For Cinephiles, 6 Must-Visit Museums and Exhibitions This Spring

There’s no need to wait for summer: See a blockbuster now.

An Aston Martin car in James Bond exhibit in Chicago

Aston Martin is practically synonymous with James Bond. This is one of more than a dozen vehicles in the new 007 Science exhibit in Chicago.

Photo by Steven Koch

This spring, museums across the nation are supplying fascinating exhibits, with behind-the-scenes views about one of filmdom’s most popular characters, salutes to noted directors, a splendid display of posters, and more. Yes, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is an obvious choice, as are places with film series (like NYC’s Museum of the Moving Image), but to see the star of these shows, you’ll need to head for a science museum.

1. Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago

007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond opens on March 007 (as the museum put it). It runs through October 27 at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). The formal exterior of the MSI, with Ionic columns and rotundas, may not suggest a cutting-edge exhibit about a superstar of pop culture. (The building is the only remaining one from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibit.) But the Western Hemisphere’s largest science center has room for every subject.

007 Science is a first-time opportunity for a look behind the scenes at the fantastic and unique sphere in which the famous spy operates. A prime example is his Aston Martin car with hidden machine guns, an ejector seat, and revolving license plates. Thirteen vehicles are on display, including the Parahawk, a hybrid paraglider/snowmobile (used in The World Is Not Enough, 1999). Early Bond films also featured technology ahead of its time: Visitors can see various artifacts, such as the jetpack prototype from Thunderball (1965), along with today’s Gravity Industries Jet Suit, and the suction cup climbers (forerunners of Gecko Gloves) from 1967’s You Only Live Twice. An interactive lab inspired by “Q” lets visitors contribute designs and stunts. See how long you can hang from steel beams.

Exterior of Museum of Pop Culture, with wavy silver, multi-color, and wavy blue designs by Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry designed Seattle’s colorful Museum of Pop Culture.

Photo By Panu Kosonen/Shutterstock

2. Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle (MoPOP)

At the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle (MoPOP), the current exhibit Hidden Worlds: The Films of Laika will continue through August 11, 2024. Since its debut movie Coraline in 2009, the Laika studio has been innovative in stop-motion animation and collected five Oscar nominations. (It also won a Scientific and Technology Oscar in 2016.) This exhibition looks at techniques used in making five movies (including The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings) and offers a sneak preview of its upcoming animated feature movie, Wildwood. Besides immersive set displays, the show offers opportunities to interact with characters. Visitors can, for example, take a puppet’s eye-view of a Laika set and make their own stop motion animation starring themselves. MoPOP got its start in 2000 (focusing then on music); it was launched by Paul Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft. Frank Gehry designed the unique building.

French poster for"Two or Three Things I Know About Her" in collage style with black background

Original French collage poster for Jean-Luc Godard’s “Two or Three Things I Know About Her”

Courtesy of Eastman Museum

3. Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York

Crashing into the 60s: Film Posters from the Collection is the main feature at the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. (If Eastman sounds familiar, it is, as in Eastman Kodak, the famed, pioneering photography and film company, founded in the late 19th century by George Eastman, creator of the Kodak, the first easy to use camera.)

This exhibit opened in February and continues to September 8, 2024. It includes Hollywood successes from the 1960s: My Fair Lady, The Manchurian Candidate, In the Heat of the Night, Cotton Comes to Harlem. A Bond movie (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and the Beatles’ Help! are among the pop culture hits. There are posters for international films like Zazie Dans le Metro and Un Homme et Une Femme and Eastern European and Scandinavian art films (like Persona), as well as international posters for U.S. films (The Miracle Worker in France: Sous un autre Soleil.) The mix includes the low-brow (Clambake with Elvis, anyone?). Whatever the movie, and dozens are represented, they are colorful pop art reminders of a distinctive decade.

The museum will also be screening several 1960s movies during the exhibit, including three Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns (starting with A Fistful of Dollars), the Disney animated Sword in the Stone, and a Billy Wilder comedy, One, Two, Three, set in Berlin and very much of its time, 1961.

Aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and its attached spherical theater building in Los Angeles

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is housed in a repurposed former department store, plus a custom-built spherical theater building

Photo by Ringo Chiu/Shutterstock

4. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles

With its millions of artifacts, active screening program, and two theaters, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles offers something for every film fan. Among its current exhibits is John Waters: Pope of Trash about the one-of-a-kind independent filmmaker (best known for Hairspray) and Shifting Perspectives: Vertical Cinema, which focuses on three new SoCal filmmakers. (Both exhibits are running through August 4, 2024.) Two more presentations pay homage to directors Lourdes Portillo and Agnès Varda. The ongoing showings in the Significant Movies and Moviemakers series currently are Boyz n the Hood and Casablanca. And the newest exhibit will open on May 19—Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital, a historic overview about how Los Angeles became a center of cinema.

 Large windows at entrance to the Museum of the Moving Image, a white modern building, in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City

You’ll find the Museum of the Moving Image in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City

Photo by Massimo Salesi/Shutterstock

5. Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, has ongoing exhibits of interest to a range of movie fans, including one on Jim Henson (Muppet master) one on director Todd Haynes, and one on The Exorcist. The Behind the Screen exhibit, the core of the museum, showcases the technical and creative aspects of making movies; it includes interactive experiences (both audio and visual) and four hours of film clips and special videos.

6. Design Museum in London

And ICYMI: The World of Tim Burton is at the Design Museum in London. Running from October 25, 2024, to April 21, 2025, this tribute to the noted director will be the final stop of an exhibition that has already appeared in Tokyo, Mexico City, São Paulo, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Seoul, and elsewhere.

Pat Tompkins has written for AFAR about books, art, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and other topics.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR