Being a big movie buff, I often find inspiration in films. From interesting camera angles and soundtracks to the use of typography, these elements can be a great source of creative inspiration. These five films are ranked in no particular order, but they all touch upon music, typography, self-advertising, creativity, cinematography and comedy—the essentials of designing, in my opinion. Here are my top five movies that spark my imagination:

  1. Drive, (2011) The use of synth-pop music and pink calligraphy that are reminiscent of the 80s and the accompanying nighttime neon signs of Los Angeles help Drive drive itself to being a cult classic. Ryan Gosling’s character barely says anything for most of the film and with the drum kit beats; we are steered through these moments of absolute isolation that portrays emotion as the movie evolves.
    The takeaway: In relation to design, it is important to make sure your typography is fitting for the project. Drive used Mistral, a typeface that when used alone is bland, but when you introduce a retro pink, nighttime LA skyline, and synth-pop, the 80s come back to life. The combination made this movie a standout, as these elements complemented one another perfectly.
  2. Exit Through the Gift Shop, (2010) The hit documentary contains footage shot by Thierry Guetta, a French-born L.A. emigrant, who’s passion for street art led to filming Banksy and his work. The two eventually collaborated, and the street graffiti of Banksy was launched from an underground following to unprecedented acclaim or disapproval, depending on how you view illegal street art.
    The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to pick up pro bono work. Anything and everything can help you in the beginning to help create a name for yourself. Both Banksy and Thierry were rather unknown. Thierry was interested in the street art scene. He built up street credit through local artists, and eventually Banksy stepped into the picture. Together they launched themselves into the mass media.
  3. Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope, (1977) What movie list isn’t complete without an original Star Wars mention? When it came time to figuring out the sounds for each character, George Lucas enlisted the help of Ben Burtt, a sound designer. Chewbacca’s growls were combined sounds from dogs, bears, lions, tigers and walruses and filtering a voice through an electronic synthesizer created R2-D2’s sound. Lucas called this collection of sounds the “organic soundtrack.”
    The takeaway: Being creative and thinking outside the box led Burtt to capturing some of the most well-known and iconic sounds in the history of filming. Step away from your work and really think about an organic approach. The world around us has so many things to offer, and in Burtt’s case, the sounds of multiple animals have made all of us grow to know and love the sound of a Wookie.
  4. Dances With Wolves, (1990) A helicopter, 10 pickup trucks, 24 Native Americans riding bareback, 20 wranglers and 3,500 buffalo made up the elaborate stampede in this American classic. Wranglers stampeded the animals past the seven cameras five times during the eight days. Each run lasted 5 to 8 minutes and was followed by the grueling process of rounding up all 3,500 buffalo again. The result? Dances with Wolves won seven Oscars, one for best cinematography.
    The takeaway: No matter how hard it may be, always strive to get the “perfect shot.” Imagery is huge in the world of design; it allows the audience to visualize what is trying to be communicated. Whether it is simple photography or complex film, the perfect shot will stay with viewers forever.
  5. Tommy Boy, (1995) All of us get stuck in a rut from time to time, so it’s nice to sit back and watch a comedy. Tommy Boy is centered on a character based in Sandusky, Ohio, who just inherited his father’s business, Callahan Auto Parts. Tommy doesn’t know the first thing about running a business, but his can-do attitude and a slight lack of intelligence make this movie a perfect gut-buster.
    The takeaway: Stressed individuals have a higher level of a hormone called cortisol. Laughter lowers the cortisol levels in the body, so laughing is a natural stress reliever. No matter what project we’re working on, we need to be open-hearted and allow for humor.

I often find myself wanting to watch and re-watch certain aspects of these films to understand how the scenes were made and how the creativity of the design ties the movies together. Through exploration of these elements, it not only opens our eyes and ears to the world, but it helps us define who we are.

Which movies serve as inspiration to you in your designs or work?