33 Incredible Mugshots Of Iconic Figures Throughout History

Published June 16, 2017
Updated May 9, 2024

From Kurt Cobain to Martin Luther King Jr., see some of history's most famous mugshots and learn why these iconic figures were arrested in the first place.

David Bowie Mugshot
Pablo Escobar Mugshot
Kurt Cobain Mugshot
Rosa Parks Mugshot
33 Incredible Mugshots Of Iconic Figures Throughout History
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If you believe that people only truly reveal themselves when the proverbial chips are down, there may be no truer form of portraiture than the mugshot.

A staple of Western police procedure dating back to the mid-19th century, the mugshot captures its recently arrested subjects at their most angry, vulnerable, defiant, or defeated — and therefore perhaps at their most honest.

Unlike the posed and polished studio portrait, the mugshot tests the mettle of its subjects during the very moment at which they've been backed into quite a corner.

This makes the mugshots of famous historical figures all the more interesting, as their commonly-seen portraits have often been edited to the nth degree.

In spite — or perhaps because of — their raw nature, the mugshots may also affirm what more traditional portraits of these iconic men and women have led us to believe about them.

If you think that, say, Martin Luther King Jr. was resolute courage personified, you'll find that in his 1956 mugshot. If you believe that Jim Morrison was a bumbling drunk, you'll likewise find that in his 1963 mugshot. Or if you believe that Bill Gates really is just a huge dork, you'll find that too.

As you look through more and more famous mugshots of notable artists, leaders, celebrities, and celebrity criminals of decades past, you indeed start to suspect that you're learning something about these people that most other kinds of photographs could never truly teach you.

After this look at famous mugshots, allow these historical mugshots to show you the birth of the booking photo all the way back in the 19th century. Then, read up on six famous acquittals of well-known and powerful people who probably got away with crimes like rape and murder.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kuroski, John. "33 Incredible Mugshots Of Iconic Figures Throughout History." AllThatsInteresting.com, June 16, 2017, https://allthatsinteresting.com/famous-mugshots. Accessed May 25, 2024.