10 Hair-raising Moments With John Travolta

From greased lightnin' to buxom beehive, we celebrate the man's contribution to film follicles -- and plain old folly

by | August 27, 2009 | Comments

Travolta

Dear John: what the hell is that? Travolta’s brutal butch hair — or lack thereof, handlebar moustache aside — in this week’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 got us nostalgic for ol’ dimple chin’s former career of chaotic coiffure. From those grease-slick quiffs of his jive-talkin’ daze through the ’80s aerobic mullets, ’90s hitman mops and one almighty intergalactic octopus that took up residence on his skull in the dying embers of the millennium, the state of Travolta’s pate has never been less than eclectic. And so we present a best and worst gallery — how could it be anything else with this guy? — to salute Travolta’s tonsorial tenacity in contributing some of movies’ most hair-raising moments.


10. Swordfish (2001)

Alright, let’s just get this monstrosity out of the way swiftly, shall we, and move on? Like Vincent Vega if he’d wandered into Toni & Guy and — instead of “taking care” of the place — paid too much for a bad colour and blow-dry, Travolta’s Euro-villain-meets-sales-douche oddity sure is ghastly. But it’s that creepy landing-strip chin divider that really takes this one into the hall of shame.


9. Staying Alive (1983)

Travolta’s return as twinkle-toed tough guy Tony Manero in this disastrous sequel to Saturday Night Fever saw him go from aspiring disco hoofer to aspiring star of Broadway — where apparently, in 1983, product-drenched tresses lifted by bright headbands were the ticket to stardom. It was era of Flashdance, we guess. And the director? Sylvester Stallone, betraying the fact that Rambo‘s sweaty head look wasn’t nearly as macho as he thought it was.


8. Michael (1996)

You’ve gotta admire Travolta’s nerve: after a spectaular return to his peak in Pulp Fiction, the man quickly cashed in his chips with a run of mixed-to-horrible films — and dazzled us yet again by defying the tastemakers ruling the whims of contemporary hair. Really, what kind of style does a chainsmoking angel favour, anyway? Why, a wild mullet and salt-and-pepper stubble, of course. Turned out it was influential on Tom Hanks’ look in The Da Vinci Code, too.


7. Primary Colors (1998)

The picture says it all, doesn’t it? There’s just one person happy with their hair among those three; although Emma Thompson’s expression is tending toward puzzled disdain. Travolta’s looking mighty pleased with his silver-haired self here, and why not? His Clinton-esque governor in Mike Nichols’ political satire is some of his best late-’90s work. Mostly on account of the eyebrows.


6. Carrie (1976)

Welcome back, Vinny Barbarino. The still baby-faced, 22-year-old Travolta’s big-screen break in Brian De Palma’s horror captured his locks in full mid-’70s bloom — looking like the kind of guy you’d let make off with your daughter in their Corvette, despite the potential mischief lurking behind those sparkling baby blues. His hair was yet to be liberated from that of his small-screen Kotter counterpart, but that was all about to change…


5. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

He had the “wings of heaven” on his dancing shoes in the Bee Gees-scored disco smash of ’77, and by extension the breath of angels — or a 10,000 watt hairdryer — elevating his newly-trim ‘do to the glittery night skies. So important is Travolta’s hair to the strutting Saturday Night Fever that an entire scene is devoted to fetishising Tony Manero’s styling and teasing it. Disco doesn’t suck — it blows.


4. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Part-comedic, part-badass and all-memorable, Travolta’s oily rug in his celebrated comeback role was the perfect companion to his world-weary, wise-cracking and permanently high hitman Vincent Vega. Whether worn in a ponytail for the Jack Rabbit Slim’s Twist or flapping free in the Inglewood breeze, it’s kind of a character unto itself. And who could forget Travolta and Sam Jackson picking the bits of brain and skull out of that hair?


3. Hairspray (2007)

Edna Turnblad might blithely believe that Jackie O.’s weave is “all natural”, but there’s no mistaking the industrial-strength amount of holding product that went into Travolta’s buxom bouffant — the movie is called Hairspray, after all. Kudos to Travolta for going all the way with a cross-dressing, fat-suit creation that paid fond homage to John Waters’ original trash star Divine. But then, there really wasn’t anywhere left to go when he’d already done…


2. Battlefield Earth (1999)

Xenu be praised! Say what you will about this colossal 1999 flop, we defy you to watch and not be mesmerised by the follicular masterpiece crowning the evil mug of Travolta’s Psychlo alien overlord. When you’re ready to enslave an entire planet of puny, inferior beings, be sure to stop by your local galactic stylist and have them make you over like this.


1. Grease (1978)

Oh, we know — it’s automatic and it’s hyyyyyyyy-dromatic, but how could anyone go past Danny Zuko’s evergreen T-bird quiff?

Tag Cloud

Netflix Christmas movies docudrama A&E tv talk IFC Films Apple TV+ social media Amazon Prime Quiz Sci-Fi free movies DirecTV HBO comics HBO Max Tomatazos dark directors YouTube Red Heroines Horror 2016 cancelled television Mystery mockumentary versus satire TV Land Shudder DC Comics elevated horror History Hear Us Out Nickelodeon blockbuster Infographic Musical Ovation CW Seed spanish language canceled TV shows Toys Amazon Prime Video quibi BBC One true crime Nominations Black Mirror Ellie Kemper A24 2015 SDCC batman crime thriller Calendar Ghostbusters TCA Winter 2020 reboot President Epix Hallmark Thanksgiving Election Pop TV BBC ESPN game of thrones Comedy Central APB Emmys TBS Captain marvel Logo cats MCU Star Wars Rocky Grammys Cosplay Box Office composers sag awards Holiday Amazon Studios supernatural halloween best Women's History Month canceled Holidays comiccon Trivia Interview psychological thriller Red Carpet stoner Year in Review war revenge criterion Pride Month Creative Arts Emmys dceu dragons rotten movies we love TLC USA Lifetime Television Academy child's play Video Games theme song YouTube Premium Comedy GIFs TV renewals Classic Film transformers Music OWN Kids & Family Fox News nature Winners 2017 Mary poppins PlayStation Watching Series Emmy Nominations Nat Geo police drama period drama Columbia Pictures south america indiana jones Winter TV Crunchyroll TV Academy Awards Film Cannes Britbox Disney+ Disney Plus Endgame parents zombies dc FX on Hulu historical drama The Witch Mudbound FX chucky die hard video on demand See It Skip It Esquire biography news technology GoT Character Guide documentaries IFC award winner Martial Arts diversity Comics on TV Rocketman aliens Biopics BBC America Brie Larson Mary Tyler Moore comic Christmas richard e. Grant VH1 Dark Horse Comics Bravo OneApp unscripted crossover zero dark thirty spy thriller 4/20 Disney Plus CMT Reality comedies YouTube cancelled TV series documentary Western Travel Channel DC streaming service Opinion romance Rock discovery festivals USA Network ghosts Countdown concert game show werewolf Action Starz cops Avengers franchise crime Star Trek PBS VICE streaming Vudu Super Bowl WarnerMedia Podcast 20th Century Fox Spring TV teaser kids New York Comic Con facebook Adult Swim Photos based on movie renewed TV shows ITV adventure Trophy Talk WGN Disney Channel Song of Ice and Fire Oscars book FOX screen actors guild scary movies critics zombie Baby Yoda NBC all-time Family Discovery Channel what to watch Tumblr Apple TV Plus movie Lifetime Christmas movies hispanic romantic comedy Sneak Peek BET christmas movies video Drama Syfy GLAAD breaking bad AMC Paramount VOD dogs Tubi American Society of Cinematographers Freeform Awards golden globes sequel Lucasfilm First Look Summer RT History cinemax films spinoff CBS All Access 24 frames Turner Classic Movies E! psycho CNN The Walking Dead Acorn TV Pirates Valentine's Day science fiction Superheroe strong female leads anthology Sundance Now hist crime drama CBS PaleyFest Marathons Rom-Com Awards Tour spain Disney streaming service YA sports finale latino Trailer dramedy The CW DGA talk show Amazon Black History Month robots Schedule National Geographic NYCC cooking Certified Fresh Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Sundance television Lionsgate 21st Century Fox Masterpiece cancelled TV shows HBO Go joker harry potter cults asian-american animated Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Fall TV X-Men Cartoon Network name the review Pop natural history Food Network Teen thriller space Writers Guild of America mission: impossible Shondaland toy story Chernobyl Set visit Marvel spider-man San Diego Comic-Con politics Funimation Hallmark Christmas movies cancelled Crackle 71st Emmy Awards Paramount Network Musicals political drama disaster The Purge Netflix casting Superheroes Pet Sematary a nightmare on elm street RT21 blaxploitation binge Spike Arrowverse Best and Worst witnail TNT singing competition indie Fantasy ABC Family Peacock serial killer slashers Sony Pictures First Reviews Universal SundanceTV BAFTA 2019 series Binge Guide E3 stand-up comedy Turner cartoon Marvel Studios 007 TCA foreign Animation Warner Bros. DC Universe boxoffice Stephen King medical drama MSNBC Showtime 45 Elton John sitcom mutant Mary Poppins Returns Polls and Games FXX LGBT miniseries Marvel Television Tarantino reviews ABC independent Extras ratings Premiere Dates justice league jamie lee curtis Anna Paquin Disney 2020 Apple anime cars TruTV Spectrum Originals Pixar doctor who travel SXSW screenings Reality Competition Walt Disney Pictures Sundance TV vampires The Arrangement BET Awards adaptation children's TV green book El Rey TIFF MTV Film Festival TCM Hulu 2018 Country movies LGBTQ TCA 2017 twilight Comic Book universal monsters Mindy Kaling