Movies for Visual Artists

What’s the most inspiring movie you’ve ever seen? I don’t mean the one that inspired you to quit your job and go backpacking through the Andes, or the one that inspired you to shave your head and enter a monastery, or the one that inspired you to take the plunge, say “yes” to the proposal, and move to the suburbs to be a soccer mom. No, I mean the one movie that gave you so many ideas for Making Stuff that you’ve watched it at least half a dozen times, and every time you do, you get ideas for doing something new. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the art you make. For me, one of the most inspiring movies ever is The Fifth Element, and it’s not about writing or altering garments (although some of John-Paul Gaultier’s costumes were amazing. Nope. What did it for me was the floating boats, the ones that would come to your apartment and hover in the air while you bought stuff. I don’t even know what it is about those boats (I’m not a particular fan of boats), but they always make my brain speed up; you know, that part that gets excited about stuff even before it knows exactly what idea it’s getting excited about. That part. I also had to buy (so I can watch over and over again) Amelie, Dark City, Blade Runner , Lemony Snicket and Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil


So of course I asked my friends on Facebook to tell me the titles of the movie they’ve found most inspiring to visual artists. I asked them to tell us what they’d suggest to someone who was stuck in a rut and wanted inspiration, and here’s their list. Some of the movies, like these first few, especially, were mentioned over and over.


What Dreams May Come


Beauty Is Embarrassing

Pan’s Labyrinth

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Nanny McPhee

Across the Universe

Rivers and Tides

Enchanted April

The Red Violin

The Great Gatsby

Moulin Rouge

Frida and The Tempest

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Moonrise Kingdom

Lemony Snicket

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Far and Away

A Walk in the Clouds


The Dark Crystal


Days of Heaven

all the Harry Potter movies

The Fall

Off the Map

Bright Star

Cirque du Soleil movies: Quidam, Allegria, Dralion and Worlds Away

Cloud Atlas

The City of Lost Children

Daughters of the Dust



Shakespeare in Love

Three Musketeers

Marie Antoinette

The Cell





The Mummy with Rachel Weiz and Brendan Frazier

The Poirot series starring David Suchet

A Good Year

Out of Africa

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Alice in Wonderland (the one with Johnny Depp, of course)

Anything by Julie Taymor

Anything by Wes Anderson

All the Tim Burton movies

Anything out of Studio Ghibli


You’re still here? What are you waiting for? These should keep you watching—and finding inspiration—for a long, long time. Enjoy! And thanks to all those who took time to contribute their favorite movies: y’all are the BEST!

Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.

Declaration of You_160Declare what most inspires you with The Declaration of You! by Jessica Swift and Michelle Ward.





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2 Responses to Movies for Visual Artists

  1. So many of these movies are on my ‘all-time favorites’ list – fantastic choices!

  2. Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

    Aren’t they great? I’m making a list of ones I haven’t seen yet~~