During this time of social distancing and germ avoidance, most people will be staying home for the next few weeks. And if you’ve already become good friends with the couch, scrolled through all your social media feeds, and done all the laundry imaginable, we have just the thing for you.
Here are the most binge-able movies and television shows that highlight mid century modern at its finest!
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#1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Centered in 1990s Los Angeles, this film follows “The Dude”, a middle-aged loafer who is keen toward bowling and medical marijuana. But by chance of mistaken identity, he is roped into a world of crime, deception, and ransom.
The set travels from bowling alley to suburb, highlighting several mid century elements such as Saarinen Tulip Chairs and even Le Corbusier armchairs. But rather than just decor, this film’s MCM “magnum opus” is undoubtedly the Sheats-Goldstein Residence.
Built in 1963 by John Lautner, this mid century home is defined by its glass and concrete composition, similar to the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention, if you’ve already seen The Big Lebowski and can’t get enough of Sheats-Goldstein, be sure to check out Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), where this MCM masterpiece can be seen once again!
#2. North by Northwest (1959)
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most acclaimed thrillers, this film follows Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive who is abducted because he is thought to be a spy.
Over the course of the exciting and danger-filled plot, our protagonist comes to the Vandamm house, a residence that is highly reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.
Although it was only a set built by MGM, this home was meant to exemplify and match the luxe scenery that can be identified throughout the film. With its organic-inspired elements and horizontal orientation, Hitchcock wanted a modern house that resonated with a mass audience (Jetset Modern, 2015). And judging by critical reception, he made the “Wright” choice.
#3. Dr. No (1962)
With a new James Bond picture on the horizon, it is only fitting to revisit the film that helped spur the franchise. And lucky for us, mid century modern is like caviar to its production designers!
During this film, Agent 007 travels to Jamaica in hopes of solving the mysterious murder of a fellow spy. In the process, he is brought to the evil lair of Dr. No, where hazards are bound to ensue.
But menacing villains aside, this home is booming with modernist components, showcasing natural rock and wood detailing, as well as a magnanimous hooded fireplace. Truly a mid-century-enthusiast’s paradise…and a secret agent’s peril.
#4. The Graduate (1967)
Take a time machine back to the 1960s and witness the story of Ben Braddock, a disillusioned college graduate who must choose between continuing an affair with an older woman or falling in love with her daughter!
Although the set is not highly saturated with mid century modern elements, it makes up for it in the Robinson residence. Designed by George Nelson, this set was meant to capture the seductive subject matter and 1960s decadence surrounding Ben.
According to production designer, Richard Sylbert, the mid century architecture exemplified “flora and fauna trapped, as it were, behind all that expensive glass” (Film and Furniture, 2017).
#5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Centered around a teenager’s mission to skip school, Ferris Bueller treats his friends to a day jam-packed with nostalgic and hilarious shenanigans, all while being chased by a vengeful dean.
At first glance, you wouldn’t think this film has any MCM elements central to its plot. But, to quote our pesky protagonist, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
In one scene, Bueller travels back to Cameron Frye’s home, a modernist structure located in the Chicago area. Designed by A. James Speyer (1953), this residence pulled from the classic architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rowe. And with the glass box addition designed by David Haid (1974), this home is truly a mid mod masterpiece worth the watch (Curbed, 2014).
#6. Mad Men (2007-2015)
If not the pinnacle of MCM set design, Mad Men is a show that will definitely have you surfing from season to season. Set in the 1960s, this series follows Don Draper, a mysterious executive at one of New York’s top ad agencies.
Engulfed in mid century modern style, this television show was constructed after the director’s own vision of the 1960s, finding it was required “to be educated, to be cultured, to be intellectual, [and] to have taste” during this time period (Interior Design, 2014).
And with this vision (and countless estate sales later), Mad Men is still seen as one of the most successful period pieces of all time.
#7. The Jetsons (1962-63)
Take a one way trip to the future with the most fun-loving television series out there.
Located in Orbit City, a futuristic family travels through their community by spaceship. And with animated nods to Googie style, a branch of MCM, this series makes use of space-age architecture that has inspired several structures seen today.
Just look at the colorful and abstract geometry…truly out of this world!
#8. The Incredibles (2005) and Incredibles 2 (2018)
Another animated classic, these Pixar films center on a superhero family of five and their attempts to stop evil in its tracks.
While the plot focuses on their relationship and superpowers, MCM style is what truly ties this picture together. From the Parr’s house having a butterfly-style roof to the hero’s lair sporting terrazzo floors, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and starburst decor, The Incredibles 1 and 2 are MCM-packed films worth your watch (Film and Furniture, 2014)!
#9. A Single Man (2009)
Another John Lautner nook shines in this award-winning film.
Set in the 1960s, this film centers on a man’s isolation after the loss of his partner. Making the Schaffer Residence (1949) its home, director Tom Ford made use of the concrete, glass, redwood, and steel enclosure to the best of its ability.
By integrating his background in fashion and architecture, Ford used this particular house for character development, with creative directors noting, “this is a man whose inner world and outer world are connected. George feels that if he can keep his outer world together, he won’t collapse inside” (Ian Phillips, Interiors Journal, 2013).
Stream It! (Netflix)
#10. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-)
And to round off our list, please enjoy the world of Mrs. Maisel, a television series in which a bored housewife builds her stand-up comedy career in the 1950s.
With set design doused in mid century modern, the most fitting nods to this design style can be found in Midge’s apartment.
From the Hollywood-regency brass and bronze to the dark wood elements, set designer Bill Groom used these pieces for a very specific reason. “I believe that the audience needs to feel at home, and want to be in a space that you’re asking them to be in for an hour” (Apartment Therapy, 2018).
Stream It! (Amazon)
All entertainment aside, we take COVID-19 very seriously and are confident this pandemic can be overcome. That said, here are a few resources and donation sites for your reference:
- Center for Disease Control (Coronavirus preparation guides and symptom charts)
- CNN Live Updates (Live updates on Coronavirus developments)
- GlobalGiving Relief Fund (A nonprofit organization that is providing direct relief to health-care workers and those affected by the virus through donations)
Want to learn more about the “Incredibles 2” house seen above? Here is our exclusive sneak peak into how the film’s mid century animation came to be!