The Best Shots of All Time in Film

Sometimes, we admire them for their cleverness, sometimes for the weight of the meaning they carry, and sometimes just for their beauty. Here are some of the best shots in film of all time.

A good shot is something aesthetically pleasing on its own, while a great shot takes that and also invests it with some sort of meaning, conflict, resolution, tribute, or even sheer visual beauty for its own sake, the timing of which has been brought to the fore and has been borne upon this moment in a way that the audience intuitively feels that this is the shot, so to speak, and there can be no other shot, whether that has been done through plot, dialogue, editing, or the like, unless the entire point was to subvert that very buildup. While I love film, I'm going to cheat a bit here and say one of my favorite all-time shots is from the series finale of "Justified" (spoilers ahead). Beware of a bit of violence and language. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbKEVPmEvpg

Seen at about 1:38, I'm talking about the wide shot showing the standoff (also seen about 20 seconds before). First, as a fan of westerns, let me thank Director Adam Arkin for not doing the 40 fast-cut extreme close-ups of the eyes trope à la "Walker, Texas Ranger." But more seriously, if you know the show, you can see how many levels this shot is working on: Raylan's brand of justice set up by the first scene of the show, the constant standoff between good and evil, the fragility of the aging lawman, all framed by the oft-spoken-of hills of Harlan. Even those aside, it's a great tribute to the shootout scenes of yore and and a gorgeously composed frame.

Do you have any favorite shots? Share them in the comments!

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4 Comments

Felix Hernandez's picture

Really nice post!... interesting a helpful!!!

Alex Cooke's picture

Thank you, Felix!

Marc DeGeorge's picture

CineFix is a great YouTube Channel. I think we as photographers can learn a lot from the cinematic world. There is nothing in the cinematic frame that isn't meant to be there. Depending on what we shoot, we can't always control what is there, but it does help for photographers to be more deliberate about their subject, lighting and composition.

Thanks for sharing!