Nothing dates a film faster than its technology, which is why several contemporary movies have been set in pre-cell phone times or eschewed technology altogether. Despite this, we have fond memories of some of the phones of television and film, no matter how retro or outdated. Here are our favorites, and where you can buy them.
The directors of Inception
and No Country For Old Men
deliberately avoided including technology in their films so that they would have a quality of timelessness, and the upcoming Take Me Home Tonight
was set in the 80s so that the characters could have coming-of-age teen fun without the intervention of cell phones. However, we admit that we cherish our memories of these phones and their roles in some of our favorite television shows and films, throwbacks though they might be.
1. Clarissa Explains It All
During our youth, Clarissa Darling (Melissa Joan Hart) from Nickelodeon's Clarissa Explains It All was a style icon with her artfully mismatched outfits, pet alligator and bedroom wall full of hubcaps. But best of all was her awesome transparent phone, on which she'd speak to her best friend Sam.
Today, you can tap into your nostalgia with an actual phone from the 80s, courtesy of Etsy's Vintage section, where the average price for a clear phone is $24.
2007's Juno about a quirky teenager (Ellen Page) who becomes pregnant was a smash hit, in large part to its fun wordplay and stylish set dressing. Juno's room in particular is a great reflection of her character, with indie music posters, thrift store knickknacks and the singular hamburger phone. (Technically it's a cheeseburger.)
Part of the promotion for the film involved sending hamburger phones to critics and journalists, and after the film's release the market for the novelty item exploded (according to Wikipedia, sales of the phone on eBay increased by 759 percent).
Hamburger phones are currently going for extremely reasonable prices, like this one for $13.19 (down from $30), or this one ($26) from Fred Flare.
3. Adam West's Batman
It's hard to argue that the 1960s version of Batman, played by Adam West, isn't the absolute best portrayal of the character, ever. The show was campy, colorful, full of villains and had comic book-style "BIF!" and "POW!" graphics appear any time there was a fistfight.
Central to the wonderfulness of Batman were all the gadgets featured in the show. Any villain or enemy had a specialized weapon to fight it with, like a shark-repellent Bat-spray, and Batman carried an array of bat-shaped tools and implements (bat-cuffs!)
Coolest of them all though were the gadgets in his office, like the button hidden in the bust of Shakespeare which, when pressed, revealed two fireman's poles that led to the Batcave (with a costume change halfway down), and the Batphone, a red telephone with no buttons that sat on a pedestal in the office. Whenever Comissioner Gordon needed to reach Batman, he'd use this special line, which made a red light flash.
You can get a real, actual Batphone for $125 here (the keypad to let you dial out of your Batphone is an additional $77), or you can make one yourself with these instructions.
4. The Matrix
Who can forget the scene in the Matrix where Keanu Reeve's mild-mannered programmer character receives a package containing only a phone, then receives instructions to run, duck and finally clamber out onto a ledge. (Off of which he drops the phone; what a waste.)
That phone was the Nokia 8110, which featured a curved case that slid open; The Matrix added the spring-loaded bit.
The phones are pretty outdated now, and in the age of smartphones and Blackberries we're not sure many contemporary phones have such cool sliders. As a tongue-in-cheek alternative, may we suggest the "Banana Cellfoam" mobile cover
5. Saved By The Bell
Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) from Saved By The Bell was the King of Cool, a kind of babyfaced, blonde Ferris Bueller for the Gen Y set. And what made him so cool? He rocked a mobile phone.
The actual phone he used was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x (Patrick Batemen also sported one). This model has since been dubbed the "Zach Morris Phone" and is a genuine cultural artifact. Always a good sport, Mark-Paul Gosselaar even turned up to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with one.
Where can you get one for yourself? Assuming you don't want to actually obtain one of the originals, you can grab "brick style" mobile phone holders, like this one
(£9.99) from gofrostfire. If you do want to go old-school, this mod
teaches you how to convert it into a Bluetooth headset.
6. Get Smart
Comedy secret agent show Get Smart was the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and starred Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, the goofiest spy to ever cross the television screen. Major parts of the satire came from gags like the shoe phone, which is exactly what it sounds like: a rotary phone concealed in a shoe.
To answer the phone, Smart had to remove the shoe from his foot, and flip the rubber sole to reveal the dial. The shoe also had an array of weaponry like explosive pellets and a gun.
The shoe phone is so beloved, the original prop is housed in the CIA Museum, and many people have created shoe phones of their own. Here's a gallery of a few, and you can use this Instructable to create your very own.
What is it about farce and telephones? Zoolander, starring Ben Stiller, is a hilarious sendup of the world of male modeling, in which the titular character overcomes his Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashing to save rather than execute the Prime Minister of Malaysia during a fashion show.
Along the way he hangs out with his model buddies, practices his model faces and boasts the very latest in cell phone technology, the teeny tiniest model in the world.
You can't buy phones that small (not yet anyway), but Popular Mechanics named the Neonode N2 as a worthy stand-in due to its size (it fits neatly in the palm).
8. Iron Man 2
A film series as gadget-heavy as Iron Man, which features a billionaire saving the world with his fantastic robotic body shell, was bound to have some covetable stuff, and after Iron Man 2 everybody was seriously in love with Tony Stark's transparent cell phone.
Unfortunately, the phone was just a slab of glass in a frame, according to the film's property master Russell Bobbitt. You can watch the phone in action via this relatively spoiler-free SFX reel.
Of course, we're not all that far away from a real transparent phone. Concepts like the Cobalto show the potential of the device, and LG (sponsors of the Iron Man franchise) created a phone with a clear case and number pad.
What are your favorite phones from movies and TV? Did we leave any out of our list? Let us know in the comments.