8 Movies with Great Museum Scenes

It’s summertime and an interesting pastime has suddenly hit my weekday life: themed movie marathons with friends. (Is this an L.A. thing?) Though we rent a good amount of movies for each marathon, we often only get through 2-3. I’ve noticed that each friend pushes a theme related to his/her area of interest.

I push for movies with great museum scenes. It’s hard to find a good list of these online, so I want to share some of my obvious and not-so-obvious museum-scene favorites (in descending order from release date):

1) Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)Larry and Kahmunrah “No Touch Zone” scene. Having come to life in the museum, Kahmunrah (Hank  Azaria) and Larry (Ben Stiller) have a  hilariously hard time reaching an agreement. “This is a no-touching zone!”

2) Hitch (2005) – The First Date scene. Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) surprises Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) with a sweet first date tour of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum (with a silly twist at the end of the clip). “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” “…Kinda deep for a first date, don’t you think?”

3) The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) - Returning the Painting scene. Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) returns a stolen Monet to the museum in a slick method inspired by Magritte’s famous paining, The Son of Man. This famous scene is awesome– but it’s also a spoiler, so don’t watch it if you intend to see the movie (which I recommend).

4. Ghostbusters 2 (1989)Visiting Vigo scene. The Ghostbusters surprise museum staff members when they visit under the suspicion that the place is haunted, and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) conducts an animated photo-shoot with Vigo the Cruel/Torturer/Despised/Unholy.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) - The Art Institute of Chicago scene. Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane (Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, and Mia Sara) visit The Art Institute of Chicago during their famous day off. The shots feature some of John Hughes favorite pieces in the museum.

6. Manhattan (1979)The Art Museum scene. Isaac (Woody Allen) just cannot get it right in this classic film.

7. Play it Again, Sam (1972) - Depressed Museum-Girl scene. Woody Allen does it again! After meeting several silly women, Allan (Woody Allen) decides to visit the art museum in hopes of meeting a more ‘intellectual’ girl to date. It isn’t quite the romantic connection he’d hoped for.“…What about Friday night?”

8. Vertigo (1958)Madelein in The Painting scene. In this haunting Alfred Hitchcock film, John “Scottie” Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) is asked to investigate Madeleine (Kim Novak), who believes herself to be the reincarnation of a deceased woman. When seen in the context of the film, this scene in incredibly eerie and haunting.

For more famous movie scenes featuring museums, check out these films:

Please comment below to add movies to this list!

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Museums, Technology 10 Comments

About the author


MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore

10 Responses to 8 Movies with Great Museum Scenes

  1. Melissa Mannon

    Your blog post has inspired archivists to find movies with archives themes! Thank you!

  2. colleendilen

    Hi Melissa,

    How cool! I’m glad the list inspired the creation of other great lists. I’ll be sure to check back as your list of archive movies grows. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. mjwrites

    Don’t forget Match Point. Great scene in the Tate. Love this post, Colleen! :)

  4. Kechiro

    I’m developing a syllabus for a community college course on museums – what a treasure! I’m sure most students will have seen Night at the Museum, but I wanted to give them so much more. Thanks much!

  5. Ashley

    You can’t forget… When Harry Met Sally….classic Met scene!

  6. Agusta

    Thank you – just what I needed as reference for my students in Iceland

    • colleendilen

      Glad to help, Agusta!

  7. mongomatsKim

    Its a sweet museum scene in the Royal Tennenbaums as well. When they run away and camp out there.

  8. Jay

    “LA Story” with Steve Martin… great scene in a museum (I believe it’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art?). It involves rollerskates and exaggerated gesticulations about a giant abstract/non-objecctive painting. A paradoxical sarcasm, for Martin to “poke fun” at abstract painting, as he posesses a significant personal collecction of Modern American abstraction.

  9. George

    Don’t forget Deceived with Goldie Hawn as an art conservator, and as a museum professional, I still laugh hysterically at the Mr. Bean movie with Rowan Atkinson!


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