Classic summer movies can inspire these beautiful summer color palettes. Get free retro color palettes inspired by blockbusters to inspire you!
Summer is officially here! The season has just begun. It’s arguably the best time to sit back, relax, and indulge in watching our favorite classic movies. Whether we’re watching from cozy armchairs, dark movie theaters, or even baseball fields, movies bring us together on incredible journeys spurred on by the cinematic use of color.
Summer classics cover a broad range of genres, from sci-fi space operas, to coming-of-age films, to off-kilter comedies. Elements of their stories are revealed throughout these films in carefully crafted color combinations. Color schemes can create moods, drive a story, and hint at character development. Below, you’ll find movie color palettes to inspire moods within your projects, no matter what they may be.
- Learn: What Is a Color Swatch?
- Discover: Free Color Palettes Inspired By Summer Traditions Around the World
- Check Out: 101 Color Combinations to Inspire You
- 10 Color Palettes Inspired by Oscar-Nominated Movies
Bold Ocean Colors: Jaws (1975)
Let’s kick this off with possibly the most iconic summer movie ever created. Jaws was Steven Spielberg’s breakout movie. It was the highest-grossing film at the time, and historically Hollywood’s first blockbuster. Jaws made a splash for its thriller action and clever dialogue. Its cinematographic originality fostered an inescapable tension throughout the film.
Color plays an important part in the storytelling of the film. Blues and lighter tan set the scene as the characteristic colors of beach towns and fishing villages. Crimson is a reminder of the more horror-esque, gruesome parts of the film. Arguably, yellow is the most important color in this story. While we normally see golden yellow as a happy color, here the repeated use of yellow tells a story of caution and tense foreboding. It’s a warning that the killer shark may attack.
Pastel Pops of Color: Grease (1978)
This is a classic musical romance between sweet, innocent Sandy Olsson and leather-clad greaser Danny Zuko. Grease follows two characters as they navigate the halls of Rydell High in the 1950’s America.
From the rebellious soft pink of the Pink Ladies girl-group to the rugged black worn by the T-Birds and Danny, color signifies different cliques found within the school. As their romance progresses, each of the main characters takes on different colors to show how they’ve changed to fit in. Danny wears Rydell’s red and white, while Sandy wears a full-black outfit to fit in with the greasers.
Classic Colors of Childhood: The Sandlot (1993)
The Sandlot is the quintessential nostalgic, coming-of-age story. It follows a group of boys in the 1960’s dreaming of their futures in baseball. It’s a movie of camaraderie, the thrill of youthful adventures, and many questionable, summertime shenanigans. With its burnt orange, olive green, bright reds, and blues, this is the palette of nostalgia, friends, and America’s favorite pastime.
Summer Colors in the City: Do the Right Thing (1989)
Set in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year, the color palette for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is scorching. It’s an array of warm tones that highlights the baking heat and building racial tensions in the film’s local community. As pressure rises between an Italian-American pizzeria owner and his mainly Black customer base, the colors in the surrounding setting warm up . . . until the last straw is burned.
In quick succession, a series of acts of violence are amplified by the contrast between cool-toned backgrounds and vividly warm-hued action. While Do the Right Thing was made nearly 35 years ago, much of it still applies today.
California Coastal Colors: Clueless (1995)
As if we could forget Clueless! The costume design shows the true color genius of this comedic high school satire. Mona May, Clueless’s costume designer, made use of the smaller clothing budget by scouring thrift stores, hunting through malls, and even making quite a few articles of clothing herself. It paid off. The film’s iconic outfits embody that time-stamp of the 90’s, while its characters show development and self-expression through their changing outfits and colors.
For example, our leading lady Cher, sticks to bright-colored staples. Occasionally, hot pink is thrown into her looks to show off her high-spirited, peppy attitude. Her best friend Dionne mainly wears reds, white, and black, leading into her more spunky and chic tendencies.
An Action-Packed Color Palette: Independence Day (1996)
The 1996 alien-invasion blockbuster Independence Day is chock-full of explosions and social stereotypes. It’s a throwback to the alien and disaster movies that long came before it. As such, its catastrophe-red, alien blue gray, and army-green grunge mix pays homage to the hues that defined these genres. The wider range of muted tones is reminiscent of a more campy era in cinema and creates a timeless, vintage palette.
A Color Palette On the Aegean Sea: Mamma Mia (2008)
A fictional Greek island is the setting for both Mamma Mia and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. The island’s beachy atmosphere plays on the romantic draw of a whimsical getaway. The blue and white buildings constantly remind us of our location.
Based on ABBA’s high-paced pop songs and the Broadway musical, this pastel-heavy palette matches the light-hearted, playful happenstances and general hilarity that spurs the plot along. An undertone of amplified nostalgia is present and recognized with the tan wash in many parts of the film.
80’s Retro Color Palette: Dirty Dancing (1987)
On the surface, Dirty Dancing is a movie about a shy, charming girl vacationing in the Catskills. She meets a dashing man who works at her resort. He teaches her to dance for the competition at the end of the summer.
The lighter pinks and creams largely reflect this beautiful dystopia and leading lady, Baby’s, naive, young demeanor. However, as the movie progresses, harsher realities present themselves in sickly green hues. This shatters Baby’s idealistic worldview fantasy. These colors create a much more well-rounded person and color palette.
Bright Yellow Melancholy: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
An off-the-wall, quirky contestant for an iconic summer movie, Little Miss Sunshine stars a dysfunctional family traveling across the US for a beauty pageant. As expected from a movie referencing sunshine, lemon yellow plays a key role. The color carries an optimistic tone all through the plot, despite the darker nature of this comedy. The contrast between the happy yellows, serene blues, muted beiges, spirited pinks—and the movie’s heavier content—creates a pragmatic, emotional experience.
A Tropical Color Palette: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
This sequel to the original Jumanji (1995) connects four delinquent high school students from wildly different cliques. A video game pulls them together into an action-packed jungle adventure where winning is the only way back to the real world.
Clad in retro adventure gear, the cast models a traditional tan and dark green uniform, with an edgy cranberry red mixed in. Paired with the jungle, these colors create the perfect atmosphere for a classic tropical rainforest expedition.
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