Masks have been an integral part of our visual mass culture ever since the 1903 production of “The Great Train Robbery,” a 12-minute movie considered to be the first film with a narrative plot line (click the link to see the film: https://www.loc.gov/item/00694220/).
Herewith, my compilation of worthy films and television/cable shows that employed a mask in a significant way:
The Mask—Jim Carrey’s eye-popping comedy thriller;
Batman movie series including The Joker, as well as the Batman TV series of the 1960s;
The Man in the Iron Mask, either the 1939 Louis Hayward or the 1998 Leonardo DiCaprio swashbuckler set during the reign of France’s Louis XIV;
Star Wars series with masked Darth Vader and Kylo Ren;
Mask—No mask worn by Eric Stoltz portraying Roy “Rocky” Dennis who has craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. A triumph for Cher as his mother;
Gravity—Sandra Bullock and George Clooney spent most of the film with their faces shielded by astronaut helmets;
The Elephant Man—another biopic about disfigurement with John Hurt playing Joseph Merrick in 19th century London;
Nacho Libre—Jack Black in a homage to Mexican wrestlers who wear colorful masks;
Zorro—Lots of Zorros to choose among, from Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in a silent, to Tyrone Power, Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, as well as George Hamilton as Zorro, The Gay Blade. And don’t forget Guy Williams as the TV series Zorro;
The Invisible Man—Not technically a mask, but the same genre of concealed identity. Choose from the 1933 classic or the 2012 or 2020 versions;
Spider-Man series—I like Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker;
Phantom of the Opera—Claude Rains was the phantom in the 1943 version, a role played by Lon Chaney in the 1925 silent movie. If you’re an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, go for the 2005 musical;
The Lone Ranger television, and before that radio, series (forget most of the movies) which added “Hi-Yo Silver,” “Kemo sabe” and “Who was that masked man?” to our lexicon of words and phrases;
The Green Hornet—Forgettable except for his sidekick’s name, Kato, which became linked to the O.J. Simpson murder prosecution in the form of Kato Kaelin, a witness at the trial;
The Mask of Demetrios—No mask here beyond the title of this film noir classic with key roles for Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson;
The Phantom—Not to be confused with The Phantom of the Opera, The Phantom is another comic book crime fighter brought to the silver screen;
Money Heist—If you haven’t Netflixed this Spanish serial about robbers wearing Salvador Dali masks you have no idea what absorbing television looks like;
And because they spent so much time behind their surgical masks, M*A*S*H, the movie and iconic TV series.
Feel free to add to my list by clicking on the comments link.