A fact recognized by the entire red carpet science community (it’s a thing; don’t look it up) is that the premieres of big blockbuster action movies have the best red carpets. There’s this glorious mix of Casual Friday attitude mixed with the badassery of the source material that leads to confounding and sublime fashion. Take the carpets for Face/Off, Con Air, and Armageddon, for example—those are all-timers.
But there’s a subcategory of this red-carpet genre that is rare and even more treasured: the premieres of big blockbuster action movies based on video games. Look at this photo of Anna from The O.C. and a 22-year-old Aaron Paul in a … denim seersucker jacket (?) at the Resident Evil premiere in 2002. Or this picture of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson holding a ridiculously large gun at the premiere of Doom in 2005. It’s like when 7-Eleven started selling buffalo chicken bites and then were like, “You know what? Let’s turn these babies into TAQUITOS.”
There is one video-game-action-movie red carpet that still stands above the rest: the 2001 Los Angeles premiere of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. It has everything because Lara Croft: Tomb Raider had everything: Peak Angelina Jolie; her dad, Jon Voight, reprising his role from Anaconda; a dashingly handsome and young Jorah Mormont; before-its-time awareness of the Illuminati …
… and Jolie doing an impression of the Math Lady meme:
The Alicia Vikander version of Tomb Raider that comes out this week may end up being a better movie than Jolie’s version, but I am positive that its red carpet won’t come anywhere close to touching the one that was held for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on June 11, 2001. The bar is too high. To properly honor this magical day in history, let’s recognize those who made it so iconic.
Best Dressed: Angelina Jolie
I’m starting to think that we’re underrating Jolie’s run in the early 2000s. She was cooler, and also scarier, than everybody. Look at this! Jennifer Lawrence wore Prabal Gurung to the premiere of her action movie The Hunger Games; Angelina Jolie wore a somewhat see-through black tank top and black leather pants that were so low-waisted you could see her giant cross tattoo complete with the phrase “What nourishes me, destroys me” in Latin. No one had this much juice in 2001. I can only assume Jennifer Aniston never saw the photos from this red carpet, because, if she had, she never would’ve let Brad Pitt do Mr. and Mrs. Smith three years later.
The “Aren’t Those Just PJs?” Lifetime Achievement Award: Samuel L. Jackson
Jackson looks like he made a wrong turn and ended up at the Tomb Raider premiere instead of a party at the Playboy Mansion. (It is entirely possible that that is exactly what happened.) It also looks like he should be in the kitchen of a top-notch French bistro with those pants. Sidebar: In a stunning turn of events, those tiny sunglasses are apparently very cool again.
Best Couple: Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly
Don’t worry, I also didn’t remember that Jessica Alba was once engaged to the guy from Bull, but now I’ll never forget because this beautiful time capsule of a photo—the jean jacket! The hair! The crop top sweater! The tiny sunglasses (again)!—is now and will forever be my laptop background.
By the way, if you’re wondering why Alba and Weatherly didn’t work out—which you should be, because how could that sweater not love that hair for all of eternity?—the first thing you should know is that they got engaged when Alba was just 20 years old. The second thing you should know is this quote from an interview Alba gave in 2007: “I don’t know [why I got engaged]. I was a virgin. He was 12 years older than me. I thought he knew better. My parents weren’t happy.” I’m sure the guy from Bull is super-happy that quote lives on in Jessica Alba’s Wikipedia.
Most Early-Phase Colin Farrell: Early-Phase Colin Farrell
Beyond the black beanie, beyond the tight sweater, beyond the gratuitous PDA—the most Colin Farrell–y detail of this photo is this:
Colin and Amelia Warner really rolled up to Mann’s Village Theater like, “Oh we’re there? Great, time to lit a cigarette for this red-carpet walk.”
Best Hat: Shannon Elizabeth
Real strong look here. This is how you capitalize on that American Pie fame.
Worst Disguise: Matt LeBlanc
Look man, no matter how messy of a goatee you grow, no matter how goofy of a haircut you get, and no matter how tight of short-sleeve button shirt you wear (seriously, that top button is about to burst), you will always be Joey Tribbiani.
Two other notes: One, this red carpet is clearly ground zero for the apex of the leather pants and tiny sunglasses trends of 2001. Two, Matt LeBlanc is forever a red-carpet legend. Aside from this bizarre appearance, there’s also that time at the 1996 Emmys when he broke out a black leather sling with a vaguely Princeish cross on it:
Schwimmer could never.
Most Appropriate Excitement Level for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Gary Busey
Same, Gary. Same.
Most 2001: Eva Longoria
Behold a pre–Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria shirtless in a bootcut leather pantsuit, accessorized by a necklace that appears to be made of multiple rabbits’ feet. This is the Britney Spears–Justin Timberlake matching denim outfit (also a 2001 look) multiplied by a thousand. It’s so awful and yet so miraculous; it has the power to make you rue the past and yet yearn for it. The meaning of life must be contained in one of those pant-leg patches—if only we knew which one!
Only on the red carpet for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was an outfit so revelatory possible. It was the apex of pop culture, and possibly human civilization. 2018’s Tomb Raider has a lot to live up to; hopefully Alicia Vikander wears a leather pantsuit at some point. Or maybe Walton Goggins will.