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The Best Cinematography of the 21st Century

From "tree of life" to "in the mood for love," indiewire ranks the 40 films with the best cinematography of last 20 years..

Nov 1, 2020 12:00 pm

most beautiful movies

Editor’s note: This list was originally published in 2017, but it has been updated with 16 new entries and re-ranked.

Cinematography is tough to judge on its own merits, because it can be hard to extract it from the other powers of great visual storytelling. At the same time, every beautiful movie shows the signature of a talented director of photography as much as a filmmaker. In the process of considering the finest cinematographic achievements of this decade, this list includes on gorgeous films that — in some cases — achieve more on the level of cinematography than anything else.

The past two decades have found the craft of cinematography making extraordinary advances on the level of digital technologies and other innovations, but at the end of the day, these particulars matter less than the sheer impression left by the images and movements captured by cinematographers operating at the peak of their abilities. Here are some of the best examples from this young century.

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40. “ Silence ” (2016)

Mexican DP Rodrigo Prieto first joined forces with Martin Scorsese on “ Wolf of Wall Street ,” but their collaboration reached new heights on “ Silence .” When you watch the powerful religious/period drama, the distinct palette and stark imagery is striking, even for a Scorsese film, but not altogether surprising considering the careful planning that goes into each his films. But Prieto created the film’s sculpted look under impossible conditions. Juggling rough locations under constantly changing and harsh weather conditions, Prieto somehow controls the elements by making fog, nature, the sea and the sunlight into the tools of his outdoor studio. —CO Rent or buy on Amazon.

39. “ Pan’s Labyrinth ” (2006)

Guillermo del Toro’s longtime cinematographer Guillermo Navarro won a much-deserved Oscar for his work on the director’s alluring dark fantasy film. Navarro is as integral to del Toro’s movies as any fairy tale monster, lensing six films with his countrymen: “ Cronos ,” “ The Devil’s Backbone ,” “ Hellboy ,” “ Pan’s Labyrinth ,” “ Hellboy II: The Golden Army ,” and “ Pacific Rim .” Navarro has also worked with Robert Rodriguez on a few films, and shot Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.” A film so dependent on visuals to weave its dark yarn, the genius of “ Pan’s Labyrinth ” is in the delicate balance it strikes between lightness and darkness. Part childhood fable, part nightmare, Navarro steeps his images in deep blues and eerie yellows. Fluid camera movements guide the viewer seamlessly — and eerily — from the dark realm of fantasy into the cold light of reality. It’s an intoxicating effect —the images somehow wash over you like the roiling sea and strike the fear of god in you at the same time. –JD Rent or buy on Amazon.

38. “ The Master ” (2012)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Paul Thomas Anderson served as his own cinematographer on his latest untitled film (opening in December). Regardless of whether he’s working with regular DP Robert Elswit, or newcomer Mihai Malaimare Jr. on “ The Master ,” PTA is a filmmaker completely in charge of his precise images, even down to choosing the exact lenses needed to capture his vision. While for most directors, switching between digital and film hasn’t affected their work, Anderson’s photography has increasingly become specific to the texture, color and magic of celluloid.

For “The Master,” the move to 70mm was key, as Anderson cranks up the hallucinatory dial on his visuals to place us in the post-war haze of a veteran being entranced by a huckster. The ocean, the light, and the atmosphere are so present that we’re lulled into a beguiling dreamlike state. Every frame is an expressive photograph with sharp colors and period details that comes from what’s in the frame, rather than filters and post-production manipulation. These are images designed to implant themselves in your brain, which might explain why film’s reputation has grown exponentially since it was first released. — CO Rent or buy on Amazon.

37. “All These Sleepless Nights” (2017)

The best example of the new forms of storytelling and cinematic language that are possible with a new generation of light-sensitive, relatively inexpensive digital cameras. Collaborating with his two leads, director and co-cinematographer Michal Marczak created a cinematic portrait of restless youth that feels more closely related to the French New Wave than a documentary.

Cinematography is such a big part of Marczak’s process: His portraits of endless-party worlds often take place at times of day when the light is most evocative, and in some cases, he’d show up early with co-DoP Maciej Twardowski to create the proper lighting themselves. Once at an event, Marczak is not there to document; he uses the minuscule Sony AS7s and camera rig he built himself to create and find expressive ephemeral moments as he weaves through parties and builds his narrative. —CO Stream, rent, or buy on Amazon.

36. “Enter the Void” (2010)

John Alton wrote the invaluable “Painting with Light” (a title later borrowed for a gorgeous documentary about the craft) to explain how he created the low-key noir lighting schemes that changed Hollywood. One can only hope that one day Benoit Debie will write his own book titled “Painting with Color.” With the recent advent (and vast improvements) of adjustable, lightweight, and affordable-color LED lighting, Debie’s body of work over the last 20 years (which relied more on gels, filters, and practicals) has become one of the most influential in modern cinematography. Filmmakers, now equipped with an easy way to experiment and incorporate color into their own lighting, are increasingly studying Debie’s bold use of color in his collaborations with Harmony Korine (“Spring Breakers” and “The Beach Bum”) and Gaspar Noé (“Climax,” “Irreversible”), but it’s the experimental “Enter the Void” that often leaves them speechless.

The nylon-lit world of Tokyo at night, characters taking psychedelic drugs, and the story of a wounded dealer having a somewhat out-of-body experience — all of these elements give Noé and Debie license to create visual language of flashing, sometimes unstable images that feel like something new. Color is emotion, a state of mind, but also story itself. As with his Florida-set work with Korine, it’s not simply the color that Debie adds to the frame, but how he filters and captures the color and feel of the world in front of his lens, which creates a palette unlike anything we’ve seen before. —CO Stream on Amazon via IFC Films Unlimited or AMC+; rent or buy on Amazon.

35. “Neon Demon” (2016)

Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s visual concept of a colorful nightmare born out from the allure of fashion-magazine beauty is one of those ideas that sounds exciting and cool, but not so easy to pull off. Thankfully, cinematographer Natasha Braier – one of the most inventive, resourceful, and fearless DoPs working today – not only created the elegant sheen of high-priced fashion photography with a noirish undercurrent, she did so shooting on multiple locations and within the confines a rapid-paced, barebones $5 million shoot. Painting almost entirely with color and shadow, Brairer transforms recognizable Los Angeles into a stunning hellscape. —CO Stream on Amazon.

34. “The Great Beauty” (2013)

Luca Bigazzi and director Paolo Sorrentino have had a long career together, collaborating on film (“Youth”) and TV (“The Young Pope”) alike. But their crowning visual achievement will likely be their 2013 collaboration on “The Great Beauty,” an aging man’s trip through the glitz and clubs of his own yesteryear. It’s a lush contrast between night and day, capturing sun-drenched Italian vistas and the fireworks-lit party scenes in the evening. The sweeping camerawork in the wide-scale celebrations is a tribute to movement and bodies below. Bigazzi emphasizes the stillness in the center of the frame as the lively chaos surrounds it. It’s a dazzling swirl of nature and the manmade, of simplicity and artifice. It’s unapologetic extravagance in film form. –SG Rent or buy on Amazon.

33. “Mudbound” (2017)

When watching the rich, classical elegance of “Mudbound” it is easy to forget how much the filmmaking team went beyond its means (a $9 million dollar production budget) in creating the gorgeous, sprawling period ensemble. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is impressive not only because of the limitations imposed on it, though.

Set in Mississippi of the 1940s, director Dee Rees’ clear-eyed look at the messiness of race is as much about today as our country’s past, leading Morrison to avoid the golden nostalgia of a traditional prestige Oscar play. Shooting digitally, the cinematographer captures the specificity of the era’s WPA photographers, like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, who inspired the filmmaker’s approach. Morrison finds the humanity of this tragic story in its striking landscape.

Yet the visually stunning movie was the product of simply capturing natural light. Images this sculpted don’t come easily when shooting in cramped, windowless sharecropper homes or under the harsh summer light of the Deep South. Prior to “Mudbound,” Morrison had been one of the independent film world’s most exciting talents. With this film, she transcended that status and entered the A list. —CO Stream on Netflix.

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This Article is related to: Film and tagged Cinematography , Direct , Ed Lachman , Emmanuel Lubezki , Roger Deakins


most beautiful movies

Top 50 most visually beautiful movies ever made.

Movies with the most beautiful cinematography, art-direction and over-all use of colors and camera composition. Personal preference, in some kind of order. Honorable mentions: I Killed My Mother The Treasure of Sierra Madre The 400 Blows Blue Velvet Red Shoes Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Fantasia 12 Years a Slave Naked Lunch Inside Llewyn Davis After Hours La Notte Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior Blade Runner Blade Runner 2049 Mommy (Xavier Dolan) It Follows Persepolis Manhattan The Revenant Double Life of Veronique Holy Motors The Witch The Killing of a Sacred Deer Dunkirk Run Lola Run Raising Cain Shadows in Paradise Chinese Roulette Blood Simple Body Double Dressed To Kill 964 Pinocchio The Searchers My Darling Clementine Carmen All That Jazz Mildred Pierce Betty Blue Do the Right Thing

1. Days of Heaven (1978)

PG | 94 min | Drama, Romance

A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Richard Gere , Brooke Adams , Sam Shepard , Linda Manz

Votes: 59,478

If you could describe this movie with one word, it would be: beautiful. Malick's landscapes are as epic as those of John Ford's, yet they are tinged with dream-like haziness. A lot of wide shots, but also some energetic, hand-held camera as well. Most of the film is shot during the "magic hour", where the sunlight is dim, but present with wonderful, warm colors. I know it's cliche to put this as you number 1, but the people who say that this is the most beautiful movie ever made, are not wrong.

2. Mirror (1975)

Not Rated | 107 min | Biography, Drama

A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Margarita Terekhova , Filipp Yankovskiy , Ignat Daniltsev , Oleg Yankovskiy

Votes: 48,400 | Gross: $0.18M

Tarkovsky was one of the most visually talented directors of all time. Not only in his framing, movement and use of color but also how he used time to create a mood and completely hypnotize an audience. Tarkovsky creates a nostalgic feel with the use of long shots and experimental montage. The Mirror is one of the greatest films ever crafted. It's hypnotic, raw, elegant and, most importantly for this list, absolutely stunning.

3. Badlands (1973)

PG | 94 min | Action, Crime, Drama

An impressionable teenage girl from a dead-end town, and her older greaser boyfriend, embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota Badlands.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Martin Sheen , Sissy Spacek , Warren Oates , Ramon Bieri

Votes: 74,607

Would be number 1, but here and there you can see some of that low budget stuff. Still mind-blowingly beautiful, the desert hasn't looked so haunting since Lawrence of Arabia. There are so many great shots, first one comes to mind is a shot of Kit (Martin Sheen) in the desert with his shotgun and it's not night, but the sun is coming down and you can see the moon behind him. Malick showed that you can make a movie with excellent cinematography, with a low-budget.

4. Chinatown (1974)

R | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer in 1930s Los Angeles finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Jack Nicholson , Faye Dunaway , John Huston , Perry Lopez

Votes: 331,323 | Gross: $8.49M

Chinatown constantly subverts your expectations of a noir film in it's story, in it's characters and in it's cinematography. Rather than being shot in a super contrasty black and white style, it's in color and there are hardly any shots of looming shadows in a dark alleyway or really heavy use of expressionistic lightning in general. It's more natural, the Californian sun is bright and hot, giving the film almost a sweaty look at times. I could write about Chinatown a lot, it's my favorite movie afterall, but I probably shouldn't. Chinatown's natural cinematography works because it's simple. It's not flashy, rather it highlights the exceptional costume and production design, and sometimes that's what cinematography is there to do. Also, the work Stanley Cortez did (mostly the orange grove scenes) are really beautiful.

5. Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998)

Not Rated | 147 min | Comedy, Drama

Late winter 1953. The lives of nearly half the planet are in Stalin's hands.

Director: Aleksey German | Stars: Yuriy Tsurilo , Nina Ruslanova , Mikhail Dementev , Aleksandr Bashirov

Votes: 2,021

German mostly uses wide-angle lenses and crams every frame with so much information and detail it's tempting to constantly pause the film to explore each one of them. His shots, while often hectic and chaotic, go on effortlessly, full of energy. His camera isn't a silent, passive observer, rather it's an active element in the world of the story.

6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Approved | 218 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

The story of T.E. Lawrence , the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole , Alec Guinness , Anthony Quinn , Jack Hawkins

Votes: 297,871 | Gross: $44.82M

7. The Conformist (1970)

R | 113 min | Drama

A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci | Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant , Stefania Sandrelli , Gastone Moschin , Enzo Tarascio

Votes: 31,566 | Gross: $0.54M

One of the greatest films ever made. Vittorio Storaro's cinematography is out of this world. Bertolucci's and Storaro's collaboration on The Last Tango in Paris is also spectacular and probably just as good.

8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

After uncovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, a spacecraft is sent to Jupiter to find its origins - a spacecraft manned by two men and the supercomputer H.A.L. 9000.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea , Gary Lockwood , William Sylvester , Daniel Richter

Votes: 677,422 | Gross: $56.95M

9. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

Not Rated | 124 min | Drama, Romance

A successful fashion designer abandons a sado-masochistic relationship with her female assistant in favor of a love affair with a beautiful young woman.

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Stars: Margit Carstensen , Hanna Schygulla , Katrin Schaake , Eva Mattes

Votes: 10,244

This masterpiece by the German new wave director Rainer Werner Fassbinder could have easily had the look of a cheap student film or simply a recording of a stage play, but Michael Ballhaus' camera work keeps re-inventing the room, at times showing it as a claustrophobic nightmare and at other times as a vast, empty and a lonely place.

10. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Passed | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History

In 1431, Jeanne d'Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Maria Falconetti , Eugene Silvain , André Berley , Maurice Schutz

Votes: 56,465 | Gross: $0.02M

11. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

145 min | Drama, Mystery

A naive young man witnesses an escalation of violence in his small hometown following the arrival of a mysterious circus attraction.

Directors: Béla Tarr , Ágnes Hranitzky | Stars: Lars Rudolph , Peter Fitz , Hanna Schygulla , János Derzsi

Votes: 14,685 | Gross: $0.03M

This film lasts 145 minutes and contains only 39 shots, which won't surprise anyone who knows who Bela Tarr is. His long takes are legendary for their complexity and elegant movement, shot in beautifully contrast black and white. Tarr's slow cinema won't be for everyone, but if you're curious, this is the place to start. After this, your next stop should be his infamous 7 hour masterpiece Satantango.

12. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid the $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

Director: Charles Laughton | Stars: Robert Mitchum , Shelley Winters , Lillian Gish , James Gleason

Votes: 91,432 | Gross: $0.65M

13. Barry Lyndon (1975)

PG | 185 min | Adventure, Drama, War

An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Ryan O'Neal , Marisa Berenson , Patrick Magee , Hardy Krüger

Votes: 171,596

14. The Holy Mountain (1973)

R | 114 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

In a corrupt, greed-fueled world, a powerful alchemist leads a messianic character and seven materialistic figures to the Holy Mountain, where they hope to achieve enlightenment.

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky | Stars: Alejandro Jodorowsky , Horacio Salinas , Zamira Saunders , Juan Ferrara

Votes: 44,603 | Gross: $0.06M

15. In the Mood for Love (2000)

PG | 98 min | Drama, Romance

Two neighbors form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung , Maggie Cheung , Siu Ping-Lam , Tung Cho 'Joe' Cheung

Votes: 154,326 | Gross: $2.73M

Christopher Doyle and Wong Kar Wai are up there as one of the greatest director-cinematographer collaboration ever, next to Fassbinder and Ballhaus and Bergman and Nykvist. Doyle's use of color and movement works beautifully with Wong's sense of pace, all of their films have a melancholic, dreamy quality. ITMFL is possibly their most polished piece, visually at least, but their earlier efforts, like Fallen Angels and Days of Being Wild are brilliant as well.

16. Russian Ark (2002)

Not Rated | 99 min | Drama, Fantasy, History

A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years.

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov | Stars: Sergey Dreyden , Mariya Kuznetsova , Leonid Mozgovoy , Mikhail Piotrovsky

Votes: 20,952 | Gross: $0.04M

Noted for being the first feature length film shot in one continuous take, Alexander Sokurov's 2002 masterpiece is gorgeously haunting. A technical marvel yes, but also an emotionally affecting visual journey as well.

17. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

R | 120 min | Biography, Drama

A fictionalized account in four chapters of the life of celebrated Japanese writer Yukio Mishima .

Director: Paul Schrader | Stars: Ken Ogata , Masayuki Shionoya , Hiroshi Mikami , Junya Fukuda

Votes: 12,149 | Gross: $0.44M

One of the most original bio-pics ever made. How Schrader switches from highly stylized visual style, to more natural, is wonderful to look at.

18. City Lights (1931)

G | 87 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin , Virginia Cherrill , Florence Lee , Harry Myers

Votes: 186,901 | Gross: $0.02M

19. Brazil (1985)

R | 132 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

A bureaucrat in a dystopic society becomes an enemy of the state as he pursues the woman of his dreams.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Jonathan Pryce , Kim Greist , Robert De Niro , Katherine Helmond

Votes: 203,746 | Gross: $9.93M

20. Walkabout (1971)

GP | 100 min | Adventure, Drama

Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Jenny Agutter , David Gulpilil , Luc Roeg , John Meillon

Votes: 26,103 | Gross: $0.02M

21. The Life of Oharu (1952)

Not Rated | 133 min | Drama

Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of society.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi | Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka , Tsukie Matsuura , Ichirô Sugai , Toshirô Mifune

Votes: 7,217

Before the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr, it was Kenji Mizoguchi who was the master of the long take. The action in his films is shot with wide lenses and from a distance, with the camera moving with the actors, preferring movement over cutting. Though it's not true, it often feels like every single scene is one-shot. That combined with wonderful lightning gives Mizoguchi's films a unique sense of rhythm.

22. Paris, Texas (1984)

R | 145 min | Drama

Travis Henderson, an aimless drifter who has been missing for four years, wanders out of the desert and must reconnect with society, himself, his life, and his family.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Harry Dean Stanton , Nastassja Kinski , Dean Stockwell , Sam Berry

Votes: 109,032 | Gross: $2.18M

23. Le Plaisir (1952)

Not Rated | 97 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Three separate stories about the same thing: le plaisir (pleasure).

Director: Max Ophüls | Stars: Jean Gabin , Danielle Darrieux , Simone Simon , Claude Dauphin

Votes: 4,998

The camera movements in this film are so gorgeous, especially the first brothel scene. You can see how influential this was.

24. The Master (2012)

R | 138 min | Drama

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by the Cause and its charismatic leader.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix , Philip Seymour Hoffman , Amy Adams , Jesse Plemons

Votes: 178,102 | Gross: $16.38M

25. Onibaba (1964)

Not Rated | 103 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

Two women kill samurai and sell their belongings for a living. While one of them is having an affair with their neighbor, the other woman meets a mysterious samurai wearing a bizarre mask.

Director: Kaneto Shindô | Stars: Nobuko Otowa , Jitsuko Yoshimura , Kei Satô , Jûkichi Uno

Votes: 19,844

26. The Third Man (1949)

Approved | 93 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

Director: Carol Reed | Stars: Orson Welles , Joseph Cotten , Alida Valli , Trevor Howard

Votes: 173,791 | Gross: $0.45M

27. Port of Shadows (1938)

Not Rated | 91 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A military deserter finds love and trouble (and a small dog) in a foggy, French port city.

Director: Marcel Carné | Stars: Jean Gabin , Michel Simon , Michèle Morgan , Pierre Brasseur

Votes: 9,487 | Gross: $0.03M

28. Ran (1985)

R | 162 min | Action, Drama, War

In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai , Akira Terao , Jinpachi Nezu , Daisuke Ryû

Votes: 127,600 | Gross: $4.14M

29. Videodrome (1983)

R | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A programmer at a TV station that specializes in adult entertainment searches for the producers of a dangerous and bizarre broadcast.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: James Woods , Debbie Harry , Sonja Smits , Peter Dvorsky

Votes: 96,319 | Gross: $2.12M

I wouldn't call Cronenberg a flashy director in his cinematography. Usually, his films have this very cold, very detached look to them. He doesn't heighten his story with lighting or heavy contrast, but his special-effects-heavy body horror style should have a mention here. Combining his cold, matter-of-fact cinematography with truly horrifying and very surreal effects works incredibly well not only in Videodrome but in his other masterpieces as well.

30. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

PG-13 | 165 min | Western

A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Henry Fonda , Charles Bronson , Claudia Cardinale , Jason Robards

Votes: 333,865 | Gross: $5.32M

Or really any Sergio Leone film.

31. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Passed | 75 min | Drama, Western

When a posse captures three men suspected of killing a local farmer, they become strongly divided over whether or not to lynch the men.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Henry Fonda , Dana Andrews , Mary Beth Hughes , Anthony Quinn

Votes: 23,928 | Gross: $1.64M

There could be plenty of other classic westerns here, Ford's The Searchers comes to mind as a strong contender, but to me, The Ox-Bow Incident is the most visually appealing. Sure, the sets sometimes look kinda fake-ish, but they make up for it by using strong, very high contrast black and white cinematography, giving the film almost a film noir quality. There are also truly stunning individual shots. Near the 20 minute mark, the shot of the men disappearing into the dust as they ride out is one of cinemas most stunning visual moments. The famous shot of Henry Fonda reading the letter, is also noteworthy for it's uniqueness.

32. Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama

A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finds only heartbreak.

Director: Federico Fellini | Stars: Giulietta Masina , François Périer , Franca Marzi , Dorian Gray

Votes: 49,978 | Gross: $0.75M

One of the most beautifully shot films about urban life. I love how Fellini shot Rome in the night, street lights have never looked so beautiful.

33. Playtime (1967)

Not Rated | 155 min | Comedy

Monsieur Hulot curiously wanders around a high-tech Paris, paralleling a trip with a group of American tourists. Meanwhile, a nightclub/restaurant prepares its opening night, but it's still under construction.

Director: Jacques Tati | Stars: Jacques Tati , Barbara Dennek , Rita Maiden , France Rumilly

Votes: 23,921

34. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Approved | 96 min | Drama, Film-Noir

Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister's romance with a jazz musician.

Director: Alexander Mackendrick | Stars: Burt Lancaster , Tony Curtis , Susan Harrison , Martin Milner

Votes: 33,279

35. House (1977)

Not Rated | 88 min | Comedy, Horror

A schoolgirl and six of her classmates travel to her aunt's country home, which turns out to be haunted.

Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi | Stars: Kimiko Ikegami , Miki Jinbo , Kumiko Ôba , Ai Matsubara

Votes: 29,534

36. Apocalypse Now (1979)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, War

A U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam is tasked with assassinating a renegade Special Forces Colonel who sees himself as a god.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Martin Sheen , Marlon Brando , Robert Duvall , Frederic Forrest

Votes: 675,466 | Gross: $83.47M

37. Raging Bull (1980)

R | 129 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

The life of boxer Jake LaMotta , whose violence and temper that led him to the top in the ring destroyed his life outside of it.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro , Cathy Moriarty , Joe Pesci , Frank Vincent

Votes: 358,998 | Gross: $23.38M

The scene where LaMotta takes the beating from Sugar Ray against the ropes is perfect in every sense.

38. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, Mystery

In a strange and isolated chateau, a man becomes acquainted with a woman and insists that they have met before.

Director: Alain Resnais | Stars: Delphine Seyrig , Giorgio Albertazzi , Sacha Pitoëff , Françoise Bertin

Votes: 23,526 | Gross: $0.06M

39. Blow Out (1981)

R | 108 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A movie sound recordist accidentally records the evidence that proves that a car accident was actually murder and consequently finds himself in danger.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: John Travolta , Nancy Allen , John Lithgow , Dennis Franz

Votes: 56,458 | Gross: $13.75M

De Palma is known for his highly stylized visual look, often crafting elaborate set-pieces, that are certainly pleasing to the eye. For example the wonderful Museum-sequence in Dressed to Kill. While Blow Out has moments of pure visual brilliance (the over head shot of Travolta listening to the wiped-out recordings for example), it's overall murky and sleazy look makes it for me. It's both elegant, and gritty.

40. M (1931)

Passed | 99 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Peter Lorre , Ellen Widmann , Inge Landgut , Otto Wernicke

Votes: 160,183 | Gross: $0.03M

41. Oldboy (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Park Chan-wook | Stars: Choi Min-sik , Yoo Ji-tae , Kang Hye-jeong , Kim Byeong-Ok

Votes: 588,216 | Gross: $0.71M

42. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

R | 118 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Johnny Depp , Benicio Del Toro , Tobey Maguire , Michael Lee Gogin

Votes: 288,391 | Gross: $10.68M

43. Persona (1966)

Not Rated | 83 min | Drama, Thriller

A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personae are melding together.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Bibi Andersson , Liv Ullmann , Margaretha Krook , Gunnar Björnstrand

Votes: 121,863

44. Leviathan (2014)

R | 140 min | Crime, Drama

In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev | Stars: Aleksey Serebryakov , Elena Lyadova , Roman Madyanov , Vladimir Vdovichenkov

Votes: 54,713 | Gross: $1.09M

I especially loved every epic landscape shot here, the shadows of the mountains reminded me of Ansel Adams' work and the blue/grey color palette worked beautifully.

45. Letter Never Sent (1960)

Not Rated | 96 min | Adventure, Drama

Four geologists search for diamonds in the wilderness of Siberia.

Director: Mikhail Kalatozov | Stars: Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy , Tatyana Samoylova , Vasiliy Livanov , Evgeniy Urbanskiy

Votes: 3,876

46. I Am Twenty (1965)

189 min | Drama

Following three lifelong friends who return to Moscow after military service, we see their aspirations juxtaposed against everyday life in 1960 Soviet Union.

Director: Marlen Khutsiev | Stars: Valentin Popov , Nikolay Gubenko , Stanislav Lyubshin , Marianna Vertinskaya

Votes: 1,492

Its fairly un-known, but the black and white cinematography is stunning. Especially the opening shot is something that you could see in a Max Ophuls movie. If you can find it, watch it. Don't let the 3 hour running time put you off, this is a masterpiece.

47. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

Not Rated | 157 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

A group of men set out in search of a dead body in the Anatolian steppes.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Stars: Muhammet Uzuner , Yilmaz Erdogan , Taner Birsel , Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan

Votes: 47,414 | Gross: $0.14M

Ceylan is both a director and photographer, which is obvious when looking at his work. His images are beautifully composed and beautifully paced. Though, I'm not always been a fan of his use of color in his earlier films (Three Monkeys in particular), Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is stunning in it's simplicity.

48. Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

Not Rated | 98 min | Comedy, Drama

Where are we humans going? A film poem inspired by the Peruvian poet César Vallejo. We meet people in the city. People trying to communicate, searching compassion and get the connection of small and large things.

Director: Roy Andersson | Stars: Lars Nordh , Stefan Larsson , Bengt C.W. Carlsson , Torbjörn Fahlström

Votes: 19,485 | Gross: $0.00M

I would also add that the whole Living Trilogy (this film, You the Living and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch) is gorgeous

49. Thief (1981)

R | 123 min | Action, Crime, Drama

An ace safe cracker wants to do one last big heist for the mob before going straight.

Director: Michael Mann | Stars: James Caan , Tuesday Weld , Willie Nelson , Jim Belushi

Votes: 34,170 | Gross: $11.49M

50. Underground (1995)

Not Rated | 167 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

A group of Serbian socialists prepares for the war in a surreal underground filled by parties, tragedies, love, and hate.

Director: Emir Kusturica | Stars: Predrag 'Miki' Manojlovic , Lazar Ristovski , Mirjana Jokovic , Slavko Stimac

Votes: 59,270 | Gross: $0.17M

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12 Of The Best Cinematography Movies Ever Made

By tim piccione 23rd oct 2022.

A scene from the film

We watch movies to be transported into another world—to forget the moment we're in and jump into someone else's. That feeling is more effortless to experience if a film is visually and strikingly beautiful. But what makes a movie beautiful to watch?

It can be cinematography, colours, settings, lighting, music, composition, or visual effects? And sometimes it's just a simple, but undefinable, quality of visual satisfaction. While beauty is in the eye of the moviegoer, here we've compiled a list of our favourite beautiful movies. We're covering all bases here too, with films that have probably been on your must-watch list forever, films you've seen but could use a revisit in a new light, or some undervalued gems that we guarantee you won't regret watching.

Cosy up on the couch, open your eyes wide, and take in our list of 12 most beautiful films.

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight  tells a coming of age story in three parts: a boy (Little), a teenager (Chiron), and a man (Black), each navigating the inner confusions of his sexuality, living in the impoverished Miami suburb of Liberty City.  Moonlight  is widely considered one of the 21st century's best films, picking up Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards. But that's not why we think you should watch it.

The script is based on a play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney titled  In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue . Director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton tried bringing that visual to life, contrasting the rich complexities of their character's skin tones with the surprising depth of vibrant colours throughout the film. It's this contrast throughout the film's colour scheme that makes it so aesthetically unique. Liberty City is saturated with greens in grass and trees, yellows of public housing, white walls striped with dark blues in school, neon pink in the darkness of Chiron's home, and the endlessly colourful Florida backdrop. Our focus is continuously drawn to newly introduced colours as the story progresses, both in the daylight and in the darkness of night— Moonlight is unrelenting in its beauty.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

It wasn't easy choosing just one Paul Thomas Anderson film for this list—movies like The Master or Phantom Thread are both stunning works. But we think  There Will Be Blood , his crowning achievement, was most deserving. The American epic drama depicts the life of sociopathic and ruthless oilman Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) and his ceaseless pursuit of wealth and power in Southern California's oil boom at the turn of the century.

The only thing worthy of discussion alongside Day-Lewis' tortured and isolated portrayal of Plainview (which he nabbed a Best Actor award for), is the work of PTA and his long-time collaborator and cinematographer, Robert Elswit. PTA uses longer camera shots and fewer editing cuts to make every scene and every shot critical and tense. The film opens without dialogue for the first 14-and-a-half minutes, forcing us into a dry and arid desert landscape. You need to give extra credit to someone who can visually blow you away with only the dark and bland colours of the American West and can shock your senses with the raging fury and light of an oil well on fire. 

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

In the Northern Italian summer of 1983, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) meets and falls in love with his father's research assistant (Armie Hammer). Beyond the fact that the film manages to be funny, heart-warming, and tragic all at once, while telling an important LGBTQIA+ story, it's an absolute cheat code for beauty.

As well as its idyllic, Euro-summer setting, the film takes us along for the ride, using a lot of handheld camera—making it feel incredibly intimate. You're also given a sense of the era of this summer love, with grainy 35mm giving a real 80s vibe. Here are just some of the things you can look forward to in Call Me By Your Name : bike riding through the Northern Italy countryside, historic architecture and pebble stone towns, Hammer drunkenly dancing in short shorts to 80s pop music, and Chalamet speaking both French and Italian and playing the piano. Surely, we've said enough?

Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan's grand and cinematic style of filmmaking can at times feel overwhelming and confusing—especially as he regularly toys with tricky physics theories like entropy and general relativity. If this year's Nolan sci-fi was a bit too mind-boggling for you, we suggest a watch of Dunkirk . The war thriller depicts the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, told from the perspectives and differing timelines of land, sea, and air.

Nolan and cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema, had a big vision for the film. They wanted it to be a visceral viewing experience, aiming for the Imax screen. The pair used the camera to transport us into the cockpit of a spitfire plane, a sinking rescue boat, and the shores of a battle-ravaged beach. Like the characters, you never feel safe or removed from the action of the battle because you're not watching it, you're in it. Don't expect Michael Bay-level explosives—the scenes are practical and without many special effects, relying instead on visuals and sound (a relentless ticking score from Hans Zimmer) to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Quentin Tarantino described a shot of a foregrounded soldier lying face down in the sand being approached by an encroaching bombardment as "maybe the greatest shot in war movie history". So, if you don't take it from us, listen to QT.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Based on the 1970 Roald Dahl classic children's book of the same name,  Fantastic Mr Fox  is a stop motion animated comedy detailing the story of a fox pitted against the evil farmers he is stealing from. Wes Anderson's unique and quirky filmmaking style perfectly translates into telling stories of affable anthropomorphic animals. Because actors seem to love working with Anderson, we're also treated to having those animals voiced by an incredible cast—George Clooney, Meryl Street, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, and Willem Dafoe all feature.

But what makes this film beautiful? Symmetry. Maths, in this case, is a sight to behold. Anderson is obsessed with the symmetry of his movies, and that's never more prevalent than in the charming painted tapestry of  Fantastic Mr Fox . The precise and balanced shot selections, paired with the film's scenic autumn colour palette of browns, reds, and yellows make for a stunning and calming reimagining of a childhood favourite.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

When his job depends on finding an original photo, negative assets manager for Life magazine, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), escapes the normality of his uneventful existence by adventuring around the world to track down the photographer who took it. Also directed by Stiller,  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty  is one of the more underrated gems you'll find on this list.

Walter's maladaptive daydreaming takes us in and out of the wild, comical, and beautifully crafted creations from his mind. That is until his journey takes him to some breathtaking parts of the world. Most of the travelling shots were filmed in Iceland (including an amazing Stiller fast-paced longboarding scene), which should tell you all you need to know about the film's visual appeal. This is nothing more than an extremely enjoyable, feel-good film with some fun performances, an awesome soundtrack, and some beautiful locations.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Oh yes, you better believe that George Miller's post-apocalyptic, Australian, wild action classic belongs on this list! If any movie has ever demonstrated how fire, destruction, and chaos can be beautiful, it's  Mad Max: Fury Road . Don't be turned off by the fact that the film's entire plot centres around a car chase going one way, and then the other way. Underneath the mindless and spectacular action sequences put together by Miller in the unforgiving Namibian desert, is a staunchly feminist story rebelling against toxic patriarchy and the expanding socioeconomic disparity across the world.

While we're trying not to focus too much on Academy Award wins on this list, it is notable that Fury Road swept the 2015 Oscars' technical awards—winning best production design, costume design, film editing, sound mixing, sound editing, and makeup and hairstyling. That technical prowess is what makes this movie so bloody spectacular to watch. A large majority of the stunt work in the film is practical and without much CGI—if you need proof, check out this video . In a 2017 interview commenting on the movie's notoriously difficult shoot, Steven Soderbergh said, "I don't understand how hundreds of people aren't dead". We highly recommend you do this unlikely masterwork justice with a big TV and the sound all the way up.

Free Solo (2018)

We wanted to include the often-unheralded work of documentary makers in this list, and what better film to represent the beauty of real-life captured through a lens than one filmed entirely around Yosemite's incredibly picturesque El Capitan.  Free Solo  follows the journey of rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts the death-defying act of climbing El Cap's 3000-foot granite face without the safety of any climbing ropes.

Both unbelievably tense and inspiring, Honnold's story and climb are captured by directors Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who recruited elite climbers and filmmakers to capture the climb and the training leading up to it. When you're shooting a film at Yosemite National Park, you don't need much else other than the backdrop to say the film is mesmerisingly beautiful. But Vasarhelyi and Chin manage to shoot Honnold's spectacular feat without interfering while giving us an intimate sense of climbing alongside him.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Since 1968, Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic has been studied, deciphered, and discussed as a piece of film history as much as any movie ever made. Its technical ingenuity, pioneering special effects and genre-defining cinematography have cemented it as one of the greatest films of all time. It's safe to say that most of your favourite sci-fi space films, like  Gravity , Ad Astra,  or  Interstellar  are all one way or another directly influenced by  2001 . But there's one very simple reason it belongs on this list, despite being over 50 years old—it's unequivocally beautiful to look at. Roughly half the movie is without actual dialogue, so the entire story is extremely visual. 

Don't worry yourself too much with the film's plot, just know that it takes you on an indescribable cinematic journey depicting the evolution of humankind. It's the kind of film where you might not know exactly what you've experienced the first time, but you know you've watched something spectacular and important. If you can, try and get to a cinema and catch it in glorious 70mm. Trust us. It's worth it.

Hero (2002)

Amongst the seven divided kingdoms of China, a Nameless man (Jet Li) has an audience with the King of Qin and recounts his stories of defeating three great assassins—each who would otherwise have killed the King. The stories are told in a series of flashbacks, each taking place in different coloured worlds: black, red, blue, white, and green.  Hero  (originally titled  Ying Xiong ) paints beautifully choreographed fighting sequences with visually spectacular scenes of colour. Director Zhang Yimou and Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle have said the selection of colours representing different points of view and timelines are not symbolic, but merely aesthetic. Picking colours because they look nice is exactly how you land yourself on this list. 

Now, here's the part we didn't want to tell you: this movie is not currently available anywhere on our internet. Like lots of incredible older foreign films, it's not on any Australia streaming or downloadable libraries (but don't let us stop you from using a VPN). Maybe it's like Red said in  The Shawshank Redemption : Some movies are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their colour palettes are too bright, their musical scores too sweet and wild. We're pretty sure that's the quote…

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

Let's be honest, we could have just made this list all films that cinematographer Roger Deakins has worked on, but we tried our hardest to be a bit more balanced. Anything the man touches with his lens is immediate gold, and more often than not, strikingly beautiful. Again, we're trying not to reference the Academy Awards here, but we have to mention Deakins' 15 nominations for Best Cinematography. He is a living legend of modern cinema, so we chose to present his most visually beautiful work,  The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford . Consider this our top pick for hidden gems.

Andrew Dominik's American Western epic tells a revisionist version of Jesse James' (played by Brad Pitt) last years before being murdered by a younger, resentful member of his gang who spent a lifetime idolising the famed outlaw. The entire film is a masterclass in capturing the essence and beauty of seasonal change, from the autumn landscapes of the American Midwest to the harsh depths of its winters. Yet, it's at night, in the candlelit darkness, that Deakins' true genius shines as he finds an indescribable beauty in lighting people and nature. Many (including Deakins himself according to some unsubstantiated internet quotes) consider the night time train robbery scene at the beginning of the film to be the cinematographer's single greatest achievement.

Waves (2019)

If this list has shown anything, it's that sometimes the saddest and darkest stories are told in starkly contrasted beauty. That fact is not lost on writer-director Trey Edward Shults and his 2019 romance drama,  Waves . The film, told in two separate stories, follows a South Florida suburban family's journey before and through an unthinkable moment of horror, as well as their struggle to stay together in its aftermath.

Waves is a visual collaboration of intriguing camera work, natural lighting, and striking settings. The movie feels most genuine because it draws from Shults' real life and family, but it also gives a sense that the lens is capturing reality and improvisation. It's like the camera is gliding through the scenes rather than shooting them. That feel also comes in large part thanks to the thoughtful and emotional performances of the entire cast. Finally, the film's soundtrack, including the likes of Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance the Rapper, was embedded by Shults into the script and feels as important for scene-setting as the dialogue itself.

Looking for more stuff to watch? Head on over to our TV and movies section . 

Image credit: Sony Pictures

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The Most Beautiful Movies Ever Made

The Most Beautiful Movies Ever Made

By Peter Martin

By Peter Martin

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers (1956)

 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Days of Heaven (1978)

Days of Heaven (1978)

The Natural (1984)

The Natural (1984)

The Last Emperor (1987)

The Last Emperor (1987)

Fargo (1996)

Fargo (1996)

What Dreams May Come (1998)

What Dreams May Come (1998)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Amélie (2001)

Amélie (2001)

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

The Fall (2006)

The Fall (2006)

The Fountain (2006)

The Fountain (2006)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

By Peter Martin

32 Most Visually Stunning Movies with the Best Cinematography

There are so many elements that make a film great, but as photographers, visuals are always top of mind. Lately, we’ve been on the hunt for the most visually stunning movies.

So what makes a beautiful movie? We focussed on three main components: composition, color, and lighting – just like photography. Besides being a treat to the eyes, all three components in harmony make cinematography a key storytelling device: setting the tone for every scene.

After countless hours of movie-watching and scouring the web, we’ve handpicked our top 32 most visually stunning movies, along with the most beautiful frames from each.

Are you a movie lover? Don’t miss our guides on the best entertainment center setups , and the best Notion watch list templates .

Craving more cinematic content? Subscribe to our mailing list to get inspo straight to your inbox 📮

Looking for the best way to organize and journal your movies and shows? Our Ultimate Movie & TV Show Watch List Dashboard for Notion has it all!

Movie Watch List Template

1. La La Land (2016)

Genre: Musical/Romance Director: Damien Chazelle Cinematographer: Linus Sandgren

La La Land Cinematic Frames

2. The Joker (2019)

Genre: Drama/Crime Director: Todd Phillips Cinematographer : Lawrence Sher

The Joker Visually Stunning Movie Frames

3. Drive (2011)

Genre: Action/Crime Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cinematographer : Newton Thomas Sigel

Drive Movie Appealing Visuals

4. Bladerunner (1982)

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller Director: Ridley Scott Cinematographer : Jordan Cronenweth

Bladerunner 1982 visuals

5. Bladerunner 2049 (2017)

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller Director: Denis Villeneuve Cinematographer : Roger Deakins

Bladerunner 2049 cinematic visuals

6. Interstellar (2014)

Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure Director: Christopher Nolan Cinematographer : Hoyte van Hoytema

Interstellar Beautiful Movie Stills

7. Gravity (2013)

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller Director: Alfonso Cuarón Cinematographer : Emmanuel Lubezki

Gravity Cinematic Portrait Stills

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Genre: Action/Adventure Director: George Miller Cinematographer : John Seale

Mad Max Fury Road Film Stills

9. Life of Pi (2012)

Genre: Adventure/Drama Director: Ang Lee Cinematographer : Claudio Miranda

Beautiful Life of Pi Visuals

10. The Fall (2006)

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure Director: Tarsem Singh Cinematographer : Colin Watkinson

The Fall Cinematography

11. The Revenant (2015)

Genre: Western/Adventure Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Cinematographer : Emmanuel Lubezki

The Revenant Visually Pleasing Movie Frames

12. TRON: Legacy (2010)

Genre: Sci-fi/Action Director: Joseph Kosinski Cinematographer : Claudio Miranda

TRON: Legacy Beautiful Film Frames

13. Her (2013)

Genre: Romance/Sci-fi Director: Spike Jonze Cinematographer : Hoyte van Hoytema

Her (2013) Cinematic Photos

14. Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Genre: Comedy/Drama Director: Wes Anderson Cinematographer : Robert Yeoman

Grand Budapest Hotel Beautiful Visuals

15. 1917 (2019)

Genre: War/Drama Director: Sam Mendes Cinematographer : Roger Deakins

1917 Best Cinematography

16. Only God Forgives (2013)

Genre: Crime/Thriller Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cinematographer : Larry Smith

Only God Forgives Cinematic shots

17. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)

Genre: Animation/Action Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman Cinematographer : N/A

Spiderverse Animated Film Stills

18. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Genre: Thriller/Mystery Director: David Lynch Cinematographer : Peter Deming

Mulholland Drive Photos from Movie

19. The Tree of Life (2011)

Genre: Drama/Fantasy Director: Terrence Malick Cinematographer : Emmanuel Lubezki

The Tree of Life Beautiful Movie Scenes

20. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Genre: War/Drama Director: Francis Coppola Cinematographer : Vittorio Storaro

Apocalypse Now Movie Pictures

21. Dark Knight (2008)

Genre: Action/Adventure Director: Christopher Nolan Cinematographer : Wally Pfister

Dark Knight 2008 Cinematic Movie Stills

22. Oblivion (2013)

Oblivion movie images

23. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure Director: Stanley Kubrick Cinematographer : Geoffrey Unsworth

Space Odyssey Film Cinematics

24. American Graffiti (1973)

Genre: Comedy/Drama Director: George Lucas Cinematographer : Ron Eveslage, Jan D’Alquen

American graffiti movie visuals

25. Roma (2018)

Genre: Drama Director: Alfonso Cuarón Cinematographer : Alfonso Cuarón

Roma Black and white movie stills

26. Enemy (2013)

Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller Director: Denis Villeneuve Cinematographer : Nicolas Bolduc

Enemy Film Cinematography

27. Arrival (2016)

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller Director: Denis Villeneuve Cinematographer : Bradford Young

Arrival Appealing Movie Shots

28. Saint Laurent (2014)

Genre: Drama/Romance Director: Bertrand Bonello Cinematographer : Josée Deshaies

Saint Laurent Beautiful Stills from Film

29. Spirited Away (2001)

Genre: Animation/Fantasy Director: Hayao Miyazaki Cinematographer : Atsushi Okui

Great Animation from Spirited Away

30. Skyfall (2012)

Genre: Action/Thriller Director: Sam Mendes Cinematographer : Roger Deakins

Skyfall Cinematic Photos from Film

31. Prisoners (2013)

Genre: Thriller/Crime Director: Denis Villeneuve Cinematographer : Roger Deakins

Prisoners Film Images

32. Fargo (1996)

Genre: Thriller/Crime Director: Joel Coen Cinematographer : Roger Deakins

Fargo Cinema Stunning Visuals

Have a suggestion for other most visually stunning movies? Leave a comment below and let us know which films with great cinematography deserve to be added!

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Making love to the screen: the 50 most beautiful color films I've seen

most beautiful movies

I decided to have two lists expressing my love for the visual aspect of cinema: one for color, where your are now, and another for B&W. Same rules as last time, thanks for checking it out!

1) this will change as I see more movies. When I take out a film and put in another, I will make an update about it here. Ex: Paris Texas out, Wings of Desire in.

2) these are NOT the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen EMOTIONALLY. Strictly visual. I might make a mushy gushy feeling list some other time…

3) no animated films. I might make a list for those some other time, but if you want to know what I think is the...

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

These need to be seen to be believed.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

Call us shallow, but how a movie looks matters a lot. Sure, things like plot, script, and characterisation are all important, not to mention the performances of the actors. But this is an inherently visual medium we’re talking about here - as this list of the most visually stunning movies on Netflix proves.

Netflix isn’t exactly short of jaw-droppingly beautiful movies. The streaming giant may be more commonly associated with self-produced TV series these days, but it still packs an impressive library of hugely handsome films to dive into.

We’ve picked out 10 Netflix films currently on rotation that make a major visual impact, whether from sheer spectacle, impressive artistry, or gut-punching horror.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

1 . Blade Runner 2049 - UK Only

The original Blade Runner was one of the most visually distinctive and influential movies ever made. This sequel from Denis Villeneuve couldn’t possibly hope to have the same impact, but it gets shockingly close – and all whilst ploughing its own distinct visual furrow. Blade Runner 2049 frequently bathes the screen in striking swathes of colour, while the sci-fi world it creates has a tactile, lived-in believability.

Image Credit: Warner Bros

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

2 . Pan’s Labyrinth - UK Only

Pan’s Labyrinth is the sort of movie that will stick in your brain for years. Part of that is down to its harrowing tale of a child’s supernatural discovery amidst the brutal Spanish Civil War. Another is down to the film’s grotesquely inventive creature design, rendered through some impeccable practical effects work. It’s undoubtedly Guillermo del Toro’s defining visual masterpiece, which is really saying something.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

3 . Spirited Away - UK Only

We couldn’t very well write a list of visually stunning Netflix films without a nod to the collection of Studio Ghibli films that pretty much lives permanently on the service. You can take your pick of the Japanese animation studio’s peerless productions, but Spirited Away is among the most aesthetically evocative. Its world of mournful spirits, snuffling pig-people, and grotesque witches is one you’ll want to get lost in.

Image Credit: Studio Ghibli

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

4 . Midsommar - UK Only

There aren’t many horror films that warrant the description ‘beautiful’, and still fewer that bathe their creepiest scenes in almost perpetual light. Ari Aster’s Midsommar is no ordinary horror movie, however. This profoundly unsettling film tells the tale of a group of young Americans who travel to an ostensibly benign Swedish village, discovering too late its adherence to a set of deadly pagan traditions.

Image Credit: A24

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

5 . Collateral - UK Only

Director Michael Mann has always had an eye for a slick city scene, and Collateral is chock full of the things. While the film tells the simple story of a ruthless hitman (played by Tom Cruise) and the hapless cab driver (Jamie Foxx) he ropes into his deadly plans, the main character here is really night-time Los Angeles and its moodily illuminated streets.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

6 . Annihilation - UK Only

Writer-director Alex Garland has contributed to his fair share of visually arresting films in his time (Ex Machina and Sunshine among them), but none is more distinctive than Annihilation. This hallucinogenic adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s sci-fi novel fills its most memorable scenes with a synaesthetic sense of dread, as a team of explorers led by Natalie Portman investigates a mysterious alien quarantine zone.

Image Credit: Netflix

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

7 . Amélie - UK Only

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie has such a quirky sensibility and such a distinctive look, it’s become one of the most referenced (not to mention parodied) movies of the 21st century. Audrey Tatuou plays the titular match-maker, who sets out to improve the lives of her neighbours. However, it’s the film’s almost fantastical portrayal of Parisian street life that really mark it out as something to behold.

Image Credit: Momentum Pictures

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

8 . RRR - UK/US

RRR is one of the most jaw-dropping movies you will ever see. It is the most expensive Indian film ever made but every rupee spent can be seen on the screen as it's a visual masterpiece. RRR manages to pack in all manner of fights - some with fists, some with guns, even tigers are used - in its twin tale of two men trying to make it during the British Raj of the 1920s.

Image Credit: Dreamz Entertainment

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

9 . Portrait of a Lady on Fire - UK Only

Quite fittingly, given its title and subject matter, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is as pretty as a picture. There’s a pronounced painterly quality to Céline Sciamma’s French-language film. Noémie Merlant plays an 18th century painter who is commissioned to observe and ultimately paint the portrait of a young noblewoman, leading to a passionate affair between the two.

Image Credit: Pyramide Films

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

10 . Roma - UK/US

While his previous film Gravity won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects, Alfonso Cuarón’s follow-up Roma is every bit as visually impressive – albeit in a far subtler way. This intimate snapshot of the Colonia Roma neighbourhood in Mexico circa 1970 has been shot in rich black and white. Press pause at any point in the film and you could probably enter the result into a photography contest.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

11 . Slumberland - UK/US

Not the best film on this list, but if you are looking for a visually stunning (and you obviously are, hence reading this article) children's fantasy then this is something of an overlooked gem. Jason Momoa plays Flip, an outlaw who teams up with an orphan to head to the land of dreams, where dreams are literally made.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

12 . The Power of the Dog - UK/US

Jane Campion's revisionist western is a film that is not only a stunning psychological slow burner but it looks fantastic, too, thanks to the sweeping vistas that Campion is famed for. The vastness of the landscapes is very much a metaphor for the themes in the movie, but taken at face value they are also beautiful to look at.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

13 . The White Tiger - UK/US

Aravind Adiga's fantastic debut novel was brought to life in 2021, thanks to the deft direction of Ramin Bahrani . His visuals complement the twisted storyline of a driver who rises through the ranks - and his caste - thanks to some brilliant scheming. Satire has never looked this sumptuous.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

14 . Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - UK/US

Guillermo del Toro is the perfect visionary to bring the age-old story of Pinocchio to life and he has done so, creating one of the most beautiful stop-motion animations ever made. Going back to the original Italian text (which dates back to the 1880s) this is a darker, more adult fairy tale than what Disney offers - and all the better for it. You can watch this one in 4K and should be seen on the biggest screen possible. Beautiful stuff.

The most visually stunning movies on Netflix

15 . Mank - UK/US

Another black-and-white movie on this list, which may be devoid of colour but that doesn't meant that the cinematography won't make your jaw drop. David Fincher's fantastic look at real-life Hollywood writer Herman J. Mankiewicz who wrote the classic Citizen Kane. The script was based on Fincher's late father's screenplay and he does a wonderful job visually to bring the story to life.

Note: We have added whether you can find these movies on Netflix in the US and UK. Please check your region for availability.

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15 Visually Stunning Movies with the Best Cinematography Image

15 Visually Stunning Movies with the Best Cinematography

By Film Threat Staff | June 29, 2022

When it comes to the movies, the cinematography should be one of the prime parameters to be considered. The best cinematography can make the storytelling more visual in nature. By the way, if you are quite busy studying and working simultaneously,  essay writing help  may save your time and let you focus on your favourite movies. From that perspective, we thought of checking out a few great options for the best visually stunning movies with the best cinematography.

Without much ado, we will straightaway move to discuss the best movies with outstanding cinematography. That way, you would find it easy enough to pick your preferred options right away.

1. Moonlight (2016)

most beautiful movies

The movie is about a coming-of-age story and involves a boy, a teenager, and a man. It has been regarded as a heartbreaking and enlightening story about the struggles of boyhood in an LGBTQ+ and black community. The movie received an Oscar nomination for the cinematographer for Cinematographer James Laxton. The movie explained the themes of loneliness and melancholy quite effectively. 

2. Gravity (2013)

most beautiful movies

This was a movie that showcased something alien as something perfectly real in the eyes of the viewer. The 12 minute opening scene itself should prove to be a great example of how the cinematography should be. The scene is about traveling into space. The ever changing light sequences definitely make it one of the excellent options to enjoy. The cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki definitely makes a lasting impression. 

3. Zodiac (2007)

The uncompressed HD-to-drive digital-acquisition system should make it one of the exciting options that you would never want to miss out on. The frequent panning and zooming are what make the movie quite stunning in terms of the best possible cinematography. The perfect cinematography would make it an ideal classic thriller with the most incredible twist ever. The viewer would indeed follow the story in a seamless manner. 

4. Waves (2019)

The cinematography should play a very major role in showcasing the saddest and darkest story in a more positive manner. The movie waves is definitely worthy enough of watching for the best use of cinematography. The intriguing camera work that combines natural lighting and striking settings. You will feel that the movie is extremely genuine. 

5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The movie has cinematographer Guillermo Navarro helming it, and he won the Oscar for the best dark fantasy movie. The movie shows a cute combination between lightness and darkness. The movie is a combination of childhood fable and nightmare; the movie definitely appeals a lot. The fluid camera movements would indeed impress you a lot. 

6. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

most beautiful movies

The movie provides you with a unique appearance and looks wherein you would find a striking balance between artistic tone in a sci-fi genre. The screen should definitely light up with over 50 shades of orange, which should make it stand apart from the rest. You would find the use of sharp figures and silhouettes along with panoramic shots would indeed make it a very pleasurable experience ever. 

7. The Great Beauty (2013)

The collaboration between Luca Bigazzi and director Paolo Sorrentino in this movie should make it one of the excellent options in the long run. This movie is all about an aging man’s trip through the glitz and clubs of his own yesteryear. The perfect contrast between night and day, as depicted in the movie, should make it a great choice in the long run. The sun-drenched Italian vistas and the fireworks-lit party scenes are quite exciting. 

8. Children of Men (2007)

most beautiful movies

This is a movie set in a world of dystopia where the world is without children. The story is about a man who has to escort a pregnant woman safely out of the region as faster as possible. The cinematography is by Emmanuel Lubezki, and the movie definitely impresses with action along with a shaky camera work. The cinematography makes you feel as if you are in the movie yourself. 

9. La La Land (2016)

most beautiful movies

The lonely and heart-breaking story of a pianist, the movie is all about an aspiring actress. The cinematography focuses on background and bright colors, which makes the melancholic movie one of the best in every sense of the word. The experience should be quite magical in many ways. Linus Sandgren went on to win Oscars for cinematography for this movie. This is indeed a masterpiece in many ways. 

10. Enter the Void (2010)

The movie features the low-key noir lighting schemes that changed Hollywood. You would find the movie offering you a wide range of options through adjustable, lightweight, and affordable-color LED lighting. The plot itself provides the cinematographers an option to flashing, sometimes unstable images. The unique palette that the movie creates is definitely worthy of checking out. 

11. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is what makes the movie stand apart from the rest. In fact, this is a movie that brings to light his admirable capacity as a cinematographer. The movie is shot like an old photograph and comes with vivid tones and textures. The camera too moves significantly slower to match the speed of the narrative. You would find it offering a dream like a sequence. In fact, that would make the movie a truly western classic. 

12. Black Swan (2011)

Tracking what is happening in one’s mind, the movie makes use of the cinematic duality to capture the difference between what is real and what is fake. Matthew Libatique makes use of the technique of reflections and mirrors to differentiate between the two. The movie also makes use of CGI at certain places, but the cinematography is definitely works the best. The great angles should further make it a formidable option. 

13. Mudbound (2017)

The movie is all about the emotional bearings and conflicts of a black family and a white family in the 1940s. You would find the gorgeous, sprawling period ensemble a great choice. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography can prove to be quite effective and enjoyable. The movie is set up in Mississippi in the 1940s and talks about of the nemesis of racism to a great degree. The digital shooting indeed makes the movie stand out from the rest. 

14. Interstellar (2014)

most beautiful movies

Are you looking for a masterpiece? The artwork by Hoyte Van Hoytema should definitely make it one of the unique options for your entertainment. The dull hues used in the movie would make it stand apart from the rest. The shots and panorama of the outer space are indeed quite a jaw-dropping. Both stand alone shots and panoramic views impress you quite a lot. 

15. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Created by the famed Wes Anderson, you would indeed want to fall in love with the cinematography of the movie to a greater extent. In fact, of all the movies in this list, we will recommend this one as one of the most promising movies ever. Everything in this movie, including symmetry, locations, and wardrobe, is quite remarkable and unique. 

Well, the movies and images do mean a lot, and it is always a great option to look for the best images in practically every aspect of one’s life. Just like brings a great degree of image enhancement, the movies outlined above should indeed bring in more enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment to your mind and psyche. 

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most beautiful movies

One more edit pass is needed for this article. Also, maybe include some beautiful films older than 2005?

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Film Lovers Are Sharing The Most "Aesthetically Pleasing" Movies Ever Made, And My Eyes Are Eternally Grateful

"It’s like you’ve eaten a pot brownie and woken up in a greeting card."

Allie Hayes

BuzzFeed Staff

Recently in a viral thread, redditor u/dilapidatedbunghole asked, "What is the most aesthetically pleasing movie you've ever seen?" and film lovers really came through with some truly satisfying responses!

So with that in mind, here are just a few of the most "aesthetically pleasing" pictures shared:, 1. 2001: a space odyssey (1968).

The inside of the spaceship

"The framing, shot composition, color palette, design — even the special effects — are all immaculate."

— u/hiro111

Watch the trailer here:

most beautiful movies

View this video on YouTube

2. howl’s moving castle (2004).

A landscape scene

"Especially the garden scene."

— u/Caramel_Cappucino

most beautiful movies

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

most beautiful movies

— u/idrwierd

most beautiful movies

4. The Fall (2006)

most beautiful movies

"This is one of my secret favorite movies. I say 'secret' because most people have never heard of it and it's criminally overlooked. It's gorgeously shot and has a beautiful story to boot!"

— u/Schneetmacher

most beautiful movies

5. The Green Knight (2021)

most beautiful movies

"It had really great cinematography!"

— u/_throwaway_2244

most beautiful movies

6. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

most beautiful movies

"It's such a strangely beautiful movie."

most beautiful movies

7. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

most beautiful movies

"It won an Oscar for cinematography!"

most beautiful movies

8. Hero (2002)

Jet Li standing among soldiers

"The one with Jet Li. It's the first movie that came to mind."

— u/Green_Merlin6

most beautiful movies

9. Annihilation (2018)

most beautiful movies

"The strange beauty is one of the best aspects of the movie. It gives the Shimmer this sort of 'devil may care' personality. The mutations occur in whatever way seems necessary for each life-form. On one hand, you get these beautiful deerlike creatures with flowering branches for antlers. On the other get scream-bear."

— u/Ellemshaye

most beautiful movies

10. Marie Antoinette (2006)

most beautiful movies

"I was in awe of just how gorgeous everything was. The costumes, the scenery, the food. I was enthralled by the beauty. It didn't really matter that it didn't have a compelling plot. I was so sucked into looking at everything that the story was so secondary."

— u/billyandteddy

most beautiful movies

11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Two Spider-Men flying through the forest

"The art direction of that movie was great, like something straight out of a comic book."

— u/PlasmaGuy500

most beautiful movies

12. Amélie (2001)

most beautiful movies

"The color scheme is warm and welcoming, the storyline flows beautifully, and the soundtrack is brilliant and whimsical — not to mention how talented each actor is. This is my favorite movie."

— u/ItStillIsntLupus

most beautiful movies

13. Dune (2021)

most beautiful movies

"Probably some recency bias here, but that movie is gorgeous. Every shot is like a painting."

— u/SingleFunction221

most beautiful movies

14. What Dreams May Come (1998)

most beautiful movies

"This film is so beautiful and heartbreaking. I don't understand why it's not as popular as other films."

— u/parallel-universe2

most beautiful movies

15. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

most beautiful movies

"It was a beautiful movie, both visually and musically."

— u/drawfanstein

most beautiful movies

16. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

most beautiful movies

"I don’t care for long movies (or deserts) but it’s still very pretty."

— u/akaCatt

most beautiful movies

17. Your Name (2016)

most beautiful movies

"Or any film by Makoto Shinkai. It's one thing to get aesthetically pleasing films with real actors and prop settings, but to do so with animation is just surreal and mind-blowing. The attention to detail to the cities, trees, petals, rain, etc. I still rewatch it every now and then because of how visually appealing it is."

— u/movin4call

most beautiful movies

18. Interstellar (2014)

most beautiful movies

"Plus, it has an absolutely phenomenal score."

— u/akaWillyDawg

most beautiful movies

19. The Prince of Egypt (1998)

most beautiful movies

"The first movie I recall where — even though I was young — I could still recognize the beauty of the scenes. I always return to it and pause the scenes I like the most."

— u/FairyAlpaca

most beautiful movies

20. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

most beautiful movies

"The opening scene with the red flowing in the river captivated me."

— u/ohlalaexpatinfrance

most beautiful movies

21. Ponyo (2008)

most beautiful movies

"I saw it as a kid and it's cemented in my memory. Especially the scenes where they float above the flooded road in water so calm, you can see everything underneath."

— u/Spyblox007

most beautiful movies

22. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

most beautiful movies

"It was just so visually unique and the slightly aged color tinting with the old music worked so well together."

— u/educatedpotato1

most beautiful movies

23. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

most beautiful movies

"It definitely makes slow strolling appealing."

— u/Imraith-Nimphais

most beautiful movies

24. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

most beautiful movies

"I love Baz Luhrmann's aesthetic."

— u/SquirrelsandCrayons

most beautiful movies

25. Midsommar (2019)

most beautiful movies

"Hands down."

— u/quiashde

most beautiful movies

26. The Shape of Water (2017)

most beautiful movies

"I'm surprised I had to scroll down this far to find a Guillermo del Toro movie."

— u/Dark_sable

most beautiful movies

27. And finally, the Lord of the Rings trilogy

most beautiful movies

"It’s absolutely beautiful and yet (in my opinion) still falls just a tad short of the grandeur of how the book describes everything!"

— u/relevant__comment

most beautiful movies

Okay so you've read their picks but now it's your turn! What's the most "aesthetically pleasing" movie you've ever had the pleasure of viewing? Share your pick(s) in the comments below!

Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity. H/T: Reddit .

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