Smoking Movies: Scarface (1983)

Scarface (1983) is not just a classic cigar movie, but one of the most beloved movies of all time. Four decades since its release, audiences are still fascinated by Al Pacino as title character Tony 'Scarface' Montana, Steven Bauer as Manolo 'Manny Ray' Ribera, and Michelle Pfeiffer's breakthrough performance as Tony's love interest (and eventual wife) Elvira 'Elvie' Hancock.

There are numerous iconic Scarface movie scenes, including the infamous line delivered by Pacino: "Say hello to my little friend." Throughout Scarface, smoking is an ever-present theme, with Pacino drawing on lit cigars almost constantly.

With that in mind, let's dive into the plot of this classic cigar movie, some of the most famous Scarface smoking scenes, and try to decide what, if anything, is the ultimate 'Scarface cigar'.

The plotline

Tony arrives in Miami, Florida, after leaving Cuba in 1980. He is placed in a refugee camp along with Manny, his best friend, and two other companions, Angel and Chi-Chi. After murdering a former Cuban general at the request of Miami drug lord Frank Lopez, the four are rewarded with green cards and enter into a life of crime.

At a meeting with Lopez, Tony sees Elvie for the first time. She is Frank's wife, but as the movie progresses, Tony's wealth and influence begin to grow, and he eventually marries Elvie after having Manny shoot Frank dead. Meanwhile, Tony meets cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa during a trip to Bolivia. Sosa likes Tony and agrees to work with him, but warns Tony never to betray him.

The finale (spoilers!)

Events begin to spiral out of control as Tony is destined for prison on a charge of tax evasion. He strikes a deal with Sosa to avoid jail time by killing an activist planning to expose Sosa's drug operation, but the New York City assassination attempt is derailed when the intended victim is accompanied by his wife and children, and ultimately the activist is able to make his information public.

On his return to Florida, Tony finds his younger sister Gina with Manny. Having previously warned Manny to stay away from her, Tony is enraged and fatally shoots Manny just as Sosa's men invade his Miami estate, seeking revenge for Tony's failure in New York. A firefight ensues, ending with Tony being shot from behind and falling dead into the fountain.

Cigar smoking scenes in Scarface

Almost all Scarface movie scenes are legendary, with witty and quotable dialog, intense action, and gritty realism. There are also many scenes of smoking. We've picked out a few of our favorites below.

The Babylon Club

Tony is seen smoking a cigarette 15 minutes into the movie, but it's not until 35 minutes that he smokes his first cigar. That's when he, Frank Lopez, and Elvie go to the Babylon Club, accompanied by Manny and Lopez's right-hand man, Omar Suarez.

It's the movie's first scene of real luxury, and a chance to see Pacino's Scarface smoking the dark cigars that become a hallmark of his character. Eyes wide at the $550 champagne, he puffs on one stick while jokingly offering another from his pocket to Lopez.

Heading Home

Three months later, we see Tony visit his mother and sister Gina. He is dressed in an expensive new suit, similar to those worn by Frank and Omar at the Babylon Club, and smoking another of the dark-wrapped cigars.

After offering his mother $1,000, she throws him out, suspicious of how he earned the money. "Take this lousy money with you," she says, "it stinks." Gina follows him outside, where he gives her the money, still puffing on his cigar.

The Bathtub Scene

In one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, Tony relaxes in a huge circular bathtub, puffing on a cigar with another resting in a large shell-shaped ashtray on the edge of the tub.

Throughout the scene, Tony chats with Manny, who is sitting by the tub, while Elvira – who Tony calls 'Bubblehead' – trades jibes with the bathing drug lord.

A fun detail is how Pacino keeps the cigar well away from the water at all times, but holds the TV remote barely above the bath bubbles – a sure sign that Tony values his smokes more than his electronics.

What type of cigars are smoked in Scarface?

It's difficult to say what the definitive Scarface cigar is, for several reasons. Tony Montana is a fictional character loosely based on Al Capone, so there are no real-life records to turn to. In the original 1930 novel by Armitage Trail, the title character is instead named Tony Guarino.

Because Scarface was filmed in Los Angeles in 1983 and is set after the 1980 Mariel boatlift, the mass immigration of Cubans into the US, both the fictional world depicted and the real-world filming will have been subject to the US embargo on Cuban tobacco.

It's likely the character would smoke illegally imported Cuban cigars, but it's unlikely they were used during production. A likely substitute is Cohiba Cigars, a brand originally started by Fidel Castro for himself and his generals.

Is Cohiba Black the 'Scarface cigar'?

It's also worth noting the original novel makes several references to "black" cigars, and those seen in the movie are quite dark in color. We think Cohiba Black is probably a close match, with its dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and thick vitolas.

Place your order today and start practicing your new catchphrase: "Say hello to my gigantic friend!"

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