There are some filmmakers who view life at a funny angle. And there are others who just use the Dutch angle to convey their off-kilter ideals.  

Today we’re going to go over the Dutch angle, how it’s used, and why it’s an important tool to utilize in your shot lists.

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The Dutch angle definition

What is a Dutch angle? A Dutch angle (or Dutch tilt, canted angle, oblique angle) refers to when the camera is tilted to one side or another which results in a frame that is not level. The camera is set at an angle, so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame, or so that the horizon line of the shot is not parallel with the bottom of the frame. This produces a viewpoint sort of like tilting your head to one side.

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Uses: In cinematography, the Dutch angle is one of many cinematic techniques often used to portray psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed.

Origin: Dutch is a riff on the word "Deutsch,” the German word for "German.” It is not related to the Dutch people or language. The term comes from the World War I. The import (and export) of movies was banned. German film was part of the expressionist movement of unease and angst, which used the Dutch angle extensively.

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Thor

The Dutch angle definition in Thor

Why use a Dutch Angle?

This tilt camera technique can be applied in many different ways. Film analysis tells us the Dutch angle helps to express a feeling of tension or uneasiness. It’s a useful way to accentuate the mood from page to screen. It depends on what you need from the scene.

You can use the Dutch tilt for stylistic purposes or to add a little extra fear into a scene.

Or maybe you want to show your character’s reality has been altered by drugs or alcohol? The Dutch angle can skew the audience’s perspective, so they’re in the same mindset as the characters they’re watching on the screen.

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Fear and Loathing

Get your Dutch angle Shot on with Hunter S. Thompson.

Dutch angle shots mean tilting the camera to the side to disrupt the natural flow. That means moving the camera a lot. Or even a little to push the nuance of a scene.  

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Die Hard

This is a subtle Dutch tilt to get us incredibly tense for what comes next in Die Hard

As you can see, the Dutch angle’s definition is flexible. The idea is to just dive in and make the Dutch angle shot your own. It’s up to you to find the Dutch tilt meaning in your own scene.

The Dutch tilt

How to shot list Dutch Angles  

So, you think you want to use a Dutch angle in your next scene? What do you do now? You need to put it in a shot list so your DP can anticipate and prep. Plus, you may want to get coverage of each shot, in case the dutch angles don’t work in the edit.

Introducing Shot List Template and Storyboard Template Builder - Add New Shot

Add your Dutch angles and storyboards to your shot list.

Specific camera movements matter too. Is your Dutch angle static? Or are you dollying in on a character or object? Maybe the camera needs to turn on a crane or to be combined with a high or low angle.

You want to capture all these crucial details in your shot list. With StudioBinder, these details are already listed as options, so you only need to check their boxes. This allows you to create creative combinations that make your movie come to life.

How to Create a Shot List with StudioBinder - Shot List Creator Template - 6

Your signature Dutch angle is only a click away.

Collaboration is fast and efficient. Send your shot list to the DP with the click of a button. The best part? We let you start shot listing for free. This gives you more time to think about the intangibles.

For example, can you use your Dutch angle as an homage to German Expressionism?  

Where Did the Dutch angle come from?

The Dutch angle shot used to be called “The German Angle” because this camera angle came to prominence in early 1900’s German Expressionist Film.

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Cabinet of Dr Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari utilizes the Dutch tilt for its dystopian world. 

It was the “Deutsche Angle” which people bastardized to be “Dutch!” As film evolved, the Dutch angle became part of mainstream Hollywood.

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - The Third Man

Here’s a slight Dutch tilt to promote the unease of an escaping spy. The Third Man (1949). 

In 1949, the film The Third Man used a compilation of Dutch angles to make its noir story exciting and disorienting. They tilt camera all over the place to get the audience used to the vibe.

The Third Man is a noir directed by Carol Reed. He uses the Dutch tilts as a theme throughout the film. This is a world where you can’t trust anyone. The Dutch tilts help accentuate this mood and film tone.
Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Orson Welles

Face by Orson Welles. Dutch Camera Angle by Carol Reed

The Dutch angle keep us on the edge of our seats as characters we thought were dead come back and expectations are defied. It made The Third Man a masterpiece. But that was 1949. How are filmmakers using the Dutch angle today?

Contemporary Dutch angle examples

As Filmmaking evolved the Dutch angle became a useful tool. Let’s go over some Dutch tilt film uses. Are you making a movie with a non-traditional villain and want to let the audience know how skewed their vision of the world is?  

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - The Third Man

Guy Ritchie plays with angles in Snatch (2001). 

Or maybe your characters have been drinking and have a bit of a twisted reality. There are lots of ways to use the Dutch angle.

Directors and Cinematographers have mastered the “tilt camera” to utilize the Dutch tilt Film Angle. But what about a creative spin on the shot? Pun intended!

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Inception 3

Double Dutch tilt Camera! Inception

In Inception, Christopher Nolan uses the idea of a Dutch angle to inspire an entire set piece. If you know the film than you know the scene.

The Dutch tilt goes wild. 

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character is walking down a hallway. In the above dream, Dileep Rao’s character drives the van carrying the sleeping Joe-Go.

As the van spins off the guardrail the laws of gravity are broken. The tilt camera begins to subtly take us into the scene before it takes over. As we mentioned, the Dutch angle is frequently used to create tension and uneasiness.

Dutch Angle Shot - Camera Shots - Inception Hallway

This is an extremely unique and fresh way to use the Dutch tilt. 

What’s more tense and uneasy that the world shifting under your feet as you try to pull off one of the greatest heists in the history of cinema?

Dutch Angle - Camera Shots - Inception Hallway

The Noir dress and lighting helps accentuate the Dutch tilt. 

The end result is a great film and a standout moment in cinema history with just a simple technique plus a personal flip (again, pun intended) on the trope.

So where do you go from here?

Up Next: The Ultimate Guide to Camera Angles

The Dutch angle is one of the most expressive shots you can put on your shot list. But there are lots of camera angles out there for you to master. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Camera Angles and see which other angles belong on your shot list.

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