Art Films and Documentaries

A few hours out of every week is dedicated to some so-bad-that-it’s-good guilty pleasures. The rest of the time, your brain may be screaming for some stimulation (but not the headache-inducing type of stimulation like trying to decipher what those French philosophers are trying to say in their texts). We’ve come across some spectacular art films and documentaries in our travels that we think are both entertaining and enriching, especially for art students.


The Square, Sweden, 2017

Disaster strikes when a curator hires a public relations team to build some hype for his renowned museum.

Film Trailer for the Square, 2017

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Loving Vincent, Poland/UK/USA, 2017

Feature film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, beautifully depicted in oil painted animation.

Film Trailer for Loving Vincent

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Woman in Gold, UK, 2015

Helen Mirren's character attempts to reclaim family possessions, including Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” of her aunt Adele, which were seized by the Nazis.

Film trailer for Woman in Gold, UK, 2015

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Big Eyes, USA, 2014

Follow the story of Margaret Keane, from her phenomenal success in the 1950s to her legal battles with her husband, who claimed credit for her works.

Film trailer for Big Eyes, 2014

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Mr Turner, UK/France/Germany, 2014

An exploration of the last quarter century of the life of J.M.W. Turner.

Film trailer for Mr Turner, 2014

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Desperate Romantics, UK, 2009

Desperate Romantics is about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of young British painters from the mid-1800s inspired by 14th and 15th-century Italian art who were against the unimaginative practices of the Royal Academy.

Trailer for Desperate Romantics, 2009

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We Live in Public, USA, 2009

A documentary that follows the surreal "experiment" executed by Internet entrepreneur Josh Harris in 1999, what started out as a bid to partake in contemporary art predicted the role of surveillance and modern media today.

Film trailer for We Live in Public, 2009

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Factory Girl, USA, 2006

When Edie Sedgwick met Andy Warhol.

Film trailer for Factory Girl, 2006

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Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, USA, 2006

A fictional portrayal of what celebrated photographer Diane Arbus’s life might’ve been.

Film trailer for Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, 2006

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, UK/Luxembourg, 2003

17-year old Griet becomes a maid in the house of Johannes Vermeer and soon attracts the master painter's attention.

Film trailer for Girl with a Pearl Earring, 2003

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Frida, USA/Canada/Mexico, 2002

A portrait of Frida Kahlo.

Film trailer for Friday, 2002

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Pollock, USA, 2000

How Jackson Pollock became one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Film trailer for Pollock, 2000

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Basquiat, USA, 1996

Julian Schnabel’s feature-film on Basquiat. Not a massive fan of JMB’s portrayal but you should know the film exists. Watch it and make up your own mind.

Film trailer for Basquiat, 1996

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My left foot, Ireland/UK, 1989

An autobiographical film about Christy Brown, an Irish writer and painter who could only write and type using the toes of one foot due to cerebral palsy.

Film trailer for My Left Foot, 1989

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Abstract - The Art of Design, USA, 2019/2017

Now in its second season, this Netflix documentary series highlights some of the most innovative designers currently on the world’s radar. Art and design are at times mutually exclusive (who needs function when you’ve got form?) but as it so happens, some of this season’s designers are also practising artists (among other disciplines such as typographers, toy designers and more). On the art front, Olafur Eliasson takes the screen with a feature on his innovative and groundbreaking approach to nature and art, while the spotlight falls on Neri Oxman and her creative practice that conflates technology with biology.

Trailer for Abstract - The Art of Design

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Nannette, Hannah Gadsby, 2018

Doing the impossible by twisting together art history and comedy, the art history student-turned-comedian touches on Vincent van Gogh, the depiction of women in art, Picasso and more.

Trailer for Nannette by Hannah Gadsby, 2018

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Sky Ladder, USA, 2016

Cai Guo-Qiang is known for his spectacular pyrotechnic installations. In this documentary, filmmaker Kevin Macdonald delivers a stimulating introduction to the Chinese artist’s most thrilling artworks.

Film trailer for Sky Ladder, 2016

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Regarding Susan Sontag, USA, 2014

Award winning documentary tracing the life of cultural critic Susan Sontag.

Film trailer for Regarding Susan Sontag, 2014

Listen to the soundtrack on Amazon

The Stuart Hall Project, 2013

A John Akomfrah film about cultural theorist Stuart Hall touching on revolution, politics, culture and the New Left experience.

Trailer for The Stuart Hall Project, 2013

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Gallery Girls, USA, 2012

A reality show that follows 7 young women in New York attempting to make it in the art world.

Trailer for Gallery Girls, 2012

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Exit through the Gift Shop, UK, 2010

Banksy-directed documentary about Thierry Guetta and Street Art.

Film trailer for Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010

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Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, France/Netherlands/UK, 2010

Documentary about German artist Anselm Kiefer's alchemical creative processes.

Trailer for Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

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Waiting for Hockney, USA, 2008

The documentary follows artist Billy Pappas on a journey to meet with David Hockney.

Trailer for Waiting for Hockney

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Helvetica, UK, 2007

A film about typography, graphic design and visual culture. Looking at the proliferation of one typeface, it explores the way type affects our lives and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day.

Trailer about Helvetica, 2007

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Simon Schama’s Power of Art, UK, 2006

Art historian Simon Schama profiles eight art masters and one of their works, focussing on the relationship between the works and their historical context.

Trailer for Simon Schama's Power of Art

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Crumb, USA, 1994

A portrait of cartoonist Robert Crumb

Watch trailer for Crumb

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Paris Is Burning, USA, 1990

Documentary about the “house” culture of drag queens living in New York City, touching on topics about race and poverty.

Paris is Burning

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