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.
ASC’s top ten cinematography movies1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), shot by Freddie Young, BSC and directed by David Lean.
2. Blade Runner (1982), shot by Jordan Cronenweth, ASC and directed by Ridley Scott.
3. Apocalypse Now (1979), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
4. Citizen Kane (1941), shot by Gregg Toland, AS, and directed by Orson Welles.
5. The Godfather (1972), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
6. Raging Bull (1980), shot by Michael Chapman, ASC, and directed by Martin Scorsese.
7. The Conformist (1970), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
8. Days of Heaven (1978), shot by Néstor Almendros, ASC, and directed by Terrence Malick.
9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), shot by Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC with additional photography by John Alcott, BS, and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
10. The French Connection (1971), shot by Owen Roizman, ASC, and directed by William Friedkin.
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
The Innocents (1961) shot by Freddie Francis
Persona (1966) shot by Sven Nykvist
Marketa Lazarova (1967) shot by Bedrich Batka
A Special Day (1977) shot by Pasqualino De Santis
Star Wars (1977) shot by Gil Taylor, ASC
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) shot by Peter Suschitzky, ASC
Come And See (1985) shot by Aleksei Rodionov
Jurassic Park (1993) shot by Dean Cundey, ASC
Titanic (1997) shot by Russell Carpenter, ASC
Velvet Goldmine (1998) shot by Maryse Alberti
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) shot by Larry Smith, ASC
All About My Mother (1999) shot by Affonso Beato
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.