If you’re looking to get those creative juices flowing, consider grabbing some popcorn and getting some screen time.
We’ve picked 25 inspirational movies for designers, each one perfect for the artist at heart.
Related reading: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity
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Inspirational Movies for Designers
Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli is perhaps one of the best design documentaries available, as it brings us into the creative world of Italian-born Massimo and Lella Vignelli. Their exceptionally rich portfolio spans everything from graphics and interiors to corporate identities and products. The Vignellis are widely known, even to those unfamiliar with design, and it’s easy to see why—the intelligence and creativity of this husband-wife duo.
Visual Acoustics tells the life story of photographer Julius Shulman, who is regarded as one of the greatest architectural photographers. His images introduced modern architecture to the American mainstream. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, the documentary captures the personality and genius of this photographer and his work.
Shot in 1958, American Look celebrates the contemporary and futuristic designs of the 1950s, many of which seem dated today. However, we learn how groundbreaking these designs were at the time of their conception. Released by the Chevrolet Division of the General Motors Corporation, the movie is a tribute to the American designer, and looks closely into the design processes of a new Chevrolet automobile. The first half of the movie explores the numerous designs of the 1950’s: furniture, interior, product, and technology iconic to the decade.
The first film about Charles and Ray Eames since their deaths, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is an exploration of the Eames’ forty-year artistic collaboration. Untamed creativity and (occasionally tumultuous) love for one another makes this husband-wife powerhouse incredible to watch. Through interviews with family members and design historians, the film offers an unprecedented chance to peer inside the lives of two unique artists.
Herb & Dorthy is yet another extraordinary tale regarding a husband-wife team that left a significant footprint in the world of contemporary art. With truly modest means, Herb, who was a postal clerk, and Dorothy, who was a librarian, managed to amass one of the most important contemporary art collections in history. Driven by their passion for minimalist and conceptual art, the couple has redefined what it means to collect art.
Revealing unseen footage, stunning graphic design, and incredible photography, The Visual Language of Herbert Matter shows why Matter continues to be relevant today. Renowned for his revolutionary use of photography in design, this Swiss-born artist brought the semantics of fine art into the realm of applied arts. The film is a captivating story about a creator who succeeded in crafting his own language and walked the fine line between art and commercial work.
If you are passionate about writing, this powerful film regarding inspiration and advertising may hit close to home. According to critics, this film will forever change the way viewers perceive advertisements. Additionally, the film reveals many fascinating works that profoundly impacted our culture. Art & Copy dynamically explores the correlations between art, commerce, and human emotion.
Ai Weiwei is one of the most influential Chinese artists working today. This documentary delves into Ai’s artistic process as he prepares for major museum exhibitions. However, we also watch the fascinating story of an opinionated activist who, as his public conflicts with the Chinese government escalate, chooses art as a form of rebellion and change.
Have you ever wondered how the design of your city affects your daily life? Gary Hustwit’s documentary peeks into the realm of urban design, focusing on various issues and strategies in present city structure. Who’s behind all this intricate work? Urbanized features some of the world’s foremost architects, thinkers, policymakers, and planners who play an active role in forging new ideas and strategies.
Art enthusiasts will love Kartemquin’s latest documentary, which skillfully exposes the compelling process of converging modern design and traditional technique. Typeface focuses on a rural Midwestern museum and print shop at the center of a monthly renaissance. The museum/shop hosts international artists and retired craftsmen who work hand-in-hand to preserve the history of their craft, as well as its function.
This feature-length documentary evaluates our relationship with manufactured objects and, in a way, those who design them. Through the exploration of consumerism, identity, personal expression, and sustainability, Gary Hustwit insightfully directs a story about creativity at work. We explore everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets, learning about some of the most influential designers of our time.
Also directed by Gary Hustwit, Helvetica is a feature-length doc that explores typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. This indie film examines the prolific Helvetica typeface, which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007. Engaging in a broader discussion about type’s cultural effect, Helvetica invites renowned designers to discuss their creative processes and work. As an audience, we are encouraged to consider the impact of the thousands of words we see daily.
Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight
Milton Glaser is the creative genius behind the famous “I love NY” campaign and a co-founder of New York Magazine. However, we learn these accomplishments are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full breadth of his creativity. Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight offers a unique opportunity to glance into Glaser’s personal life and explore his lesser known (but equally amazing) works from newspapers, magazines, posters, interior spaces, and brand identities.
Piet Zwart is a designer best known for his stubbornness and flair for innovation. He procured international success for a movement now known as Dutch Design. This documentary perfectly captures Piet’s obsessive drive, while shedding light on his authentic avant-garde creations. As an interior and industrial designer, commercial typographer, photographer, critic, and lecturer, he played a major role in defining the design climate in the Twentieth Century Netherlands.
This unique documentary follows a French shopkeeper’s eccentric attempts to locate and befriend Banksy, a mysterious artist. Expect exclusive footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader, and many of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists at work.
The gig poster community is a strong and unique phenomenon dating back to the 1960’s. Just Like Being There can only be described as a carefree journey through the world of limited edition gig posters. Featuring artists such as Daniel Danger and Jay Ryan, we learn about the evolution of a movement that began recognizing posters as a form of art. We are presented with the theory that creating artwork is more than just a career; it’s a way of life.
A funny and inspiring documentary discussing one of America’s most significant artists, Wayne White. Beauty is Embarrassing is also a touching personal tale about an artist seeking to strike the balance between his commercial work and his art. At its core, the documentary sends an uplifting message, encouraging artists to follow their passions and listen to their creative impulses.
Future by Design
Jacque Fresco, often recognized as a contemporary Da Vinci, is a self-educated futurist who is part designer, part engineer. Future by Design is a documentary that shares his extensive vision. Through a visually and intellectually engaging exploration, the film presents a workable version of a “potential future.” With this “future,” we are invited to consider an alternative to our present reality of commercialism and militarism.
The Successor of Kakiemon
The Successor of Kakiemon tells the unique story of a Japanese family who has preserved ancient traditions for generations. Through these traditions, the family transforms everyday pottery into internationally celebrated Kakiemon porcelain. Developed in the 17th century, Kakiemon is one of the most refined types of porcelain. Entirely handmade and handpainted, the production of Kakiemon is preserved by a direct descendant of ceramist, Sakaida Kakiemon. As we learn the history, we begin to question the future; will the family continue the business?
Is 3D printing the next technological revolution? Many believe so. This award-winning documentary chronicles the race for market leadership in 3D printing. We watch as great thinkers work to bring this revolutionary technology to consumers.
Design and business often go hand, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. Design the New Business is a documentary that investigates how designers and entrepreneurs collaborate to find solutions and build remarkable products together.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Marina Abramovi? is a renowned performance artist who continues to seduce, shock, and move the world with her exceptionally thought-provoking work. This film is an intimate portrait of a woman who uses her own body as a vehicle to create radical performance experiences and redefine the notion of art.
GUCCI: The Director
Gucci, as if you didn’t already know, is world-famous for its fashion and product. Produced by James Franco and directed by Christina Voros, The Director is a refreshingly different story of Gucci under the creative director, Giannini. This film is an intimate portrait of a designer who had the courage to investigate the past for new inspiration.
This critically acclaimed New York love story explores the life, creative process, and chaotic, 40-year marriage of a famed boxing painter, Ushio Shinohara, and his wife, Noriko. The documentary features original paintings and drawings by both artists. The film portrays their turbulent journey to success through chaos and passion.
This thrilling documentary looks at one of the world’s greatest living artists. Having spent over half a century experimenting with various techniques and ideas, Richter appears in the movie, creating a series of large-scale abstract canvasses and demonstrating his genius in action.
Beautiful Losers is a celebration of the convergence of underground skate, graffiti, and punk in 1990’s New York City. In a collection of personal stories, this documentary explains a subcultural revolution and illustrates how it’s transforming pop culture.
In a beautifully told story about the importance of drawing, patience, and dedicated teaching, we are provided with a fresh perspective on design. Illustrated with personal examples, this documentary details one designer’s story, good and bad. It’s a pleasant 40-minute journey to understanding design thinking.
This unique documentary profiles 85-year-old sushi master, Jiro Ono, a legend among Tokyo foodies. A nuanced tale of cuisine and family, this film is a tribute to one of the greatest sushi chefs of all time. Through Jiro’s story, we begin to understand the philosophical impact of mastering a craft.
This award-winning, feature-length documentary explores the highs and lows of game design, as well as the trials and tribulations of creativity. Focusing exclusively on the underdogs of the video game industry, Indie Game: The Movie celebrates passion and the relentless pursuit of lifelong dreams. This real-life story is one many artists, entrepreneurs, and creators can understand.
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