25 Don’t-Miss Movies About Artists
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25 Movies About Artists to Inspire You
I don’t know about you, but I love watching movies about famous artists. As an artist myself, I always come away after watching films about artists with a feeling that I’m part of a larger community, one that shares the same struggles and challenges I face when it comes to making art. These movies also inspire me to keep going or to try new things. That’s why I thought it was important to put together my favorite artist movies to share with you. There are probably tons more that I’ve left off this list, but these are the movies that have made an impression on me, not just as an artist but as a person. So, pop some corn, curl up in front of your favorite streaming service, and get lost in the world of the artists who changed the way we see and create art.
Must-See Art Movies
Before I get started I would like to apologize if I’ve left your favorite film off this list. Because of the dramatic nature of each artist’s life, they have been the subject of movies for years and I know there are so many more that are not mentioned here. Also, these movies are in alphabetical order, not in order of my favorites. Honestly, all of them are my favorite!
At Eternity's Gate
Willem Dafoe looks eerily like the real Vincent Van Gogh in this film that takes us through the famed artist’s last days. It’s always been thought that Van Gogh ended his own life, but this movie gives another reason for his death. I especially loved seeing the landscapes, people, and flowers that inspired his works and feeling like I was there with him.
This is about the truth of who actually painted those wide-eyed children that were so popular in the 1950s and 1960s. I won’t spoil it for you, since feeling the injustice of it all is one of the best parts of the movie. Let me just say that Amy Adams is spectacular.
This is the quintessential tormented artist story about the other brilliant Michelangelo (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio), known as Carravaggio. The Caravaggio movie is as rich and dramatic as his paintings and well worth watching for a historical and artistic perspective.
You might want to add this one to your own list of Christmas movies, I know I did after I saw it. It tells the tale of a young Thomas Kincaide whose Christmas vacation from college becomes a story about finding his artistic voice and in turn, helping his mother. It’s touching, sweet, and very inspirational; after all, it is a Hallmark movie.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
So who is Bansky? In his usual elusive way, this documentary–which he directed–gives us a look into the world of elite graffiti artists as it follows one in particular through his journey. Banksy even makes an appearance, if you can call it that since his face and voice are obscured. I came away with a yearning to cut out a stencil and sneak out at night to paint, but the best I could do was make some “safer” paintings indoors using the artists in this movie as my motivation.
We get an insider’s view into Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory in this story that’s as much about the artistic aspirations of a doomed ‘60s socialite as it is about Warhol’s art. This film is based on true events and shows what happens when a wealthy debutante becomes the muse of a famous artist and discovers the sacrifices she’s made for his art will be her biggest regret.
What a fun and funny movie this is! When the famous painter, Alberto Giacometti, decides he wants to paint the portrait of the writer James Lord in 1964, Lord, without realizing it, is drawn into the quirky, complex, and unsettling world of Giacometti as he gets a ringside seat to the artist’s process.
Salma Hayek’s unbelievable likeness to Frida Kahlo adds to the dramatic story of the life of one of the most famous artists of all time. From the crippling accident in her youth to her volatile relationship with artist Diego Rivera, to her rise to fame, you’ll have a deeper understanding of her life and her art after watching this film.
Gauguin - Voyage de Tahiti
Ever wanted to ditch your life, move to Tahiti, and paint all day? Here’s a man who did just that, but not without some pain and suffering. This movie tells the tale of Paul Gauguin and his search for a place far from civilization where he could be himself, find love, and make great art. It’s a journey you don’t want to miss.
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The mystery behind one of Vermeer’s most famous subjects is solved in this movie. Enter the Dutch Golden Age, where Johannes Vermeer paints rich interiors and uses light like no other painter at the time. It’s interesting to see how paint is made in the 1600s as well as the lifestyle of a middle-class painter, whose fame has not yet been established.
As an artist, this may be one of the most inspirational movies you’ll experience. It is a documentary about the life and art of Yayoi Kusama. This Japanese artist grew up in a conservative family in Japan who had little regard for her artistic tendencies. But, she knew that art would be her life and she never stopped believing that. The struggle was real, yet she overcame it to become one of the most influential artists of our time.
This film examines the relationship between a young Salvador Dahli and his classmate, the poet Federico García Lorca. It has long been speculated that they had a romantic affair. Later in life Dahli would say otherwise, but it certainly makes for a great plot of a movie.
Another examination of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh, only this time the entire movie is an animation done in the style of Van Gogh’s works. The impressionist oil paintings turned into animated scenes add to the poignancy of this tormented artist’s story. Worth watching for the way it’s been created.
Love, hate, passion, art: this film has it all! It is about the tumultuous relationship between two Danish painters, Marie and Peder Severin Krøyer, at the end of the 19th century. The scenery is luscious, which I particularly loved, as well as the paintings and all the drama between the characters.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
This documentary is not about a visual artist but it does show an artist willing to push the boundaries of what is considered art and for that reason, it’s worth a watch. Marina Abramovic is a performance artist and this film shows her work titled, “The Artist is Present,” at the Museum of Modern Art. Watch the reactions of those who sit across from Marina and engage in uninterrupted eye contact.
Michelangelo - Infinito
This is the biography of Michelangelo. Historically, it’s a must-see for artists, but I was more thrilled to see (thanks to the city of Florence and the Vatican) some of the actual works of Michelangelo. All aspiring artists should know the story of this genius, so in my opinion, this movie should be a requirement for all of us.
A young upstart writer and illustrator forgoes family tradition by aspiring to get her children’s book published, only to find rejection at every turn. Until one day, a small publisher takes a chance and it’s a win for all of us as the Tales of Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter become well-known worldwide. This is a delightful against-all-odds movie that shows an artist at work and her commitment to not stop until she gets what she desires. A lesson for us all.
This movie captures the angst of Amedeo Modigliani as he tries to compete with the famous Pablo Picasso. Along the way, we feel his pain and his passion as this charismatic painter finds his muse and paints the masterpieces he is known for today. My favorite parts are when he is at the canvas painting.
The foggy English terrain and sea made J.M.W. Turner one of the country’s most revered landscape painters of all time. This movie shows the last 25 years of his life after he became famous. To say he was eccentric is an understatement of this complex man who brought the world a new way of looking at the land and the sea. A fun period piece.
If you’ve ever doubted yourself as an artist, you’re not alone, and this film is a testimony that even the greats have their doubts. This movie shows the insecurity of Jackson Pollock as we watch the complicated evolution of his revolutionary art that changed the contemporary art scene forever. Although I love Pollack, I was more intrigued by his artist wife, Lee Krasner, who was willing to put her art aspirations on hold to promote her husband.
This film takes you to the French Riviera where the elderly Pierre-Auguste Renoir spent the end of his life. It is during World War I, his wife is dead, and his son returns wounded from the war. I love this movie because it takes you into this famous painter’s studio where he paints young models in his iconic impressionist style.
Who wouldn’t love this Cinderella story of a young maidservant, Séraphine "de Senlis" Louis, who faithfully paints each night after she’s worked all day for the French bourgeoisie. After decades of pursuing her craft, she is serendipitously “discovered” by a well-known German art dealer. If it had not been for his dedication to Séraphine’s art, we would not know who this legendary French painter is today.
This is the story of the woman who stayed with Picasso longer than any of the others. Françoise Gilot is a young art student who becomes the great painter’s lover. Throughout his tumultuous relationships with his ex-wife and an ex-lover, along with his continuous infidelities, Françoise remains by his side, giving him two children. But, she learns in the end that surviving Picasso means letting him go.
The Danish Girl
This movie shows the power of love to overcome every obstacle as a young Danish painter supports her husband, also a Danish artist, to live into who he was meant to be. It is based on the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, and shows the struggles Lili endures as one of the first men to receive sex reassignment surgery.
Vincent & Theo
Where other films may show the struggles an artist faces without the support of family, this film shows the struggles that can arise when a family member is as devoted to the work as the artist. Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, was the biggest champion the artist had. He spent most of his life trying to sell his brother’s work. But, in the end, it was Theo’s downfall. This movie of sibling loyalty is sadly ironic as fame only came after the brothers’ deaths.
Now that I’ve given you plenty of movies to binge watch, I’d love for you to tell me your favorites in the comments section below.