11 Movie Posters You Didnt Know Were Inspired By Famous Paintings

When you see them next to each other, the resemblance becomes obvious.

I'm one of those people who love to wander around the movie theater, looking at the posters. It's one of my favorite things to do, especially because it gives me something to do as I wait for my friends, who are always late. One day, as I waited for them to arrive, I took my time looking at the posters. One in particular, the documentary, Waste Land (2010), caught my attention. I don't know why, but I stared at it for a couple of minutes, and the image echoed in my mind for a long time, even throughout the movie I went to watch. It's not that I was really interested in watching the movie on the poster: it was just that the poster resembled something very familiar, but I just couldn’t make the connection at first. Then, later that night, I had one of those delayed revelations that comes out of nowhere, while I was trying to fall asleep: “It’s Jacques-Louis David's painting!” I thought. As it turns out, many movie posters are inspired by famous paintings, like, for instance, “The Death of Marat,” which was used in the poster I saw. If you hadn’t noticed this, the following list of painting-inspired posters will make you appreciate the artistic value behind the films’ publicity.

Jacques-Louis David: The Death of Marat

Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam

This painting is - not surprisingly - used as a reference in movies since the image of God creating life has always been associated with Michelangelo's masterpiece. Usually mocked in films and TV shows, we can see how this painting on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling served as inspiration for the posters of movies like E.T. (1982) and Bruce Almighty (2003).

Salvador Dalí: Face of Mae West

Dali’s painting is immediately recognized in this poster for the movie The Fall (2006). We can see that there is a red mask and framed eyes in both images. Plus, there is a pair of red lips used in the surrealist painting that was clearly mimicked in the movie poster. It’s almost impossible not to relate both images since they both have the striking eyes of a woman as the main focal point.

Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night

Without a doubt, this painting can be easily recognized on the poster for Midnight in Paris (2011). I personally believe that the reference suits the movie perfectly because the French painting illustrates a nighttime setting. Although van Gogh’s painting doesn’t depict the city of Paris, but rather the commune of Saint-Rémy de Provence, the message from the marketing team behind the movie poster is clearly spot on.

John Everett Millais: Ophelia

This painting inspired the movie poster for Melancholia (2011), and although it's a little hard to associate both images at first, once you put both pictures next to each other you come to realize the message that was intended to be illustrated here. In the painting by the British artist, Ophelia is a character from William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, shown carried by the current of the river after committing suicide. In the poster, the character is shown in the same way, but directly from a frontal angle, while wearing a white wedding dresses. The use of the painting in the poster also has something to do with the stories behind the characters.

Caspar David Friedrich: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

This painting was completed in 1818, and it's considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of Romanticism by the German artist. We can see that this man standing on top of the mountain looking out into the foggy landscape inspired the movie posters for Oblivion (2013) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).

These movie posters tell us how influential art has been over many generations. The powerful images these artists left in our heads still echo in our culture and pop up quite frequently. This tells us that art can inspire many things in life that aren't necessarily related to paintings, but something as simple as a piece of marketing material. So, next time you walk down the halls of a movie theater, take the time to appreciate these posters. They might have been inspired by a famous work of arrt, and you could be one of the few to notice it.


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