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. Just a note about what you said about Darth Maul – You said “Darth Maul never utters a word of dialog.” While certainly minimal, he does speak at two points – once on Coruscant with Sidious, and once on Naboo, speaking to the hologram of Sidious.

  2. Am i the only person who kind felt bad for Ralph Fiennes in red dragon when he’s talking to whats her face and he’s like “Did that tell you about the way i look?” the way he said that line was like “ahhh sorry man” and then i remembered he’s a secreter who kills familes..and then i hated him again

  3. Hanzo doesn’t really lose to the Predator, it’s a definite draw as neither warrior walks away.

    • I think draws only count if both live. that would have been a double lose or. kamakazi victory.

  4. I remember after From Dusk Till Dawn seeing tribal tattoos on the neck and arm popping up on guys everywhere. I know it was done before but there was definitely a spike after.

  5. Jim Carrey as Detective Fingerling in The Number 23, it’s a tribal tattoo but I think its pretty awesome

  6. isn’t it fox river not foxboro?

  7. Great list! Some additions:

    Sean Penn’s tats in “Mystic River”
    Keanu Reeves’ tats in “Constantine”.

    BTW, Rooney Mara’s shoulder/back dragon tattoo in U.S. version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is kinda “meh” compared to Noomie Rapace’s tattoo in the Swedish version. Noomie’s is much, much cooler and uber detailed.

  8. I am really shocked that George Cloonie’s character in “From Dusk Till Dawn” didn’t make the list. I was expecting it to be the top one. I can’t count the number of people who dashed to there nearest tattooest to have the same tattoo on there arm/shoulder, after watching this movie. Was there a reason this was left on the list?

  9. If there’s one thing that holds true is that lists are always debatable. That being said i really am Surprised that Nobody in this article has mentioned Bai Ling’s tattoo from ‘The Crow’ shower scene. I remember me pausing it when i first saw it on VHS back then because i thought it was so cool. Not even an honorable mention huh?. Oh well, most of the ones listed don’t go that far back anyways…

    Co-Sign on the Cloonie nomination/mention from ‘From Dusk Till Dawn”. That was an equally bad ass tat that fit the character perfectly…

  10. I’m surprised that Blades tattoos didn’t make the list my favorite one’s are Darth Maul, Van Zan from Reign of Fire, and the one from predators as well as I mentioned above Blade’s tattoos.

  11. Huh no Vin diesel for XXX? One of the first things I think about hen I associate movies and tattoos. Heck, he’s got his movie’s name tattoo on his neck! Lol also constantine and deffinitely blade. I suppose every movie Dwayne Johnson is in now, but those are his own.

  12. Huh no Vin diesel for XXX? One of the first things I think about when I associate movies and tattoos. Heck, he’s got his movie’s name tattoo on his neck! Lol also constantine and deffinitely blade. I suppose every movie Dwayne Johnson is in now, but those are his own.

  13. The X-Files had two tattoos I distinctly remember.

    The first would be the Enigma’s spectacular real-life full body work.

    The second is more memorable for the way it was used in the episode – the Bettie Page-inspired tattoo from “Never Again” has a decidedly murderous effect on the owner, and is chillingly voiced by Jodie Foster.

    See here for pics: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art29416.asp

  14. Favourite has to be Leonard Shelby in Memento. Honourable mentions for Max Cady in Cape Fear; Blade; the gang tattoos in Once Were Warriors; Rod Steiger in The Illustrated Man.

  15. (max Cady) Deniro’s tattoo’s in cape Fear.

  16. WHAT!!! what about the McManus bros. from Boondock Saints, Veritas Aequitas?

  17. Stallones tattoos from The Expendables were pretty awesome, I don’t know if u consider nightcrawlers marking tattoos but those also looked pretty good.

  18. I can’t believe that Sam Adama’s (Sasha Roiz) tattoos From Caprica aren’t in this list: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm870092544/tt0799862

    Considering the depth and style – not to mention the size and amount – of his tattos they are very impressive. Not to mention they all have very specific meanings within the context of the show as well as being visually stunning

  19. What about the girl with the Dragon tattoo, the original one !!!!

    Noomi Rapace as Lizbeth Salander

  20. The runes on Ezekiel Stone from “Brimstone,” Blade’s tatts in the “Blade” franchise, Benisato from “Ninja Scroll,” and I gotta agree on the people bringing up Clooney in “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and The McManus Bros in “Boondock Saints and Boondock Saints 2.”

  21. why isnt cape fear on this list?
    major failage.

  22. What, no “Love/Hate”? “Rev” Powell’s tattoos are probably the most influential tattoos from the silver screen of all time.

  23. seth gecko in from dusk till dawn should be first.
    Alsom what about the hand tatoos on the brothers fron the Boondock Saints? Those where iconic.

  24. Ed norton in American History X

  25. Finding a great tattoo design, try bullseyetattoos, world largest tattoos gallery for best tattoo ideas ,tattoo designs, flash tattoos and many more categories with multiple designs like colorful tribal tattoos, Ancient Chinese dragon tattoos

  26. Sorry I’m being a stickler here, but Darth Maul has one line of dialogue. “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have our revenge.”

  27. We should at least give a nod to Rod Steiger in Illustrated Man.

  28. One point these are all fakes ones but Tom Hardy’s in Warrior

  29. what about The Tattos from Boondock saints the hands and back