The 14 Best Documentaries about Tattoos

Jul 30, 2023 | Art, Best Of

Tattoos are a unique form of self-expression, with designs and meanings that have been around for thousands of years. They allow people to show their individuality and personality, while also providing an interesting insight into the history of tattooing. And if you’re looking to explore this fascinating art form more deeply, then documentaries about tattoos are the perfect way to do it. Here’s our selection of some of the best films available on this topic. So grab your popcorn and settle in for a journey through time as we take a look at these amazing documentaries about tattoos!


1. Ed Hardy: the Godfather of Tattooing

Ed Hardy is the godfather of tattooing, and his influence has helped elevate it to a fine art. He no longer tattoos himself but instead dedicates his time to preserving its rich history. In this documentary, we explore how Ed Hardy’s work has shaped the world of modern tattooing and learn more about his passion for preserving its legacy. Join us on our journey into the world of Ed Hardy: The Godfather of Tattooing!


2. Japan’s Traditional Tattoos Are Celebrated at This Underground Pilgrimage

Tattoos in Japan are largely stigmatized, but for some they represent an important part of the country’s culture. Each summer, a group of Japanese people embark on a spiritual pilgrimage to the mountains to celebrate traditional tattoos and their meaning. Join us as we explore this unique journey and uncover why these tattoos are so special!


3. The Mark of Cain – Russian Prison Tattoo

Explore the dark and mysterious world of Russian prison culture with Alix Lambert in this riveting documentary. Delve into the intricate art and symbolism behind tattoos, which are used to convey rank and authority within prisons. Through interviews with inmates, discover how these symbols communicate messages of dominance, struggle, and power. With her book ”Russian Prison Tattoos: Codes of Authority, Domination and Struggle”, Alix provides a unique look at this complex tattoo system – offering an insight you won’t find anywhere else!


4. The Sacred Tattoos Of Thailand

Thailand is a country with rich spiritual and cultural heritage, including the traditional tattoo sak yant. This ancient practice has been passed down for centuries and still exists today, although in modern times it has become a combination of Buddhism and art. In this documentary we explore what these tattoos mean to those who wear them as well as their master-givers, some of which get possessed by deities during annual Wai Khru ceremonies! We examine how the power and protection from evil spirits that these tattoos offer have endured over time. Join us on an incredible journey to learn about the sacred tattoos of Thailand!


5. Prison Tattoos Documentary

Do you want to know how tattoos are created in prison? This documentary takes a rare look into the world of tattooing behind bars. It features interviews with both prisoners and tattoo artists, exploring the history and social impact of these designs. Get an exclusive insight into this mysterious process by watching this full account of prison tattoos!


6. 2000 Tattoos, Don’t Judge Me

Do you think tattoos are a sign of rebellion or art? Do people with tattoos still face prejudice from society? This documentary looks at the lives of those who have made the bold decision to cover their bodies with ink. It features interviews from individuals who have 2000+ tattoos and explores how this impacts their daily life, relationships, and stress management. Witness how these brave people respond to judgmental attitudes towards body art and gain insight into an often misunderstood lifestyle.


7. Thicker than Ink

Tattoos have been around for centuries, but in recent years, their popularity has skyrocketed. This documentary takes an in-depth look at if this trend is sustainable and how it affects society as a whole. We’ll explore the rise of tattoos on television and social media, and ask whether these images are having an influence on people’s decisions to get tattooed. Get ready to dive into the world of tattoos with us!


8. The last Kalinga tattoo artist, Whang Od

Have you heard of Whang Od – the last Kalinga tattoo artist? She is 93 years old and her body is decorated with snakes and millipedes. This traditional Filipino art form uses charcoal, water, sugar cane juice for shine, and orange tree thorns as needles. People from all over the world seek out Whang Od’s special skills. Join Charly and Egan on their journey to meet this amazing woman in a remote village deep in the jungle of Kalinga province. The trek to Buscalan takes 25 porters along a narrow path that winds through canyons up into mountains – no roads lead there! Hear stories about people who were so scared during their visit they wet their pants! Watch this video to learn more about Whang Od’s story and experience her unique art form firsthand.


9. Transforming Lives With Tattoos- Ink Revolution

Tattoos have come a long way since they were seen as a sign of rebellion. Now, many people use tattoos to express themselves and their beliefs. This video tells the story of how some individuals changed the world’s perception of tattoos forever! Through this true story, we explore what sparked the ink revolution and how it has transformed lives all around us. Watch this inspiring video to learn more about how one small change can make such a big difference!


10. Tattoo Culture, from Gangsters to Global Phenomenon

Tattoo culture has come a long way in the last few decades. From its beginnings as an emblem of gangsters to its current status as a global phenomenon, tattoos have taken over the world! In this video we explore how tattoo culture has evolved from being associated with gangs and prisons to becoming accepted by people of all backgrounds. We’ll look at some of the most popular cities for tattoos such as Tokyo, L.A., and Paris, and hear from passionate tattoo enthusiasts about why they love getting inked up!


11. In Your Face: Confronting Tattoo Prejudice

Do face and neck tattoos shape your opinion of someone? We explore this question with a unique social experiment. Three heavily-tattooed people have their facial ink covered up by an expert make-up artist to compare how they are treated with and without ink. Join us as we confront tattoo prejudice, discovering whether it’s the final frontier of self-decoration or not!


12. The Old And Bizarre History Of Tattoos

From ancient tribes to modern day rebels, tattoos have been used throughout history for many different reasons. In this video we explore the bizarre and often dark past of tattooing. Learn about how tattoos were once seen as a sign of religious devotion and why they are now associated with criminals in some societies. We also look at statistics on whether or not there is any correlation between body ink and crime. Discover the old and strange history of tattoos!


13. Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry The Life of Norman K Collins

Hori Smoku – the Sailor Jerry story is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in learning more about Norman K Collins, one of the most influential figures in early 20th century tattooing. Follow along as we explore his life and work and gain insight into the world of early 20th century tattooing. Watch as we uncover the secrets behind Sailor Jerry’s legendary work from his humble beginnings to his rise to prominence within the industry. Learn how he changed what was once considered taboo into an art form that has become widely accepted today! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn more about one of history’s greatest tattooers!


14. Art of Shame Short Documentary Tattoo Stigma in Japan

Tattoo stigma in Japan is real and this documentary gives you an inside look at the culture from people who experience it first-hand. Learn more about why tattoos are seen as taboo in Japan and how that’s slowly changing. This short film will also explore the art behind traditional Japanese tattoos, giving viewers a better understanding of its history and significance. See how people have found creative ways to express their individuality while still respecting their cultural heritage.

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B