Earlier this year, the American Society of Cinematographers celebrated its 100th year anniversary. The ASC’s mission is to not only tell incredible stories, but to preserve the history of those that it made it possible. So what’s a better way to celebrate than with a really, really long list of the best cinematography movies of all time! The society voted and did an amazing job. But did the democratic system fail them? Just kidding, it’s an incredible list, but there are a few other insanely influential films that we think they might have missed, (and we may have added the). So let’s take a look at their best photographed films of the 20th century and then maybe add a few more of our own.

Best Cinematography

ASC’s top ten cinematography movies

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), shot by Freddie Young, BSC and directed by David Lean.

A 4 hour beauty, watch the trailer here

2. Blade Runner (1982), shot by Jordan Cronenweth, ASC and directed by Ridley Scott.

Cronenweth makes use of strong backlighting

3. Apocalypse Now (1979), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

We'll just leave this here

4. Citizen Kane (1941), shot by Gregg Toland, AS, and directed by Orson Welles.

Blade Runner's shots were inspired by this film, along with everything else

5. The Godfather (1972), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Shooting the light and dark sides of The Godfather with Willis

6. Raging Bull (1980), shot by Michael Chapman, ASC, and directed by Martin Scorsese.

Black and white is sometimes a choice not a necessity

7. The Conformist (1970), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

The filmmakers analyze their work

8. Days of Heaven (1978), shot by Néstor Almendros, ASC, and directed by Terrence Malick.

Watch a clip here

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), shot by Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC with additional photography by John Alcott, BS, and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Watch the trailer

10. The French Connection (1971), shot by Owen Roizman, ASC, and directed by William Friedkin.

Watch how well Roizman shot such complicated sequences

The ASC went all the way up to 100 films. So the next section is a list of those 90 from the original ASC unveiling.

Best Cinematography Movies

ASC’s pick from 11-100

Here are the next 90 movies in order of their release dates; we left them here for good measure. The next section will cover our additions. 

Metropolis (1927), shot by Karl Freund, ASC; Günther Rittau

Napoleon (1927), shot by Leonce-Henri Burel, Jules Kruger, Joseph-Louis Mundwiller 

Sunrise (1927), shot by Charles Rosher Sr., ASC; Karl Struss, ASC

Gone with the Wind (1939), shot by Ernest Haller, ASC

The Wizard of Oz (1939), shot by Harold Rosson, ASC

The Grapes of Wrath (1940), shot by Gregg Toland, ASC

How Green Was My Valley (1941), shot by Arthur C. Miller, ASC

Casablanca (1942), shot by Arthur Edeson, ASC

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), shot by Stanley Cortez, ASC

Black Narcissus (1947), shot by Jack Cardiff, BSC

The Bicycle Thief (1948), shot by Carlo Montuori  

The Red Shoes (1948), shot by Jack Cardiff, BSC

The Third Man (1949), shot by Robert Krasker, BSC

Rashomon (1950) shot by Kazuo Miyagawa

Sunset Boulevard (1950), shot by John Seitz, ASC

On the Waterfront (1954), shot by Boris Kaufman, ASC

Seven Samurai (1954), shot by Asakazu Nakai

The Night of the Hunter (1955), shot by Stanley Cortez, ASC

The Searchers (1956), shot by Winton C. Hoch, ASC

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), shot by Jack Hildyard, BSC

Touch of Evil (1958), shot by Russell Metty, ASC

Vertigo (1958), shot by Robert Burks, ASC

North by Northwest (1959), shot by Robert Burks, ASC

Breathless (1960), shot by Raoul Coutard

Last Year at Marienbad (1961), shot by Sacha Vierny

8 ½ (1963), shot by Gianni Di Venanzo

Hud (1963), shot by James Wong Howe, ASC

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), shot by Gilbert Taylor, BSC

I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba; 1964), shot by Sergei Urusevsky

Doctor Zhivago (1965), shot by Freddie Young, BSC

The Battle of Algiers (1966), shot by Marcello Gatti

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), shot by Haskell Wexler, ASC

Cool Hand Luke (1967), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC

The Graduate (1967), shot by Robert Surtees, ASC

In Cold Blood (1967), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC 

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), shot by Tonino Delli Colli, AIC

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC

The Wild Bunch (1969), shot by Lucien Ballard, ASC

A Clockwork Orange (1971), shot by John Alcott, BSC 

Klute (1971), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC

The Last Picture Show (1971), shot by Robert Surtees, ASC

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC

Cabaret (1972), shot by Geoffery Unsworth, BSC

Last Tango in Paris (1972), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC

The Exorcist (1973), shot by Owen Roizman, ASC 

Chinatown (1974), shot by John A. Alonzo, ASC

The Godfather: Part II (1974), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC

Barry Lyndon (1975), shot by John Alcott, BSC

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), shot by Haskell Wexler, ASC

All the President's Men (1976), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC 

Taxi Driver (1976), shot by Michael Chapman, ASC

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC

The Duellists (1977), shot by Frank Tidy, BSC

The Deer Hunter (1978), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC

Alien (1979), shot by Derek Vanlint, CSC

All that Jazz (1979), shot by Giuseppe Rotunno, ASC, AIC

Being There (1979), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC

The Black Stallion (1979), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC

Manhattan (1979), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC

The Shining (1980), shot by John Alcott, BSC

Chariots of Fire (1981), shot by David Watkin, BSC

Das Boot (1981), shot by Jost Vacano, ASC

Reds (1981), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC

Fanny and Alexander (1982), shot by Sven Nykvist, ASC

The Right Stuff (1983), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC

Amadeus (1984), shot by Miroslav Ondricek, ASC, ACK

The Natural (1984), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC

Paris, Texas (1984), shot by Robby Müller, NSC, BVK

Brazil (1985), shot by Roger Pratt, BSC

The Mission (1986), shot by Chris Menges, ASC, BSC

Empire of the Sun (1987), shot by Allen Daviau, ASC

The Last Emperor (1987), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC

Wings of Desire (1987), shot by Henri Alekan

Mississippi Burning (1988), shot by Peter Biziou, BSC

JFK (1991), shot by Robert Richardson, ASC

Raise the Red Lantern (1991), shot by Fei Zhao

Unforgiven (1992), shot by Jack Green, ASC

Baraka (1992), shot by Ron Fricke

Schindler's List (1993), shot by Janusz Kaminski

Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC

Trois Coulieurs: Bleu (Three Colours: Blue; 1993), shot by Slawomir Idziak, PSC

The Shawshank Redemption (1994), shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC 

Seven (1995), shot by Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC 

The English Patient (1996), shot by John Seale, ASC, ACS

L. A. Confidential (1997), shot by Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC 

Saving Private Ryan (1998), shot by Janusz Kaminski

The Thin Red Line (1998), shot by John Toll, ASC

American Beauty (1999), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC

The Matrix (1999), shot by Bill Pope, ASC

In the Mood for Love (2000), shot by Christopher Doyle, HKSC

Best Cinematography Films

What they missed

Again, their list was voted on and was strictly covering 20th century cinema. And what a great list it was! But there are a few notable films during that time that we feel influenced cinematography in such a major way, we just had to add them.

The Big Combo (1955) shot by John Alton 

Homage to Alton

The Innocents (1961) shot by Freddie Francis

Freddie Francis deserves a nod

Persona (1966) shot by Sven Nykvist

Watch the opening scene of the incredibly shot, Persona

Marketa Lazarova (1967) shot by Bedrich Batka

Watch scene

A Special Day (1977) shot by Pasqualino De Santis

The colors and shots of Pasqualino De Santis

Star Wars (1977) shot by Gil Taylor, ASC

The establishing shots alone are signatory

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) shot by Peter Suschitzky, ASC

Watch the trailer

Come And See (1985) shot by Aleksei Rodionov

Beautifully terrifying shots in Come and See

Jurassic Park (1993) shot by Dean Cundey, ASC

The dinosaurs didn't do ALL the work

Titanic (1997) shot by Russell Carpenter, ASC

Watch the most intense scene in the film

Velvet Goldmine (1998) shot by Maryse Alberti

The cinematography in Velvet Goldmine is a dream

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) shot by Larry Smith, ASC

Larry Smith, known as the "Lighting Camera Man"

All About My Mother (1999) shot by Affonso Beato

Inspired by A Street Car Named Desire: Cinematography makes us feel like we're watching a play

It's not easy to make a "best of" list for cinematography, because the question remains, where do we cut it off? The ASC stuck to a 100 list probably for this reason! I'm sure we've missed some too, so feel free to add your favorites in the comments. 


Roger Deakins Tips & Techniques

Deakins of course made this list, and it's no wonder why. Learn from one of the greatest cinematographers of the 20th (and 21st) centuries. 

Up Next: Cinematography Tips from Deakins→ 
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  • Alyssa Maio is a screenwriter from New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles. She works as a copywriter here at StudioBinder.

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