What is it?
Purpose, disclaimer, and acknowledgments
The Art Historians' Guide to the Movies is a record of appearances of and references to famous works of art and architecture in the movies. It is intended to be a source for teachers of art history who are considering showing clips or entire films as part of their presentation of the traditional arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Citations are arranged in (very) approximate chronological order of the artworks, not the movies (the order I deemed most useful for teachers looking for sources on particular art-historical subjects).
"Historians" in the title is plural precisely because this list is the result of the shared knowledge of many art historians, initially all members of the CAAH electronic mailing-list (see "Origins"). The Guide demonstrates the potential of the Internet for information sharing. The accuracy and thoroughness of the Guide depends on contributions from all: if you have a citation that you think would fit, please send it in (see "How to submit a citation").
Please note that it is beyond my capacity to verify the citations I've received from others (until a grant is forthcoming to finance it!). Use of information or recommendations contained herein is at your own risk. Corrections or clarifications are certainly welcome.
Lastly, the films on which the Guide focuses almost never have the historically accurate presentation of art as a priority. There's a reason why "Hollywood" has become shorthand for "fake" -- in fact art historians seem to delight in finding the forgeries and impossible spaces (e.g., a character walks into one building and then is shown in the interior of another). Anyone intrigued by the way that the film medium can increase our understanding of a work of art but for whom more art-historically accurate and informative material is desired should be directed not to the movies listed here but to documentaries (of which there are many excellent examples).
Thanks go first to the many contributors to this site. Dr. Marilyn Aronberg Lavin of Princeton University should also be commended for organizing the CAAH e-mail list, the source for the idea and much of the content of this site. Lastly, the film titles, dates, and links are courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.
Search the site
You can use Google to search the site effectively by adding your search terms to the search box here.
submit a citation
If you have a citation to add to the Art Historians' Guide to the Movies, please submit it! Please read the following guidelines before submitting:
- The original purpose of the Guide is to be a tool for art history teachers, so submissions should be films that would be useful to show in an art history classroom. For example, a clip showing spies chasing each other through a famous church would be useful if it showed the space of the building well. A brief establishing shot in which the dome of the famous church is vaguely visible in the skyline would be considerably less useful.
- For the same reasons of usefulness, the submitted movies should be readily available in video rental stores or university media libraries.
- Comments of reasonable length on the film are welcome and will be included with all citations. Teachers who have used movies in their classrooms are especially encouraged to include a record of their experiences.
- Citations should be as accurate as possible. Please verify your information, including the correct title of the movie (e.g., search for it in The Internet Movie Database). If you can determine the permanent URL for the movie in the IMDb, include that with your submission.
To submit a citation, send it via e-mail to me. Use "MOVIE GUIDE SUBMISSION" as your subject line and include the section of this site that you think would be appropriate for your movie in the text of the message. Send the message to email@example.com. Thanks in advance for your contribution, and for helping to make the Guide more complete.
Origins of the guide
This all began as a query I posted on March 31, 1997 to the Consortium for Art and Architectural Historians (CAAH), an electronic mailing-list:
I've had success spicing up my intro art history lectures with clips from famous movies which involve monuments that we're studying. Most recently I showed Roger Moore sneaking around an Egyptian hypostyle hall as James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Silly as it was, it actually presented the space of the temple more clearly than slides could.
Can anyone on CAAH suggest other Hollywood glimpses of standard survey monuments? The Agony and the Ecstasy and Lust for Life are more obvious examples useful for lectures on Michelangelo and van Gogh, respectively (not for a better look at the works, but as starting points for examining the mythologies surrounding those romanticized artists).
Another example came to me as I leafed through the Roman architecture chapter of Gardner: the Treasury at Petra was used (facade only) for the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Any others out there?
This request generated a flood of responses, far more than I had ever seen on the list. At the request of a number of subscribers, I have taken excerpts from those responses and organized them into this Guide.
If you are an art historian and are interested in joining CAAH, e-mail Dr. Marilyn Aronberg Lavin (moderator) with the subject line "CAAH Subscription Request." Your message must state your specific field(s) of interest in the history of art or architecture and your university affiliation.
About the creator
I am Craig Eliason, associate professor of modern art history at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. For more information, see my faculty information page at UST.