10 Iconic Tattoos in Film
There may be nothing more important than for a movie to make its characters believable.
Every word, every emotion, and every item of clothing can make or break a character's story, and sway the audience's opinion.
WATCH: Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Tattoo
Tattoos can play an important of role in any character’s story. His or her ink can help the audience understand their past, shape their image, and even make light of their horrible decisions
Check out ten of the most iconic tattoos in film:
Boondock Saints (1999)
Characters with Ink: Boston vigilantes Connor & Murphy McManus (played by Sean Patrick Flanery & Norman Reedus)
Tattoo (s) and Meaning: Connor bears a tattoo on his left index finger that says "VERITAS," which is Latin for "Truth” and Murphy also has a tattoo in the same place but on his right hand, that says, "AEQUITAS," which is Latin for "Justice." The brother’s tattoos symbolize their mission to rid the streets of Boston of corruption and evil.
Recommendation: Unless you’re a freshman at a northeast college looking to impress your friends, pass on this one.
Escape from New York (1981)
Character with Ink: Ex-soldier Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell)
Tattoo & Meaning: A Black snake coming from his, um, groin area running up toward his abdomen and seems to pay homage to his bad-ass name.
Recommendation: If you enjoy going shirtless, never lose fights ever, and have lots of confidence like Snake does, I say go for it!
(New Line Cinema)
Dude Where’s My Car? (2000)
Characters with Ink: Jesse Montgomery & Chester Greenburg (played by Ashton Kutcher & Seann William Scott)
Tattoo & Meaning: Chester get’s a tattoo that says “Sweet” on his upper back, while Jesse gets a tattoo “Dude,” also on his upper back. They don’t remember getting the tattoos the night before (along with everything else) and have trouble figuring out what each other’s tattoos say. Shenanigans ensue.
Recommendation: Get only if you consider the early 2000s the golden age of comedy.
(20th Century Fox)
American History X (1998)
Character with Ink: Neo Nazi Derek Vinyard (played by Edward Norton)
Tattoo & Meaning: Among his other white power tattoos, his most prominent is a large tattoo of the Swastika to represent his Neo-Nazi alliance after his father, a firefighter, was murdered by an African-American drug dealer.
Recommendation: Obviously, no. Throughout the film, Derek begins to shy away from his Neo-Nazi affiliations, regrets his past life decisions, and realizes that we are all equal as human beings.
(New Line Cinema/Savoy Pictures)
The Hangover Part II (2011)
Character with Ink: Stu Price (played by Ed Helms)
Tattoo & Meaning: Stu awakes from yet another “hangover” with his buddies in Thailand and to his obvious surprise, has a Mike Tyson-style face tattoo. They all then try to figure out what happened the night before and… (you know what, you’ve all seen the first one right?…it’s the same exact thing)
Recommendation: Only if you are…
A professional boxer who will beat up anyone who makes fun of you
Lucky enough to never have to work again in your life (because you might now be unemployable)
Actually Mike Tyson
(Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures)
The 'Harry Potter' Films
Characters with Ink: Any Death Eater in the film (anyone in Lord Voldemort’s inner circle)
Tattoo and Meaning: The members of Voldemort’s inner circle are branded with the dark mark, consisting of a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth. The “Dark Mark” is a sign of loyalty to Lord Voldemort and is a way for him to summon all of his followers
Recommendation: Only if you’re a Slytherin.
Character with Ink: Captain Quint (played by Robert Shaw)
Tattoo and Meaning: Quint has a tattoo that reads “USS Indianapolis,” a ship that was sunk in the Pacific by Japanese torpedoes during WWII. The mention of his tattoo turns into a hair-raising monologue that explains his obsessive infatuation with sharks.
Recommendation: Were you on the ship, too?
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
Character with Ink: Jack Spar….I’m sorry…Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp)
Tattoo and Meaning: Jack’s tattoo depicts a swallow flying across the sunset. The swallow represents land and safe return home from a voyage for a sailor.
Recommendation: A sparrow tattoo is what sailors historically got when they sailed over 5,000 nautical miles, so if you have accomplished this feat, by all means! However, don’t think that lounging on a Carnival Cruise counts toward that.
(Pirates of the Caribbean (2003))
Character with Ink: Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pierce)
Tattoos and Meaning: Shelby, who has severe amnesia, uses his multiple tattoos along with handwritten notes and photos, to help solve the mystery of who murdered his wife. The most prominent reminder that keeps him going is the one across his chest that reads “John G. raped and murdered my wife”.
Recommendation: If you have severe memory loss and really need to remember something for life, there could be worse ideas.
(Newmarket Films/Summit Entertainment)
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Character with Ink: Serial Killer and “Preacher,” Reverend Harry Powell (played by Robert Mitchem)
Tattoo and Meaning: The (ahem) Reverend has a tattoo of the word “HATE” on his right knuckles, and a tattoo of the word “LOVE” on his right knuckles. He believes that the tattoos help him explain and depict the constant struggle between Love and Hate in mankind.
Recommendation: Watch this thriller, and then decide. Although the struggle between love and hate is a powerful message, you might not want to model yourself after the character that Robert Mitchem so brilliantly displays.