10 great movies that benefit from the color red

A red spot is rarely just a red spot. It often symbolizes death. Two girls in red coats – one in Don’t Look Now (1973) and the other in Schindler’s List (1993) – are tragic characters who haunt cinema history. A woman lies dying in a house full of red walls in Cries and Whispers (1972). The moment of her death is bloodless, as the walls are outsourced to the color of her life force spent.

A lot of movies are less shy about bloodshed and entire genres based on blood. It would be easy to fill every spot on this list with jigsaws and jellies, creating an impression similar to opening elevator doors in The Shining (1980).

Although there seems to be a theme of grief, loss, violence and death to films that shamelessly use the color red, it is also the color of emotion. Sometimes, primal feelings are too much for nice or subdued people to face. Pedro Almodóvar and Wong Kar Wai use red in their production designs to express what their characters cannot do.

To lighten the mood: Enter the scarlet seductress. “It’s always tempting,” says Catherine Bray in her video essay Inside the Cinema. One siren adds sparkle to this list: It’s Marilyn Monroe, the greatest bombshell ever to have lived in her star-making role.

The Red Balloon is a seemingly simple children’s movie that won an Academy Award in 1956. Its use of red visually and emotionally is the gold standard.


Cries and Whispers returns to cinemas for its 50th anniversary starting April 1, 2022.


The Red Boot (1948)

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressberger

The Red Boot (1948)

As Brian De Palma later did in Carrie (1976), Powell and Pressburger (the film duo known as The Archers) complement their use of visceral scarlet with the natural locks of a red-headed woman. Moira Shearer plays the doomed Vicky, a vulgar ballerina who looms under the oppressive wing of dance producer Boris Lermontov (brilliantly evil Anton Walbrook, who got the most memorable lines). Vicky is represented in the ballet The Red Shoes, about a charming pair of ballet shoes that make the wearer dance to death. The score was written by a young composer, who is also a redhead, and the two fall in love, because of which Lermontov refused.

When Vicki is invited to a room to be shown the main part, each authority figure is surrounded by a splash of red, part of the things to come. The shooters make a drawing in red, white, and blue, dressed as the Shearer, with her porcelain skin and brown hair, in a color wheel of blues.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

In the opening issue of the Hood Hawks’ Technicolor musical, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sing about being little rock girls, while shimmering in red split sequin gowns in all the right places. This is a dazzling outfit that causes the viewer’s head-slashing Roger Rabbit eyes to appear. This was the movie that made Monroe a star above the title, and having her as Lorelei Lee, the pragmatic gold-digger opposite Russell’s idiotic Dorothy, is just as exciting today as it was nearly 70 years ago.

Costume designer William Travilla received plaudits for the fuchsia pink gown and gloves Monroe wore to sing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” a number that takes place against a pink background while Monroe, smoother than solid and dripping in diamonds, is pursued by protective-eyed dancers in striped sashes. With candy. The thing she’s wearing, whatever the outfit, is a splash of red lipstick.

Red Balloon (1956)

Director: Albert Lamores

Red Balloon (1956)

The Red Balloon was awarded for being the only short film to win Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. This development appears on behalf of the Academy, because hardly a word is spoken in this 35-minute family movie about a young boy, Pascal, son of director Albert Lamores, who finds a red balloon exciting with a mind of his own.

Dim gray dominates the Parisian neighborhood of Menilmontane where Pascal roams, so the balloon pops out of the frame like an icy cherry in the smog. He is a playful creature who enjoys jumping away from the way of adults who reach for his string, while remaining patient loyalty to Pascal by following him. Of course, such a wonderful vibrant balloon attracts envy. The sense of danger as he pursues the neighborhood boys is a testament to the clear, clean, dramatic lines created by Lamores (who also created the board game Risk). The red balloon represents anything you want. This is her beauty.

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Cries and Whispers was inspired by the recurring dream of Ingmar Bergman that four women in white were whispering to each other in a red room. Like many of the films on this list, there is a statement of intent from the first title card, with orange and red filling a blank screen. Bergman repeats this blank, color screen as a pause after the climax in the domestic drama about three sisters—one of whom, Agnes (Harriet Anderson), is dying in bed—and their living maid.

The women almost look like angels floating around an inferno, as every room has red walls. Once Agnes dies, the two remaining sisters recast themselves as being held back by petty concerns, with the maid appearing to have had the purest love for the deceased. The most exciting moments involve shards of glass and a vagina, as if to prove that life is more chaotic than death.

Carrie (1976)

Director: Brian de Palma

Carrie (1976)

Pig’s blood, a red convertible car, Sissy Spacek hair, wine-colored candles, and a pale pink dress seen as red through the eyes of a fundamentalist mother. These are some of the main components of Carrie. Brian De Palma adapted Stephen King’s novel, and it is one of the saddest horror tales in existence. Humiliation and rejection push Carrie White (white is a call to red), the only shy person with telekinetic powers, toward the end of the devastation. This erupts from her as the culmination of feelings so strong that it really causes a burn.

Carrie elicits a sweet, short-lived sense of belonging at her high school prom, only until during a moment in the spotlight she is doused in pig’s blood, Carrie snaps, pushed to the edge by her violent mother. It’s not a crazy revengeful way to laugh; Sadness fueled her. The red that’s been dripping steadily since the opening scene, Where My Period Comes, explodes in a torrent that makes the fire engines arriving at the scene sneer too late.

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria (1977)

Featuring the base color for Dario Argento’s 1975 film title, Deep Red, it is itself the inspiration for Helen Catett and Bruno Forzani’s recent Jello film The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013) – certainly the most poetic description of blood.

Argento’s most famous movie, Suspiria, follows American ballet student Suzy as she arrives at a fearsome dance academy in Germany. Red light, torrential rain, and the ominous outcome of a goblin and a seeker escaping through the woods is her first night in town. The next day, she returned to the academy housed in a dramatic Gothic building with an ornate red and gold facade. Inside, it’s all pink walls, witch icons, creaking corridors, and stained glass, perfect for bodies to crash through. Argento was inspired by the saturated color production of the Technicolor Disney films, which means the deaths feature blood pooling in a striking neon red.

Three colors: red (1994)

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Three colors: red (1994)

The last film in Krzysztof Kislowski’s trilogy proved to be Swansong, as he died two years after its release. Each film represents a different color on the French flag and a different example of the French Republic. Blue was the freedom and equality of whites and red brotherhood. Erin Jacob plays a young model, Valentine, who befriends a retired man-hating judge who spies on his neighbors. She appears at his home by reading the address on the collar of the dog she hits with her car, dripping with thick dog blood. Valentine is shooting a chew ad with her matching red Ferrari in the background. The resulting image hangs at a traffic light, and the most famous combination features a red car parked with a red light below the advertisement.

Kieslowski does a complicated job here of articulating a cliché, like the interconnectedness of all things, in a vague and complex way. The use of red, like its general art, is pointy but never heavy.

In the Mood for Love (2000)

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Wong Kar Wai’s study of Unfulfilled Desire is about two neighbors in British Hong Kong in the 1960s, Mr. Chao (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung), who realize that their spouses are having an affair with one another. They are both lonely, making a friendship but vowing to “never be that bad”. This does not mean that they are not attractive.

As they spend more time in Mr. Chan’s rented apartment, red begins to appear with increasing force in a production design previously dominated by shadows. A corridor lined with candy apple curtains, Mrs. Chan is sitting on a crimson bedspread. The urges they do not dare to express are expressed through the color in the spaces they occupy. It’s a great, comprehensive use of the site as an extension of the character, leaving Cheung and Leung free to channel their wonderful restraint, as their physical aspects are visually taken care of.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

We need to talk about Kevin (2011)

Lynne Ramsey does not show the blood 15-year-old Kevin spilled after he administered a bow and arrow at his classmates. Instead, a red river swings from the opening dream sequence where Kevin’s mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton), imagines herself splashing with tomatoes at the Spanish festival, La Tomatina.

Eye-catching strawberry toys adorn a timeline set in her family’s former home as she searches her memory for clues about her sociopathic son. In the current schedule, she lives alone as a pariah, remembers the flashing sirens of the ambulance and lives on a diet of Merlot and eggs sprinkled with ketchup. When the mother of one of Kevin’s victims saw her at the supermarket, she hid behind a row of cans of Campbell’s soup. Vandals cover her house and car in red. The paint sticks to her hair and hands, and like Lady Macbeth’s mother, she doesn’t seem to wash it off.

Julieta (2016)

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Julieta (2016)

The Red Dress is the backdrop for the opening title in Almodóvar’s drama about mothers’ suffering, adapted from three short stories (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence” by Canadian novelist Alice Munro. Also supernatural film noir Volver (2006) and Tilda Swinton’s heart-breaking vehicle The Human Voice (2020). In Julieta, bright red oozes with standard regularity through her wardrobe, accessories, and furniture choices. The color highlights the anguish that Julieta’s heart wracked after she left Her teenage daughter, Antea, heads off to a mountain haven and never comes home.Decades pass and Julieta appears to be living in peace, moving to a new home in a new neighborhood, far from the one she’s been living in with her daughter.

The faded color scheme represents her attempt to preserve life in the present. But after she met a friend of Antía on the street, the Alhambra came back to remind us of the pumps under her controlled deck.

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