I've found that specific movie genres have specific color palettes. Horror movies heavily use the color blue. Apocalyptic movies are gray and faded. Disturbing movies use green a lot.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the meanings of different colors, and this is what I found:
1. RED – anger, passion, rage, desire, excitement, energy, speed, strength, power, heat, love, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence
2. PINK – love, innocence, healthy, happy, content, romantic, charming, playfulness, soft, delicate, feminine
3. YELLOW – wisdom, knowledge, relaxation, joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard
4. ORANGE – humor, energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant
5. GREEN – healing, soothing, perseverance, tenacity, self-awareness, proud, unchanging nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, vigour, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy
6. BLUE – faith, spirituality, contentment, loyalty, fulfillment peace, tranquility, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, sky, water, cold, technology, depression
7. PURPLE/VIOLET – erotic, royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning, power, sensitive, intimacy
8. BROWN – materialistic, sensation, earth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, stability, simplicity
9. BLACK – No, power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger
10. WHITE – Yes, protection, love, reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical, sterile
11. SILVER – riches, glamorous, distinguished, earthy, natural, sleek, elegant, high-tech
12. GOLD – precious, riches, extravagance. warm, wealth, prosperity, grandeur
It's important to know that different cultures have conflicting meanings for colors. For instance, black symbolizes death and mourning in Western cultures, but in Eastern cultures that's what white symbolizes.
With this newfound information, I looked up some films that I know use color in stunning and smart ways.
Some films that portray a good use of color are Oz the Great and Powerful, Memento, (500) Days of Summer, and The Matrix.
Oz the Great and Powerful uses color to tell part of the story. The first portion of the movie is in black and white (just like The Wizard of Oz). Once Oz travels to the magical land also called Oz, it slowly turns into color. And not just color, but an extremely vivid, blows-your-mind color. Just like in The Wizard of Oz, the black and white symbolizes the boring reality in which the characters live, while the bright colors symbolize the thrilling fantasy of the beautiful Oz.
In Memento, some scenes are black and white while others are in color. The black and white scenes go chronologically and the color scenes start at the end and go backwards. Differentiating the scenes using color makes it easier to understand - especially the second time around, once you really understand what is happening. It sounds confusing, but you should really watch it if you haven't.
(500) Days of Summer goes against the norm and uses blue to symbolize love and happiness. The protagonist's love interest, Summer, played by Zooey Deschanel, was either always wearing blue or surrounded by the color blue. In the dance sequence after he spends the night with Summer, the color blue is used so much that it's almost obnoxious - but obnoxious in the best way possible. Zooey Deschanel talks about her character and the color blue:
"They wanted me to stand out in the movie. To have a colour that was only used once. It was used in the dance sequence, because everyone reminds him of Summer. But no- one else was allowed to wear blue. If I wasn't wearing a lot of blue, there would be a big blue thing, like I'd be right next to tons of blue wallpaper or a big blue poster. There would be something giant and blue somewhere in the shot! It was a cool cinematic thing. It was Marc's idea."
The Matrix uses greens and blues. A green tint saturates the picture when in the Matrix, and in the real world, a blue tint is used. The green color palette is used to represent the green text code of the Matrix code. The green color also gives it a slightly uneasy feeling. Differing colors not only symbolically show the opposing worlds, but also make the movie clearer to the audience.
|In the Matrix|
|In the real world|
I could go on and on with more examples of movies that have a great use of color. If you want to read more about it, here's a pretty cool article: http://www.fullsailblog.com/5-innovative-uses-of-color-in-film/