The blue-and-brown background is muted to draw attention to three large boxes in the foreground. Illumined Pleasures has considerably more depth of field than most of Dali's work. The three boxes (resembling screens in movie theaters) in the foreground exist on slightly separate planes, as do the skull-shaped object and the embracing couple in the left . The skull, the image in the left box and the use of light and shade (both in the boxes and outside) have clear allusions to the works of painter Giorgio de Chirico. In the box, a man dressed in noir-styled apparel shoots a boulder in front of a church. The largest box in the center has a greenish-blue self-portrait of Dali himself. Blood seems to pour from Dali's nose and mouth.

The locust and other engravings in this box is reminiscent of the works of René Magritte, a painter Dali had just encountered. The array of bird-heads in the narrow gap between the central and left boxes are prominent influences of painter Max Ernst. The central box seems to be leaking out water in two directions. The water on the right connects the innards of the box with a man with molluscs crawling on his shoulder. The water in the front spills out and sweeps up a woman and a man in embrace. The woman's hands are bloodied. To their left, a hand seems to struggle with another hand armed with a bloodied knife.

The right box shows a group of bicyclists with sugared almonds on their heads. Two character-jugs of leering women stand on a plaque on top of the central box (one flesh-coloured with multi-coloured handle, the other blue) with a leering lion's head connected to the flesh-coloured jug. An unseen spectators' shadow looms in front of the scene. Illumined Pleasures was painted during Dali's collaboration with Luis Buñuel on the film Un Chien Andalou. It is a portrait of an age in which cinematic images dominate life and the anxieties that come from seeing lives on screen. The December 1929 issue of La Révolution surréaliste featured the painting. It is currently in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.