Museums on Film: Three Memorable Moments

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  05.21.09 | 1:24 PM ET

Photo by brainware3000 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

With Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian set to open this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about museums and the movies. The first Night at the Museum, released in 2006 and set at a fictionalized version of the American Museum of Natural History, raked in money at the box office and is credited with increasing attendance at the real-life Upper West Side museum by as much as 20 percent. According to USA Today, the Smithsonian is hoping to see similar benefits from its featured role in the sequel.

The two Ben Stiller vehicles may be remarkable for the amount of traffic they’re driving to museums, but they’re not unusual in their choice of setting. Museums and galleries have played prominent roles in any number of films and television shows over the years. Here, with apologies for my clear bias towards New York City and romance, are three of my favorite museum movie moments.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

The Art Institute of Chicago
The sequence of scenes set at the Art Institute—Ferris and Co. joining hands with a line of schoolchildren, posing with a statue, and, finally, Cameron contemplating Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”—has become a classic, and it’s a big part of the reason why this movie always leaves me with an overwhelming desire to visit Chicago. (I haven’t, yet.) Here’s a partial clip:


The Hayden Planetarium
The original planetarium, part of the American Museum of Natural History, may have been replaced by a more modern incarnation, but that doesn’t mean Woody Allen fans have forgotten the spot where Isaac and Mary (Allen and Diane Keaton) take shelter from a sudden rainstorm. The whole movie is laced with visits to New York’s museums and galleries, but this particular stop stands out.


The American Museum of Natural History
The hit TV show spent plenty of time at the museum (or at least, a soundstage pretending to be the museum) in its early seasons, since Ross was an employee there. But as anyone who was 14 and sporting a “Rachel” haircut at the time will tell you, only one scene really matters—Ross and Rachel’s first official date:

How about you? Did you love Ben Stiller’s history-infused antics in “Night at the Museum,” or the Louvre-set scenes of “The Da Vinci Code”?

What are your favorite museum moments on film?

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

4 Comments for Museums on Film: Three Memorable Moments

Robert Reid 05.21.09 | 11:34 PM ET

If I were even just a tad more sissy, I might nominate that bit where Greg Peck gets his hand ‘bit off’ in ‘Roman Holiday.’

TambourineMan 05.22.09 | 1:29 AM ET

Friends??? Oh, Eva…

Ok, I’ll represent the west coast:
“Rebel Without a Cause”—Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
“Vertigo”—Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
“Time After Time”—California Academy of Sciences (the old building), San Francisco

Pretty sure “Bringing Up Baby” is set in a fictional museum, but what the hell, I’ll throw it in there too.

asion 07.31.12 | 11:13 PM ET

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