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10 Films to Watch if You Can’t Stop Listening to Lana Del Rey

by Lena Harlow 9 days ago in vintage

I know your watchlist is already crowded, but...

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun

Whenever I’ve had a bad day, I put on a Lana Del Rey song and… well, it doesn’t necessarily cheer me up. But it does give my hiding-under-the-bedsheets-in-sweatpants look a certain sultry mystique. Maybe.

But in case you’re like me and you’ve lost your headphones (again), here’s ten films to watch for that same mix of nostalgic glamour, tragedy and star-crossed love that Lana Del Rey sings about oh so well.

10. The Godfather (1972)

Al Pacino and Simonetta Stefanelli in The Godfather

If this film were remade today (please don’t, Hollywood), there’s little doubt that Lana’s song “Salvatore” would be featured on its soundtrack.

I feel funny adding a plot description, since The Godfather is arguably the most iconic gangster flick of all time. You know the story. Suffice it to say, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Apollonia’s (Simonetta Stefanelli) fleeting and passionate romance is the stuff of legends… and the perfect embodiment of any Lana Del Rey song.

9. The Misfits (1961)

Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in The Misfits

On the album Born to Die, Lana Del Rey swears in her song “Body Electric” that “Marilyn’s my mother.” Of course, she’s referring to the original blonde bombshell herself — Marilyn Monroe.

It could be argued that several Monroe films capture the unique aesthetic of Lana Del Rey. Personally, I think The Misfits does it best. The story revolves around a recent divorcée who finds herself the object of three men’s desires at a Nevada ranch. (Screenwriter Arthur Miller wrote reverse harem before it was cool!)

This film was Monroe’s last before her untimely death.

8. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Cecil Kellaway, John Garfield and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice

Lana Turner, the seductive star of this film noir, has been named by Lana Del Rey as a direct inspiration for her stage name. In this film, Turner finds herself plotting murder with the hunky drifter who just blew into town. The target? Her much older husband.

7. Casino (1995)

Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone in Casino

Lana Del Rey’s aesthetic sometimes resonates with a sort of “doomed 1960s” vibe that I can’t get enough of.

Even though Casino is a film that centers around the male gangsters operating in and around Las Vegas, it’s Sharon Stone’s character Ginger that propels a lot of the drama — and eventually the downfall — of the two men in her life, Ace (Robert De Niro) and Nicky (Joe Pesci).

In other words, come for the gambling. Stay for the femme fatale screaming expletives in a ginormous fur coat.

6. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

Who remembers their first Lana Del Rey song? Mine was “Blue Jeans.” Especially those beginning lyrics:

Blue jeans, white shirt

Walked into the room you know you made my eyes burn

It was like James Dean for sure…

Well, here’s the quintessential James Dean film — Rebel Without a Cause. Or The One with the Red Jacket on the Poster.

If you want angst, this movie has it. But it also has first love, loyalty and a passion for life that any Lana Del Rey fan can relate to.

Honestly, I’m surprised she hasn’t stolen the title of this film for one of her songs yet. Maybe on the next album…

5. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley

High society behaving badly. An angsty love triangle. Betrayal and deception at every turn. Did somebody say Born to Die?

Matt Damon stars as the titular Ripley who ingratiates himself with the 1950s jet set through an increasingly complex series of lies… and pays the price for his sins. Or makes somebody else pay the price. Whichever.

4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I know, I know. You’ve already watched this one. In middle school.

Well, watch it again! I swear, this story hits different in your twenties than it does in your tweens. Or your thirties. Or… you get the idea.

Audrey Hepburn plays against type as a “lady of the evening” in a role originally envisioned for Marilyn Monroe. Remember my earlier recommendation for The Misfits? That’s the film Monroe chose over Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Did she make the right choice? You decide.

3. Love Story (1970)

Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw in Love Story

Star-crossed lovers in a film that basically freeze-frames the aesthetic of the early 1970s. It’s a Lana Del Rey music video… starring the preppy guy your grandma probably had a crush on.

And I don’t care if I can’t find any sources that prove Lana took inspiration from Ali MacGraw’s wedding dress in Love Story for her own music video, “Love.” It happened! Probably.



2. A Place in the Sun (1951)

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun

In this film, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift are the pinnacle of Old Hollywood glam. Add in a murder subplot and gowns crafted by legendary costume designer Edith Head… and you’re left with a delicious blend of a dark romance.

Lana del Rey has revealed that Elizabeth Taylor is a direct inspiration for her songwriting, so this film may have played a part in the creation of a hit song or two.

1. To Catch a Thief (1955)

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief

Here’s a film that embodies many of the elements found in a typical Lana Del Rey song. Glamour? Check. Younger woman infatuated with an older man? Check. A dangerous rollercoaster of a romance that could end in tragedy at any split-second? Check.

I rest my case.


Lena Harlow

I’m a freelance writer whose interests lie in Old Hollywood, historical romance and all things cinema.

Read next: 50th Anniversary: "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson

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