The Top 22 Cinematic Smiles


Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but a smile is much more mysterious. A smile could show the pure joy of a kid on Christmas morning, the smug satisfaction of being right when everyone else disagreed, or a secret shared among friends . . . or among enemies. A smile could be a mask hiding a deeper pain, a smile could be an invitation from across a crowded room, or a smile could simply just be a feeling of peace and contentment after a job well done. In movies, smiles are often used to show what is left unsaid. In the beginning of a film a smile can reveal who (or what) a character might become. At the end of a film, a smile can leave the viewer guessing about what happened next. Throughout the a film, smiles can be seen or unseen, subtle hints, clues, puzzle pieces to a deeper understanding of the characters, the story, and the overall message of the movie.

Here are the top 22 Cinematic Smiles of all time as ranked by the staff of The Spyglass:

#22: “The Princess Diaries” Mia Thermopolis (Played by Anne Hathaway)

Princess Diaries is a well known movie and sometimes considered a classic. It was made in 2001 and then followed by a second movie a few years after that. The main character Mia, has one of the greatest smiles. She is the main character in this movie, her smile leaves an impact on people watching and some of the other characters in the movie. When Mia finds out she is a princess, she immediately  has to change her appearance and her attitude against things. Before she was a princess she did not consider doing anything about her appearance and hair. So now that she is a princess she has had a complete makeover. And at the end of the makeover the smile is a very heartwarming and grateful smile.

# 21: “Philadelphia” Andrew Beckett (Played by Tom Hanks)

To express the relief of letting go, Tom Hanks excelled in the movie called “Philadelphia”. The famous actor did a great job of conveying a heavy message about how relieved it is to know that your loved ones support you and love you for who you really are. You see, in that movie, Tom Hanks was fired for being gay, which led him to file a lawsuit against his boss, and hire Denzel Washington as his attorney. This one will defend Tom Hanks despite his sexuality and does not dare to touch him, since Tom Hanks has contracted AIDS. At the end, when Tom Hanks is on his deathbed and his lawyer pays him his last visit, Tom Hanks tells his lawyer a joke, which makes his lawyer laugh and therefore, Tom Hanks smiles. The irony is that he’s on his deathbed but still wants to make people laugh, it’s simply beautiful. – L.B.

#20: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Agatha (Played by Saoirse Ronan)












Art Work by Tilda Bravante

Coming in at number 20, we have the innocently beautiful smile from the 2014 Wes Anderson film, Grand Budapest Hotel. Following a young man by the name of “ Zero”, this stunning film takes place at the Grand Budapest Hotel, a popular European ski resort, and follows the adventures of Zero, a young lobby boy, and Gustave, the concierge of the resort. Young Zero finds himself falling for a woman by the name of Agatha, who shares a sweetly innocent love. In this enticing smile, we see Agatha form a sweetly simple smirk as her and Zero are on a carousel, colorful lights flashing behind them, revealing the sheer amount of innocent affection these two young lovebirds share for each other as they are trapped in the moment. 

-Summer Ridout

# 19: “Blade Runner 2049” Officer K (Played by Ryan Gosling)

At #19 on this list is Officer K at the end of Blade Runner 2049. Gosling’s smirk at the end of this great movie perfectly wraps up this movie. After investigating the case of the human/replicant  K is convinced that he is this miracle until he’s told that the child was a girl. Officer K finally smiles he knows he’s going to die and that he’s content with everything that’s happened even though he isn’t this “miracle”.

-Ben Cervantes

#18: “Radio Rebel” Tara Adams (Played by Debby Ryan)











The 2012 television film known as Radio Rebel was a teen drama fun-flick based on a novel titled Shrinking Violet, and it is about a shy girl named Tera Adams, and who picks up a job as a DJ at her high school and goes under the alter-ego Radio Rebel. She gains a massive following from the students who love her performance, however, the principal shuts down the DJ, and threatens expulsion of the girl. Following this, she throws a prom party called MORP and is voted MORP queen by the students, leading up to the scene where she looks into the camera and gives a smug smirk. Today, this scene stands as the most iconic scene in the film due to today’s age with TikTok and other social media platforms that spread this scene, making the movie more relevant than it was back in 2012. This scene is impactful due to the smugness Tera Adams displays in her smirk, for the whole party’s purpose was to spite the people who tried to stop her, such as the principal.

-Robert Bishop IV

#17: “El Camino” Jesse Pinkman (Played by Aaron Paul)

At the #17 spot we have El Camino, Closing off this movie we have Jesse Pinkman giving a small smile as he drives to Alaska showing his acceptance and Joy for the road ahead. The reason we have this smile on this list is due to the significance of the events prior.

-Ben Cervantes

#16: “Howl’s Moving Castle” Howl and Sophie (Animated by Studio Ghibli)






-art work by: Brumit

Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautiful and engaging movie about love and self acceptance. The 2004 Studio Ghibli movie encapsulates how a person can love on multiple levels; not just romantic, by using the skills of amazing animators, writers, and well known tropes such as “found family” and “love at first sight”. While the smile is quite small and can be easily missed upon first viewing the movie; it sets the plot into motion. After Howl chases away two soldiers that were bothering Sophie, the duo flies away once he realizes they are being pursued by monsters that work for the main antagonist of the movie. 

While flying across Sophie’s home town, there is a moment where the two smile at each other. This smile means a lot for the rest of the movie. Sophie’s smile shows that she’s not only curious about who Howl is because she hasn’t learned his name yet, but she also feels love and admiration for the man. Howl is feeling love for Sophie as well. In addition to that, Howl is relieved that Sophie wasn’t scared of him. That smile allowed the rest of the events of the movie to continue. 

Howl let Sophie into his home and quite literally trusted her with his heart. Sophie is understanding and kind and he showed her that same kindness. Without question, the man helped her escape and get to safety. Despite him being a stranger, Sophie was able to trust Howl and because of that, she began to fall in love with him. Their smiles, despite being small, are filled with love and hope.

-Wafa Bhatti

#15: “The Social Network” Mark Zuckerberg (Played by Jesse Eisenberg)







-Art Work by Ale Rodriguez

<I>The Social Network<I>, a heavily dramatized depiction of the early stages of Facebook, is an undeniable masterpiece for the ages. Not only is the slick, dialogue-packed thriller abundantly entertaining, it also serves as a compelling character study: not for the actual, evil Mark Zuckerberg who manipulates our personal data in the present day, but a fictional genius who craves validation and fulfillment. The awkward, cold Zuckerberg rapidly succumbs to a crippling need to build something bigger than him, seeking external affirmation to fill the insecurity deep within him. In building The Facebook (later dropped to Facebook – “it’s cleaner”), Mark desperately grasps at the failing relationships around him, having alienated everyone he loves thanks to his ego and crippling need to build something successful enough to make him feel validated. But <I>The Social Network<I> makes it clear that amidst the arrogance and torment driving Mark to create the Facebook, there is one moment in which he finds peace.

In the scene, Mark’s business partner and friend Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield, enters a room filled with cheering college students downing shots and frantically typing on computers. He learns that Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) is hiring interns for the Facebook, and the first to successfully hack through a series of encryptions and firewalls (while consuming copious amounts of alcohol) will join Mark and Eduardo in California in the upcoming summer.. At this point in the story, Mark is jealous of Eduardo for his acceptance to the Phoenix Club, an exclusive club on the Harvard campus. But unlike in later stages of the story, Mark still considers Eduardo to be his friend, a loyal companion who understands him far better than most do. When Mark and Eduardo share a smile as the interns finish hacking and the room erupts in cheers, it takes on a life of its own – a moment of trust, a moment of contentment for both men. Something they may never find again.

-Orion Rea

#14: “Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery” Austin Powers (Played by Mike Meyers)

Something about Austin Powers’ smile is just iconic. Without even making any effort, his smile can make one either laugh or feel uncomfortable, it really depends on people’s opinion. His crooked teeth are the iconic part, in most people’s opinion. They’re just so unusual and weird that they mark people who see them and make them recognize Austin Powers because of that smile and those crooked teeth. The awkwardness and irony in that smile are what makes it memorable. In the movies, Austin Powers is this symbol of handsomeness for people because at that time, having beautiful teeth wasn’t necessary to be beautiful. – L.B.

#13: “Mean Girls” Regina George (Played by Rachel McAdams)








-art work by:

The movie Mean Girls was one of the most iconic movies of the 2000’s and features one of the most memorable smiles in cinematic history. Mean Girls is a film about a homeschooled teenage girl, Cady Heron, going to high school for the first time and experiencing all of the adolescent encounters that high school brings. The iconic smile occurs when Regina George, the school’s popular mean girl, posts rude comments about classmates from a book that she and her friends created. Her smile is devious and cunning because she is getting back at Cady Heron for kicking her out of their friend group. The smile is probably one of the  most iconic scenes from the entire film. 

-Ashlyn McDonald

# 12: “The Lego Movie” Emmet (Animated by Warner Bros. Studios)

The LEGO MOVIE is a captivating experience that reaches moments of apex comedy. It has revolutionary animation and a universally loved plot, both of which have aged surprisingly well. The film deservingly approaches the title of iconic with each year passed. The crux of the narrative lies relentlessly on this chosen scene. Emmet, an ordinary citizen is faced with the opportunity to become more. Against his better judgment he falls head first into the narrative being presented to him. This is the belief that he is the “special.” One who is prophesied to “thwart the Kragle and save the realm” (the kragle being a powerful weapon used by the antagonist Lord Business). The smile itself is one of belonging. Someone (Wild Style) finally believes he is extraordinary. Being an animation the movie gets to take the nostalgia of the iconic base lego head and elevate it to a new level. This point in the story provides comforting escapism from a movie with hilarious but absurdly high stakes. The belief that Emmet is some sort of chosen one pushes his arc in an out of character but welcome direction for the remainder of the run time.

-Kai Specker

# 11: “Pearl” Pearl (Played by Mia Goth)














-Art work by: Tilda Bravante

At number 11, we have the stunningly unsettling grin from the 2022 Slasher Film, Pearl. We see a woman, by the name of Pearl, deliver a lengthy, unnerving smile at the end of the film as the end credits roll on. Trapped in a world of isolation, this film features the story of a 16 year old girl, Pearl, struggling when her big dreams of being an actress are seemingly impossible as she is left to care for her disabled father, and face the wrath of her unloving mother,  in her farm home during the height of the Spanish Flu Epidemic and World War I. As the plot unwinds, we see Pearl become less and less mentally stable, killing her mother about a quarter of the way through the movie, then her father. Her horrifying smile takes place at the end of the movie, as her husband returns home from war to witness Pearl sitting at the dinner table with her decaying mother and father. The camera pans to Pearl, and the movie ends with her bone-chilling smile from ear to ear. 

-Summer Ridout

# 10: “Whiplash” Neeman (Played by Miles Teller)









Art Work by Ale Rodriguez

<I>Whiplash<I>, a musical film that deftly explores the anatomy of an obsessed artist, the pursuit of talent, and the language of mentorship, is one of the most sickening pieces of art ever put to screen. The movie follows an ambitious jazz drummer at a prestigious art school, Andrew Neiman, and his continual encounters with his studio conductor Terence Fletcher. Andrew, who is played by Miles Teller, is surprised to find that Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is verbally and physically abusive, a man whose beration takes an instant mental toll, a teacher so incredibly cruel that many in the ensemble find themselves majorly scarred by his behavior. It only makes matters worse that Fletcher senses greatness in Andrew, and decides to force him to achieve that greatness by whatever means necessary. Andrew determinedly pursues his musical talents and pushes himself to the breaking point, using his drums not only as an instrument, but as a canvas for literal blood, sweat, and tears. The pain he experiences from playing the drums with such fervor only motivates him to work harder. He is obsessed.

The smile that concludes <I>Whiplash<I> is one of pure joy from Andrew, but we as a viewer can sense that this joy has come at a heavy cost. Andrew enters the performance having taken a break from drumming, tired of the abuse and encouraged by his father to heal the severe toll Andrew’s art – and the man that taught it to him – has taken. Andrew even testifies to Fletcher’s abuse; Fletcher’s invitation to the jazz festival is designed to take revenge on Andrew, whose lack of commitment has disappointed Fletcher. But Andrew, in the final moments of the film, unlocks the talent that Fletcher has always known he has possessed. He, for lack of a more fitting term, “goes off” – drumming in a frenzied fit of exhaustion and perspiration that keeps culminating to higher points, his skill clearly prodigious and his performance flawless to the ear and eye. Andrew’s solo goes on for minutes, and the look on both his face and Fletcher’s becomes increasingly satisfied, until Andrew breaks out into a grin and plays a final spur of beats. He has become the musician that he has aspired to be, and it is a glorious moment, but it is also one of shock and horror. The audience, as well as Andrew’s father, looks on in dismay. Is it – will it be – worth the whiplash?

-Orion Rea

# 9: “Midsommar” Dani Ardor (Played by Florence Pugh)














Ari Aster’s 2019 psychological horror film focuses on Dani, a young woman who lost her sister and parents in a suicide-murder. Her boyfriend and friends plan on visiting a Swedish “commune” to write their thesis for grad school. Dani is convinced to join them by one of their friends, Pelle, who was born into the very Swedish “commune” they’re visiting, who says that she will be able to heal and mourn properly after her family passed away. Upon first arrival, the grad students notice how peculiar the “commune” is but chalk it up to cultural differences. 

The members of the commune are particularly interested in Dani. They want to involve her with their traditions more so than her friends who are there for their thesis. Dani knows that the “commune” kills people but finds comfort with strangers that treat her like family. 

At the end of the movie, Dani smiles. It’s not a traditionally happy smile however. After being crowned the Mayflower Queen which is considered a high honor by the community, Dani has her boyfriend sacrificed in a fire. The very last scene is Dani smiling because she knows she is free and loved. The other women of the cult had cried with her when Dani would have a panic attack or when she thought that her boyfriend was cheating on her with another woman. Pelle, despite being a person Dani didn’t even really know, loved her so much more than her boyfriend probably ever did. While Dani’s smile may be a happy one; it’s happy for all the wrong reasons.

-Wafa Bhatti

# 8: “Alice In Wonderland” Cheshire Cat (Animated by Walt Disney Studios)

Coming in at 8th place is the Cheshire Cat.  The Cheshire Cat is like a spirit guide to Alice the main character. Cheshire helps Alice by telling her where to go when she is lost and is there when she needs assistance.  This smile deserves to be in 8th place because anyone who would look at the Cheshire cat would think he was smiling for something evil or up to no good, but it’s quite the opposite. In the movie when we first encounter the Cheshire cat we see the smile first before the rest of his body appears. It’s a very long ear to ear smile that shows that he is enjoying the interaction with the person he is talking to, but it also means that he likes the playful/naughty side of him.When the Cheshire Cat is done helping Alice and disappears, the smile is the last thing we see. I think the Cheshire cat is a really good example of showing how the smile/grin is part of his personality.

-Melissa Gonzalez

# 7: “Finding Nemo” Bruce (Animated by Pixar Studios)

Finding Nemo is one of the most well-known animated movies of all time. It is an amazing movie with a great plot and characters. One of the characters, Bruce the shark, has one of the greatest smiles. Even though his screen time is short, his smile leaves quite the impact on the characters, Marlin and Dory. When Bruce first finds the two of them, it isn’t because he’s trying to eat them — in fact, it’s the opposite of that. He’s trying to show his other shark friends that he’s changed. Bruce and his other shark friends have this saying which is: “Fish are friends, not food”. This is what leads Bruce to bringing Marlin and Dory with him in the first place. However, when he smells Dory’s blood his shark instincts start to kick in (the thing that he’s been trying to avoid) and a smile creeps upon his face, a smile that represents his shark instincts. 

# 6: ‘The Grinch” The Grinch (Played by Jim Carrey)

The Grinch ranks at 6th place on the Best Cinematic Smiles.The Grinch is a guy who feels no connection with the Whos in Whoville which is why he hates seeing them happy, and how much noise they make. Over time the Grinch meets a girl who helps him open up and better understand the Whos and what Christmas is all about. By the end of the movie The Grinch feels his heart growing for Christmas and the Whos – and a huge smile forms on his face.  The reason the smile is so special is because it shows how the Grinch changes over time because at first his smile was about doing evil things or stealing Christmas, but the smile at the end is showing how he opened up and is finally caring for other people other than himself. 

-Melissa Gonzalez

# 5: “The Great Gatsby” Jay Gatsby (Played by Leonardo DiCaprio)

Number 5 is the iconic smile of Jay Gatsby from the 2013 film The Great Gatsby. The smile of Jay Gatsby played by Leonardo DiCaprio has burned itself into our minds and heart, show that smile to anyone and they’ll recognize it. The scene building up to this smile gives Leonardo DiCaprio’s character the true spotlight that the directors wanted him to have, with massive displays of grandeur the scene focuses onto the man of the hour himself with a charismatic smile that launched this smile into the top 5.

-Aidan Lin

# 4: “Spiderman 2” The Green Goblin (Played by Willem Dafoe)








-Art Work by:

Coming in at number 4, for his eerie and somewhat creepy smile, is the Green Goblin from the Spider-Man movies. His smile really captivates the evilness of the villain Green Goblin, and sends chills down your spine. While his smile in the Toby Maguire movies was great, his performance in Spider-Man: No Way Home was excellent as he smiled insanely at Peter Parker. His smile really embodied his insane and creepy character in a stunning and unforgettable  way.

-Ashlyn McDonald

# 3: “The Shining” Jack Torrance (Played by Jack Nicholson)

Starting off the top 3 strong! You know him, you fear him, Jack Torrance played by Jack Nicholson from The Shining. The Shining is something that has ingrained itself in internet culture and the horror genre as a staple movie to watch. His smile represents Stephen King’s character perfectly with vicious insanity and Nicholson’s method acting, and with the iconic line of “Here’s Johnny!” The classic horror film made this scene something we can never forget.

-Aidan Lin

# 2: “Psycho” Norman Bates (Played by Anthony Perkins)







The 1960 horror film known as Psycho is a suspense and psychological thriller that has one of the most iconic smile scenes in all of horror. In the end, the camera zooms in on a detained Norman Bates who sits alone in a room, while we hear the voice of his mother as she speaks his inner monologue. This scene is iconic for multiple reasons, for one, it makes the viewer believe the mother is talking about her son being condemned due to her speaking to the police about his psychopathic tendencies. However, we learn the voice we hear is actually the thoughts of Bates in his mother’s voice when the voice says “They’re probably watching me” when his eyes move up and around the room. Then, we hear the voice speak of a fly on Norman’s hand, and speaks about “How she wouldn’t even harm a fly” as Normal Bates’s lips curl up into a smile, while his eyebrows remain still. What gives this scene the title of “greatest and scariest smile” is not only how it’s done, but what it portrays. In this case, Bate’s descent into madness is due to his relationship with his mother, and he is smiling about it. Even today, this scene still remains one of the most powerful scenes in all of horror history

-Robert Bishop IV

# 1: “Joker” Arthur Fleck (Played by Joaquin Phoenix)






-art work by:

JOKER 2019 was a cinema titan that owned the media well past its theatrical debut. The artistic twist on the beloved character received controversy even before release. A variety of articles and clips can sometimes fail to remind the viewer of what a triumph the film truly is. The film demonstrates the crushing navigation of one’s own mental health with the underlying theme of class division. It sinks the audience into the world of Gotham city telling a more intimate story. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the comedian Arthur Fleck (Joker) makes it hard to look away from the screen as he drags us through this emotional rollercoaster. While his character smiles numerous times throughout the film,  the opening scene of JOKER is one that sets your expectations high from the very beginning. Arthur’s application of makeup is one unsettling confidence. As he grips the sides of his mouth and slowly practices his impressions, the viewer receives a false sense of ease until the camera angle sharply changes revealing a man in crisis. A man forcing a smile with a single tear streaming down his face. A man suffering to stay composed in a world that beats him down. Arthur is pushed past his breaking point and in the end transforms into something unstoppable: An honest monster.

-Kai Specker


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