Art House Attack! – 12 Great Movies About Art

Art Attack Month:

0. 1/28/2012 – Art Attack Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 2/1/2012 – Art Attack Gallery: 100 Queer Woman Artists In Your Face, by The Team
2. 2/3/2012 – Judy Chicago, by Lindsay
3. 2/7/2012 – Gran Fury, by Rachel
4. 2/7/2012 – Diane Arbus, by MJ
5. 2/8/2012 – Laurel Nakadate, by Lemon
6. 2/9/2012 – 10 Websites For Looking At Pictures All Dayby Riese
7. 2/10/2012 – LTTRby Jessica G.
8. 2/13/2012 – Hide/Seek, by Danielle
9. 2/15/2012 – Spotlight: Simone Meltesen, by Laneia
10. 2/15/2012 – Ivana, by Crystal
11. 2/15/2012 – Gluck, by Jennifer Thompson
12. 2/16/2012 – Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Gabrielle
13. 2/20/2012 – Yoko Ono, by Carmen
14. 2/20/2012 – Zanele Muholi, by Jamie
15. 2/20/2012 – The Malaya Project, by Whitney
16. 2/21/2012 – Feminist Fan Tees, by Ani Iti
17. 2/22/2012 – 12 Great Movies About Art, by Riese


Film itself is an art, and then sometimes people make films ABOUT art, which makes it a piece of art about art, which is meta, and often very entertaining!

Here’s 12 that I like, in no particular order. What are your favorites?


Twelve Movies About Art



Frida (2002)

starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Antonio Banderas, Ed Norton, Saffron Burrows, Valeria Golino

Frida Kahlo has a lot going on, and some of that involves Diego Rivera and a lot of it involves her art and also some of it involves other women.


I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)

Starring: Lili Taylor, Jared Harris, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Dorff


This is a bit of a double-whammy — you get the story of Andy Warhol and The Factory and you ALSO get the story of radical lesbian feminist anarchist Valerie Solanis, author of The SCUM Manifesto (SCUM = Society For Cutting Up Men). It’s widely accepted that Solanis suffered from  untreated mental health issues, but nobody knew enough about that then to do anything about it, and if they had, one can imagine that it wouldn’t have been very humane.

Regardless — Lili Taylor was like Queen Weirdo in 90’s indie films, she was my favorite along with Parker Posey. In some ways this movie is like my worst nightmare; the idea that someone who feels unfairly rejected by your artists’ collective decides to get revenge on you via attempted murder. Anyhow — this indie gem is criminally overlooked.


Art School Confidential (2006)


starring: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich

The primary point of this film is that Kate Moennig is in it and she plays a lesbian with hair worse than Shane’s ever was.


Exit Through the Giftshop (2010)


This is one of our Design Director Alex Vega‘s favorite movies of all time. This is what she has to say about it: Exit Through the Gift Shop is Banksy‘s shot at a documentary, and it’s a total success obviously. Don’t know who Banksy is? You should because he’s only the most notorious (and brilliant) street artist ever but if you don’t it’s cool — this is still a great film that captures a piece of the underground street art movement, as well as the story of Thierry (pronounced “Terry”) Guetta, the documentary’s filmmaker.

Thierry is batshit crazy but also endearing. And the story that develops as he films all these street artists (and eventually his encounter with Banksy) becomes something unexpected — and I love a documentary that totally grows and becomes something it never intended to be. It really makes this a special gem of a film… and a super funny and entertaining one too.”

Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

Starring: Will Smith, Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing, Ian McKellen, Mary Beth Hurt, Anthony Michael Hall, Heather Graham, Anthony Rapp

This is actually one of my favorite movies of all time and it’s based on one of my favorite plays of all time. Based on the play by John Guare, the film introduced me to Kandinsky — a double-sided Kandinsky painting is the film’s central motif — who I consequently became obsessed with.

I had a few Kandinsky posters up in my room throughout college, along with Rothko who I also love.

My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

[watch on amazon]

The filmmaker who made this film was interested in Marla’s story because it was its own commentary on the popular perception of modern art as a “racket.”

See, four-year-old Marla really liked to paint pictures and her Dad had some paints and canvas around. Then somebody noticed and displayed her paintings at his cafe and then people wanted to buy them and then there was a newspaper article about it and a gallery opening and people started buying the paintings for a lot of money and it became a thing. Television and all that.

When the media coverage gets oddly out of control and 60 Minutes accuses the father of doctoring the work, claiming that it’s not really Marla, the filmmaker becomes a character in his own documentary as he questions his belief in the family and the purpose of his documentary.

Basquiat (1996)

Starring: Jeffery Wright, Benicio Del Toro, Claire Forlani, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, William Dafoe, Parker Posey, Courtney Love, Tatum O’Neal

[buy? (but I think it’s on Netflix)]

When I saw this film, the story of graffiti artist and Neo-expressionist painter Basquiat, at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, all my teenage punk friends felt lukewarm towards it and I thought it was just the greatest thing. I went back and saw it again by myself, and then rented it. It’s a brilliant story, and also: David Bowie as Andy Warhol!

Basquiat died at the unbearably tender age of 27 from a heroin overdose, about a year and a half after Andy Warhol’s death, which affected him greatly.


High Art (1998)

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Gabriel Mann, Charis Michelsen, Ally Sheedy, Patricia Clarkson



Most lesbians have really strong feelings about this film, which as you can imagine, involves Ally Sheedy as a drug-addicted wildly talented super intense photographer Lucy Berliner and Rahda Mitchell as the artsy girl upstairs Lucy Berliner woos away from her boyfriend. You know that story.


Pollock (2000)

[watch on amazon]

Starring: Marcia Gay Harden, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer

This was one of the best films of 2000 and it was on everybody’s Top Ten list. I’m gonna be honest with you that I didn’t actually see this movie, but I wanted to, and I think I will. Did you? I’m asking for a friend. The same friend who saw it and said she liked it, therefore empowering me to include it here.


Pecker (1998)

Starring: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Bess Armstrong, Mary Kay Place, Martha Plimpton, Brendan Sexton III, Lili Taylor, Patricia Hearst

This underrated masterpiece by John Waters stars Edward Furlong — slightly past his peak, but still full-on Furlong — as Pecker, a sandwich shop worker whose photographs of his insane family launch him into art world fame.  The film takes place in Baltimore and features a typically Waters’ cast of outrageous characters, including Pecker’s “fag hag” go-go-dancer older sister played by Martha Plimpton and his grandmother Memama, who talks to a Virgin Mary doll.


I was really into Christina Ricci in the 90’s. She was so bad-ass but also vulnerable, with her moon-shaped face and dark dark hair and giant rack. Either she was sexy in your face, or she was being pouty/petulant, and she was good at both.


Don’t Eat the Pictures (1983)

Starring: Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Telly, Oscar the Grouch, The Count, Grover

By far the best movie about art ever invented is Don’t Eat the Pictures, a classic named after the film’s titular musical number in which Cookie Monster wants to eat the pictures.

When the gang visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Big Bird gets lost looking for Snuffy (at this point in Sesame Street history, Snuffy remained Bird’s imaginary friend who nobody besides Bird could actually see), and the entire cast has to hide out in the museum overnight, hunting for Bird while avoiding detection by the museum security guard.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. I’ve seen all of these (including the sesame street one ha!) with the exception of My Kid Could Paint That, and I second encouragement to watch them all! Fantastic suggestions Riese :)

    I’m sure everyone has already seen Amelie, but just in case you haven’t you should. The movie isn’t about art specifically on the surface, but in fact is art itself, and about art while not being about art at the same time. I see it as a commentary on Art analysis in relation to human emotions.

    Other recommendations:

    * Artemisia – About one of the first “well known” female artists Artemisia Gentileschi. (riese you should watch if you haven’t seen)

    * EYE TO EYE – Dir. Isabel Hegner; Documentary featuring Jack Walls who was Robert Mapplethorpe’s long time lover. ANy fans of NYC, Mapplethorpe, or Patti Smith’s book must watch this!

    * Camille Claudel – Biography about a female artist who was also a “mistress” of the artist Rodin.

    *The Far Shore – about video artist Joyce Wieland

    I could make a longer list but I shall resist ;)

    • I loved the commentary on “The Luncheon of the Boating Party” in Amelie. I have no idea why I love the idea of that little old man painting a Renoir every year. I actually had the pleasure of introducing my high school art teacher to this movie and it totally blew her away. It’s so beautiful.

  2. I don’t get why cookie monster would want to eat the pictures if they are not cookies.

    I am pretty impressed you managed to find so many decent films on art. I guess it’s tricky to represent the creative process and it seems like often we are just presented with some dude with an intensely seriously furrowed brow and expected to accept this means he is intensely seriously artistic. I guess documentaries get a pass on this.

    Also, what is it with lesbians and cameras?

  3. This is such a fantastic post, Riese. Half of these I’ve seen and half of these are soon to be added to my Netflix queue.

  4. Y’all have to see Marwencol. It’s a documentary about a guy who guy who gets the shit beat out of him in a bar assault, spends a week in the hospital, and then creates a tiny Belgian WWI camp in which he reenacts parts of his own life, fantasies, and made-up story lines. Then he gets an art opening in New York and he goes there with his model city and photos. I would tell you more about it but I don’t want to ruin it. It’s on Netflix streaming, go watch it.

  5. love this list! i just watched a really interesting documentary, called The Rape of Europa, about the nazis plundering and stealing about 600,000 pieces of famous, valuable art (van gogh, michelangelo) throughout europe during WWII. so if you like art, you would probably really like that documentary too!

    • I second the Rape of Europa. My film buff friend calls that film her favorite documentary ever, with good reason. It was a great intersection of art and art history, and also extremely poignant and moving. I was especially fascinated by the stories about Slavic art and also the Us Army’s role in protecting Italian art, namely in Florence. A great film about art. Also streaming on Netflix.

  6. I love “I Shot Andy Warhol”!

    I haven’t seen any of the others (although Frida’s been on my list for a while now)but they look interesting. I am continually disheartened by the terrible, terrible haircuts to which Ms. Moennig is subjected and continually amazed by her ability to be damn hot regardless- “Art House Confidential” seems like it would be a perfect example of this phenomenon. Brava, Kate.

  7. Hey, I hate to be that person, but it’s actually spelled ‘Valerie Solanas’
    I can’t wait to watch all these movies! :)

  8. “Art School Confidential” almost made me not want to go to art school, for real. But also “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is the most mind-blowingly awesome thing, ever, I think.

    Also also fans of “Amélie” should watch “Delicatessen”.

  9. Love this list! However, I would add Mona Lisa Smile, love that movie with all its feminist rage.

  10. Oh man, High Art. Somehow I missed knowing anything about that movie before I saw it and watched it kind of expecting something positive to happen at the end (fucking dumb amiright?). I ended up bawling for half an hour afterwards. It didn’t help that Ally Sheedy looked almost exactly like a good friend of mine who had died a few months before I saw it. I really liked it, but Jesus, the tears would not stop!

  11. Other, non-lesbionic reasons to see Art School Confidential:

    -It’s all about getting what you want in the worst way possible.
    -Sophia Myles is damn cute in it.
    -Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World) directed it!

  12. GR8 article and gr8 suggestions in the comments! I’ll just add CARAVAGGIO by the late great Derek Jarman. Queer as all get out, insanely beautiful to look at despite a micro-budget, starring my man Nigel Terry (from EXCALIBUR!). It also plays some neat science fiction-y time out of joint games, what with antique motorcycles and a Venetian merchant using a pocket calculator being featured in a film about a Renaissance painter.

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