National Tattoo Day was first celebrated on July 4th in 2015, but after last year, it has been officially moved to July 17th. As you probably know, tattoos can be personal, artistic, and very intricate. In movies, they are often used symbolically to help characterize actors. And while there are countless examples of tattoos, many probably don’t catch your attention that much. So here’s a list of the five absolutely best tattoos I could find that add a new dimension to their respective movies and will definitely be memorable.
1. Cape Fear (1991)
While this is not the best film of the great director/producer Martin Scorsese (Casino, The Departed, Goodfellas, Wolf Of Wall Street, Shutter Island), it is definitely one of his most iconic works. The plot revolves around Max Cady (Robert De Niro), who is a convicted rapist released from prison after serving his fourteen year sentence. The film follows him as he creepily stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him. The tattoos on his front body most notably feature lightning strikes, a broken heart with name “Loretta” on it, and the phrase “Vegeance is mine.” The tattoo on his back is a mix of a cross and scale with the words “Truth” and “Justice” written on either side. The panther on his right arm is a real tattoo of De Niro, however, he usually chooses not to show it in most of his roles.
Fun Fact: There were originally three different front body tattoo versions for this movie.
2. Memento (2000)
This is definitely one of Guy Pearce’s highlight roles as he juggles the search for his wife’s murderer with his fight against his short-term memory loss. In order to cope with his deteriorating memory, he puts tattoos all over his body with ink and a lighter. The tattoos are signs and symbols that help him remember details about himself and the murderer. You can see almost all of his tattoos in the image below (there is definitely quite a lot of them):
3. Once Were Warriors (1994)
While this New Zeland movie is not very well-known, it is still definitely one of my all-time favorites. The movie’s description on IMDb is “A family descended from Maori warriors is bedeviled by a violent father and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts.” The acting is amazing, the script is well-done, and the whole atmosphere is dramatic, thrilling, and full of tension. The coolest thing about the movie is that almost all actors have tattoos (even the family members have some small ones). The greatest tattoos are definitely of Maori Warriors because they all have very detailed face, body, and arm tattoos. It’s a movie that totally deserves its place on this list.
4. Red Dragon (2002)
As the first movie of the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, Red Dragon truly is a cinematic masterpiece. However, because it is a prequel, it was actually released after the second (Silence Of The Lambs) and third (Hannibal) movies. A retired FBI agent (played by Edward Norton) is assigned to use his psychological gifts to help track down the mysterious serial killer “The Tooth Fairy.” He is aided him by imprisoned forensic psychiatrist Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins). In the film, the infamous The Tooth Fairy is convinced that he is transforming into the great epic “Great Red Dragon” from the book of Revelation, which is why he has this incredible dragon tattoo:
Fun Fact: It took over 8 hours for the creation of the dragon tattoo.
5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
There have been five movies about this Swedish trilogy: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009), The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (2009), the Millenium TV series (2010), and the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 2011 remake. The story centers around a journalist and his quest to find and learn about a young, female hacker (a.k.a. the girl with the dragon tattoo). Fittingly so, below is a picture of the film’s namesake:
Honorable Mentions: The Snatch (2000), Tattoo (1981), The Place Beyond The Pines (2012), Blade Runner (1982).