You’ve reached my OLD WEBSITE. For an updated version of this post, please visit: https://stephaniestorey.com/blog/top-10-must-see-movies-about-art-history
It’s movie season! And not Oscar-contender season, but summertime — good ole fashioned blockbuster, crowd-pleasing movie season. This year we’re talking Jurassic World, Pixar’s Inside/Out, Magic Mike XXL, a new Terminator and Mission Impossible, plus (my favorite so far) Melissa McCarthy’s Spy.
Now, in addition to movies, I also happen to love a good story about great art — however, those movies often don’t belong amongst Marvel Comic heroes and Terminators…
But the movies on this list do. Here’s my list of big, plotty, exciting, crowd-pleasing movies about art — that actually raked in the dough at the box office. So, if you want to dial up a bucket of popcorn, an action-flick, AND a little art — tune into THIS list.
Who says there’s no money in Art History??
1. The Da Vinci Code (2006). Come on. Love it or hate it, you know it has to top my list (It’s grossed over 750 MILLION worldwide). Tom Hanks plays symbologist Robert Langdon trying to solve a murder in the Louvre — with clues hidden in the art. This movie makes art history more exciting than even I knew it could be. From the same series of books by Dan Brown, you can also catch Angels and Demons (2009) and Inferno, scheduled to be released in the fall of 2016.
2. Oceans Twelve (2004). George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, over 360 million at the box office worldwide — and art? Yes, in the sequel to Oceans 11, Danny Ocean and his gang try to steal the coveted Faberge Imperial Coronation Egg. Okay, maybe not exactly a Rembrandt, but to many, Faberge eggs are the very definition of ART. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to watch one of the Ocean’s blockbusters again this summer?
3. Entrapment (1999). Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery, this sexy art heist movie pulled in over $200,000,000 at box offices around the globe. It’s full of high-tech thievery — and this time it IS an actual Rembrandt on the hook. Plus, there’s solid chemistry between Connery and Zeta-Jones. This blockbuster mixes sex, action, crime, and — yes — art.
4. Moulin Rouge! (2001). This Baz Luhrmann musical is big, stylish, and unexpected — plus, it took home over 175 million from the box office. Set at the Moulin Rouge in Paris at the turn of the 19th century, it features the wildly entertaining post-impressionist painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Okay, maybe not your standard summertime blockbuster, but it is BIG and IS somewhat reminiscent of a comic book at times. Plus, it is the very definition of the word “spectacle.” (There was also a John Huston-directed version in 1952 — starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. It’s not a musical – but if you like Toulouse-Lautrec, it’s also a good classic flick)
5. The Monuments Men (2014). George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray go on a death-defying hunt to recover art stolen by the Nazis. Pulling in over $150 mil worldwide, this flick has it all: war, death, love, big-time movie stars — and treasure troves of art. The critics might not have loved it, but this movie is one good action-filled trip through the world of war and art.
6. Thomas Crown Affair (1999). Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo star in this thriller about a rich playboy who amuses himself by stealing art — including a Monet from the MET. The 1999 version — which brought in over $120 million worldwide — is a remake of the 1968 version starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Either version should fulfill your need for exciting, popular entertainment. 1999 – with both Entrapment and Thomas Crown was a banner year for art heist flicks.
7. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. Do I need say more? Okay fine, I will: As Michelangelo (all sweaty and angsty) struggles to paint the Sistine Ceiling he also battles against his patron, Pope Julius II (played by Rex Harrison). Based on Irving Stone’s bestselling novel, it’s one of those big, epic classic Hollywood histories — that still plays on cable. You’ve never seen two egos do battle like this — and you may never see it again. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this, and dial it up on Netflix. Right now. (For another Irving Stone novel worthy of a Hollywood Epic, check out Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in 1956’s Lust for Life.)
7. Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003). Need some good ole bodice-ripping action in your blockbuster? Try this movie starring Colin Firth as the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson as the girl with that pearl earring in his famous painting… She was his servant, assistant and model — and then became, well, you know. It may not satisfy a teenaged boy’s definition of blockbuster — but it will most certainly satisfy any romantic’s need for the story of an illicit love affair behind a beautiful painting (which pulled in a respectable $31 million at the box office).
8. Once a Thief (1991). Box office numbers are unavailable, but it’s by director John Woo – and I know some who really need their John Woo action fix to complete their summer. This movie revolves around high-tech thieves who specialize in stealing priceless works of art.
Art that appeals to the masses. This is a list I LOVE.
Can you think of others that fit the “blockbuster” billing? Please – comment below!