Friday, May 18, 2012

My 11 Favourite Cinematographers

Influenced by Alex Withrow's recent post at his fantastic site, And So It Begins, I have decided to also list my 11 Favourite Cinematographers.

Often a feature that has shifted me from liking a film to flat out loving it is the work of the director of photography. My admiration for these artists has emerged across countless feature films, and I will justify my selections with one outstanding example, and several other notable works, much like Alex did.

These are listed in no particular order, though I think Robert Elswitt and Emmanuel Lubezki are the two that I admire the most.

Roger Deakins

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Other notable credits:

Barton Fink (1991)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Fargo (1996)
O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Jarhead (2005)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
A Serious Man (2009)
True Grit (2010)

Robert Elswit

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Other notable credits:

Boogie Nights (1997)
Magnolia (1999)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
Syriana (2005)
Michael Clayton (2007)
The Town (2010)
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Emmanuel Lubezki

The Tree of Life (2011)

Other notable credits:

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Ali (2001)
The New World (2005)
Children of Men (2006)
Burn After Reading (2008)
The Tree of Life (2011)

Sven Nykvist

The Sacrifice (1986)

Other notable credits:

Through A Glass Darkly (1961)
The Silence (1963)
Winter Light (1963)
Persona (1966)
Cries and Whispers (1973)
Fanny and Alexander (1982)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Robert Richardson

Platoon (1986)

Other notable credits:

Wall Street (1987)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
The Doors (1991)
JFK (1991)
A Few Good Men (1992)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Casino (1995)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
The Aviator (2004)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Shutter Island (2010)
Hugo (2011)

Vittorio Storaro

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Other notable credits:

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)
The Conformist (1970)
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
1900 (1976)
Reds (1981)
The Last Emperor (1987)

Anthony Dod Mantle

127 Hours (2010)

Other notable credits:

Festen (1998)
28 Days Later (2002)
Dogville (2003)
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Antichrist (2009)

Janusz Kaminski

Schindler's List (1993)

Other notable credits:

Jerry Maguire (1996)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Minority Report (2002)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Munich (2005)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

Jeff Cronenweth

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Other notable credits:

Fight Club (1999)
One Hour Photo (2002)
K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
The Social Network (2009)

Conrad L. Hall

American Beauty (1999)

Other notable credits:

Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
A Civil Action (1998)
Road To Perdition (2002)

Gordon Willis

The Godfather (1972)

Other notable credits:

The Godfather Part II (1974)
All The Presidents Men (1976)
Annie Hall (1977)
Manhattan (1979)
The Godfather Part III (1990)

Honourable mentions: Wally Pfister (Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, Moneyball), Matthew Libatique (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Iron Man, Black Swan), Christopher Doyle (Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love, Hero, The Quiet American) and Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter).


  1. Oooh good call on Nykvist’s little-seen work on The Sacrifice. Love that our picks are almost identical, it just further cements how bloody brilliant all of these men are.

    Excellent list and stills, my friend.

    1. I love the way all of Tarkovsky's films are shot, but I remember reading that he used Nykvist on The Sacrifice, and I thought it was stunning. When I saw your list I knew there would be a lot of overlap. I dug pretty deep to compile this list, and I'm sure I missed some brilliant artists, but I can only go by the films I have seen.

  2. Fantastic list, love the inclusion of Anthony Dod Mantle - while I hated Antichrist the gorgeous and innovative cinematography almost made it worth watching.

    1. He wasn't one I immediately thought about, but when his name popped up and I realised what he had worked on, I took notice. I think it was 127 Hours that really impressed me, but having worked with Danny Boyle and Lars Von Trier, I couldn't leave him out.

  3. Like Alex, you provided a wonderful list of men that need recognition for their work. I mean, There will be blood, Tree of Life and Hugo, for example, are three of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen and the key thing that it makes them stand out from the rest is the cinematography. I wish people would appreciate and pay more attention to it

    1. Absolutely. The work of Elswit, Lubezki and Richardson in the films you mention mean that they deserve their spot here. Cinematography is one of my favourite features in cinema, and it was an exciting field to delve into for this post.

  4. One name I'm slightly surprised you didn't mention: Steven Soderbergh. Almost every one of his films since TRAFFIC he has shot himself, and most of them look so damned stunning.

    Favorites include:

    THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (Which I hate as a film, but love the look of)

    1. Soderbergh almost made the list (mosly because of CONTAGION) but I actually haven't seen SOLARIS, CHE or THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. Gaps in my Soderbergh knowledge.

  5. Nice list, big ups on Anthony Dod Mantle who I think is quite underrated.

    1. Yeah, he has worked on some great films - and been a primary reason why I consider them great.

  6. That's an amazing post and idea. I LOVE great cinematography but I'm afraid I'm not literate enough to distinguish my favorite cinematographers. Your post made me reflect though. I have to delve into this question.

    1. Thanks for reading Lesya. I look forward to your thoughts, should you get around to posting on your reflections.

  7. Is it odd if my favourite photography work of Emmanuel Lubezki is SLEEPY HOLLOW? That film is so supremely shot, I think.

    1. I love Sleepy Hollow - my favourite Tim Burton film. For Lubezki, I would go Tree of Life and Children of Men first. But, it has been too long since I watched Sleepy Hollow and now you have inspired me to watch it again.

  8. Robert Richardson is a great choice - HUGO and SHUTTER ISLAND had such strong cinematography but they were quite different from each other.

    1. Indeed they are, but perhaps my favourite film shot by Richardson is Inglourious Basterds. Some truly beautiful shots in that film.

  9. Great list! And really glad Libatique got a mention for Requiem for a Dream too.

    1. I was convinced Libatique should have won the Oscar for Black Swan - but having said that, I also loved the work of Pfister, Cronenweth and Deakins that year. Went to Pfister. No complaints.

  10. Some good picks. Not all that crazy about most of the new ones, I do like Lubezki and Deakins a lot, but dig picks like Vittorio Storaro and Gordon Willis. For more contemporary cinematographers, I'd go with someone like Christopher Doyle who shot WKW's films.

    1. In the Mood For Love is such a beautiful film. Love Doyle's work in that. Great pick.

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