10 of the Best Art Films You Need to Watch
Biopics, documentaries, films that merely mention an artist – the list of art-focused flicks is long and ever-expanding. It’s only natural that artists with renowned and notorious stories would continue to inspire other art forms through the ages! Craving a fix of art-infused cinematography? Look no further – our picks of the best art films to watch (at least once!) will keep your appetite for all things art at bay.
Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen’s iconic feature Midnight in Paris is a tale of an aspiring novelist as he journeys back in time. Set in the capital of France, a city historically steeped in culture and innovative movements in art, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) takes to exploring the city through the lens of the past. Amongst his wanders through pioneering eras such as the 1920s, he meets the famous figures of that time – Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, to name a few.
Is it possible to have a list of must-see art films without Frida Kahlo in there? Nope. With an enthralling portrayal by Salma Hayek, biopic Frida takes us through the professional and private endeavours of the Mexican painter, who nowadays, needs no further introduction. As one of the most gifted surrealist artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo’s life was far from easy. This unmissable film gives us the chance to see first-hand the twists and turns of her hardships.
Loving Vincent broke new grounds of film production in 2017 as the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. The result of the 10-year odyssey in creating the film is a visual delight. More than 100 artists from all over the world created the 65,000 paintings that make up Loving Vincent, with an intriguing storyline to boot.
Back in 2010, world-renowned graffiti artist Banksy left his mark on the side of a building in San Francisco. This quickly sparked aversion by the local council, and a bid to save the piece from being destroyed. Saving Banksy documents this true story and explores the evolution of graffiti into street art, and the growing practice of art dealers removing street art and selling it without the artist’s permission.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
In a documentary where Banksy himself becomes the directer, Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film tells the story of a French immigrant in Los Angeles with a passion for street art. In a chance encounter, Thierry Guetta, the main character, starts to meet the street artists local to the area, as he evolves to becoming a street artist himself.
Through the letters, interviews and photos that span over his career, Brett Whiteley’s life and legacy is brought into focus in this documentary. His own artistic mission of shocking his audience and reaching lofty heights within the art community, ultimately resulted in his downfall. See his cutting-edge artworks embedded in context, in order to gauge the long-lasting effect he had on the art community.
At Eternity’s Gate
Okay, we know that there’s two Van Gogh films here, but hear us out: both provide their own somewhat embellished take on the Dutch painter’s life. Each offers a dramatic slant, yet they are largely presented in different ways. At Eternity’s Gate is set during the final years of the artist’s life and takes a gentle look at the painter and his art. At times, it’s easy to forget this is Willem Dafoe, and not Van Gogh; so much so, in 2018 Dafoe was nominated for his performance in the lead role at the Venice Film Festival.
Finding Vivian Maier
The critically acclaimed documentary Finding Vivian Maier tells the tale of a mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers. Decades later, these images were discovered, and Vivian Maier has since been recognised as one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers. Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, Maier’s strange yet compelling life and art are revealed through never before seen photographs, films, and interviews with the people who thought they knew her best.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
A quick Google search will bring up plenty of Basquiat docos and short features to watch, but The Radiant Child is our pick of the bunch. A well-conceived portrait of arguably the most celebrated American painter of the neo-expressionism movement, this documentary shines the spotlight on Jean-Michel Basquiat. Extensive interviews conducted by Basquiat’s friend Tamra Davis lends an insightful glance into the life of a black artist in a predominantly white field. The close relationship Basquiat held with Andy Warhol, as well as his dealings with fame and censure, are discussed throughout.
Girl With a Pearl Earring
An adaptation of Tracy Chevalier’s book, this tale brings to life the legendary 17th century portrait by Johannes Vermeer. The named artist (Colin Firth) becomes enamoured with his subject Griet (Scarlett Johannsson). With time, Vermeer and Griet continue to work on the painting together, as Vermeer’s family begin to harbour contempt over the arrangement.
By no means a definitive list, we’re always on the look-out for more art flicks! Why not tell us your favourites in the comments below?