Quiz: 12 Iconic Movie Props and Their Origins


Movie props often play a pivotal role in moving the plot forward. The dramatic principle known as Chekov’s gun states that if a gun is introduced in the beginning of the story, it must go off before the end or be omitted altogether. In other words, if a prop is placed in the film it must be necessary to the story.

Every major prop tells a story of its own. Once the prop makes it into the film, it can often become as famous as the actors themselves. Props at auction regularly drive  prices through the roof, such as R2-D2 from Star Wars which sold for $2.76 million or the Forbidden Planet robot that sold at auction for $5.375 million.

We’ve put together a quiz to test your knowledge of iconic movie props. A prop is traditionally defined as something people hold in their hands. For this quiz we’ve bent the rules to include a few items that fall between prop and set piece, but things like Princess Leia’s ubiquitous golden bikini or the animatronic shark in Jaws are considered wardrobe items or set pieces and therefore are not included.

Below you’ll find illustrations with hints to help you identify iconic movie props. Underneath, you can learn more about the history of each prop. You’ll find the answers to which movies they come from at the end of the quiz.

Movie Prop #1


Whether or not you’ve seen the films, you likely recognized George Lucas’s lightsaber immediately. From the iconic sound to the glowing color of the blades, this Jedi weapon is arguably the most iconic film prop of all time.

Roger Christian, the set decorator, struggled to create a lightsaber that had the look and feel he knew it needed. He tried using a flashlight with little success. It wasn’t until Christian was making binoculars with camera lenses that he struck gold.

On a whim, he asked the camera shop owner if he had anything interesting or different in the store. The owner pointed towards a stack of dusty old boxes, and the handle that inspired Christian to create the now iconic weapon was in the first box he opened.

After this initial inspiration, the blade of the lightsaber was created. By painting projection material onto a wooden dowel and then loosely attaching it to the handle, the lightsaber was able to wobble and reflect light for post-production effects. The cost of the first saber? Roughly $12.

Movie Prop #2


This bold lamp was brought to life by production designer Reuben Freed for the film adaptation of a story by author Jean Shepherd. Because the lamp was Shepherd’s own creation, Freed had no idea what it would look like. Legend has it, Freed illustrated what he imagined it would look like and Shepherd approved it immediately.

When it came to fabrication, Freed used a mannequin’s leg because the lamp had to be big enough to see across the street. He then borrowed fishnets and a pump from the costume designer to give it a “bad girl” look. Freed created three versions of this lamp for the movie, but unfortunately all three originals were broken in the film.

Movie Prop #3


Robin L. Miller, prop master, convinced the volleyball company to give him 20 blank volleyballs for the film. The production team used each and every one, creating different incarnations of this character-like-prop.

Creating the familiar red hand print also proved difficult for Miller and the film’s lead, Tom Hanks. They spent months practicing without the cameras, planning exactly how far his fingers needed to be spread and what lines on the ball his fingers would reach.

Every volleyball handprint had to match the original one perfectly. Using a scenic painter to do the rest, the remaining 19 volleyballs were given matching faces and then altered depending on the point in the movie.

Movie Prop #4


Because it is described in detail in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original works, there was a lot of pressure on production designer Grant Major to get this ring right. Not only is it at the center of the story, but legions of book fans had to be appeased, as well.

In the novels, the ring is described as a simple golden band. Major believed it would be difficult to find the best option for the ring, but inspiration hit very close to home: one of the producers of the film was about to get married, so the iconic prop was based on his wedding ring.

There are several different versions of the ring, including a large version for close-ups and another made of magnetic metal so that it wouldn’t bounce when dropped. In addition to these different styles, there are over 40 copies of the original for different locations and actors, not including the versions created as gifts or for the press tour.

Movie Prop #5


Director James Cameron was meticulous about the realism of every set and prop. With very few photos to work with, the production team relied mainly on models of the twin ship, Olympic, for production design guidance.

Given how particular Cameron was, Peter Lamont worked hard to perfect the necklace in the movie. It could be designed from scratch, unlike the rest of the film props, but it had to be heart-shaped and faceted so it reflected light.

Luckily, Lamont had a working relationship with John Asprey of Asprey Limited, a retailer of jewelry, that made creating this necklace possible. Three original versions of the necklace were created using real gemstones. It isn’t until the very end of the film, when the necklace is tossed into the water, that a facsimile of the original is used.

Movie Prop #6


Originally contracted for $75 in the 1940’s, this iconic statue was lost for over 40 years before it resurfaced in the 80s. Upon being discovered, the bidding value jumped to $4 million, making it one of the highest prices ever paid for a movie prop.

When the statue was lost, many people came forward claiming they had an authentic prop from the film, but only two are known to exist. It wasn’t until the release of the book Black Dahlia Avenger in 2003 that people knew that Fred Sexton, an American artist and sculptor, created the statue.

Movie Prop #7


Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book, these tickets have made a home in prop history. Made from foil-covered paper, these props were delicate and handled very little by the actors themselves, given how easily they could crinkle.

Julie Dawn Cole, one of the actresses in the film, guessed that there were likely hundreds of copies of the ticket so that any time someone crinkled it, the production team would have another option ready. The scene where they go through the factory holding their tickets took nearly a week to shoot, likely necessitating the use of many duplicates.

Movie Prop #8


The small origami figures used to taunt and threaten Harrison Ford’s character were made to look like they were folded out of gum wrappers. David Q. Quick, one of the property masters, had them outsourced and created by an origami artist.

Because the figures were so delicate, 12 copies of them were carefully packed into a box so as not to break. They were constructed from a heavy gauge metal foil, making them look shinier and less like a throwaway wrapper.

Movie Prop #9


A box of chocolates may seem like a simple prop to find; however, they can easily stand out and distract in a film. Finding the right box of chocolates for this Academy-Award winning film took more consideration than your average Valentine’s Day search.

There were several different options, but in the end the team settled on Russell Stover Chocolates. Not only is this chocolate emblematic of the time period in which the movie takes place, but its box was subtle enough to be used as a prop.

Movie Prop #10


Though this prop could be considered a set piece, it is such an essential element of the film’s plot that we felt it worth including. Being Amie McCarthy’s first film as prop master, so she worked hard to ensure that the alarm clock worked and looked perfect for the story.

At first the art team opted for a digital clock, but after struggling to light the clock for the set, they settled on a flip clock. They hunted one down at a fair in Sandwich, Illinois but could only find one other original for the film, so multiples had to be fabricated for the film.

In total, there were roughly 8 to 12 clocks on hand, some of which worked normally while others were rigged to go from 5:58 to 5:59 to 6:00. To ensure the time switched when they needed it to, McCarthy changed the time using a remote control.

Movie Prop #11


Barry Bedig was a legendary Hollywood props master who was known to offer the director many different choices for key props to ensure every element fit perfectly. For this film, Bedig showed director Cameron Crowe a variety of boomboxes before they decided on the right one.

The lead actor in the film, John Cusack, didn’t want to hold the boombox but instead wanted it to be sitting on his car. In the end, he gave in and hoisted the boombox over his head, resulting in the iconic moment we know today.

Movie Prop #12


Though James Stewart uses binoculars at the beginning of this Hitchcock film, he eventually switches to a camera to better investigate his suspicious neighbor. This camera, the Exakta VX, is ideal for the film because it can photograph any subject type, whether they’re a few inches away from the lens or across the street.

Additionally, the camera Stewart holds allowed the audience to see what he was looking at reflected on his lens, how he reacts, and where he is seeing the events unfold. This is something that would be much more difficult to capture using binoculars, where the lenses are much smaller and used strictly for long distance studying.


Of course, there are so many iconic movie props in the business that didn’t make the cut. We’d be remiss to forget the hourglass from The Wizard of Oz or Orson Welles’ “Rosebud” sled, not to mention hundreds of other movie props, costumes and other film memorabilia that helped define some of the best movies over the past century.


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