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Tattoo You - Films That Showcase the Best in Body Art

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By Chris Kavan - 10/30/10 at 12:42 PM CT

I had a conversation recently about the art of tattooing. It's amazing that people still consider tattoos some kind of fringe or fad - yet if all you know about tattoos are tramp stamps and I Love Mom - you're missing out on some serious business. Some films actually use tattoos if not as a focal point, than as at least a big part of their concept. Here are my top picks:

1) Memento - Leonard Shelby has a unique way of dealing with his short-term memory loss - anything important regarding finding the person who raped and killed his wife, he gets tattooed on his body. In fact, every time he goes to the mirror with his shirt off, the main message is "John G. Raped and Murdered My Wife" and "Find him and kill him" important clues to the supposed whereabouts of John G are likewise scattered over his arms and legs. It's the ultimate notebook, the human body, and one way to make sure you'll never forget something, even if you have no memory of it.

2) Eastern Promises - For Nikolai the tattoos he have aren't just for show, as part of the Russian mafia, they also tell a story proving where he's been and what he's done - men he's killed - leading to his place in the hierarchy of the system. While it's common for gang members to get some form of tattoo to show they belong, this takes it to another level, one that is as haunting as it is frightening.

3) Red Dragon - Francis Dolarhyde aka The Toothfairy is a killer obsessed with the William Blake painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun" - so much so that he gets a detailed representation tattooed on his back. It really comes through as he works out and later, he actually tracks down the original painting and ingests it hoping to gain ever more "power" through this ritual. Tom Berg actually came up with this impressive design, not withstanding the insanity of the man who gets it done.

4) The Millennium Trilogy - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo / Played With Fire / Kicked the Hornet's Nest - I mean, it says Dragon Tattoo right there in the title! Anyway, Lisbeth Salander is a revelation - she's incredibly smart, tech-savvy, touch and driven. She looks the way she wants to look - tattoos, piercings, clothing - she has little care for how others see her - but if you cross her, watch your back because she will get you in the end.

5) From Dusk Till Dawn - Why does it seem like it's always the bad guys who get the tattoos? Stereotypical, I know, but at least Seth Gecko really teases you - not showing the full tribal tattoo until the end. For those who stick around the vampiric bloodbath, it's worth the wait as it quite badass.

I know there are plenty more films out there that showcase some great body art. Whether it's there as part of the story or to flesh out a character, the use of tattoos is certainly something Hollywood utilizes to make a point.


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Wrote on 11/01/10 at 11:28 AM CT

Good point! I had thoroughly forgotten about that film! Jim Carrey should stick to comedy.

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Wrote on 10/31/10 at 10:35 PM CT

The Number 23. Jim Carrey has a massive thorned rose vine tattoo. Probably the only good part of that movie

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