Skip to main content

How color theory is used to evoke emotions in the films we watch

Color psychology, as defined by Wikipedia, “is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior.” While Wikipedia may or may not be the most reliable source, this brief definition succinctly explains a facet of psychology that plays a vital role in visual arts — and beyond.

Colors evoke emotion in our brains. It’s been proven time and time again that hues of blue are most often associated with cool, calm feelings, while stronger colors like red stir up strong, aggressive emotions.

It’s these underlying perceptions that help photographers and cinematographers alike bring about a certain feel and aesthetic to a particular image, be it still or motion. To showcase the use of colors and their respective emotions that they bring about, Vimeo user Lilly Mtz-Seara has created a collection of clips from movies throughout the past two decades (via Fstoppers).

In the four-minute montage, Mtz-Seara explores innocence, passion, insecurity, sociability, madness, eroticism, and more as the colorful video transitions from one masterful scene to another.

From David Fincher’s Fight Club to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, the video shows how clever use of colors and composition subconsciously evoke emotions as the respective directors and cinematographers create and capture the scenes of a film. Much like the soundtrack of a film does for our sense of hearing, the colors palette of a film does for our sense of seeing.

Showing off the color theory used throughout films is nothing new. In fact, we recently featured Cinema Palettes. a Twitter account that takes a still from iconic films and breaks it down into a simple palette.

Next time you go to the movies or have a movie night at home with friends or your loved one, take some time to appreciate how the various hues are used throughout the movie to help contextualize what’s happening and reflect the emotions that go with the action.

You can find the full list of movies sampled throughout the short in the video’s description on Vimeo.

Editors' Recommendations

The best A24 horror films, ranked by Rotten Tomatoes
Florence Pugh stars in Midsommar from A24.

With the release of Men on May 24, and Bodies Bodies Bodies scheduled for August 5, celebrated indie studio A24 looks to add several more well-regarded horror films to their canon of contemporary classics. Indeed, as with many of their previous horror releases, Men is already "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 82%. And Bodies Bodies Bodies boasts an early review score of 93% on the site.

Given the critical success earlier this year of X, as well as the smash success of their non-horror film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, 2022 appears to be another banner year for the studio, especially on the horror front. Considering that they've produced and/or distributed so many films in just the last few years, it's been an impressive run of cinematic quality overall. Here are the best A24 horror films according to Rotten Tomatoes.
10. The Hole in the Ground (2019) – 83%

Read more
NASA invites entries for its CineSpace short-film contest
Earth seen from the moon.

Whether you’re an experienced filmmaker or an enthusiastic beginner, NASA is inviting one and all to get involved in this year’s CineSpace short-film contest.

Highlighted on Sunday in a post on the International Space Station’s Twitter account, the annual contest encourages creatives around the world to make a short film that includes imagery from NASA’s own archives.

Read more
How to watch the Star Trek movies and TV shows in order
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek: The Original Series

When the USS Enterprise first brought audiences aboard in 1966, few imagined that Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) would spawn a media empire half a century later -- including both live-action and animated Star Trek series, as well as more than a dozen Star Trek movies.

As the Star Trek universe expands, so does its fictional timeline, and for fans who want to know exactly what happened and when, it's getting a little difficult to navigate. That's why we put together a guide to enjoying all of Star Trek's canonical films and series in chronological order.

Read more