By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2014 04:41PM
Midlands Movies Mike takes a look at some of the most memorable, fantastic and important tattoos on the big screen in this Top 20 Tattoos in the Movies List.
Before we get going I’m going to start with the honourable mentions which just missed the cut (or should that be needle) - Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon in Warrior (2011) – the tattoos are Tom’s own, Rod Steiger as Carl in The Illustrated Man (1969), Matthew McConaughey in Reign of Fire (2002), Jack Sparrow’s sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter (1955) and Matt Damon in Elysium (2013). So now, let's get on with the show!
20. Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott in Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
We’ll start with a reason not to get a tattoo – get so stoned/drunk and out of it that you get the word “Dude” inked on your back and your bro gets “Sweet” on his. Cue 5 minutes of brainless dialogue in this brainless film
19. Ed Helms as Stu Price in The Hangover Part 2 (2011)
The filmmakers got sued by Mike Tyson’s lawyers after the sequel covered another night of debauchery gone wrong and Stu ends up copying Iron Mike’s face tattoo. Bad in more ways than one for everyone involved.
18. Russell Crowe as Hando in Romper Stomper (1992)
Neo-Nazi Russell has a religious chest piece and a bone design down the arm for this early 90s violent thriller about racist groups in Melbourne, Australia
17. Justin Timberlake as Frankie "Nuts" Ballenbacher in Alpha Dog (2006)
More gangs in this film as we witness a kidnapping and murder as our musical Justin ditches his pretty boy persona for a combo of words, italics, stylised Chinese characters and stars over the top half of his body.
16. Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard in American History X (1996)
More gangs AND more neo-nazis in what is essentially a small tattoo in comparison to some on this list but its impact is felt every time you think of this film as Norton is captured during his topless arrest with his torso sporting a dark black swastika. A true heart of darkness in this thought provoking film.
15. George Clooney as Seth Gecko in From Dusk Til Dawn (1996)
A bit of an old-style 90s tribal design which actually had to be removed each day when gorgeous George went back to filming ER so the effects department took a neck cast and stencil that fitted directly to his body in order to airbrush it back on as quickly as they could each day. Inspired a load of Ibiza-going Loaded-reading lads tats and maybe Robbie Williams from that period too!
14. Wesley Snipes as Blade in Blade (1998)
Vampire killer Blade had a unique (until The Matrix) comic-book look that incorporated a tattoo into Snipes’ extreme haircut. Designed by tattoo artist Freddy Negrete, the tattoos include Polynesian influences and cover most of his upper chest, arms and shoulders. His partially shaved head reveals more designs that wrap around the back of the head and neck.
13. Brad Pitt as Mickey in Snatch (2000)
Coming off the back of Fight Club, Pitt already had the body for bare-knuckle Irish boxer Mickey O’Neill and director Guy Ritchie supplemented this with old school tattoos, some even look unfinished with a very rough and ready look. See a very cool rendering of the designs at this website: http://blog.creaturealchemy.com/index.php/2013/01/12/mickey-oneill-snatch-fan-art-progress/
12. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers (1980)
Maybe as a homage to Mitchum’s “Love” & “Hate” finger/knuckle tattoos, the dynamic musical duo have their own names tattooed on their hand (or hands in Elwood’s case given the number of letters) which show that the costume details were not lost in their transition from SNL skit to the big screen.
11. Pete Postlethwaite as Father Lawrence in Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Gone but not forgotten, our Pete has put in some stellar performances over the years but this often forgotten gem has the former RSC actor as a priest who has a Celtic cross (or crucifix) tattooed on his back as he deals drugs and (not that great) advice to the films’ lovers.
10. Ada Nicodemou as DuJour (The White Rabbit Girl) in The Matrix (1999)
A brief appearance by a small (and a bit crappy) tattoo but the importance of what it signifies (The Wachowski’s Alice in Wonderland influence, the start of his “unplugging”, the dreams within dreams connotations) is hugely influential. In the real world, you’d avoid such a poor cartoon character on the back of the shoulder but it is discreet yet draws you in like some tattoos should.
9. Ryan Gosling as Luke Glanton in The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
In a film that didn’t really grip me, one thing that can’t be argued about is the effects work and suitability of Gosling’s character’s tattoos. A mixture of hand-drawn sketches, spider webs, pictograms and finished with a large galleon on his back, this is a cool look for Gosling’s bank robbing criminal, it’s a shame the film didn’t quite have the same finish.
8. Viggo Mortenssen as Nikolai Luzhin in Eastern Promises (2007)
A brutal stark-bollock naked fight scene is the strange highlight of this UK-set crime drama from David Cronenberg and Viggo had his body covered in Russian gangster tattoos to show his allegiances in the movie. According to urban legend, the tattoos were so realistic that diners in a Russian restaurant Mortenssen visited in preparation for the film “fell silent out of fear, until he revealed his identity and admitted the tattoos were for a film”.
7. Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
My preference definitely sits with the Swedish original and I have chosen the larger and more extreme back piece over the symbolic tattoo from Fincher’s US-remake. The design has the dragon “tearing” through Rapace’s skin – maybe a bit on-the-nose – but the big design gets its righteous reveal to show her true violent nature.
6. Angelina Jolie as Fox in Wanted (2008)
With a love for tattoos including Arabic script, a Buddhist Pali incantation, gothic letters, a Tennessee Williams quote, Roman numerals, geographical coordinates AND a large Bengal tiger in traditional Thai style with a manual needle, Jolie appears to have tried every tattoo variation possible on herself. The best place to see these (plus others added by makeup for the film) is in the bath tub scene in Wanted. Taking both the audience’s and James McAvoy’s breath away, Jolie has the body to match the art too!
5. Robert De Niro as Max Cady in Cape Fear (1991)
Truth and justice crucifix scales on his back and a picture of death and a broken heart on the front amongst many others, De Niro’s vengeful criminal shows just how permanent his lust for revenge is over his perceived wrongful conviction. With The Simpsons Sideshow Bob spin off a delightful homage - “Die Bart, Die” is claimed as a German tattoo for “The Bart, The” and with a Robert Mitchum spoof (right actor, wrong film) we see written LUV and HAT (the A has a line above it) on Bob’s three cartoon fingers – the film shows anger, passion and a dark creative streak from personifying De Niro’s anarchic character and a visual representation of his motivations.
4. Ray Park as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace (1999)
One of the best things about the ill-fated prequels was the concept for this sci-fi villain and his double-ended lightsaber and awesome body art. According to Star Wars lore his tattoos (which also cover his entire body) are described as the markings of a warrior and although face tattoos, often Maori influenced, can be seen in films such as Ender’s Game and Once Were Warriors – the great practical effects of this extreme space creature design resonated positively with fans no matter how bad the film we actually got was.
3. Johnny Depp as Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker in Cry Baby (1990)
An obscure John Walters 50s nostalgia flick with darkness, campness and a subversion that only that director could provide, this was the first of many films Depp chose to ditch his 80s “pretty boy” tag. After a lightning strike hits a tree we find out electricity killed Cry-Baby’s parents and he rips off his shirt to reveal an electric chair tattoo on his chest. Later he has a single tear tattoo under his eye as well – an extremity a wired Walters would give his film “hero”.
2. Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby in Memento (2000)
An amazing “backwards” film designed to show us chunks of memory much in the style of the protagonist himself who after a brutal attack on him and his family is unable to create new memories. So how does his recall his past? Well, he simply tattoos the “facts” directly onto his body as a daily reminder. From the large gothic “Find Him and Kill Him” to a licence plate number he picks up during his investigation the film plays with conventions and Pearce’s body becomes a testament to the power of story-telling, memory and the longevity of information as well as a daily reminder for his beliefs. From his “certainties” which become forgetful doubts, this unique vision has to be near the top of the list...
1. Tom Noonan and Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde in Manhunter (1986) and Red Dragon (2002)
We have a double winner at the top to show how 2 different designs from the same source material can be done in wonderfully creative ways for the big screen. The Red Dragon novel tells us how serial killer Frances Dolarhyde is nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" due to his victims' body bites but actually refers to himself as "The Great Red Dragon" after William Blake's painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun”. He has a tattoo inspired by the picture and in Michael Mann’s first adaptation, Tom Noonan went through hours of designs and redesigns before Mann decided that he wouldn’t show it on film but the great design was used for promotional purposes. Brett Ratner’s 2002 follow up (a decent if cynical flick to show more Hannibal Lecter) gave Fiennes the opportunity to show off a huge, almost full body, tattoo that took 3 hours to apply each day. Do you see?