It has been many years since the market around movie props sold at auction exploded. This is particularly true for cult films, regularly breaking sales records. Here are 20 examples.
If the Majors kept many documents and filming objects over the years, the keeping of registers on this point has long left something to be desired: certain accessories, poorly identified, were simply not kept or lost, without anyone being moved. When they weren’t outright thrown away or, worse, destroyed.
Fortunately, this time when we did not necessarily have a concern for heritage is over. What’s more, for several years now, studios have understood the interest of auctioning off film objects / props. And not just studios for that matter; some auctions also from private collections.
This is particularly true for cult films that have marked the history of cinema and Pop Culture. Collectors have no qualms paying a fortune for mythical objects, such as Han Solo’s blaster in Return of the Jedi, sold for $550,000. The power of fascination of the Star Wars saga is intact. This is obviously far from being an isolated case.
If the bids are so high, it is because these objects all tell a story, sometimes moving, intimate, because they were used in a legendary scene… Such as the mythical dress of Marilyn Monroe of 7 years of reflection.
Here are the 20 (but not only!) most expensive movie props ever sold at auction.
Indiana Jones fedora hat
- 1 Indiana Jones fedora hat
- 2 The cane of Charlot in “Modern Times”
- 3 The DeLorean from “back to the future”
- 4 The Blaster of Han Solo in Star Wars
- 5 The ruby shoes of Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”
- 6 The flying car from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
- 7 The sheath dress of Audrey Hepburn in “Diamonds on the sofa”
- 8 Orson Welles’ Oscar for ‘Citizen Kane’
- 9 Steve McQueen’s jumpsuit in “Le Mans”
- 10 The submersible Lotus in “The Spy Who Loved Me”
- 11 The white suit of John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”
- 12 A set of costumes from “The Sound of Music”
- 13 Star Wars droid R2-D2
- 14 The cowardly lion costume from the “Wizard of Oz”
- 15 Sam’s piano in “Casablanca”
- 16 The Ascot dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”
- 17 The Maltese Falcon in the eponymous film
- 18 The dress of Marilyn Monroe in “7 years of reflection”
- 19 James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5
- 20 Robby the robot from “Forbidden Planet”
- 21 Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona watch
The famous Fedora hat of our favorite archaeologist… The iconic power of this object is such that it is enough to instantly identify the character that goes with it, entered into the pantheon of Pop Culture. The Indy hat, an object so important that we even have the right to its story in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Even when Indiana loses his hat, it comes back to him, carried by the wind. One of the models in the film went for $300,000 at auction. In 2014, a lover also dropped $214,000 to acquire another iconic accessory, Indy’s whip, which had been used on the set of the three films in the saga. Yes yes, we ignore Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The cane of Charlot in “Modern Times”
An iconic and inseparable accessory to his character as an eternal vagabond, Charles Chaplin’s cane used in Modern Times was sold at auction in 2013 for the modest sum of $350,000!
The DeLorean from “back to the future”
“Hey wait a minute Doc, did I hear you right? You say you made a time machine… out of a DeLorean???” throws Marty McFly to Doc Emmett Brown. Tit for tat response from our favorite mad scientist: “You have to think big in life! Even if it means traveling through time at the wheel of a car, you might as well choose one that looks good!”
Few movie cars have enjoyed such a cult following around them, and among these, the mythical DeLorean model DMC-12 takes the lion’s share. Without her, the Back to the Future saga would most certainly not have become so famous. With its gullwing doors, chunky rear, elegant line and stainless steel bodywork, many people have also dreamed of traveling back in time at 88 Miles/h aboard this fantastic car, thanks to its convector temporal. No wonder fans are willing to drop a fortune for her. In 2011, one of the seven models used in the trilogy sold for $541,000.
The Blaster of Han Solo in Star Wars
Cult accessory from cult, Han Solo’s blaster in the Star Wars saga has logically hit a ceiling in auctions. In June 2018 in New York, the model used by Harrison Ford in Return of the Jedi sold for a whopping $550,000!
The ruby shoes of Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”
Here is undoubtedly one of the most famous and iconic objects of the 7th Art: the ruby shoes of Judy Garland alias Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz. In the book, they are silver. But to bring out the flamboyance of Technicolor, it was decided that they would be red. Four pairs of shoes were made for the film. One of these pairs went for $2 million at auction in 2011, but failed to find a buyer. The record remains the sale of the 4th pair in 2000, for the sum of $666,000.
The flying car from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
Do you perhaps recognize her? This is the famous flying car from the classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A unique example, it was sold at auction in 2011 for the modest sum of $805,000. A bargain, dare we say, since his base estimate was $1-2 million.
The sheath dress of Audrey Hepburn in “Diamonds on the sofa”
Created by couturier Hubert de Givenchy, the sheath dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the classic Diamonds on the Sofa is an iconic accessory of the 7th Art. It was sold for $807,000 at auction organized by Christie’s in 2006. A great irony when you know that the experts estimated its sale at around $138,000…
Orson Welles’ Oscar for ‘Citizen Kane’
A mythical object for a film which is no less so. In 1941, Orson Welles won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Citizen Kane. A reward that was lost and found only in 1994. The filmmaker’s daughter, Béatrice Welles, will manage to recover the Oscar after a long series of legal actions, but the Academy of Oscars will prohibit its sale in 2003. It was finally put up for auction and sold in 2011, for the benefit of a charity. For an astronomical sum: $861,542!
Steve McQueen’s jumpsuit in “Le Mans”
Objects related to Steve McQueen have always been the object of a big cult on the part of fans, such as the one surrounding Bullitt’s Mustang car. Here, it was his racing driver costume from the film Le Mans that snatched up a gold price. Only three suits have survived. At auction in 2011, one of them sold for the tidy sum of $984,000!
The submersible Lotus in “The Spy Who Loved Me”
If you’ve seen The Spy Who Loved Me, you’re bound to remember James Bond’s car, a Lotus Esprit that turns into a midget submarine to escape a helicopter. The original vehicle was sold at auction in September 2013, for the tidy sum of $989,000. And who was the lucky buyer? None other than a certain Elon Musk.
The white suit of John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”
A cult film from the disco years, for a costume that is no less cult, that of John Travolta, alias Tony Manero, in Saturday Night Fever. It was bought for $2,000 at a small charity auction by the late film critic Gene Siskel, who loved the film. He would have seen it 17 times at the time. In 1995, he sold it at an auction organized by Christie’s for $145,000. Returned to the market in 2017, this time it reached the colossal sum of $1.2 million!
A set of costumes from “The Sound of Music”
Cult musical film at the 5 Oscars, The Sound of Music has many admirers. In July 2013, the costume worn by Julie Andrews, as well as those worn by the Von Trapp children, in the famous Do-Re-Mi scene, were sold $1.3 million.
Star Wars droid R2-D2
We will not insult you by re-explaining the importance of the Star Wars saga in Pop culture. In fact, it is hardly surprising that the props used on film sets have taken on colossal value. In 2017, an R2-D2 droid, patiently assembled by a fan with different parts from the movies, was sold for $2.76 million. An absolute record for the saga. At this same auction, by the way, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber used in the first film sold for $450,000.
The cowardly lion costume from the “Wizard of Oz”
Production entered into the legend of Hollywood, The Wizard of Oz is an unbreakable and absolute classic of the 7th Art. Among the characters is the cowardly lion, played on screen by Bert Lahr. His costume was made from real lion skin and weighed over 40 kilos. The heat of the costume mixed with that of the lighting made the actor sweat a lot inside. Two additional people were therefore hired to deal exclusively with drying and cleaning the costume during the night. One of these suits was auctioned in New York in 2014, and went for $3 million.
Sam’s piano in “Casablanca”
A legendary accessory at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, the piano on which Ingrid Bergman asked to play the aria from As Time Goes By was sold in 2014 for the astronomical sum of $3.4 million. When we love…
The Ascot dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”
Masterpiece of the musical at the 8 Oscars, My Fair Lady was carried by an elegant and formidable Audrey Hepburn. This white dress, called “Ascot”, was created by the film’s costume designer, Cecil Beaton, who won an Oscar. The dress was sold in June 2011 for the astronomical sum of 3.7 million dollars.
The Maltese Falcon in the eponymous film
Murder, betrayal, femme fatale and pretense surround Detective Sam Spade for a statuette representing a falcon and worth a real fortune, before it is finally revealed to be worthless. For the anecdote, the famous falcon used for the filming was sold for 4.1 million dollars at an auction organized by Bonhams in New York in November 2013.
The dress of Marilyn Monroe in “7 years of reflection”
Marilyn Monroe can be considered the absolute American Sex Symbol. An image that did much for this reputation is that of the film Seven years of reflection, in which her dress, made by costume designer William Travilla, is lifted by the draft above a subway air vent, in front of the dumbfounded eyes of Tom Ewell. An outfit and a sequence so iconic that it has since entered through the front door of Pop Culture. An outfit also heralding sexual freedom that was increasingly claimed – and affirmed – in the 1960s. This dress was sold for $4.6 million, not including the 20% commission, in June 2011.
James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5
Legendary car driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Thunderball, the Aston Martin DB5, was used in two models. One was stolen in 1997. The other sold at auction in October 2010 for $4.6 million; selling costs included.
Robby the robot from “Forbidden Planet”
A cult character from a no less cult science fiction film, Forbidden Planet, Robby the robot is to date the most expensive film prop ever sold, behind Paul Newman’s watch. In November 2017, it was sold for $5.375 million.
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona watch
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic watch models, it was offered by the wife of Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, in 1969, when he was shooting the film Virages. She had engraved on the back of the case: “drive carefully me”. The actor wore this watch in the film, and was visible. In 2017, it sold for the pharaonic sum of $17.8 million. An absolute record to date – for a film prop, which was admittedly the property of the actor at first sight but which was nevertheless used in the film. The sale even set a second record, since it is the most expensive collector’s watch ever sold to date.