The art world has always served as a prolific source of inspiration for the film industry. From artist biopics exploring the life and work of artists and art documentaries to movies that simply feature art as a central theme, movies about art can be truly fascinating, often bringing together drama, adventure, and politics that make up the world of art.
After the 2019 release of Netflix's art horror film Velvet Buzzsaw, which made the art world scream, we decided to bring you a list of movies to watch about art which feature art as a central theme. Be sure to also check out our lists of must-see art history movies, artist biopics, artist documentaries and Street art movies.
Netflix has released a creepy new film which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and everybody's talking about it. The latest work by Dan Gilroy, the author of Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw is a story about a feared critic, an icy gallery owner and an ambitious assistant who snap up a stash of paintings by the recently deceased artist - with dire consequences.
Featuring an all-star cast which includes Jack Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and John Malkovich, the film is a horror-thriller set in the high stakes contemporary art world where a dying wish of a hermit painter to remain anonymous is ignored and his paintings become immediately exploited by the art market. As a consequence, the paintings of the late artist become deadly. The character of the painter is loosely based on life and work of a janitor and outsider artist Henry Darger, whose works brought fortune to his landlords after his death, while Gyllenhaal commented that he based much of his character, the critic Morf Vandewalt, on real-life art critic Jerry Saltz.
A 2014 war film directed by George Clooney, and written and produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov, The Monuments Men is a story of an unlikely World War II platoon which is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, it features a team of misfits comprised of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians who are attempting to make an impossible mission possible. Racing against time, they are trying to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture. The all-star cast includes George Clooney, Bill Murrey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman.
A 2011 fantasy comedy film written and directed by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris features a nostalgic screenwriter who, while on a trip to Paris with his fiancée's family, finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.
During his nocturnal time-travels, he runs into Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at an elegant soiree, gets writing advice from a laconic Hemingway and meets artists such as Salvador Dalí, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, Josephine Baker, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray and others in the cast of bohemian characters that comprised the Parisian 1920s avant-garde scene. The film stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Carla Bruni among others.
A 2006 comedy-drama film directed by Terry Zwigoff, Art School Confidential is loosely based on the comic of the same name by Daniel Clowes. It is a second collaboration between Zwigoff and Clowes who previously worked together on Ghost World.
The film follows Jerome, played by Max Minghella, an art student who aspires to become the greatest artist in the world and getting all the girls. Arriving at college filled with idealism and hope, he soon gives away to cynicism and mounting despair amid the misery, grasping ambition, and loathsome pretension of art-school life, as it turns out to be just as crass and phony as anywhere else. Minghella's co-stars include Sophie Myles, Matt Keesler, John Malkovich and Anjelica Huston.
A 2013 psychological thriller written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, The Best Offer follows a lonely high-end auction-house proprietor called Virgil Oldman, played by Geoffrey Rush, who leads one of those sinuously classy lifestyles. As the story develops, he falls in love with an agoraphobic young woman with a collection to sell, who has locked herself inside a secret room in a crumbling villa. The plot becomes a complicated intrigue with an amorphous atmosphere of neurosis, wealth, and sophistication, interrogating notions of art, beauty, love, truth and falsity.
A 1999 American heist film directed by John McTiernan, The Thomas Crown Affair follows Thomas Crown, played by Pierce Brosnan, who is a self-made billionaire who can buy anything he wants while being irresistible to women. However, begin rich and bored, he decides to steal a Monet painting just for the fun of it. This $100 million art work theft becomes foreplay between Crown and an insurance investigator named Catherine Banning, played by Rene Russo - two people who are both more interested in the theft than in each other. The film is a retread of Norman Jewison's 1968 film, which starred Steve McQueen as a millionaire bank robber opposite Faye Dunaway.
A film by John Crowley that will be coming to theaters in October 2019, The Goldfinch is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Donna Tartt. It is a story of a young boy from New York whose mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and grows up in possession of a world-famous Fabritius painting that he steals from the New York museum while in shock from the attack.
After being taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family, his life becomes a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. The film brings a cast which includes Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Ansel Elgort and Luke Wilson.
One of the most talked-about art movies of 2017, The Square is directed by Swede Ruben Östlund and is based on an actual installation piece made by him and Kalle Boman. The movie follows a curator from Stockholm named Christian (played by Claes Bang) who finds himself in a deep crisis amid a controversy which sparked regarding an art exhibit that he is about to open. Tackling topics of political correctness and freedom of speech in the art world in a satirical way, the movie was very well received by the critics, and it even won the prestigious Palme d’Or award. Of particular mention is “the dinner scene”, the view of which you can see in the photo above. The movie also employed famous American actors Dominic West and Elizabeth Moss.