10 Movies Every Photographer Must See


Movies can teach you a great deal about composition, lighting and framing. Some of the most impactful scenes in cinematic history are those where the cinematographer and director have paid attention to the visual elements of the scene. Here is a list of 10 movies that you must watch, to get a wholesome understanding of the kinds of imagery influenced by movies.

1. Midnight in Paris

Welcome to beautiful, exciting Paris. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an exploration of life and nostalgia attached to the zeitgeist o the 1920s. The use of warm colours make the city look inviting. There is also a guest appearance by a legendary surrealist photographer!

Year of Release: 2011
Director: Woody Allen
Cinematography: Johanne Debas and Darius Khondji

2. Days of Heaven

Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography in 1978, Days of Heaven is one of the most visually stunning movies in history. What makes it stand out is the fact that the movie has been shot exclusively during the magic hours, with warm, flattering light filling most frames.

Year of Release: 1978
Director: Terrence Malick
Cinematography: Néstor Almendros

3. The Killing Fields

This movie is based on the true-life experiences of two journalists: Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg, during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. The cinematographer has skillfully portrayed what rural life looks like when confronted with war and destruction.

Year of Release: 1984
Director: Roland Joffé
Cinematography: Chris Menges

4. War Photographer

This documentary follows war photographer James Nachtwey on his assignments. The film finds Nachtwey in combat zones like Kosovo, Indonesia and West Bank. The movie provides comments about conflict photography and how it brings attention to human condition.

Year of Release: 2001
Director: Christian Frei
Cinematography: Peter Indergand and James Nachtwey

5. Dreams

This movie truly showcases the Japanese director’s creative genius. It is made of a collection of eight stories based on Kurosawa’s dreams. Mystical, and most often surreal, the movie really does well in stimulating the imagination and challenging the viewer to look beyond the ‘normal’.

Year 0f Release: 1990
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cinematography: Takao Saito and Shôji Ueda

6. Ladri di Biciclette

This is a story of a poor father in post-World War II Rome. Stark frames and the careful play of shadow and light with brilliant storytelling makes for an unforgettable movie.

Year of Release: 1948
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cinematography: Carlo Montuori

7. The Godfather

Brilliant acting, an amazing story and art direction feature predominantly in the movie. The use of light is impeccable and greatly enhances the mood of the crucial scenes.

Year of Release: 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography: Gordon Willis

8. Requiem For a Dream

Various kinds of intoxicants have different types of effects on people’s minds. Requiem For a Dream is a look into the lives of four addicts and how it spirals out of control. Bizzare camera angles, the use of montages and shocking use of colours are most prominent when these characters go through several attacks of delusion.

Year of Release: 2000
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique

9. Apocalypse Now 

Another Francis Ford Coppola movie finds its way to this list, and what a brilliant one it is. Apocalypse Now explores the mind of soldiers during war. The movie confronts the viewers with dark, gritty scenes, interspersed with colours in natured, captured in a haunting way.

Year of Release: 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro

10. Baraka

Worldless, no actors, no plot, and none is needed. Baraka is a visual delight. This movie was shot over six continents, 24 countries in 14 months, using a 70mm extreme HD format.

Year of Release: 1992
Director and Cinematographer: Ron Fricke

Do you agree with the list? What movies have inspired you to make better images? Let us know in the comments down below!

Tags: dreams, requiem for a dream, midnight in paris, 10 Movies Every Photographer Must See, days of heaven, the killing fields, war photographer, ladri di biciclette, the godfather, apocalypse now, baraka