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9 Must-See Movies for Discerning Architecture Buffs

Hunker down this weekend with our favorite kind of eye candy.

9 Must-See Movies for Discerning Architecture Buffs
Courtesy of 20th-Century Fox

This week kicked off the seventh annual Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York, a city that has its fair share of architectural moments. While many will flock to see some of the 30 films on view and panels led by a long list of revered industry names, we'll be honoring one of our favorite art forms from the comfort of our own home. So without further ado, here are nine of our favorite design-inspired films in varying degrees of architectural intensity, from high-brow documentaries and design-friendly dramas to lighthearted rom-coms with just a dash of the good stuff. So kick back, order some takeout, and press play—we've got your weekend plans covered.


If you're looking to get a little educatin' on, these serious (and seriously entertaining) films take you inside the mesmerizing and competitive worlds of some of the world's most groundbreaking designers, photographers, and architects.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter
Narrated by James Franco, this film chronicles the story of Charles and Ray Eames, the OG power couple behind the eponymous—and legendary—furniture and design pieces that are still staples today. The viewer is welcomed into the Eames's studio to follow along as they become two of the most influential creators of the post-war era. Where to Watch It: rent via Netflix DVD; YouTube

"Urban design is really the language of a city," explains Amanda Burden, director  of the NYC Department of City Planning.  This documentary discusses the expansive effects that the building of cities has on their environments, while addressing the pervasive need to build up and out. Where to Watch It: purchase on iTunes and Amazon; rent via Netflix DVD

Visual Acoustics
This flick spans the life and career of legendary architectural photographer Julius Shulman. His images brought to life fantastic structures by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Frank Gehry, stressing the importance of modern buildings in cultural life. Where to Watch It: purchase on iTunes; Hulu Plus


The second most common job title in rom-com history, behind baker? The architect.While Hollywood might have you believe all you need to succeed in the role is a pair of jaunty glasses, these three films show that designing is a tough gig if you can get it. 

9 Must-See Movies for Discerning Architecture Buffs
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

500 Days of Summer 
Proving that there's nothing cuter than a man who can draw up some plans, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom Hansen, a classically trained architect who ends up working as a greeting card writer before eventually getting back in the game.  We Joseph Gordon Love It. Where to Watch It: Amazon

One Fine Day
Female architects really do exist! Michelle Pfeiffer plays Melanie Parker, a mom trying to juggle the pressures of a high-profile job and a chaotic family life on one very bad day. We feel Parker's pain when her young son knocks over a project model right before a big presentation to an important client, then immediately take back all sympathy when George Clooney steps into the picture. Where to Watch It: Amazon

How I Met Your Mother
Ok, so technically this isn't a film. But there's no better way to witness the career highs and lows in an architect's life than through the eyes of Ted Mosby. In this clip, he's torn between keeping the historic Archadian Hotel or working with his new firm to knock it down and build over it. Where to Watch It: Netflix


For the most thrilling role in the film industry, look no further than the location scout. A good backdrop—whether it's a house or a cityscape—has the power to shape the story and atmosphere of a film like nothing else. Case in point: these three movies offer serious sense of place.  

A Single Man
Architecture and fashion shine in Tom Ford's visual masterpiece, with an iconic home designed by John Lautner in 1949, setting the stage for a troubled friendship in the Mad Men era. Where to Watch It: Amazon

The Walk
In a film based on the Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire, Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes another appearance in our architecture round up, this time playing Philippe Petit, the famed tightrope walker who has (illegally but beautifully) danced on wires over Notre Dame, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and, here, the Twin Towers. Where to Watch It: in theaters now

Meet Joe Black
A young Brad Pitt may be the star in this romantic tearjerker, but we couldn't keep our eyes off the interiors, first in a covetable Manhattan penthouse, then more inspiringly at Rhode Island's famed French château-style Aldrich Mansion. Where to watch it: HBOGO; Amazon