Five Movies That Memorably Feature Museums

The ‘Night at the Museum’ films aren’t the only films that take place largely in the confines of a museum

Ferris Buellers Day Off
High school senior Ferris Bueller skips class with his girlfriend and his best friend to take a life-affirming joy ride through Chicago. © Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

From art heists to fright flicks, here are five of our favorite movies that memorably feature museums. Have a favorite of your own? Share with us in the comments area below.

1) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

In this comedy classic from director John Hughes, high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) skips class with his girlfriend and best friend at his side to take a life-affirming joy ride through Chicago, which includes posing with paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. While only two-minutes long, the scene, set to The Dream Academy’s instrumental cover of the Smith’s tune “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,” finds Bueller and his friends reacting to works including Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (1884) by French pointillist Georges-Pierre Seurat.

2) The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

In this remake of the 1968 Steve McQueen/Faye Dunaway classic, debonair billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is a playboy businessman, moonlighting as an art thief when he swipes Claude Monet’s “San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk” from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although exterior shots of the museum were permitted by the city, the Met declined to authorize filming inside its halls. Instead, crews shot several scenes, including the dazzling finale with a noteworthy homage to René Magritte’s “The Son of Man” (1964), in the New York Public Library.

3) Russian Ark (2002)

The fourth Winter Palace in St. Petersburg was home to the czars from 1732 until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Today it is the main building of the Russian State Hermitage Museum, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. The building took on another life when director Alexander Sokurov brought over 2,000 actors into the museum to depict 300 years of Russian history. The camera travels through 33 rooms of the Hermitage Museum in an uninterrupted 90-minute film shoot, the longest shot in movie history and the first feature-length film ever created in a single take.

4) The International (2009)

A gunfight between Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and assassins in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City is made even more thrilling by the art museum’s concentric architecture. In an interview with The New York Times, director Tom Twyker explains that he wanted the movie’s central scene (and most demanding sequence) to be in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum, which he calls “the most iconic and interesting piece of architecture that the twentieth century has produced. After filming for three days in the actual Guggenheim, the actors went to a soundstage where the crew had spent 16 weeks building a replica of the museum to ensure that no artwork would be harmed in the making of the film.

5) Terror in the Wax Museum (1973)

You can’t tell the living from the dead in Dupree’s Wax Museum’s Chamber of Horrors. In this poorly received horror film, a random smattering of legendary criminals, ranging from Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden and Bluebeard the pirate, awake for a battle royal. The film is one in a long lineage of fright flicks that use wax museums to scare audiences, including 1933’s “The Mystery of the Wax Museum,” 1953’s Vincent Price classic “House of Wax” and its 2005 less than classic remake starring Paris Hilton.

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