April 08, 2011

Museums in the Movies

People have been visiting museums for a long time, and they have been going to the movies for a long time, too. It was bound to happen sooner or later that a couple of our favorite past-times – movies and museums – shared the spotlight. 

What’s your favorite museum-themed flick, or pivotal scene? Better yet, how many non-documentary films can you list that significantly feature a museum (aside from Night in the Museum, which is too easy)? Here is a short list to get you started. (Warning: this trivia challenge may be difficult to stop, once launched!).  We'll start with the best movie filmed in the best museum!

Black Widow (1987)
A murderous woman marries rich men who mysteriously die is on the loose in Seattle.  One of her victims is the director of a museum.  Several scenes were shot in the Burke including the Burke Room (with the Tiffany windows, however those are no longer on display), the lower gallery (when the totem poles were inside) and in the exhibit shop. It is rumored that Debra Winger brought her boyfriend to the set, which at the time was Sean Penn!

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
In what other film could the “intercostal clavicle” of a brontosaurus (now called Apatosaurus) bring a scientist and a scatterbrain together? Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant begin their romance and end the film over the enormous bone of this extinct creature.

House of Wax (1953)
A lush, gaudy screamer featuring horror-king Vincent Price. A Technicolor treat made in (gasp!) 3D.

Ghostbusters II (1989)
The Manhattan Museum of Art was the setting for the ectoplasm-drenched finale of this follow-up to blockbuster film Ghostbusters (1984). Any performance artists out there would surely develop an inferiority complex if he or she attempted to follow that dazzling act!

Russian Ark (2002)
Enveloping two centuries of Russian history in the amazing Hermitage Museum, the film itself was completed in a single, breathtakingly long take.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Murder in the Louvre! A 2000-year-old religious mystery with clues hidden in Leonardo’s paintings! Focal point of many passionate disagreements amongst friends, Dan Brown’s thriller is nothing if not controversial.

Vote for your favorite museum movie and see how your choice stacked up against others.

What is your favorite museum movie?

P.S. See Smithsonian.com’s list of five.

Posted by: Peg Boettcher