ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

While countless artists and artworks have been inspired by past masters, you may not have realized that many of your favorite films, particularly horror films, have also found inspiration in art!

Take a look at some of the original artworks behind the films and see if you can notice the similarities:

The Empire of Lights (René Magritte) inspired The Exorcist

According to the 1998 documentary The Fear of God: 25 Years of "The Exorcist," Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan's mother Chris MacNeil, stated the poster for The Exorcist was directly inspired by Magritte's artwork. It's easy to see that the image of the lone lamppost, along with the single lit window has been directly copied in The Exorcist poster.

Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 (Diane Arbus) inspired The Shining

There's no denying the striking similarities between this famous photograph and Stanley Kubrick's famous horror film. Kubrick actually studied under the photographer, Diane Arbus, during his time at Look magazine in the 1940s, though that was 20 years before her famous photograph was taken.

There is some debate about whether or not the photo influenced the film, Kubrick's widow claims the similarities are purely coincidental. However the photograph was taken 13 years before the film was released, so you could assume that Kubrick may have seen it once or twice before making the film, surely enough time for some influence.

Study After Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (Francis Bacon) inspired Alien

Alien is one film which is, some what surprisingly, extremely influenced by art! H.R. Giger worked on the film (and its sequels) as a designer who among many designs, created the Alien creature. Giger himself was a famous Surrealist painter, and his own works influenced how he created the Alien. However, Giger's own work was in turn inspired by Francis Bacon's artwork, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait Of Pope Innocent X, an artwork based on the Velázquez masterpiece.

Who would have thought that the film Alien drew inspiration not just from a 17th Century artist (Velázquez), but two 20th Century ones (Giger and Bacon) as well!

The Great Red Dragon (William Blake) inspired Red Dragon and Manhunter

The book that these two films were based on was heavily inspired by William Blake's imposing biblical artwork. In the films and book, the character of serial killer Francis Dolarhyde was so obsessed with William Blake's Dragon that he had it tattooed on his back. Dolarhyde also took up bodybuilding to become as psychically strong as the dragon in the painting. Dolarhyde believed that with each victim, he comes closer to 'becoming the Dragon.' Part way through the film, Dolarhyde even tries to stop the Dragon's "possession" of him by going to the museum where the painting is on display and eating the original Blake painting.

House by the Railroad (Edward Hopper) inspired Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock was heavily inspired by Edward Hopper artworks (his famous Nighthawks is probably a painting most of you are familiar with) and Psycho is probably Hitchcock's most Hopper-esque film.

Not only was the house in Psycho modeled after House by the Railroad, but Hitchcock also considered the character Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) to be a living version of a Hopper painting. In Hopper's works the characters often appear isolated or deeply involved in their thoughts within a confined space. This was the spirit that Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins tried to capture when filming scenes involving Norman Bates.

Saturn Devouring His Son (Francisco Goya) inspired Pan's Labyrinth

In a column written for The Guardian in 2006, Guillermo del Toro discussed the various art influences on the dark fantasy film:

There is a scene in which the Pale Man bites the heads off the fairies. That comes straight from Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring his son.

del Toro also stated that Arthur Rackham's illustrations were another big influence on the film, especially seen in the environment, writing:

You can see it in the big, knotted, primal trees.

The Scream (Edvard Munch) inspired Scream

This influence was a little more indirect that the others, but the mask that was made famous by Wes Cravens 1990s slasher film Scream was inspired by Edvard Munch's famous art work. Brigitte Sleiertin, a Fun World employee, created the mask in 1992 as part of a "Fantastic Faces" series of masks. One of these masks was later chanced upon in an abandoned house, by Scream producer Marianne Maddalena as she scouted for filming locations.


Which movie/art work inspiration surprised you the most?

Source: Flavorwire, Empire, Spinoff Online


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