The Most Memorable Tattoos From Film & Television

Published 2 years ago by , Updated December 14th, 2011 at 1:18 pm, This is a list post.

The Most Memorable Tattoos From Film & TV

Lisbeth Salander's tattoo from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Tattoos aren't just for sailors and criminals anymore - people from all walks of life get them for all sorts of reasons: to commemorate a special event in their lives like the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, to let everyone who sees it know what their favorite flower, animal, or sports team might be - or maybe it's a symbol that holds a special significance to them and they keep hidden on an ankle, calf, or other non-visible-while-clothed part of the body. In the movie world, tattoos usually have a defining meaning to convey to the audience about the characters that wear them. A tattoo can help the audience understand that the person wearing it is very bad and should not be messed with, or it can give clues to a character’s personality - as it does for Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We've selected 12 tattoos from movies and TV that we think are especially memorable - see if you recognize them all.

Francis Dolarhyde - Red Dragon

Francis Dolarhyde's tattoo from Red Dragon In the Red Dragon, Ralph Fiennes gives a chilling performance as the schizophrenic killer Francis Dolarhyde a.k.a. the “Tooth Fairy” - who tortures, kills, then butchers his victims. The tattoo on his back is disturbingly beautiful and is easily one of the most memorable tattoos on screen of the past 10 years.

Leonard Shelby - Memento

Leonard Shelby's tattoos from Memento Watching Guy Pearce as the tortured Leonard Shelby – a man suffering from anterograde amnesia – in director Christopher Nolan’s first critically acclaimed film Memento is at times heartbreaking, as the audience can’t help but feel pity for the protagonist as he searches his wife’s killer. To assist him in his crusade for justice, Shelby tattoos the clues he finds each day somewhere on his body so that he won’t ever forget his mission (since his condition keeps him from storing new memories). This tattoo is useful but sad as it is a constant reminder of his wife’s death and his inability to remember anything useful.

Nikolai Luzhin- Eastern Promises

Nikolai Luzhin's tattoos from Eastern Promises Viggo Mortensen’s character Nikolai Luzhin is a Russian mobster who cleans up other mobster's “messes" – in other words, he throws dead bodies in the river. His tattoos in Eastern Promises are mostly religious in nature – featuring a Catholic cross on his chest and a large image of St. Basil’s Cathedral on his back. But they also serve as a warning to anyone who would challenge him. He is not a man you want to cross (no pun intended).

Darth Maul - Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Darth Maul's tattoo from Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace Ray Park as the evil Darth Maul and apprentice to Sith Lord Darth Sidious is arguably the best thing about George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Darth Maul never utters a word of dialog but speaks volumes with his dual lightsaber as he hunts down Queen Amidala, along the way battling Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Darth Maul’s facial tattoos are more tribal in nature in that they serve no other purpose other than to instill fear in those he battles.

Michael Scofield - Prison Break

Michael Scofield's tattoos from Prison Break Wentworth Miller’s character on the TV show Prison Break, Michael Scofield, is convinced his brother Lincoln Burrows has been framed for murder and is determined to help him escape from prison before he is executed. To help him achieve that goal he had detailed blueprints tattooed on almost his entire upper body. Hidden inside this massive and impressive tattoo of devils and angels are escape routes that he will use to break out of Fox River prison.

Denton Van Zan - Reign of Fire

Denton Van Zan's tattoos from Reign of Fire Matthew McConaughey as Denton Van Zan in Reign of Fire is a true bad-ass and his tattoos help to reinforce that notion. Van Zan is the leader of the Kentucky Irregulars – a group of Americans who hunt down and kill dragons. His Alpha male personality, bald head, cigar smoking and huge battle axe all increase Van Zan’s badassness, and the impressive tattoo depicting two dragons breathing fire across his chest seals the deal.

Fox - Wanted

Fox's tattoos from Wanted A woman wearing a tattoo in a movie is often incredibly beautiful, with the tattoo used to further enhance her sex appeal to the male audience. That is exactly what happens when Angelina Jolie’s character, Fox, a highly skilled assassin, drops her towel revealing an intricate and beautiful tattoo made up mostly of Khmer characters on her shoulders and a large Bengal tiger on her lower back.

Tattoo - Elektra

Tattoo's tattoos from Elektra Chris Ackerman’s character in the movie Elektra is appropriately named Tattoo. His entire upper body is covered in tattoos of animals that he can bring to life and control with his mind to defend himself or attack his enemies. A wolf, snake, bird and spider are his main tattoos but we wonder why he wouldn’t add a kangaroo or a zebra? (OK, not really.)

Mickey O'Neil - Snatch

Mickey O'Neil's tattoo from Snatch In Snatch, Brad Pitt is a fighting gypsy name Mickey O’Neil who has a hard time losing a fight. He is a scrappy guy who can knock opponents out with one powerful punch. Mickey loves his “mum” and even has a tattoo of her profile on his chest. All he really wants is to get his “mum” a new caravan (a trailer) and will do whatever it takes to see that she receives it – too bad for him and the bad guys that she dies in a fire before that can happen.

Hanzo - Predators

Hanzo's tattoos from Predators Louis Changchien is Hanzo in the movie Predators – a Japanese gangster and Yakuza enforcer who is just as deadly and cold as he is silent. Like most members of the Yakuza, Hanzo has a full body tattoo known as an irezumi, is performed by hand and in the real world would have taken hundreds of painful hours to complete. Ultimately he loses out to the Predator but he looks impressive doing it.

Tommy Riordan- Warrior

Tommy Riordan tattoos from Warrior Tom Hardy is a beast as the former Marine turned Mixed Martial Arts fighter Tommy Riordan in Warrior. With tribal tattoos on both arms and his squad’s logo on his chest Tommy shows he is both an aggressive Alpha male and fiercely loyal to the Marines and his squad.

Snake Plissken - Escape from New York

Snake Plissken's tattoo from Escape from New York There are few characters in movies as bad-ass as Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken in director John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. Snake is a former U.S. Army Lieutenant and was in the Special Forces before eventually turning to a life of crime. Along with his iconic eye patch he also has one gigantic cobra tattooed to his stomach with a tail that disappears into well… let’s just leave it at "disappears."

Memorable Tattoos from Movies and TV

Lisbeth Salander's tattoo from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo There are plenty of other tattoos from films which we didn’t mention, but these were some of our favorites. Whether it is functional, beautiful, intimidating, tells a story or is just painful – each tattoo serves a purpose and should be appreciated by the audience. Which are some of your favorite tattoos from film? Be sure to leave a comment below.
TAGS: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

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  1. The first one that came to mind for me was the helix tattoo from Heroes.

  2. only a dumbass would skip Danny Trejo’s chest tattoo!!!
    c’mon he always has it and in each different movie theres a story to it…

    • @Armando – First, don’t call me a dumbass. Second, Trejo’s tattoo doesn’t count because it is real.

      • @Paul Young While I don’t agree with Armando about Danny Trejo’s tattoo, I must disagree on the point that a film character’s tattoos should be excluded from this list just because the actor playing them already had the tattoos. One example of this is Tom Hardy. Most of his tattoos from Warrior were his own. They actually just covered up or slightly edited the tattoos he already has in real life to fit his film character. Just thought I would throw that by you

      • Most of jolie’s tattoos were real also.

    • And only a “dumbass” would miss this right above our Comment box:

      “Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.”

      Vic

  3. Surely Popeye’s Anchor tattoos are obviously the most famous.

  4. What, no deNiro tattoo from Cape Fear? That’s the best one!

    • I Agree, I expected this tattoo to aleast make the list.

    • @Steve – Good suggestion. Will add it shortly

  5. Boondock Saints!!!!

    • +1

  6. This is the best!! Helps THE SEXIEST MAN on the planet is sporting it!!

    • hah vague answer much?

  7. Where’s Jack Shepherd’s very important tattoos that had an entire episode of Lost dedicated to them? Oh yeah, they never mention them again… ;-)

    • Or Charlie Pace’s “living is easy with eyes closed” Beatles tattoo. I’m also very surprised the White rabbit from the Matrix didn’t make the list. Even if it is on a useless no name character.

  8. The predators one was so cool

  9. Darth Maul does not have tattoos on his face. That is his skin and is similar to his people. Check-out: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_Maul

    • Er, no, Darth Sidious applied the tattoos to his body. They ARE NOT part of his skin at all. They are tattoos.
      Now read the entire article that you posted the link for.

      Where are George Clooney’s tattoos from Dusk ’til Dawn?

      • Yup, Clooney’s tat was the first that popped into my head.

    • I thought the same thing. Then I clicked your link. Under personality and traits, a picture appears with the caption “Darth Sidious applies Sith tattoos to Maul’s body.” So I guess you proved Paul Young was correct to include Darth Maul.

  10. Screw you for reminding me of Elektra, you bastard!

    • haha

  11. Sorry I have to bug you here. Viggo’s tattoos in Eastern Promises aren’t in all actuality religious. They come from the Russian prison system and gangsters and have other meanings than what they may appear to be. The church is one of many symbols of how long someone’s prison sentence was or how many times they were in prison, the tops of the church ( sometimes bells are used too) in his case three, says how long or how many times he was in prison. Christ on his chest means he felt persecuted as Christ was. Some will have decks of cards, spiders, crowns, stars, skulls, eyes, etc which all have meanings deeper than what one would suspect. Some even would have Lenin or Stalin tattooed on chests or necks so that they would not be shot by guards in those vital areas ( not that it actually stopped them from shooting)

    • @DJBoyStrange: Excellent job Sir. A lot of people get that confused because of the imagery. But prison tats tell a lot about the individual, and the Russian prison tats are another step above.

    • @DJBoyStrange – Sorry I’ve never been in a Russian prison :) Religious or otherwise I still don’t want to mess with him.

  12. What about reverend Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter. It is probably the most famous tatto in movie history! It is even homaged in Do the right thing and Silence of the lambs!

  13. seems to me that the tattoo the little girl had in Waterworld should be on this list? no? or a personal favorite, Pete’s tattoo from Pete and Pete?

  14. I liked Jim Carrey’s tattoos from the number 23

  15. Tattoo from Fantasy Island!

    • @B-List – LMAO!

  16. Robert DeNiro’s in Cape Fear, George Clooney’s arm piece in From Dusk Till Dawn, Russel Crowe’s arm piece in Romper Stomper, Christian Slater & Payricia Arquette’s matching tats in True Romance, Val Kilmer in The Salton Sea, I could go on for ages bit how could you not include Noomi Rapace’s original dragon tattoo in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?!… Oh and Randy Quaid’s back in Kingpin :)

  17. How about Vin Diesel – Tripple X ?

  18. VAL Kilmer in The Salton Sea, best film tat ever

    • Thank you was reading all these responses to find one that said Salton Sea. Was starting to lose hope. . . . best tat ever.

  19. Can’t say some of the the above are indeed the most memorable tattoos. In example I can remember those of XXX and American History X much more clear.

  20. You missed Stu’s Mike Tyson face tattoo from hangover 2 :C

    http://www.mytattoomeanings.com/5/tattoo-quotes

    • I was gonna mention this, but you beat me to it… lol

  21. What about the tattoos in Max Payne?!

  22. Paul Young, aren’t Angelina Jolie’s tattoos all real?

  23. What about Sean Penn’s cross tattoo going all the way up his spine in Mystic River? One of the coolest I’ve ever seen

  24. No Constantine?? This is crazy

  25. Scott Adkins in Undisputed 2 & 3 has some pretty wicked tattoos.

  26. Dark mark from harry potter?

  27. No Dark mark from harry potter?

  28. after reading through the comments, some good ones

    Petunia from “Pete and Pete”
    XXX tattoo from “XXX”
    chest tattoo from “American History x”
    Veritas and Aequitas from “Boondock Saints”

    and the first thing that came to my mind where i hear movie tattoos…

    Mike Tyson face from “Hangover 2″

  29. Which movie had the biker with the teardrop tattoo? Another 48 hours? The last boyscout?

    I lost my train of thought thinking of Halle Berry as a stripper in Boyscout.