Each Halloween, dozens of articles reveal the year’s most popular costumes. It’s usually determined how many times the costume is searched for on Google or other search engines. The most popular costume is often inspired by the biggest box-office hit of the year—whatever princess, superhero or antihero had a new film come out. While the most popular cinema-inspired Halloween costumes from the past decade may not come as a surprise, they might stir up some nostalgia.
2013: Minions from Despicable Me
Minions have divided the world since their introduction in 2010’s Despicable Me. They have truly gone on a hero’s journey from beloved to hated back to beloved. For a while, they were the face of “boomer memes” but became their own meme when people dressed up to go see Minions: Rise of Gru in 2022. In 2013, Minions were still riding high as Despicable Me 2 was released. The minions’ simple and graphic design makes them easy for children to draw which has inspired a plethora of fan-made minion art— including DIY Halloween costumes. Appealing to all ages, they were the most searched Halloween costume of the year.
2014: Elsa from Frozen
Frozen (2013) was a massive commercial success for Disney which was reflected in the following year’s Halloween costume trends. In less than one year, more than 3 million Elsa and Anna dresses were sold at Disney Stores and mass retailers in North America. Part of Elsa’s appeal may be contributed to the color of her dress. Coined “Disney Blue,” many princesses and heroines are known for wearing the color that represents dependability, constancy, loyalty, according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “You’re adding a bit of power to the character by giving her the blue,” says Eiseman in an interview with Allure Magazine.. “It’s a very subtle way of saying, ‘Yeah, but young women, young girls, can be empowered, too.”
2015/2016/2020: Harley Quinn from The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey
Noted for shifting Halloween costumes trends from princess to superhero, Harley Quinn was selling out costume shops even before the release of 2016’s Suicide Squad. She topped the charts again in 2020 with the release of Birds of Prey. While Suicide Squad saw Margot Robbie as Quinn in her famous ‘Daddy’s Lil Monster’ t-shirt and shorts that looked more like underwear. With a Harley Quinn solo project, Robbie and costume designer Erin Benach worked together to create a look that was “less male gaze-y.” With a total of 13 looks in Birds of Prey, the DIY-looking caution tape tassels jacket was made an especially popular costume with late-teens and adult women.
2017: Wonder Woman from Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is by no means a new Halloween costume. It’s been popular since Linda Carter starred in Wonder Woman, a tv series airing from 1975-1979. But, Gal Gadot in the 2017 DCU film skyrocketed the character back into fame breaking box office records for female directors. Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming said in an interview with fashionista.com that it was important to design a costume that made sense with Wonder Woman’s Amazonian backstory—thus losing the American Flag bodysuit she’s been known for. Hemming’s designs instead took inspiration from queens and warriors pre-dating ancient Greece. She said she hoped they looked elegant but was really aiming for a sporty and strong look.
2018/2022: Spiderman from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and MCU’s Spider-Man
Every October, Spider-Man places pretty high on most popular costume lists. The year 2018 was a busy time for America’s favorite web-slinger with the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sandwiched between the MCU’s Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). The costume reached peak popularity again with the trilogy’s ending, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). This added another layer to Spidey’s costume because now multiple Peter Parkers and Miles Morales’ can all co-exist, “I’m Spider-Man” isn’t a sufficient answer. Which one? Marvel costume designer Judianna Makovsky told CNN that Spider-Man is the hardest hero to costume because he can have any wrinkles or seams.
2019: Pennywise from It and It Chapter Two
All of the top costumes so far have been pretty tame, but Pennywise from the It franchise taps into the spookiness of the season. Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgård didn’t know what he would look like as the killer clown until the makeup was on. “Up until that point, I didn’t know what the character actually would look like. So every step of the way, I was looking at myself in the mirror, making faces to try to see what this character would eventually be,” he told Entertainment Weekly. Pennywise was named the most popular costume in 2019 when sequel of It (2017), It Chapter Two was released.
2021: Cruella de Vil from Cruella
Long known as the 101 Dalmatians (1961) villain with the split-dyed hair and fur coat, Cruella (2021) gave Cruella de Vil an upgrade to anti-hero. One of her newfound redeeming qualities was a killer sense of style, which provided plenty of inspiration for this popular Halloween costume. Jenny Beavan even won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for her work on Cruella. She told Women’s Wear Daily that Cruella’s look was inspired by British punk rock in the 70s. “It was an exciting time in clothing and music,” says Beavan. The best part about a Cruella costume is that her signature hair makes her instantly recognizable even without an Oscar-worthy costume.
2023: Barbie from Barbie
Before Barbie even hit theaters, fans were freaking out over glimpses of costumes from Barbie’s first live-action adaptation. Barbie has been a fashion icon since 1959, so costume designer Jacqueline Durran had a lot of pressure, but thankfully lived up to expectations. In an interview with Popsugar, Durran said Barbie and Ken actors Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling also had input into their character’s fashion choices. “Robbie and Gosling had many ideas for their characters’ looks, with Gosling specifically dreaming up the “Ken”-branded underwear that harks back to Calvin Klein’s recognizable logo.” While Halloween hasn’t happen yet, it’s unlikely it will drop from its #1 spot.