Visuals are an integral part of movies as they play a key role in creating a visual representation of the story, characters, and settings. They can evoke emotions, establish mood, and provide an immersive experience for the audience. Good visuals can also enhance the believability of a story and make it more memorable.

In short, visuals matter in movies because they are an essential part of the storytelling process and can greatly impact how the audience experiences and perceives the film.

Today, let's go over ten lessons we can learn from the visually stunning movies that inspired them. 

10 Lessons From Visually Stunning Movies 

Movie visuals matter for several reasons. First and foremost, visuals can enhance the storytelling of your film by creating a sense of atmosphere, mood, and tone that helps to immerse the audience in the story. A visually stunning movie can engage the audience's emotions and imagination, drawing them deeper into the narrative and creating a more impactful experience.

In addition, visuals can be used to convey themes, symbolism, and meaning, adding depth and complexity to the story. For example, color palettes can be used to create a sense of emotion or establish a specific mood. Camera angles and movements can be used to convey a character's emotional state or to suggest a particular interpretation of a scene.

What are some specific lessons we can learn from some of the greatest visual movies of all time? 

1. Storytelling Matters (Pan's Labyrinth)

A visually stunning movie should be more than just a series of beautiful images. The story must be compelling, emotionally resonant, and well-told. 

In Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, visual storytelling is a powerful technique that helps to immerse the audience in the film's magical and fantastical world. Director del Toro uses a combination of visual elements to tell the story and convey emotions, including color, lighting, camera angles, and composition. He frequently uses low-angle shots to make the magical creatures, such as the faun and the pale man, appear larger than life and more powerful. This technique creates a sense of awe and wonder for the audience.

Breaking down the visuals of 'Pan's Labyrinth''Pan's Labyrinth'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Style Can Enhance The Story (The Fall)

The visual style of a film can be a powerful storytelling tool that can enhance the narrative and the emotions it conveys. In Tarsem Singh's The Fall, style plays a crucial role in enhancing the movie's overall impact and emotional resonance. The film's stunning visual style, which blends fantasy and reality seamlessly and imaginatively, helps to transport the viewer into the film's world and creates a sense of wonder and awe.

The film's use of symbolism is visually rich and thought-provoking, adding depth and layers to the film's narrative themes. For example, the film's use of masks and costumes serves as a metaphor for the characters' search for identity and the role that imagination and storytelling play in shaping our understanding of the world.

Breaking down the visual style of 'The Fall''The Fall'Credit: Roadside Attractions

3. Lighting is Crucial (Moonlight)

Lighting can have a significant impact on the mood and atmosphere of a film. Lighting choices can also be used to convey meaning and symbolism. Lighting is a crucial element in Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, and it is used in a variety of ways to create a sense of intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional depth in the film. The lighting is often subdued, with dimly lit spaces and low-key lighting that creates a sense of intimacy and privacy.

One of the most striking examples of the use of lighting in Moonlight is in the scene where Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Chiron (Alex Hibbert) to swim. The light reflects off the water to create an otherworldly, dreamlike atmosphere. The lighting in this scene helps to convey the sense of peace and safety that Chiron feels in Juan's presence, as well as the vulnerability that he experiences as he learns to trust and connect with another person.

The lighting plays a vital role in creating the film's sense of intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional depth. The film's subdued, low-key lighting helps to convey the characters' inner lives and emotions, highlighting the contrast between different environments, and creating a dreamlike, otherworldly atmosphere that immerses the audience in the story.

Breaking down the visuals of 'Moonlight''Moonlight'Credit: A24

4. Sound Effects Cinematography (Avatar)

Sound design can add another layer of meaning to a film and enhance the audience's emotional engagement. The sound design in James Cameron's Avatar plays a critical role in enhancing the film's visuals and creating a fully immersive experience for the viewer. The sound design is used in a variety of ways to create a sense of realism and to complement the stunning visual effects in the film.

There are many ambient sounds to create a sense of the natural world -- heightening the worldbuilding we're seeing via the visuals. The sound of the forest, with its rustling leaves, chirping birds, and buzzing insects, is incredibly immersive and creates a sense of being fully immersed in the lush world of Pandora. The sound design is also used to convey the scale and power of the creatures on Pandora, such as the thumping footsteps of the giant Thanator or the guttural roars of the Viperwolves.

The sound design is also used to enhance the film's action sequences. The sound effects of the guns and explosions are designed to feel weighty and impactful, creating a sense of danger and tension. 

Breaking down the visual world of 'Avatar''Avatar'Credit: 20th Century Fox

5. Details Matter (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

The details of a film, from the set design to the costumes to the makeup, can make a significant difference in the overall impact of the visuals. Visual details are essential to the storytelling in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson is known for his meticulous attention to detail, and this film is no exception.

The film is set in the fictional country of Zubrowka in the 1930s, and the intricate and whimsical visual style of the film helps to transport the audience to this fantastical world.

The film's set design is also incredibly detailed, with each location and set piece carefully designed to fit the aesthetic of the film. The Grand Budapest Hotel itself is a masterpiece of design with its ornate wallpaper, intricate carpets, and old-world furnishings. The attention to detail in the set design helps to create a sense of time and place and to establish the world of the film.

The details are also used to convey the film's themes of nostalgia and the passage of time. The film is framed as a story within a story, with an elderly man reminiscing about his time as a young lobby boy (Tony Revolori) at the Grand Budapest Hotel. The film's intricate visual style helps to create a sense of nostalgia and longing for a time that has passed.

Breaking down the visuals of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel''The Grand Budapest Hotel'Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

6. Colors Mean Something (Hero)

The use of color in a film can be a powerful tool for conveying emotion and meaning. Different colors can be associated with different moods or themes. Color is a critical element in the visual design of Yimou Zhang's Hero. The film features a vibrant and striking color palette that is used to enhance the visuals and create a visually stunning experience for the viewer.

The color red is used throughout the film as a symbol of power, passion, and danger. The color is used in various ways, such as in the clothing of the characters, the walls and furnishings of the palace, and the falling leaves of autumn. The use of red creates a sense of drama and intensity and is especially effective during the film's many action scenes.

Another color that is prominently featured in the film is blue, which is used to convey a sense of calmness and introspection. The blue color scheme is used in scenes that are more reflective or meditative, such as the scenes in the calligraphy school. The use of blue creates a contrast to the fiery reds, helping to balance the film's color palette.

The color yellow is also used in the film, representing neutrality and impartiality. It is used in scenes where characters are negotiating or debating, and where a neutral or objective perspective is required. The use of yellow helps to create a sense of balance and fairness in these scenes.

Breaking down the color visuals of 'Hero''Hero'Credit: Beijing New Picture Film

7. Visual Effects Serve Story (Star Wars)

While visual effects can be impressive, they should serve the story and not distract from it. The visual effects in Star Wars are not just eye candy, but serve an important purpose in advancing the story and the overall narrative of the universe.

Star Wars is known for its exciting action sequences, and the visual effects are crucial in creating these scenes. The use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) allows for thrilling action scenes involving space battles and lightsaber duels. The visual effects create a sense of excitement and danger, making the action scenes all the more engaging for the viewer.

This can boost the emotional Impact.

The visual effects in Star Wars also play a role in creating an emotional impact on the audience. The destruction of the Death Star, the reveal of Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker's father, and the final battle between the Jedi and the Sith all involve visual effects that enhance the emotional impact of these scenes. The visual effects help to create a sense of awe, wonder, and even sadness, making the story and the characters more meaningful to the viewer.

Breaking down the visuals of 'Star Wars''The Empire Strikes Back'Credit: 20th Century Fox

8. Composition is Key (The Assassination of Jesse James)

The composition of shots can affect the audience's emotional response to the film. The placement of characters and objects within the frame can communicate different emotions and ideas. 

The visual compositions in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are an integral part of the film's style and tone. The film's cinematography by Roger Deakins is exceptional, featuring a unique visual style that gives the film a distinctive look and feel. The use of wide shots, close-ups, and slow-motion is striking and draws attention to the characters' facial expressions and body language.

There's an amazing use of light and shadows. The film makes excellent use of light and shadows, creating a moody and atmospheric look. The use of natural light sources such as candles and lanterns, along with the natural lighting in outdoor scenes, adds depth and texture to the visuals.

The compositions in the film are carefully crafted and visually striking. The filmmakers use a variety of techniques such as symmetry, asymmetry, and framing to create a sense of visual balance and beauty. The camera is often positioned in unusual and unexpected ways, which helps to create a sense of tension and unease.

Breaking down the visuals of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford''The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

9. Move the Camera (1917)

Camera movement can be used to create a sense of motion and enhance the visual impact of a film. It can also be used to convey meaning or symbolism. The moving camera in Sam Mendes's 1917 serves a crucial storytelling purpose, adding several layers to the film's narrative and emotional impact. 

The main way it is used is for immersion. 

The moving camera places the viewer directly into the action, creating a sense of immersion in the story. The camera follows the two main characters, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), as they journey through the war-torn landscape of World War I. The use of long takes and continuous shots helps to create a sense of real-time urgency and immediacy, drawing the viewer into the action and making them feel as if they are a part of the story.

This also creates tension. 

The moving camera also adds tension to the film, as it follows the characters through dangerous and unpredictable terrain. The camera often lingers on moments of stillness, creating a sense of anticipation and unease as the viewer waits for something to happen. When the action does occur, the camera follows the characters in a way that heightens the sense of danger and urgency.

Breaking down the visuals of '1917''1917'Credit: Universal Pictures

10. Cinematography is Art (Lawrence of Arabia)

Cinematography is not just a technical skill; it can be a work of art in its own right. A skilled cinematographer can create images that are beautiful, meaningful, and memorable. 

The cinematography inLawrence of Arabia is often regarded as one of the most visually stunning and artistically accomplished in the history of cinema. The compositions in the film are carefully crafted and visually striking, featuring sweeping landscapes, intricate patterns, and dramatic contrasts between light and shadow. The film's use of wide shots, close-ups, and tracking shots creates a sense of visual balance and beauty.

Lighting and color create atmosphere and an evocative sense of mood as Lawrence discovers and falls in love with the desert. 

Above all else, the movie is centered on technical mastery. 

The cinematography, done by Frederick A. Young OBE, BSC, is sophisticated, featuring groundbreaking innovations in the use of lenses, filters, and camera movements. The film's use of a wide-angle lens, for example, creates a sense of expansiveness and depth, while the use of zoom lenses creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy.

It can be described as a work of art, with every frame carefully composed and constructed to create a visually striking and emotionally resonant film. The film's attention to detail, use of light and shadow, and careful composition all work together to create a visually stunning and memorable work of cinema.

Breaking down the visuals of 'Lawrence of Arabia''Lawrence of Arabia'Credit: Columbia Pictures

Summing Up 10 Lessons From Visually Stunning Movies 

In conclusion, the art of visual storytelling is a powerful tool that filmmakers can use to transport audiences into new worlds, convey complex emotions, and leave a lasting impression.

The ten lessons outlined in this blog demonstrate the myriad ways in which visuals can enhance the impact of a film, from the use of color and composition to the power of lighting and movement.

By studying the work of some of the most visually striking films in cinematic history, filmmakers can gain insights and inspiration for how to create visually immersive and emotionally resonant stories. Whether you are an aspiring filmmaker or simply a lover of cinema, we hope that this blog has provided valuable insights and inspiration for how to appreciate and create visually stunning movies.

Let me know what you think in the comments.