Best Architecture Films

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Best Architecture Films

 

Why should you watch architecture films?

 

Architecture films can act as great sources of inspiration for both students and professionals. The spectacular visuals tied by fascinating narratives can be beneficial in encouraging new ideas and concepts.

As architecture is a creative field, constantly generating new and innovative ideas can prove to be difficult. This is why watching a film related to architecture might be a productive way to curb your creative block.

Films in general can be educational and often give us a lot to think about. They remarkably encapsulate the past, record the present and envision the future. Some films encourage us to face the harsh realities of the world we live in whereas others seek to provide a sense of escapism from the same. They spark curiosity and help push the boundaries of our understanding.

For architects, architecture films present a freer expression of imaginative ideas without the real world limitations of planning permissions and building regulations. They are instruments that help create alternate spheres of existence.

The exceptional visuals aren’t the only things that are attractive to architects and students. Architecture films shed a light on the intrinsic connection between architecture and society. They showcase how architecture responds to and impacts its users.

Architecture films are not only great for inspiration but can even be used to study the symbiotic relationship between architecture and film.

Architectural contexts are often used to support a film’s narrative. Likewise, the representation of the profession through film, helps more individuals get an insight into the realm of design and building. It is also exciting when architectural references are made.

Films use the careful composition of set environments to create entirely new architectural scenery. Studying films can be great for filmmakers, cinematographers as well as architects considering a change in profession. Examining scene transitions, framing and other techniques can be valuable in learning how to deliver a particular type of narrative.

Here at First In Architecture, we have curated a list of our top film suggestions. Whether you are an architecture enthusiast or simply a fan of beautiful cinematography, we hope you find something to enjoy!

 

 

Top 20 Architecture Film Recommendations

 

Blade runner 2049        

2017

2h 44m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

101 Awards + Nominations

Blade runner 2049 is the sequel to Ridley Scott’s famous science fiction film – Blade runner 1982. It was directed by Denis Villeneuve and won 2 Academy Awards. The story is set in a dystopian LA with the remnants of the old city receiving a brutalist rendering, as it is overcome with advanced technology. The narrative at play keeps both the protagonist, a Nexus-9 replicant named K and the viewer in the dark, building suspense. Alongside this, the high-tech architectural graphics and the use of colour to emphasize themes is noteworthy.

Inception

2010

2h 28m

Available to watch on Apple TV – HBO Max – Prime Video – You Tube – Netflix

157 Awards + Nominations

Inception is a science fiction heist film, also set in LA that won 4 Academy Awards. Being directed by Christopher Nolan it follows Dom Cobb, a thief who extracts information from the subconscious minds of his targets. Nolan was inspired by Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher who designed optical illusions called ‘impossible drawings’. The film plays with perplexing manipulated perspectives and features the concept of paradoxical architecture. A famous example shown is the Penrose stairs.

Architecture documentary

Metropolis

1927

2h 23m

Available to watch on Prime Video

6 Awards + Nominations

Metropolis is a German expressionist silent film directed by Fritz Lang. The story is of a couple who come from different classes. The rich and elite city designers dwell above while the working class live underground, manually operating machinery that runs the city. The skyscraper filled city has various architectural styles like Art Deco, Expressionism, Bauhaus, Modern and Gothic all meshed together, offering a window into the future. This was a revolutionary film for the science fiction genre.

Architecture documentary

The Grand Budapest Hotel

2014

1h 39m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube – Disney +

134 Awards + Nominations

The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson is a comedy film that received 4 Academy Awards. The film is set in a trendy 1930s resort in a fictional country called Zubrowka. It displays an Eastern European influence through Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs. The plot sees Monsieur Gustave H., an exceptional concierge of the resort being framed for the murder of a wealthy dowager. The architectural exteriors shown were filmed with the help of miniature handmade models.

Architecture documentary

The Shining  

1920

2h 26m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

4 Awards + Nominations

The Shining is a film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1977 novel, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This disturbing film sees a family as they take possession of the historic Overlook Hotel located in the Colorado Rockies during the off-season. Unbeknownst to the family, the isolated hotel has a sinister presence and a horrifying past. The film explores how lack of contact from the outside world eventually drives the father to violence and insanity. The architecture of the hotel is carefully filmed through symmetrical one point perspective frames.

Architecture documentary

Parasite

2019

2h 12m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube – Curzon

308 Awards + Nominations

Parasite is a South Korean black comedy film that won 4 Academy Awards. Through the film, director Bong Joon-ho features the relationship between class and the physical space it affords. The two contrasting sides are shown by the affluent Park family and the impoverished Kim clan. The sleek and layered modernist house within the film was meticulously made up of several sets constructed by set designer Lee Ha Jun.

Architecture documentary

Hands over the city

1963

1h 41m

Available to watch on Prime Video

2 Awards + Nominations

Francesco Rosi’s Hands over the city is an Italian political drama film showing corruption, post-World War 2. The story follows Neapolitan land developer and elected city councilman, Edoardo Nottola, facing a scandal after a residential building collapses. It highlights the exploitation of power and the  disastrous consequences faced by the common man. The film contrasts the grandeur of the residences of the people in power with the meager dwellings of the poor people.

Documentaries for architecture

The Great Gatsby

2013

2h 23m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube – Netflix

50 Awards + Nominations

The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann is an American historic romantic drama film depicting the grand nature of the twenties. It is a film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name and has received 2 Academy Awards. Set in Long Island, New York, the plot revolves around the millionaire Jay Gatsby. The architecture is extravagant and showcases Gothic Revival and Art Deco styles.

documentary for architect students 2

Edward Scissorhands

1990

1h 45m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video –  You Tube – Disney +

9 Awards + Nominations

Edward Scissorhands is a fantasy romance film directed by Tim Burton. It is about an artificial humanoid who was left incomplete due to the unfortunate death of his maker. The scissor blades that were meant as placeholders for his hands, become his identity. The happy pastel coloured houses that make up the suburb that Edward is thrust into, perfectly contrast his gloomy dark figure. 

documentaries for architect students

Coco

2017

1h 45m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video –  You Tube – Disney +

109 Awards + Nominations

Coco is a family comedy film co-directed by Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich. Its concept comes from the Mexican holiday – Day of the Dead. The film tells the story of 12 year old Miguel on a bizarre adventure as he fights for his passion for music. It features the ‘Land of the Dead’ which is embellished with vibrant colours and intricately assembled architectural elements. This Pixar film won 2 Academy Awards.

architecture documentaries 4

High-rise

2015

1h 59m

Available to watch on Apple TV – HBO Max – Prime Video – You Tube

6 Awards + Nominations

High-rise is a dystopian thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley based on a novel by J.G. Ballard. It is set in a huge residential tower, situated on the outskirts of London during the 1970s. This tall building is adorned with luxurious amenities intended to make the outside world seem less interesting to residents. However chaos ensues as services begin to fail and the residents lose their sanity.

architecture documentaries 4

Oblivion

2013

2h 4m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

1 Award + Nominations

Oblivion is a science fiction film directed by architect turned filmmaker Joseph Kosinski. Taking place in 2077 it depicts a post-apocalyptic Earth at war with extraterrestrials. The main character Jack Harper is a technician sent back to Earth to service drones. It contains futuristic architectural visualizations that are distinguished by bleak visuals of ravaged landscapes and even ruins of well-known architecture.

architecture documentaries 4

Playtime

1967

2h 35m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Prime Video

4 Awards + Nominations

Playtime is a French-Italian comedy film with minimal dialogue, directed by Jacques Tati. The film is set in a futuristic Paris with lots of architectural inspiration. It follows Monsieur Hulot who also stars in Tati’s other works like Mon Oncle and Les Vacances. The film is a comedic take on modernism and touches on how urban life weakens humanity.

architecture documentaries 4

Downsizing

2017

2h 15m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

1 Award + Nominations

Downsizing is a comedy film directed by Alexander Payne. It explores a Norwegian scientist’s attempt at providing a solution to global issues like climate change, overpopulation, waste production and mass consumption. The experimental solution is a procedure that involves shrinking humans to five inches. The production of this film involved altering set and prop scales.

architecture documentaries 4

The House That Jack Built

2018

2h 32m

Available to watch on Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube – Curzon

11 Awards + Nominations

The House that Jack built is a horror film directed by Lars von Trier, following the gruesome murders committed by a serial killer over the course of 12 years. It weirdly questions the perception of art and the human need to leave marks of our existence. For the film, Lars von Trier took the counsel of contemporary architect Bjarke Ingels to create a stomach churning house built of frozen corpses.

architecture documentaries 4

Rear window

1954

1h 52m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

6 Awards + Nominations

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a film based on the Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder”. It is a presentation of the obsessive nature of human curiosity. This film is a gripping mystery thriller from the perspective of a wheelchair-bound photographer, confined in his courtyard apartment. With not much to entertain him, he begins spying on his neighbours and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder.

architecture documentaries 4

Medianeras/Sidewalls

2011

1h 35m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Prime Video

3 Awards + Nominations

Sidewalls revolves around the lives of two people who, despite residing in neighbouring apartment buildings, have never met. Director Gustavo Taretto makes a statement on the issues of loneliness and isolation in modern society. The film also questions the models of habitation in our urban environments. As more people live in blocks of flat, responding to the human scale and the need for social connections and communications seem to fade away.

architecture documentaries 4

Columbus

2017

1h 40m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Prime Video

9 Awards + Nominations

Columbus is director Kogonada’s first film. It is set in the Indiana town surrounded by beautiful modern architecture. It features the First Christian Church by Eliel Saarinen, the Irwin Union Bank, Miller House, the North Christian Church by Eliel’s son Eero Saarinen, and the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I. M. Pei. The film’s plot explores relationships and has discourse on architecture.

architecture documentaries 4

Hugo

2011

2h 7m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video – You Tube

61 Awards + Nominations

Hugo is a children’s fantasy adventure film directed by Martin Scorsese. The story is adapted from a book called ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ written by Brian Selznick. It is about a boy living alone in a train station, in charge of machinery. The train station set was a recreation based on Paris’s old Gare Montparnasse by production designer Dante Ferretti at Shepperton Studios. Additionally, the character Papa Georges in the film is none other than professional magician and motion picture experimenter, Georges Méliès, known to be the first to film fictional narratives and camera tricks.

architecture documentaries 4

Wall – E

2008

1h 38m

Available to watch on Apple TV – Google Play Movies & TV – Prime Video –  You Tube – Disney +

94 Awards + Nominations

Wall-E is an Academy Award winning Pixar film directed by Andrew Stanton. It shows a wasteland that is created as a result of consumerism and improper waste management. The story follows a small waste collecting robot, the last of his kind that is left to clean an uninhabitable Earth. The film has depictions of a city with towering skyscrapers whose building blocks are waste. 

architecture documentaries 4

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Our Extended List of Architecture Films

If you have already watched all our top recommendations and wish to explore some more films, check these out:

 

Sci fi/Dystopian

  • Blade Runner 1982
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Brazil
  • Gattaca
  • High-Rise

 

Sci Fi/Action/Adventure

  • Inception
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Minority Report
  • The Fifth Element
  • Equilibrium
  • Cloud Atlas
  • Dredd
  • The Towering Inferno
  • Passengers
  • Logan’s Run
  • Tron: legacy
  • Demolition Man
  • Elysium
  • Tomorrowland
  • Aeon Flux
  • Ready Player One
  • Oblivion
  • Dune

 

Silent

  • Metropolis
  • Playtime
  • Mon Oncle
  • L’Inhumaine

 

Comedy

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Downsizing
  • The French Dispatch

 

Horror

  • The Shining
  • The House That Jack Built
  • Don’t Look Now
  • Poltergeist/It
  • Crimson Peak
  • Winchester

 

Thriller

  • Parasite
  • Rear Window
  • Dark City
  • Ex Machina
  • A Perfect Enemy

 

Social Impact

  • Hands Over The City
  • The Architect (2006)

 

Romance

  • The Fountainhead
  • Midnight In Paris
  • Medianeras/Sidewalls
  • Columbus
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Architect 101
  • The Lake House
  • Emma

 

Fantasy

  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Hugo
  • Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
  • The City Of Lost Children
  • The BFG

 

Animated

  • Wall – E
  • Coco
  • Akira
  • Ghost In The Shell
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Spirited Away
  • From Up On Poppy Hill
  • Isle Of Dogs
  • Big Hero 6
  • Tin Tin
  • Blame!
  • Renaissance

 

Conclusion

We hope this post helped you discover some architectural films to watch for an architecture night in.

Tip – Check out the directors, production companies and studios of your favorite films to find similar ones!

Thank you for reading! Happy watching 🙂

 

Your Comments

Have we missed your favorite architecture film? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, feel free to share your thoughts on architecture and its relation to the film industry.

Thank you!

 

Author

Written by Valanne Fernandes, a Part 1 Architecture graduate. Valanne is a content creator with First In Architecture, spending her time researching, writing and designing inspiring new content for the website.

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