Masks have long been a genre staple with heroes and villains sporting this face-covering (and identity-concealing) accessory as part of a disguise — or simply to add some dramatic flair. As a form of protection, it is no longer for specific vocations (superhero or not) and has become an everyday item to be worn by all for the foreseeable future.
Actors who play superheroes have been posting images on Instagram urging their fans to wear a mask in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus in accordance with guidance from the CDC. “Well this feels weirdly familiar,” Sebastian Stan remarked in May, noting the similarity to his Captain America: The Winter Soldier costume. Bucky is one of the Avengers characters depicted wearing a suitable face covering, unlike his best pal Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) whose helmet-mask combo leaves the all-important nose and mouth area exposed to the virus. Sure, the serum that turned him into Cap' likely protects him, but this isn’t setting a great example to the rest of the world (meanwhile, in real-life Evans has opted for Patriots merch). And if you want to show your loyalty to a franchise or character there are plenty of options available. There is also an element of low-key cosplay to your choice of cloth covering, particularly if you pick a character like Bucky. The Hulk doesn't partake on screen, but Mark Ruffalo is not letting that stop him from this on brand and necessary PSA.
In horror, a mask serves several purposes — be it to hide the killer's identity from the characters (and audience) or has fused to their identity (think Jason/Leatherface/Michael Myers). Fulfilling the scare objective is not the debate here. Rather we are ranking the genre characters with the best (and worst) face coverage for 2020. Who are the people who have it almost right but left the mouth or nose exposed? Whose example should you avoid entirely? When it comes to best, there are a few options but we have opted for someone stylish and safe.
Here are the top 15 from least to most practical, including the most wearable and fashionable looks.
If you were under the impression that Jim Carrey’s barely there Riddler mask was purely a result of the ‘90s tiny sunglasses trend (see also The Matrix) that isn’t quite the case. The Riddler has always opted for the minimal eye covering as witnessed in the lilac option of the original TV series, but Batman Forever sizes down this sartorial statement. Either way, don’t turn to this character for COVID-19 face (or even eye) covering advice.
Keeping with the Gotham City foes, Catwoman might be one of the best-dressed villains of all time but on this occasion, she loses points for an eyes-only approach. Yes, the recent Anne Hathaway take on this character has impressive goggles that double as cat ears but style before protection is not welcome right now.
Taking the homemade mask-making to the extreme, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Leatherface has also missed the point of the exercise: his terrifying DIY attempt leaves his mouth exposed to the virus.
The iconic Halloween mask famously began life as a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask, which was turned inside out and modified to create this terrifying vision. Nevertheless, while it covers his entire face, much like Leatherface, the mouth hole negates its current purpose. Halloween Kills has been bumped to 2021, so we will have to wait to see how Michael made it out of the fiery basement (and if it has impacted his signature face covering).
More coverage than Batgirl and Robin — however, even with the extra fabric, the cowl is not going to do anything to protect Batman when his mouth is exposed. Great for smooching, bad for 2020. With all of Bruce Wayne’s billions, Wayne Enterprise can surely craft something more adequate and provide enough masks for the rest of Gotham. Better yet, he can use his deep pockets to bankroll vaccine research.
Perfectly covering the bottom half of his face, the Hannibal mask worn by both Anthony Hopkins and Mads Mikkelsen has factored in breathability. However, these mouth holes are no good against coronavirus — this also applies to Jason's Friday the 13th franchise hockey mask. The Mikkelsen version is sleek and perfectly matches his prison jumpsuit but he would be better cutting up his beautiful suits (OK, don't do that) to make a more impactful cloth covering.
A recent addition to the mask-wearing annals, Warrior Nun is an instant contender for the coolest. However, this particular ranking is sadly not being judged solely on aesthetic flourishes. Sister Beatrice's fighting accessory is made of chainmail, which also means it is full of holes. It does have a great headband style feature to pin it back, but again this is not being marked on practicality beyond COVID-19 protection.
"The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny — and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way," noted V For Vendetta graphic artist David Lloyd in 2011. Last year, protestors in Hong Kong took to the streets wearing this image of resistance. A valuable symbol for rising up, but again, this one has a nose hole issue that lands it in this mid-table position.
Happy Death Day and its sequel mirror the time-loop feeling of 2020, it also has a mascot mask as worn by the killer and the Bayfield basketball fans. A mask that helpfully covers the entire face. The creepy factor means this is one we don't advise you take for a spin while doing your grocery shopping.
Again, this one has disturbing killer connotations, but it is less unnerving than a giant baby. Sometimes you have to stick to the classics and in this case, Scream wins the practical-meets-stylish slasher mask requirement for the unusual time we are living in. Anyone with this stashed in their closet since 1996 will understand that trends from this decade has come back around — this is no exception.
Darth Vader/The Mandalorian/Boba Fett/Zorii Bliss
Star Wars never goes out of fashion — even when there are a few bumps in the road — and there are characters from across the original trilogy and subsequent sequels and spin-offs who serve up great face coverage. Again, this is excessive for the current requirement but ideal cosplay for when the situation arises. The Rise of Skywalker is divisive; however, Zorii Bliss' sleek black and gold helmet is a sartorial winner, and the recent Mandalorian put an emphasis on not taking the helmet off. Cautious rules to live by at the moment.
Iron Man/Black Panther/War Machine/Ant Man
While Captain America's helmet lacks the necessary design features, his team includes several members with full face coverings. Similar to Star Wars, these aren't exactly what is required right now but it is better than other efforts. As with Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark is in a financial position to save the world with his wallet, plus with Shuri and her team of scientists in Wakanda, they should have this covered.
Less cumbersome than his fellow Marvel superheroes, the Spider-Man mask is small enough to put in your pocket without having to wear an entire stretchy skintight suit. Meanwhile, Deadpool will likely have some choice curse words for those rejecting this notion. On Instagram, Ryan Reynolds is keeping it kid-friendly.
The ongoing joke about Tom Hardy taking on roles that required some sort of mask began long before coronavirus, revealing his character choices were ahead of their time. Out of the genre options, Bane is the clear winner for practicality in our current era — his Mad Max mask has too many gaps and Venom is unpredictable. With so many Batman characters getting it wrong, Bane is so close to being our number one entry.
Airing last year, Watchmen remains just as relevant (or more so) in 2020 with both its themes and costume design. Masks are a big factor with detectives sporting identity concealing disguises such as Looking Glass wearing an all-over reflective cover, which he often pulls up to talk — instantly ruling him out. Designed for the pilot by Sharen Davis, Sister Night's costume is concealing, cool af, and her mask covers both nose and mouth (no need to add the airbrushed eye detail). A clear winner!