Janusz Kamiński is one of the most celebrated cinematographers working today. Since Schindler’s List, he’s become Steven Spielberg’s go-to director of photography, giving the filmmaker’s movies a grit and realism that was largely missing in his earlier filmography. Janusz Kamiński movies have certain calling cards — high contrast, strong backlighting — but not one of them looks the same. We’ve ranked his finest work, and at the end of the list, download a mood board with our favorite Kamiński shots.

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Janusz Kamiński Movies

15. The Post (2017)

The Post cinematography

Kamiński’s work in The Post shows that cinematography doesn’t have to be flashy in order to be great. Spielberg’s newsroom drama primarily takes place in, well, newsrooms, which don’t typically have the most flattering light.

Instead of dressing it up artificially, Kamiński leans into the bland aesthetic of the office-space, adding a bit of realism. It also calls back to the work of the great Gordon Willis in All the President’s Men, a clear source of inspiration for the film.

The Post Cinematography


Kamiński’s work in The Post is understated, but don’t mistake that for complacent. The palette makes even the subtlest flourishes pop.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

14. Amistad (1997)

Amistad cinematography

Amistad is one of the lesser-seen Spielberg films, but that doesn’t diminish from Kamiński skillful work on the crushing period piece. It’s a fantastic example of what Kamiński brings to the table when collaborating with Spielberg– he adds a darkness that fits the more adult themes the filmmaker has wanted to tackle post-Schindler.

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“It's a very harsh and emotional story. These people were kidnapped; packed like cattle into a slave ship, where they spent many days before being intercepted by a Navy ship; and then sent off to a really dungeon-like prison. They were suffering from cold and starvation, and I felt that the lighting should support that storyline.”

— Kamiński on Amistad

Amistad Cinematography


Amistad earned Kamiński an Academy Award nomination for best cinematography, and it’s no wonder why. The DP’s chosen aesthetic is both beautiful and unglamorous, a distinct blend that has come to characterize much of his work.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

13. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones cinematography

Yes, it may be one of the most reviled entries in Spielberg’s filmography, but Crystal Skull’s cinematography elevates the film beyond just a disappointing franchise installment. Kamiński beautifully emulates the aesthetic DP Douglas Slocombe established on the first three Indy films.

Kamiński’s action photography is fantastic too, emphasizing the spectacle of each set piece. It’s an homage to action movies of yore in an age where shaky cam was at its height.

Indiana Jones Cinematography


You may not love Crystal Skull as a film, but its cinematography is something to behold. Divorced from the sky-high expectations that surrounded its release, you may also realize it’s not that bad of a movie.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

12. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry Maguire cinematography

Not all of Kamiński’s movies are Steven Spielberg movies. The cinematographer worked on Cameron Crowe’s hit romcom Jerry Maguire. Much like The Post, Kamiński’s work here is understated.

There are probably few people who left Maguire thinking about the cinematography, but that’s probably a testament to the script and acting. Kamiński creates a warm and inviting visual palette, like a sweater you return to on a rainy day.

Maguire’s iconic scenes wouldn’t be iconic without the subtly beautiful lighting adding to the unforgettable romantic moments (and the “Show me the money” moments, of course).

Jerry Maguire Cinematography


Jerry Maguire’s cinematography isn’t showy, but it is a masterclass in romcom lighting. Have Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger ever looked so good?

Janusz Kamiński Movies

11. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can cinematography

In Catch Me If You Can, Kamiński evokes a time and place. The cinematography in the cat-and-mouse caper efficiently teleports the audience back to a colorful 1960s America. Each shot is a retro delight, likened by Kamiński to “champagne coming out of the bottle, with bubbles and warmth.”

But what makes the cinematography in the film truly special is that there is still variety. Once the storyline enters the 70s, Kamiński deliberately desaturates the tone, emphasizing both the national mood at the time as well as the end of Frank’s reign.

Catch Me If You Can Cinematography


Catch Me If You Can subverts the notion that Kamiński prefers desaturated visual palettes. The film’s colors are bright and warm, and each shot is a feast for the eyes.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

10. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

The Lost World cinematography

The Lost World is arguably one of Kamiński’s most daring swings. Like Crystal Skull, the cinematographer was presented with the challenge of building on a previous cinematographer’s work. But unlike Crystal Skull, Kamiński chose to nearly completely diverge from the previous installment’s aesthetic.

While Jurassic Park is a great example of Spielberg’s classical period, with warm colors and well-lit grandeur, The Lost World is far more gritty, with low-key lighting and cooler tones. According to Kamiński, this was to fit Spielberg’s new direction. 

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“This film is much more moody and violent. Steven was not in the same frame of mind as he was when he did Jurassic Park. His last project was Schindler's List, and I think his sensibilities are a bit darker now.”

— Kamiński on The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The Lost World Cinematography


The Lost World is a divisive film, but few would argue that Janusz Kamiński didn’t bring his A-game to the project. From the grizzly opening scene, it’s clear this movie isn’t your grandfather’s Jurassic Park.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

10. Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report cinematography

As The Lost World illustrates, Kamiński is reluctant to imitate anyone’s style. This philosophy is evident in 2002’s Minority Report, which brought a fresh visual palette to the sci-fi genre.

In a time where cinematographers were attempting to imitate Blade Runner, Kamiński zagged, opting for cool blues and metallic grays. The result is a movie suffused with an impersonal coldness, fitting for its storyline.

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“I used a bluish side light, which to some degree glamorized them, but also made them very lonely and alienated from the rest of the scene. You work in metaphors through lights and composition.”

— Kamiński on Minority Report

minority report cinematography


Minority Report has become one of the defining science fiction films of the 21st century. It’s sleek and unforgiving photography is a huge reason why.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly cinematography

One of the rare non-Spielberg collaborations Kamiński has done in the 21st century, The Diving Bell stands out for its restraint. The film follows a man suffering from locked-in syndrome, meaning he is totally conscious but can’t move save for a blinking eye.

This would already make for a cinematic challenge, but Kamiński and director Julian Schnabel decided to also tell the first third of the story in first person. This puts significant restraints on the camera, and Kamiński smartly uses a swing-shift lens, which gives him minute control over what is and isn’t in focus.

The clever cinematography gives the film a visual diversity that one wouldn’t expect hearing its description.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Cinematography


A captivating true story, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is well worth a watch, especially when you consider the camera work Kamiński is pulling off. The innovative storytelling creates a powerful cinematic experience.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

7. West Side Story (2021)

West Side Story cinematography

West Side Story is a testament to Kamiński’s versatility. Watching movies like Minority Report or The Lost World, few would have expected the cinematographer to be able to pull something like West Side Story off. 

The movie’s colors are gorgeous, and Kamiński captures the choreography in dynamic wide shots that prioritize the dancing over all else. The movie also boasts some of Kamiński’s best camera movement– some of the oners here are mind-boggling. It looks effortless, but it certainly wasn’t

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“The scope of the movie was pretty big—lighting huge dance numbers in the middle of the summer, where often the sun was straight up above actors’ heads, which is not a very glamorous type of light, and using big lights to overpower that sun, so I can create some kind of sense of romance and dance and beauty with my lights, and traveling with lights as the dancers are coming towards the camera. That was a big, big challenge.”

— Kamiński on West Side Story

West Side Story Cinematography


The cinematography of West Side Story may not be reinventing the wheel, but it is a perfect homage to the movies which influenced it, and has some of the best choreography cinematography in years.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

6. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln cinematography

Lincoln isn’t your average historical biopic. It’s an unflinching look at one of the lowest points in United States history, focusing on an exhausted president fighting what seems like an uphill battle.

Kamiński’s work on the film fits the tone– his cinematography here is as bleak as it ever has been, embracing cold winter textures and low-key lighting. The camera moves sparingly, smartly letting Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance be the focus of attention.

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“The story is very relevant to what we as a nation are experiencing right now. So I wanted that relevance to be true for the graphic approach. Immediately I realized that having too much color in the frame would distract the audience and would make the film look artificial.”

— Kamiński on Lincoln

Lincoln Cinematography


Many remember Lincoln for its performances, but Kamiński’s cinematography on the project is a true masterclass. It’s the logical extreme of his back-light, high-contrast style.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

5. Munich (2005)

Munich cinematography

In an interview, Kamiński stated that one of the projects he was most proud of was Munich, even though, he admitted, it didn’t get as much attention as much of Spielberg’s other work.

Watch Munich and you’ll understand why Kamiński thinks it’s some of his best work. The spy-thriller shows the cinematographer at his grittiest, leaning into near-docustyle aesthetics for most of the film’s runtime. 

Kamiński’s work with color in Munich has probably never been better. He builds a distinct color palette for each city, a smart choice for a movie which jets around to so many locations.

Munich Cinematography


As Kamiński has noted, Munich is an underappreciated film. It’s weaving narrative and stellar cinematography make for a great watch.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

4. War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds cinematography

War of the Worlds came out the same year as Munich, and while both movies are very different, they both are clearly influenced by the September 11th attacks. Munich concerns itself with the aftermath of terrorist attacks, while War of the Worlds focuses on the immediate large-scale tragedy.

Kamiński’s cinematography on the project draws eerily from the footage from 9/11, with gray tones and hand-held camera work pointed upward. The aesthetic grounds the larger-than-life plotline in recognizable imagery, increasing the terror prevalent throughout the film.

War of the Worlds Cinematography


War of the Worlds isn’t your average science-fiction film. It pulls from the collective trauma of 2001 and uses gritty cinematography to create a distinct feeling of despair.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

3. Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List cinematography

Kamiński’s first collaboration with Spielberg as director is also one of his greatest. The DP’s stark black-and-white cinematography of his native Poland is simply unforgettable. 

By 1993, nearly everyone considered black-and-white to be a thing of the past, or at least a curiosity relegated to small indies. But Kamiński’s work on Schindler’s List proved that monochrome still had its place– the cinematographer delivered some of the finest black-and-white images ever.

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“The newsreel quality of the black-and-white seemed to fade the barriers of time, making [the footage] feel like an ongoing horror that I was witnessing firsthand. I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say the experience was sobering.”

— Kamiński on Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List Cinematography


Schindler’s List is one of the greatest films of the 90’s, and part of its success is rooted in Kamiński’s fearless camera work. It shocked no one when he won an Academy Award for the effort.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

2. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence cinematography

A.I. is one of Spielberg’s most beguiling works. Upon its release, audiences weren’t sure what to make of it. Kamiński’s cinematography on the project bolsters its mysterious, otherworldly qualities. Lights are hazy and colorful, at times even unnatural. 

It’s an incredible achievement because Kamiński has to do so much. He transports us from an idyllic home to urban underworlds and beyond (far, far beyond). It’s a film which deserves rewatching for many reasons, not least of which is its cinematography.

A.I. Cinematography


A.I. Artificial Intelligence gets more relevant by the day. Upon a revisit, you’ll notice its cinematography remains impeccable all these years later.

Janusz Kamiński Movies

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan cinematography

There’s war cinematography before Saving Private Ryan, and there’s war cinematographer after Saving Private Ryan. Janusz Kamiński’s work on one of Spielberg’s greatest films redefined how directors of photography would approach battle footage.

It all speaks to his boldness: the deliberately imperfect camera choices, the out of sync shutter, the high frame rate, the desaturated colors, the high contrast. All of these effects, to some extent, were achieved in-camera. If it didn’t work, the massive D-Day set piece would have gone to waste.

But they did work, completely immersing the audience in what is considered by many to be the greatest battle scene in film ever. Over two decades later, war cinematography remains in the shadow of Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan Cinematography


Saving Private Ryan is the culmination of everything that makes Janusz Kamiński special. It’s a defining work in a career filled with triumphs.

And now that we've concluded our list, here's a StudioBinder mood board with some of our favorite shots. Click the image link to see the entire collection and download a PDF for future inspiration.

Iconic Kamiński shots  •  See the entire collection

Up Next

Spielberg Movies Ranked

Ranking Janusz Kamiński projects is a bit like ranking the second half of Spielberg’s career. But remember, we were ranking the cinematography. Take a look at how the movies stack up as whole films in the context of all Spielberg’s work.

Up Next: Spielberg Ranked →
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