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Maps In Film, Playing An Important Role

Posted by Barbara Fordyce on

It's Oscar weekend, and instead of the usual list of contenders, Map Resources is focused on the use of maps in film.

From early film making to the present, maps have created numerous effects in a range of productions, from serious drama, to whimsical animation.

Maps can be used to connote knowledge and information, authority and power, good planning, even fantasy and mystery.  Film makers have found maps especially useful to portray scenes involving crime, war, travel, education, business, aviation, and more.

Sometimes the map is important to the story, especially when the image details are visible on screen. The first film that uses a map with a legible place name is Pathé's Le Fils du diable fait la noce à Paris, from 1906.  In this case, the map supports the plot line suggestion that the best place for a character to go to improve his well being is  Paris!

Often, though, maps are simply used as props to give realism to the setting.  In a typical classroom scene, a hanging wall map and a desk globe is as common as a chalkboard. 


And for depicting military planning scenes, the (nearly) obligatory map gives a sense of authenticity and sound decision making.

The use of the close up shot greatly increased the value of maps to film content.  The classic "finger pointing" shot, seen here in The Lodger and King Kong, makes it easy to focus the viewer's attention on a specific location. 

As dramatic graphics, maps can effectively convey ideas and atmosphere in a film. In L'Argent, the map decorating the wall dynamically represents the reach of the banker's power.  In Citizen Kane, a map of the USA instantly depicts the Kane press empire.


Even Chuck Jones humorously used maps in the 1948 animation My Bunny Lies Over the Ocean.

And, more recently, Moonrise Kingdom relied on an extensive use of maps

This is just a smattering of maps in films.  To see more, go to Cine-Tourist, a remarkably engrossing website about connections between maps and films.

To see which films use Map Resources maps, check out Pinterest Maps in Movies.

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