In the expansive universe of visual storytelling, few elements capture the imagination as strikingly as neon. Emitting an almost ethereal glow, neon imagery has illuminated some of the most iconic moments in film and music video history. Here are just a few of our favorites to most effectively use the medium in their visual art.
The Neon Demon
You may not have heard of The Neon Demon, but as the name suggests it does actually have a great amount of neon in it. In this case, it is used in order to help propel the truly engrossing themes that the film is talking about, and it’s a really amazing end-result which is incredibly unique.
Learn more about The Neon Demon.
“On My Mind” by Ellie Goulding
Transitioning from a desert landscape to clips of neon lights and casino signs while slot machine sounds ring in the background, On My Mind establishes Las Vegas as playing a key role in its storytelling very early on. Later, Goulding and a female accomplice are shown riding horses side by side while carrying shotguns in an apparent ode to Thelma and Louise.
Listen to On My Mind.
Enter The Void
As well as being a hugely popular movie, Enter the Void is also one of the most impressive visual creations of all time. It owes that at least in part to the fact that neon is used so fully and impressively throughout, evoking the twists and turns of some of the stranger corners of Tokyo's nightlife.
Learn more about Enter The Void.
Fallen Angels uses neon as one of its main visual elements in creating interesting colors that speak to a dark life and a darker mind. As well as having an engaging story, it’s one of those movies whose images stay with you for a very long time.
Learn more about Fallen Angels.
“Vegas Lights” by Panic! at the Disco
This one is more of a visual accompaniment than a fully produced, original music video, but “Vegas Lights” features a selection of old Vegas video reels that evoke the nostalgia of a city much more clad in neon. In fact, there are scenes taken from downtown with cars driving on Fremont Street before the canopy was installed and the roads closed off.
Listen to Vegas Lights.
Only God Forgives
Starring a young Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives showcases the life of a drug smuggler whose brother is killed, changing his life forever. As with many of these movies, neon is used to effectively create a dark sense throughout the film, and it’s done hugely powerfully and effectively here. It’s well worth a watch even if just for that.
Learn more about Only God Forgives.
“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
Though the majority of Blinding Lights features driving and dancing in the streets of cities not named Las Vegas, some of the most iconic and memorable shots were staged on the same block as scenes from U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” With The Weeknd stumbling down the street next to Four Queens, the intro synth line takes shape leading us into the main hook of the modern hit.
Listen to Blinding Lights.
Perhaps the most famous movie on this list is also one of the best for its use of neon. As you will probably already be aware, the neon signage helps to create an atmosphere that is genuinely frightening and dark, while also making it colorful in just the right places. It adds just the right amount to the story and all while highlighting the background perfectly too.
Learn more about Blade Runner.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2
One of the pioneers of using Downtown Las Vegas as their backdrop, U2 (primarily singer Bono and guitarist The Edge) are portrayed busking with just an acoustic guitar and vocals while walking Fremont Street and interacting with an intrigued crowd. Decades later the band would return to film shots for their 2023 single “Atomic City” in front of The Plaza.
Listen to I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
In the radiant realms of cinema and music, neon signs have transcended their inanimate glow to become iconic symbols of storytelling and ambiance. From evoking the electric energy of city nightlife to imbuing scenes with a retro-futuristic allure, these luminous creations have left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape. But don't let the exploration end here!
For those craving a more immersive experience, we encourage you to embark on a luminous adventure at The Neon Museum. Here, the neon signs of yesteryears find new life, weaving a tapestry of nostalgia and innovation that's bound to leave you awestruck. So, as the neon universe continues to captivate our senses, consider taking a trip to witness its brilliance firsthand, and perhaps, in doing so, ignite a newfound love for the mesmerizing world of neon.