Although movies are sometimes cast in a bad light by administrators and parents, we know that a good movie can help bring art to life. If you like to use occasional movies in your high school classroom, then this AOE List is for you! Thanks to all of our amazing FB fans that helped us put the list together.
NOTE: Depending on your comfort level, the maturity of your students, and your school’s policies, some language and/or scenes from the movies below may not be appropriate for your classroom. ALWAYS preview movies in their entirety before showing them to your students.
Click the links below to explore each item.
- Waste Land
An artist creates portraits of trash pickers in the world’s largest garbage dump in this moving documentary.
- Exit Through the Gift Shop
This is a tale of Banksy and other street artists that may or may not be 100% true.
- Rivers and Tides
This film chronicles the work of landscape sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.
- Between the Folds
This fascinating documentary shows the incredible and varied things artists and others are doing with paper.
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Go inside the Chauvet caves in France to experience some of the world’s earliest art.
- My Kid Could Paint That
This is a look at supposed 4-year-old art prodigy Marla Olmsted and the controversy surrounding her talent.
- My Architect
Follow Nathaniel Kahn, son of acclaimed architect Louis Kahn, as he tries to uncover information about his father.
- The Rape of Europa
This film chronicles the theft of priceless art during WWII and the attempt to return it.
- Tim’s Vermeer
A fascinating look at an inventor’s attempts to understand Vermeer’s painting techniques.
- Art21 films
Each episode profiles artists who talk about their careers first hand.
- New York Close Up
Each episode looks at a New York artist in the first decade of his or her professional career.
- Sister Wendy
Sister Wendy Beckett has produced a variety of series discussing a wide range of artwork.
- Craft in America
Watch artists create beautiful, meaningful work in a series that celebrates the craft movement in the U.S.
- Simon Schama’s Power of Art
A series that examines the life of 8 artists through reenactments.
Ed Harris portrays Jackson Pollock in this gripping account of Pollock’s life and work.
- The Monuments Men
The story of a WWII platoon trying to rescue priceless art before it’s too late.
- Girl with the Pearl Earring
Based on Chevalier’s novel, this is a fictional account of Vermeer’s famous painting.
- Brush With Fate
Learn about Vermeer through this screen adaptation of the novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland.
Showing a movie like those listed above is a great way to hook your kids when talking about art history. But, it isn’t the only way. If you’re looking for more engaging ways to bring art history into your classroom, be sure to take a peek at the Implementing Art History in the Secondary Art Room PRO Learning Pack. You’ll learn how to introduce compelling and relevant artists to your students and gain strategies to help your students interact in meaningful ways with the art they see in your classroom.
- Anything by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
These beautiful and deep anime films will capture your students’ imaginations.
- The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow
Take the kids way back with this informative and nostalgic video.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
The classic stop-motion tale of Jack Skellington is a cult favorite.
- The Secret of Kells
This is fictitious telling of the creation of the Book of Kells full of stunning imagery.
Just for Fun
- Paper Heart
This fake documentary gives a pretty accurate view of making a documentary.
- Night at the Museum 2
Have students identify all of the paintings they can while watching!
- 101+ Movies About Art & Artists – a fantastic list from IMDb
- Teach with Movies – a database of films with educational connections, which you can search by subject, age and more
- Art in the Movies – a blog run by visual artist Jim Gaylor with a focus on art in television and film
We hope this list is a useful reference tool for you. If you are short on time in your classroom, one FB fan had a great tip to search through the “Special Features” sections of DVDs for inspiring and informative “behind the scenes” information to show instead. Genius!
What movies would you add to this list?
Which of these have you used in your classroom?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.