Movies & TV

10 Iconic Movie Moments That Were Actually Inspired by Art

Guess you can say picture-perfect.
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Throughout history, artists have been inspired by other artists. It doesn't matter what medium or form it takes, art is always (well, most of the time) referential—and that includes film, too. To prove our point, we've rounded up some of the greatest films that have literally brought paintings to life. From Joker to Scream, here are 10 iconic movie moments and scenes that were actually inspired by art. Seriously, it's like you can play spot the difference with these!

Joker, Self-Portrait by Egon Schiele

Todd Phillips' Joker was one of the biggest box office hits of 2019. With Joaquin Phoenix's spectacular and show-stopping performance as Arthur Fleck, he tells the story of how a failed comedian slowly descends into madness, transforming into the criminal mastermind known as Joker. Accompanied by the great cinematography and mise en scène, people, including the official art gallery page of Egon Schiele, were quick to point out the uncanny resemblance of Arthur Fleck's scenes with a wide collection of Egon Schiele's Self-Portrait. The MET describes the series of Schiele's artworks as searing and psychologically complex, showing the emaciated, bony and angular, tortured figure of the artist. Talk about embodying character!

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Shutter Island, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Leonardo di Caprio's stellar performance as Edward "Teddy" Daniels and Michelle Williams' Dolores Chanal in Shutter Island left viewers dumbfounded and horrified by its intensity, especially of the last few scenes. Aside from the surprising twist, who would've guessed that the scene was actually inspired by Gustav Klimt's painting of The Kiss? An archetype of strong tenderness and passion, this work of art is a perfect reference between the two characters' relationship: lovers bound in an unbreakable embrace, though threatened to disappear forever.

Shirley: Visions of Reality, New York Movie by Edward Hopper

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New York Movie is just one of the paintings that director Gustav Deutsch brought to life through the film, Shirley: Visions of Reality. Meant to showcase 13 of Edward Hopper's works of art, the film tells the story of Shirley throughout the '30s, '40s, '50s, and early '60s. Deutsch offers viewers a means to observe Shirley's thoughts, emotions, and motivations during different eras in American history.

The Witch, Vuelo de brujas by Francisco de Goya

With an exceptional knack for horror, Robert Eggers' direction of The Witch won the Empire Award for Best Horror in 2017. The movie tells the tale of a Puritan family banished from their homeland, where they are forced to live by the edge of a huge remote forest where no other family lives. Anya Taylor-Joy's breakthrough performance of Thomasin, her character explores a sinister coming-of-age film set in 17th century New England. Eggers replicates Francisco de Goya's Vuelo de brujas (The witches' flight) for the last scene, where Thomasin makes a deal with the devil and meets with the other hidden witches of the forest, ascending to the height of their power.

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The Truman Show, Architecture au clair de lune by René Magritte

René Magritte's work has is closely tied to the 1998 Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show. In the last scene where Truman gains his freedom from the shackles of his fabricated reality, we see him climb up a well-proportioned set of stairs with a sky blue backdrop, closely resembling Margritte's art. 

Midsommar, Head of a Bacchante by Annie Swynnerton

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Midsommar is a movie known for its bright pastels, enchanting set designs, and… sinister rituals. From paintings foreshadowing the ancestral commune's traditions to white flowy dresses, director Ari Aster was praised for his ability to induce anxiety, telling stories that have a contrasting relationship with their visuals. Florence Pugh plays Dani Ardor, the very vulnerable and psychologically traumatized girlfriend of Christian (Jack Reynor). In the last few scenes where Dani is named May Queen, she looks upon the people of Harga. As a last form of vengeance, she burns her boyfriend Christian in a bear carcass in the yellow house at the end of the field.

Similar to the women of Harga who participated in the annual Maypole Dance, the Bacchantes were female followers of the Roman God Bacchus (the Greek Dionysus) who could dance to an ecstatic frenzy wearing wreaths of the God's sacred plant, ivy, and were capable of enacting great violence and punishment upon their enemies. An absolute relevant parallel.

Django Unchained, The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

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Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained takes inspiration from The Blue Boy, a joyful role reversal of centuries' worth of racism. The Blue Boy has been used as a reference in many films, creating an array of meanings. We cheer for Django as he breaks his chains and saves the woman he loves from confederate slave owners, and although fictitious, we celebrate the symbolism of the blue suit as a nostalgic ode to the privileged white man and Django's rise to freedom.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

The birth of Venus is probably one of the most popular paintings of all time. In fact, director Terry Gilliam has a particular fascination with it. The moment he met Uma Thurman, he was completely captivated by her, comparing her to Venus, "the ideal woman." Ironically, Gilliam doesn't take the painting seriously and notes that it's a hilarious painting to look at. He pokes fun at Venus' static and elegant body, making a jab that looks like an unrealistic commercial for shampoo. No harm in a little fun, right?

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The Lighthouse, Hypnosis by Sascha Schneider

Spotlight again on Robert Eggers, who confirmed two years ago that Hypnosis by Sascha Schneider was a direct point of reference for this scene in the black-and-white movie Lighthouse. During one of Thomas Howard's, played by Robert Pattinson, hallucinations, Thomas Wake, played by Willem Dafoe, shoots a blinding light directly on Howard's eyes. Apparently, it was meant to symbolize dominance and masculinity. Eggers acknowledges the visual influence of the "mythic paintings in homoerotic style" that eventually became perfect candidates that worked their way onto the script.

Scream, The Scream by Edvard Munch

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A true cult classic and favorite of horror enthusiasts, the Scream franchise's inspiration for the iconic mask and title don't stray too far from Edvard Munch's timeless painting of The Scream in 1893. The Scream isn't just a product of stress and panic—it symbolizes a period when Munch experienced darkly troubled times as he dealt with severe mental illness and trauma. It seems only fitting, considering that slasher films aim to elevate the suspense in every scene, that, well, can leave you screaming out of fright.

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