Why Do So Many Filmmakers Use The Color Red?

Credit: Taste of Cinema
Color has an impact in filmmaking, but why does the color red stand out amongst so many filmmakers' palettes? 

From redrum to the red door knobs Bruce Willis can't open, to the girl in the red coat crossing the ghetto, directors have been loving the color red since the dawn of cinema. But what makes red so popular? There are lots of studies that say red stands out amongst other colors and might even get you a speeding ticket, but according to color psychology, there's some deeper stuff at work here. 

I suppose we can blame The Wizard of Oz for the onset of red in film. In the book, Dorothy's slippers were silver, but the crew wanted the shoes to pop on screen. Since Green and Yellow already had significant roles in the film, they went with ruby slippers. And the rest is history. 

Credit: IMDb

Some filmmakers live and die by red, among them is Scorsese. That makes sense since a lot of his movies wind up being bloody messes, but look at shots like this one from The Departed and check out this article we did on his editing. Everything Scorsese does is purposeful, so he's using red in his movies to let you know what's going on within the characters...and sometimes even to show a shade of the devil. 

Credit: IMDB

But you don't have to be Scorsese to utilize red in your films. and you don't need to use the color to be nefarious either. 

According to Color Psychology, red has the following associations: 

  • Associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.
  • Enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.
  • It attracts attention more than any other color, at times signifying danger.

As you can see, this covers many needs for a filmmaker to convey tone and ideas. 

Recently I saw an amazing video from Now You See It that goes super in-depth on the color red in film and television and why it stands out so much. Check it out! 

What's next? Choose Your Film Color Palette!

Film color palettes might be one of the most underutilized parts of your filmmaking process. It can be the difference between immersing your audience in a world or boring them to tears. 

We all remember the first time we saw The Wizard Of Oz. There's that magical moment where we go from the sepia-tone to full color. The world explodes off the screen, and for a moment, we understand Dorothy's amazement as she enters Oz. Here at No Film School, we're big believers in the power of color to help harness your storytelling capabilities

So click the link and get coloring!      

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3 Comments

I use red for the reasons listed above, subconsciously.

April 2, 2019 at 3:38PM

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Freddy Long
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Yes, film color pallettes are one of the important parts of the film making process.
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