Movies with the best atmospheres

Very last post, and what I came in to say.

In Far From Heaven (no relation to Days of Heaven), the atmosphere, especially the colors and the lighting, is as much a character in the film as the actors. The movie takes place in the 1950’s, and was deliberately intended to evoke the melodramas of Douglas Sirk. When I first saw it, I remember thinking that you could watch the entire movie without sound and the visuals would carry the story and have the same emotional impact.

“The Hateful Eight” is an excellent example, as is “Fargo”.

ETA - Any Terry Gilliam film probably fits the bill as well. The aesthetic and the atmosphere it creates is as much a character as any major star.

Mary Reilly has that creepy Victorian feel.
I thought Brokeback Mountain truly had a clean, crisp outdoorsy feel to it.

Ways to establish mood: lighting, soundtrack, framing, story, dialogue etc.?. Perhaps it might be useful to examine in what way these are used in the specific films mentioned here.

I’ll give one I find interesting (but a bit horrible), in The Shining, the director Stanley Kubric made Shelley Duvall re-take her scenes over and over so much so that it was beyond comprehension, it really drove her to her wits end and that harrowing feeling comes accross in her performance - she looks distressed (like the wife of an alcoholic might indeed be). I think it adds to the overall mood of the film, but it’s not a choice everyone would make.

Two very different examples:

Edward Scissorhands, because it has completely the feel of a fairy tale, but one set in a very specific (and rather familiar) time and place, and not in any way less magical as a result of this; and

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - just because it seems to me to be “authentic”*, to the point that you are drawn into that world to a far greater extent than you would expect for what is, after all, a bit of a swashbuckling romp.


    • feel free to lambast me for my ignorance and naivety.

The movies of Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Tarantino seriously overdid it in The Hateful Eight. Just way too much filler of setting and whatnot. Could easily cut at least 20 minutes out of it to improve the mood.

I know I rave about this one a lot, but Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

Set in decaying Detroit it uses that craziness of abandoned, ruined cityscape to paint a picture of the characters as being also decaying. Just seeing the city around them makes the entire film somehow seem to be black and white instead of color.

For entire movie, I would go along with “Das Boot”. This really seemed to capture just the general discomfort of life on a U-boat, and then added to that, the stress of being hunted.

But for a single “scene”, the beginning of “Frantic” is the best example I’ve ever seen of the experience of arriving after a long (overseas) flight. It’s hard to put a finger on “how” this is achieved, but the director managed to capture that tired, disoriented, kind of zombie-like state you feel when you arrive after a long flight to a foreign land.

Moon (2009) did a good job portraying the seeming contradiction of the vast openness of space being a constricted, claustrophobic prison.

That reminds me of Lost in Translation, where that feeling of being tired, jet-lagged, and isolated in a strange foreign culture is sustained for the entire movie.

Actually, this would be top of my list of atmospheric movies.

Opening scene

Suntory Time!

Bob and Charlotte Meet

Karaoke scene

After watching these clips, I now have to go and watch the whole movie again this weekend. :smiley:

not at all, it’s pretty faithful to the timeand though it squashes a few of the books into one it is a fairly accurate portrayal of Napoleonic-era naval life.

I always like the feel of “Last Year at Marienbad” (not that I understand what is going on) and “La Belle et la Bete.”

Somewhat similar, and also starring the same actress is The Guest. Well known for its unique synthwave score and retro atmosphere, and starring Dan Stevens as the antagonist. Or anything with Dan Stevens, he’s good at this sort of thing. His star turn in Legion on TV. His recent collaboration with Gareth Evans, Apostle.

Ridley Scott’s fantasy film Legend from 1985. You could choke on that atmosphere.


Atmosphere: Haunting, traumatic, grief-filled.

I have cited this as the scariest movie I’ve ever seen and there is not one jump-scare in the entire movie. It’s all human trauma, family-grief, and because of that, it kills you with its atmosphere.

Wings of Desire has a dreary, happy feel, somehow.

Stalker, by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Kynodontas by Yorgos Lanthimos, of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer fame.

Barry Lyndon
Black Robe
Days of Heaven

I’d add Psycho.