.C. made her an instant sex symbol. And this was despite the fact that she didn’t exactly have much to do on screen besides, well, be pretty. In its contemporary review of the movie, Variety noted, “Miss Welch gets little opportunity to prove herself an actress, but she is certainly there in the looks department.”

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Welch never really wanted to wear the bikini, however, or even do the movie in the first place. In fact, she assumed that hardly anyone would even see the film. Still, it appears that the star isn’t ruling out a return to the two-piece. In 2020 she told the Sunday Post, “I’m not sure if I will ever wear [the bikini] again, but you never know. Perhaps one day the script will drop through the door for Two Million Years B.C..”

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6. Emma Watson’s pink dress, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Emma Watson’s Hermione wore a pink dress during the Yule Ball scenes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But while this was a perfectly appropriate outfit, fans of the franchise weren’t happy. You see, in the source material, Hermione’s Yule Ball gown is periwinkle blue. Some even considered a pink version out of character.

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The costume designer for the films thought differently, though. In 2017 Jany Temime told Cosmopolitan, “[Hermione] was a tough girl. She was a girl [who only hung out] with boys. And now she appears at the Yule Ball and she’s in pink. People look at her as being a girl – and a very pretty one, which was not established before.”

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5. David Bowie’s pants, Labyrinth (1986)

For many adults who saw Labyrinth when it first came out, there was one pressing question: was David Bowie wearing a codpiece in the movie or not? But after one blogger scrutinized the issue in detail, apparently it seems likely that the star didn’t need any help in that department.

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Yet while Labyrinth’s creators got into hot water for making Bowie’s bulge so obvious, they seem to have no regrets. In a 2016 interview with Empire, designer Brian Froud referred to the musical icon’s attire as “perv pants,” adding, “Every so often you go, ‘Oh, my God! How did we get away with that?!’”

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4. Halle Berry’s Catwoman costume, Catwoman (2004)

Critics not only hated the 2004 Catwoman movie, but they also seemed to dislike Halle Berry’s weird strappy catsuit. IGN said, for instance, “The costume alone cannot make a bad movie, though this one sure gives it the old college try.” Reno News & Review went even further, suggesting that Berry should “burn that damn costume for all to see.”

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And while Berry didn’t quite go that far, she too hates the poorly judged flick. In 2005 she actually showed up in person to collect a Razzie award for her “Worst Actress” performance in the film and announced, “First of all, I want to thank Warner Bros. Thank you for putting me in a piece of s**t, god-awful movie!” Me-ow.

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3. Sacha Baron Cohen’s mankini, Borat (2006)

Not every movie costume is a literal crime in some places, but the infamous “mankini” from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat could be. You see, in 2017 six Czech men were arrested for “minor hooliganism” after posing in the dubious swimwear in Kazakhstan’s capital. Kazakhstan is, of course, the very real place from which the fictional Borat hails.

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Sacha Baron Cohen actually offered to assist the men, writing on Facebook, “To my Czech mates who were arrested: send me your details and proof that it was you, and I’ll pay your fine.” Still, as the people of Kazakhstan have mixed feelings on Cohen, you should probably avoid ever wearing a mankini for laughs in the country.

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2. Karen Gillan’s skimpy costume, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

When the first pictures of the Jumanji sequel emerged in 2016, some weren’t impressed. While all of the male stars – Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black – were seen wearing sensible clothes in the photos, Karen Gillan was sporting an outfit that looked, at best, much too small for her. Gillan noted what was going on, though, and promised that there would be a payoff.

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It turned out, you see, that the characters seen in the pictures were the video game personas that the main characters of the movie take on. In 2017 Gillan told the Evening Standard, “It looks absurd that the woman is dressed like that and then the men are covered — but that is exactly the trope that we were highlighting in 1990s video games. She’s meant to be like Lara Croft. That’s the reference – this ridiculous male fantasy.”

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1. Sean Connery’s barely there costume, Zardoz (1974)

Once he had hung up James Bond’s stylish tuxedo for good, Sean Connery decided to try something different – very different. Specifically, he took on the role of Zed in the bizarre sci-fi movie Zardoz, and Zed’s costume was little more than some bright red material to cover his modesty and boots that went up to his thighs.

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Surprisingly, Connery apparently didn’t mind the outfit. When Vulture asked director John Boorman about the ensemble in 2014, he said that he had simply told the famously bad-tempered actor, “This is what you’ve got. This is what you’re going to wear.” And, supposedly, there was “never any argument” about it, either.

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