17 Best Movies Every Architect Should See

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Do you spend your free time as an architect looking for fresh ideas? Maybe someone who enjoys both movies and buildings. No matter your preference, we have a film for you on our list of the best movies for architects. From dramatic profiles of innovative architects to spectacular visuals of historic buildings, these films offer an alternative perspective on the field of architecture. Come along as we discuss several of the most interesting and provocative films that architects and moviegoers alike are sure to enjoy.

If you are in a rush here are the top 3 of the best movies for Architects.

See below for more details on the released movies and how to watch them.

1. The Fountainhead (1949)

The Fountainhead is a complex and controversial film about the topic of architecture and its place in society. Inspired by Ayn Rand’s book of the same name, the film follows the life of architect Howard Roark as he fights against the pressures of society and the architectural elite to live up to their standards.

In the film, architecture is idealized and exalted, and Roark’s creations are presented as the embodiment of an uncompromising creative vision. His buildings are portrayed as artistic wonders that contrast sharply with the mainstream’s monotony and sameness. Iconic elements in the film, such as the striking black-and-white photography, highlight the stark simplicity and deep impact of Roark’s ideas on the viewer.

At the same time, The Fountainhead has been derided for its simplistic portrayal of architecture and its role in civilization. Roark’s contempt for conventional architecture and obsession with realizing his vision are held up as shining examples of individualism, but critics argue that this overlooks the many cultural, political, and social considerations that shape architecture today.

The Fountainhead, despite its flaws, is nevertheless a driving force for architects and designers. For those who want to push the boundaries of architecture and design, its emphasis on unique viewpoints and creativity and rejection of sameness makes it an indispensable guide.

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2. Blade Runner (1982)

The groundbreaking science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and premiered in 1982, Blade Runner, also features stunning visuals of architecture. The film shows a gloomy and stunning picture of architecture in a dystopian Los Angeles.

The film’s trademark visual aesthetic mixes film noir with cyberpunk characteristics and the city’s architecture is a major contributor to this style. The film’s overall tone of power and menace is heightened by the gigantic, neon-lit structures that dominate the skyline. It depicts the city as a labyrinth of steel and stone, with winding alleyways, busy thoroughfares, and structures that dwarf the inhabitants.

But Blade Runner also takes a personal look at the ways in which structures may shape people’s lives and personalities. The film’s central conflict is the creation of artificial beings called replicants that appear and behave exactly like humans yet lack all agency. In turn, the city’s architecture is symbolic of the oppression that governs the lives of both humans and replicants, with its foreboding heights and dreary atmosphere.

In conclusion, Blade Runner is an outstanding example of the power of set design in transforming a film’s atmosphere. The film’s dreadful visuals and exploration of the relationship between architecture and individualism make it essential viewing even now, decades after its first release.

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3. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan’s Inception, released in 2010, is a science-fiction movie that delves deep into the nature of dreams and the workings of the mind. Though at first look it may not appear like an architectural film, it dives deeply into how physical location impacts thought.

The movie’s dreamscapes are as intricately and painstakingly built as any building in the world. Real-world landmarks, such as Parisian avenues or the hotel where most of the happenings take place, serve as the basis for many of the dreams, but they are frequently warped and distorted in forms that defy our understanding of spatial logic. Besides contributing to the film’s unearthly mood, this architectural choice helps to highlight the malleability of the mind.

In addition, the characters’ use of stairways and other architectural features—as well as the metropolis’s topography—to navigate about in these dreamscapes demonstrates the influence that buildings may have on our perception of reality and our mobility around it.

Inception is an interesting look at how architecture may affect our mental processes and how we interpret the world around us.

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4. Columbus (2017)

Columbus is a 2017 independent film directed by Kogonada that tells the story of a young woman named Casey and a middle-aged man named Jin who form a connection in Columbus, Indiana, a city renowned for its modernist architecture.

The film’s setting is crucial to its storytelling, as the architecture of Columbus serves as a central character in the film. Kogonada uses long, lingering shots of the city’s buildings and public spaces to create a sense of stillness and contemplation, mirroring the emotional states of the characters.

The film also explores the relationship between people and their built environment, as Jin is a Korean-born architect who is drawn to Columbus because of his admiration for its modernist buildings. His passion for architecture is contrasted with Casey’s apathy towards it, which leads to conversations about the role of architecture in our lives.

Kogonada’s use of architecture in the film is not limited to its visual aesthetics, but also as a means of exploring themes such as family, identity, and community. The characters’ interactions with the buildings and spaces around them reveal their inner selves and their relationships with each other. Overall, Columbus is a visually stunning and thought-provoking film that uses architecture as a lens through which to examine the human experience.

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5. Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (2010)

In the compelling and fascinating documentary Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio, Mockbee’s dedication to using architecture as a vehicle for social progress is examined.

This movie provides an in-depth look at the philosophies and practices of the Rural Studio, which he developed at Auburn University in Alabama to promote service learning and practical training for aspiring architects.

The documentary does a great job of illustrating the positive effects of their work in constructing affordable housing and community facilities in rural Alabama on the lives of those who benefitted from it. In this video, Mockbee’s closest friends, family, and former students discuss their fondest recollections of him and the enduring impact he had on their lives.

The documentary Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio demonstrates how architecture can be utilized to tackle inequality and improve disadvantaged communities. For those who work in architecture and design, it’s an affirmation of the positive impact they can have on society; for the rest of us, it’s a recognition of the incredible potential architecture has for transforming our lives for the better.

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6. Playtime (1967)

Playtime (1967), a masterpiece by Jacques Tati, probes the dynamic between people and their built environments. The film’s power to transport spectators to another planet is greatly aided by the film’s architectural design and set pieces.

Tati’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every frame. The cityscapes, architecture, and interiors are all meant to make the observer feel disoriented and lonely in the midst of the hectic city. The cold and sanitized atmosphere of today’s glass, metal, and concrete structures emphasizes their apathetic and impersonal nature.

Superb architectural architecture is shown in the film via its use of location and camerawork. Tati often employs the use of deep focus in his photographs to highlight the complex character of cityscapes. The viewer’s sense of disorientation and confusion is amplified by his employing the techniques of reflection and reframing to highlight the fractured nature of modern urban life.

Playtime is an excellent study of the impact that buildings may have on people’s daily life. As so, it serves as a critique of the modernist ideal of efficiency while also stressing the importance of community and energy in building design. Playtime is a groundbreaking film whose inventive use of space and story through visuals has influenced architects and designers for decades.

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7. The Architect (2006)

The engrossing drama directed by Matt Tauber The Architect digs into the complex web of connections that exist between buildings and societal problems. The film tells the tale of Leo Waters, a famous architect who is charged with creating a community center in a substantially African-American area in Chicago.

The film The Architect provokes thought on the civic duty of architects as well as the influence that architecture has on underserved areas via Leo’s encounters with the locals and his own problems. The nuanced representation of the complicated power relations at play in the film, which includes opposition from both the residents and the ruling class, provides an interesting inquiry into the role that architecture plays in transforming communities.

In its entirety, The Architect is a movie that will get you thinking and that does a good job of illuminating the complex interplay that exists between architecture, the community, and politics. Everyone who has even a passing curiosity about the social aspects of architecture and the essential part that architects can play in the process of making the built environment more egalitarian and environmentally friendly should give this picture a go.

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8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson is an excellent example of the effective use of architecture and other structures in the film. The namesake hotel plays an integral part in the plot of the film, and the structure itself is almost as essential to the narrative as the residents.

The hotel was designed in a fantastical Art Nouveau approach, with ostentatious furnishings, vibrant hues, and intricate details. The hotel and its surroundings have been crafted with such care by Anderson that they are visually arresting and evoke emotions of nostalgia and enchantment in the spectator.

The film also utilizes the hotel’s architecture effectively. The architecture of the hotel represents the social class divide, with the upper floors reserved for the wealthy and the lower levels intended for the working class. This concept penetrates the entire film, with the hotel’s design serving as a metaphor for the film’s societal commentary.

In conclusion, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a remarkable example of how architecture can be used to convey substance and theme in the film. Its use as an artistic instrument results in an involved and multifaceted plot, and its ornate form and meticulous attention to minute details create an indelible and completely immersive film experience.

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9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick challenged viewers’ preconceptions of science fiction and explored the limits of human thought. Incredible set design and stunning visual effects help sell a credible and fascinating vision of the future in this film.

The film’s minimalistic design and color scheme evoke the harsh and futuristic atmosphere of a spaceship, while the organic curves and rounded corners of the space station and the planet’s surface inject warmth and humanity into the otherwise cold and lifeless environment. Incredible attention to detail was put into the film’s set design to create an authentic and credible environment.

All of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s architectural and set design elements work together to reinforce the film’s central ideas. For instance, the artificial gravity produced by the space station’s spinning area makes it possible for people to live and work in space. A recurring picture in the film is of a massive black stone, which stands for the mysterious and uncontrollable forces that shape human history.

The breathtaking architecture and set design of 2001: A Space Odyssey contribute significantly to the film’s status as an important achievement in the history of science fiction. The film’s ability to envision the future in a way that is both believable and compelling has influenced many filmmakers and designers, and its themes and ideas are still relevant and topical today.

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10. Ex Machina (2014)

The film Ex Machina is a visual masterpiece, with an impressive architectural style that echoes the film’s ideas. The film takes place in the Norwegian highlands, where withdrawn tech CEO Nathan has constructed his highly sophisticated mansion and research complex.

Nathan’s house has a futuristic, minimalist aesthetic, with its simple lines and emphasis on utility. The combination of manmade materials like glass and concrete with organic ones like stone and wood helps the structure blend in with its natural setting.

Numerous large windows and wide sightlines throughout the dwelling provide a feeling of spaciousness and a blurring of the distinction between the indoors and the outdoors. The choice of white and gray highlights the difference between the synthetic and organic worlds while also emphasizing the immaculate and antiseptic atmosphere of the structure.

In Ex Machina, mirrors and other reflecting surfaces are prominently included in the building design. Ava, the film’s protagonist, is a highly developed android who seems human, and the mirrors help to emphasize her artificiality and her contradictory nature.

In general, Ex Machina’s architectural style helps to amplify the film’s themes, producing a language of images that symbolizes the conflict between technology and mankind and the blending of the real and unreal.

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11. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix
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The groundbreaking spectacular effects and thrilling action sequences in The Matrix (1999) aren’t the only things that make the film stand out as a classic of science fiction. The film offers a plethora of potentially informative and interesting suggestions for architectural design.

In The Matrix, one of the most eye-catching features of the setting is the way in which the virtual and physical worlds interact with one another. Blending dystopian, industrial, and cyberpunk aesthetics, the film depicts a future in which machines have taken control of society and imprisoned people inside a synthetic world. The film’s futuristic, computer-based setting served as an inspiration for several cutting-edge pieces, many of which use the trademark green of the Matrix code.

The film is also an excellent illustration of the possibilities of brutalist architecture in the field of science fiction. The Matrix’s menacing power plants are a perfect example of how effectively brutalist architecture can complement a dystopian setting.

Matrix vessels, like the Nebuchadnezzar, are also superb instances of industrial design in science fiction. The utilitarian, almost military appearance of these ships is appropriate given their job as a weapon in the continuing struggle against machines.

In conclusion, The Matrix is a great movie for architectural inspiration because it offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between the real and virtual worlds, is a prime example of brutalist and industrial architecture in science fiction, and has inspired a number of innovative designs.

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12. Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking science fiction film Metropolis (1927) depicts a dystopian future metropolis that is split in two: the luxurious upper city, where the governing elite dwell, and the working class lower region, where the lower class struggles to keep everything working.

The film’s magnificent visual design and architecture are among its most memorable features. The amazing combination of Art Deco and expressionist forms in the future metropolis creates a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien. Architecture in Metropolis emphasizes the disparity across the high and low classes, with the rich inhabiting soaring skyscrapers and the working class toiling in perilous, subterranean industry sectors.

The famous masterpiece Metropolis explores such topics as class conflict, worker dehumanization, and the perils of technology. The film’s use of architecture to show the disparities between social strata and the repercussions of ignoring the needs of people who keep civilization functioning is a powerful and effective tool. Filmmakers and artists continue to draw inspiration from Metropolis’ groundbreaking science fiction themes and remarkable visual language.

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13. The Truman Show (1998)

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) finds out that his whole life is a reality television program in Peter Weir’s satirical comedy-drama The Truman Show (1998). From the power of the media to the concept of free will, this film examines it all.

The architectural design of the film had a significant impact on the overall success of the picture. The film mostly takes place on Seahaven Island, Truman’s idyllic childhood hometown and present-day home. White picket fences, manicured lawns, and pastel-colored homes help the community fake a 1950s appearance. But it’s all an elaborate TV set, and the producers control every detail of Truman’s life down to the weather.

The film’s use of architecture is brilliant in communicating its themes of authority, conformity, and reality manipulation. Seahaven Island may seem tranquil from the outside, but it is really a carefully crafted illusion created to keep Truman in the limelight. The building layout adds to the impression that everything in Truman’s existence is artificial and unnatural and that he lives in an ecosystem that is only partially real.

In sum, The Truman Show is an intriguing film that makes good use of the visual qualities of the backdrop and the quality of the set design to investigate some important philosophical challenges.

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14. The Belly of an Architect (1987)

The themes of creativity, obsession, and impermanence are dissected in the stunningly beautiful film The Belly of an Architect. An American architect named Stourley Kracklite (Brian Dennehy) comes to Rome to oversee an exhibition of his work. Peter Greenaway is the film’s director.

Kracklite’s health and relationships suffer as he grows more consumed with the installation and his own legacy. His job obsession drives him to research Rome’s rich history of art and architecture, and he soon becomes obsessed with the concept of a “ideal city.”

The film’s stunning visuals are a direct result of Greenaway’s painstaking attention to detail in crafting each scene to illustrate the film’s themes. The film’s surreal vibe is helped along by its use of shadows and lighting, hues and textures, and symmetrical building design.

In a stunning performance, Brian Dennehy captures both Kracklite’s fiery fervor and his profound despair. Excellent performances are given by the whole cast, including Chloe Webb and Lambert Wilson in supporting roles.

The film The Belly of an Architect explores the dark side of creative ambition and passion, and it is a captivating watch as a result. The stunning graphics and impressive performances make this film a must-see for fans of the art-house cinema.

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15. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The aesthetically stunning sequel to the classic 1982 film Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, masterfully blends sci-fi with breathtaking architecture. The buildings and streets of the film’s futuristic setting are well-realized.

The metropolitan settings in Blade Runner 2049 are an example of the influence architecture may have on a film’s aesthetic. There are echoes of Tokyo and Hong Kong in the film’s neon-lit boulevards and towering skyscrapers, but the city has its own unique look thanks to the Brutalist and modernist architecture seen throughout.

Throughout the film, K (Ryan Gosling) spends a great deal of time exploring the built environment of the city in an effort to discover what is going on. From the imposing Art Deco vestibule of Niander Wallace’s (Jared Leto) offices to the brutalist stone construction of the LAPD headquarters, the film’s architecture adds depth and texture to the environment.

The film’s use of light and shadow is another notable component of its design. The film’s visual appeal is enhanced by the city’s abundance of windows and screens, which create an eerie, spellbinding atmosphere.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film that successfully marries the worlds of science fiction and architectural design to create a setting that is both visually stunning and intensely immersive. The film’s use of different buildings and urban settings adds depth to the narrative and makes for a more enjoyable viewing experience.

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16. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The Devil Wears Prada is a witty and engaging film that offers a glimpse into the fast-paced world of design. The film follows Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a recent college graduate who lands a job as an assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the powerful and demanding editor-in-chief of a prestigious fashion magazine.

Through Andy’s eyes, the audience is given a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the design industry. From the frantic pace of runway shows to the cutthroat competition between designers, the film captures the intensity of the industry.

The film’s attention to design is evident in the costumes and sets, which are stylish and meticulously crafted. The fashion industry is brought to life through the film’s use of bold colors, textures, and patterns, all of which serve to showcase the creative energy and innovation that drives the industry forward.

At the same time, the film also explores the darker side of the design world, including the pressure to conform to certain standards and the toll that the relentless pursuit of perfection can take on a person’s mental health.

Overall, The Devil Wears Prada is an intelligent and entertaining film that offers a fascinating look at the design industry. The stylish visuals and strong performances from the cast, particularly Streep, make it a must-see for anyone interested in fashion or design.

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17. The Two Faces of January (2014)

The suspenseful thriller “The Two Faces of January” makes excellent use of the built environment to emphasize a feeling of foreboding. The story follows wealthy American tourists Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst), who visit Greece and get themselves in deep trouble after meeting their tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac).

The Acropolis and the Parthenon, two of Greece’s most well-known structures, play starring roles in the film, which makes for effective use of architecture. The tense and often terrifying narrative of the film is played out against these well-known locations.

The city and its architecture represent the characters’ aspirations and the bonds between them. Rydal’s socioeconomic disadvantage is reflected in his cramped, shabby home, in contrast to that of Chester and Colette, who can afford to stay in luxurious hotels.

As the story progresses and the characters get more entangled in their own deceptions, the atmosphere in the web of entanglement becomes darker. The protagonists’ sense of bewilderment and unease is mirrored in the mazelike streets of Greece’s ancient cities.

Overall, “The Two Faces of January” makes effective use of its architectural settings, which add to the film’s tense and frightening atmosphere. The film’s dark themes of deception and peril are echoed in the winding alleys and passageways of Greece’s old cities, which are utilized to emphasize the characters’ motivations and social standing via the usage of grand monuments, luxurious hotels, and rundown apartments.

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Final Thoughts

Films can teach architects plenty about humanity, other societies, and their chosen field of work. From the dystopian urban terrain of “Blade Runner 2049” to the ancient structures of “The Two Faces of January,” the films on this list showcase a wide range of architectural styles and settings. They demonstrate the complicated nature of the design industry and the social and cultural impact of architecture. Inspiring and captivating, these films will act as a constant reminder of the power of architecture to transform the natural world, whether you are an experienced architect or a novice.