The Best Shot Films According to Cinematographers? Really?



The American Society of Cinematographers, who, a decade ago, conducted an in-house poll of the best shot films of all time, have followed up with a new poll covering films from the eleven years that followed. (I guess it’s too early to talk about 2009?) The winner: Amélie, shot by Bruno Delbonnel. I’d like to believe that that’s not an obvious choice, just as I’d like to believe that cinematographers have better taste. I don’t happen to be a fan of the film, but irregardless, I find the lenswork, with its swirling and swinging through the streets of Paris, rendered in an oversaturated palate, all a bit phony, to the point of seeming conspicuously like CGI. Now, I have no problem with using any part of the vast array of technology currently available if it leads to a great film; but for determining a distinction like the best shot film of recent years, I’d like to award it to a film that really looked like it was shot rather than programmed, you know?

In any case, here’s the full top ten and their respective cinematographers and their guilds – interestingly, they’ve all been profiled in at least one issue of American Cinematographer:

Amélie: Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC (AC Sept. ’01)
Children of Men: Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC (AC Dec. ’06)
Saving Private Ryan: Janusz Kaminski (AC Aug. ’98)
There Will Be Blood: Robert Elswit, ASC (AC Jan. ’08)
No Country for Old Men: Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (AC Oct. ’07)
Fight Club: Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (AC Nov. ’99)
The Dark Knight: Wally Pfister, ASC (AC July ’08)
Road to Perdition: Conrad L. Hall, ASC (AC Aug. ’02)
Cidade de Deus (City of God): César Charlone, ABC (AC Feb. ’03)
American Beauty: Conrad L. Hall, ASC (AC March & June ’00)

Off the top of my head, I wish that any of the following placed among the these top finishers: Mark Li Ping-bin for Flowers of Shanghai; Ellen Kuras for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; John Toll for The Thin Red Line; Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire; Tillman Buttner for Russian Ark; and Harris Savides for Elephant.

Our own site has some films that demonstrate wonderful cinematography, of which I’m keen to point out the following:

– Michel Baudor’s stark but sensual black and white lensing in Anchoress.
– Huai-en Chen’s postcard perfect rendering of Taiwan’s natural beauty in Island Etude.
– Kostas Gikas’ idyllic Greek island lensing in Pandora.
– Flávio Zangrandi’s gritty but expressive documentary camerawork in The Charcoal People.
– Yi Seung-jun’s crisp capturing of the colors of Kathmandu in Children of God.

Did you like this article?
Give it a vote for a Golden Bowtie


Keyframe is always looking for contributors.

"Writer? Video Essayist? Movie Fan Extraordinaire?

Fandor is streaming on Amazon Prime

Love to discover new films? Browse our exceptional library of hand-picked cinema on the Fandor Amazon Prime Channel.