The Best Picture – Color Magic at the Movies

movie posters: Wizard of Oz, Funny Face, Blue Velvet

Beloved Green, Pink and Blue movies. Images: (left) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; (center) Paramount Pictures; (right) De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Movies and color make an Oscar worthy pair. If you’re lacking inspiration or motivation in your quest for the perfect color I suggest you put down that paint brush and go to the movies. Bring the popcorn and get ready for some inspiration–in Technicolor.

movie inspired interiors

Benjamin Moore colors: Once Upon a Time 574; Spring Tulips 2001-30; Dark Royal Blue

Brilliant Green, Pink and Blue movie inspiration. Images: (left); (center); (right)

From the beginning of the 20th Century, color motion pictures have been inspiring us to color our own lives to match our screen fantasies.

Goldfinger movie image and gold exterior

Benjamin Moore color: Fools Gold PT-250

James Bond’s original Golden Girl would be quite happy in Acido Dorado, an all Gold house in the California desert. Images: (left); (right)

Once Dorothy landed in Oz, we’ve never looked back. Somehow, in a darkened theater, projected onto the silver screen, color is so seductive, sexy and truly a star.

Batman Gotham City black

Benjamin Moore color: Midnight Dream 2129-10

Batman’s Gotham City Black looks great in the country too. Images: (top) Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.; (bottom)

Hollywood has always known that. Even movie titles color the imagination:

The Red Shoes

How Green was my Valley

The Pink Panther

Yellow Submarine

Black Orpheus

White Christmas

Purple Rain

The great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s crimson-hued Cries and Whispers once inspired me to immediately repaint my formerly pale blue living room a rich velvety red.

Cries and Whispers crimson

Benjamin Moore color: Geranium 1307

Seeing Ingmar Bergman’s vivid Red “forced” me to paint my own living room Cries and Whispers crimson. Image:

And unlike poor Liv Ullmann in the film, it cheered me right up!

In the ‘50’s a comedic Frenchman named Jacques Tati won an Academy Award for a movie called Mon Oncle with virtually no dialogue.

Mon Oncle movie poster

Even the poster for the 1958 French movie Mon Oncle was boldly futuristic. Image:

Talking wasn’t necessary. The real stars of the show were the architecture, the interiors, and color!

Mon Oncle futuristic sets

Strikingly graphic sets and color replaced dialogue in Mon Oncle. Images:

This charming little flick caused a big trend in modern interiors with its embrace of graphic shots of color and very much allowed the bright crazy rooms and pop furniture of the following decades to happen.

Mon Oncle set and Memphis Group interior

Benjamin Moore colors: Green with Envy 2036-30; Tangy Orange 2014-30

This Jacques Tati film predicted interiors decades later with startling accuracy. The 1950’s film, top; and a 1980’s interior featuring furniture from the Memphis group, bottom. Images: (top); (bottom)

In the 1960’s, the miles and piles of glittery snow in Doctor Zhivago caused a rush on snow-white everything – especially icy white interiors.

Dr. Zhivago set and inspired interior

Benjamin Moore color: Baby’s Breath 873

Frosty White–straight from the movies. Images: (left) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer;  (right)

Under the Tuscan Sun from the beginning of the 21st Century caused a flurry of buttery, sunny shades thanks to Diane Lane and some warmly received art direction. And after just recently seeing Leonardo Dicaprio’s blush-toned linen suit in “The Great Gatsby, it’s going to be pretty hard not to paint that powder room powdery pink!

pink interiors inspired by Leonardo Dicaprio's tuxedo

Benjamin Moore colors: Unspoken Love 1269; Bubble Bath 1326: Florida Pink 1320

Very pretty in Pink. Images: (top) Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.; (left); (right)

In fact, one the funniest scenes about color in any movie, is in black and white. When Myrna Loy explains her incredibly specific feelings about color in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House, I dare you not to laugh. Just try. Go ahead–watch it now:

Movies have always had the power to influence us:  politically, socially, culturally and critically.

Dr. Zhivago and the White House

Do you really think the icy blonde Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago influenced the colors of Washington DC?!?!  Images: (top) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; (bottom)

The Great Gatsby set inspiration

Benjamin Moore colors: Hawthorne Yellow HC-4: Soft Mint 2041-60; Pearly Pink 2171-50

The Gatsby gang could inspire anyone to paint the furniture. Images: (top) Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.; (bottom)

And nowhere is that influence more profound than in the color cues it gives us. Movie memories, and that certainly includes the staring role of color, seem to stick with us forever.

Funny Face pink inspiration

Benjamin Moore colors: Smashing Pink 1303; Bird of Paradise 1305

Kay Thompson channels Pink in Funny Face; at the Royal Hawaiian hotel; and in a bedroom on the mainland. Images: (top) Paramount Pictures; (left); (right)

So rent it, buy it, drive to it, stream it or take a date to it, but I’m sure that whatever color inspiration you may be looking for, is out there in the dark–at the movies.

the end

Image: RKO Radio Pictures

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7 thoughts on “The Best Picture – Color Magic at the Movies

  1. worst client ever!!!!
    and of course all he took from her whole spiel was white, green, yellow, and red ! ahaha loved it

    :) love finding inspiration in unsuspecting places

  2. Love the Technicolor colors, and all the vintage movie references. This post is super fun and I’m looking to re-do some stuff and use this guy’s ideas!

  3. What great fun. And just in time for my trip to Benjamin Moore for my new kitchen. Now trying to think of movies set around food and kitchens …

  4. Another very inspiring thought….movies!
    I love this!! Thanks again, Jeff, for yet Moore inspiration…

  5. This is fantastic!! Especially the movie clip!!
    I have a feeling the author has had similar conversations with his painters….(I have).
    None the less it makes me want to paint stripes of bubble bath, florida pink, and unspoken love somewhere in my sunny apartment…..or on my friends new car! (do you think he’d mind?)

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