List: Top Ten Best Movies about Photography

I love movies. Maybe even as much as photography. Being a fan of movies means I am also a fan of movie lists, because they help me to discover films I may not have seen. Also, with my being a mildly OCD photographer, I began thinking about which films relate to photography. There are surprisingly few that I have seen or heard of. So I decided to compile a list of my ten favorites, in ascending order. Note that this list is in no way exhaustive, so please add your suggestions in the comment section below.

10. One Hour Photo- This is a dark thriller, starring Robin Williams as a one-hour photo clerk at a Walmart who stalks a family whose rolls of film he regularly develops. Though the film doesn't center on the act of taking pictures, it certainly deals with the photos we take and how they are interacted with. Plus Williams is fantastic in it.
9. High Art- An art house film that is moody and beautifully shot. It centers on a female photographer and a female reporter that captures her love and attention. Inspiration ensues.
8. Rear WindowSimilar to One Hour Photo, Rear Window is less about the act of photography but takes place in the realm of image taking and people watching. This time the main character is a photographer on disability who, in his hours of bored window watching, sees what he thinks to be a crime. A classic.
7. CloserJulia Roberts plays a successful portrait photographer who gets caught up in a love triangle with Jude Law and Clive Owen. There is only a little bit of photography that takes place in the film, but it is beautifully shot and an accurate depiction of the process.
6. PeckerWarning. This is a John Waters film. That means weirdness is rampant. But so is hilarity. Edward Furlong plays the "next big thing" type of photographer. He can do no wrong. Coming from art school, the cynical tongue-in-cheek treatment of the art world is surprisingly spot on.
5. Blow-UpA classic. Filmed in the 60's, fashion photographer Thomas, played by David Dennings, when developing prints from his outdoor photo shoot, discovers that he has incidentally captured a murder in the background.
4. ProofA relatively unknown film. Hugo Weaving plays a blind photographer who has his photos described to him by a friend, played by Russell Crowe. This sounds like a gimmick, but it is beautifully acted and photographed.
3. Under FireNick Nolte plays a wartime photojournalist, stationed in Nicaragua. One of the more technically sound portrayals of a working photographer.
2. Born Into BrothelsThis is actually a documentary. Two filmmakers go into the brothels of Calcutta and hand out cameras to the child prostitutes. They encourage them to shoot their lives, which result in them having a  gallery opening in NYC. This is simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. A must see for everyone- not just photographers.
1. City Of God- A fictional portrayal of two boys growing up in the favelas of Brazil. One of the boys grows up to be a photographer and the other, a drug dealer. Not only the best photography film, IMO, but also one of my favorite films. 

Honorable mentions- Fur-an imagined biopic of of photographer Diane Arbus, who is played by Nicole Kidman. Guinevere- A story of a photographer (Stephen Rea) and his student/subject/lover, played by Sarah Polley. Smoke- Though this is not a photography film, there is a thread in the movie where Harvey Keitel's character takes a photo of the street corner outside of his cigar shop everyday for decades. It's an incredibly moving scene.

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97 Comments

DforDesign's picture

How about The Bang Bang Club?

Stephane Sby Balmy's picture

And War Photographer?

Mike Last's picture

Seriously, how do you forget The Bang Bang Club? And no shout out to Apocalypse Now?

Lanskymob's picture

"Hey, man, you don't talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense."

Nick Fancher's picture

I actually never heard of the film before. I'll check it out this week. Thanks!

Jason Bryant's picture

Pretty sure The Bang Bang Club will change your life.

foggodyssey's picture

Pretty sure if you haven't heard of "The Bang Bang Club" you shouldn't have been allowed to write an article called "Top Ten Best Movies about Photography" on that principle alone.

Seagram Pearce's picture

hahaha. While that is what I thought secretly, this list is a good one. Plenty of movies there I've never heard of myself. Now to try track them down.

James Howard-Davies's picture

The book is inspirational. Same title.

James Darden's picture

I actually stumbled across it while channel surfing several months ago. But I would think someone who writes for a photography site would had it as part of their movie library a long time ago.

Michael Comeau's picture

Ummm, the Bang Bang Club sucked.

Johan van Vuren's picture

Yip. I live in South Africa and learned about the Bang Bang Club when I studied Journalism. These guys were legends to us and the movie totally ruined it for me...

Seagram Pearce's picture

The one guy they left out of the movie is a regular visitor to my studio.

James Darden's picture

Are you serious? Was it the acting? The story? The fake accents? Was it unrealistic in its portrayal of hard living photojournalists? I thought it was a well made film.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Blow Up is awesome. That would have been my #1.

André Flores's picture

As a Brazilian, I'm glad to know that City of God, "Cidade de Deus" for us, is the first of your list! It's a great, great movie!

Gabriel Cruz's picture

Thumbs up for "Cidade de Deus". I`m Brazilian too. But I also missed the Bang Bang Club. Another movies (actually documentaries) that weren't mentioned are:

- Frames from the Edge that tells a little bit of Helmut Newton's history.
- The impassionated eye - Cartier-Bresson
- Life through a Lens - Annie Leibovitz

Andrew Griswold's picture

The Bang Bang Club was a phenomenal movie about the journalistic side if photography at war. If you haven't seen it yet, you must!!

Juan's picture

How about this one? Beautiful! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0961066/

awerllow's picture

Just watched the two clips and I'm intrigued. Will definitely watch this one!

Nick Fancher's picture

Looks awesome

Martin Melnick's picture

'The killing fields' would have been a good one too.

Nick Fancher's picture

Had heard of the film but didn't know it focused on a photographer. I'll check it out.

Martin Melnick's picture

it's about two journalists covering Cambodia and Khmer Rouge, but one is the reporter and one is a photo journalist (not quite a photography movie - but definitely depicts the interesting side of being a photo journalist in the midst of aggressive political change).

Mbutu Namubu's picture

"Eyes of Lara Marrs" with Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyes_of_Laura_Mars

Helmut Newton consulted on the fashion photography scenes and also did some some of the shoots himself.

Nick Fancher's picture

This sounds amazing. Can't wait to watch it. Thanks

Mark Russell Mariucci's picture

I agree

Stefano Druetta's picture

help me out with this.
a long time ago, I was a kid I guess, let's say I've watched it 15 years ago, I saw a movie about a boy and a girl having their teen-age relationship. she was kind of an amateur photographer, she mostly used polaroids and medium format cameras.
any guess?
wish there was some video-shazam!

Andy Kerr's picture

Cloudy Bright?

Mitchell Davis's picture

How can you forget The Public Eye with Joe Pesci?

Nick Fancher's picture

Never saw it. Looks good. Thanks for the heads up!

Mitchell Davis's picture

It is a great movie. Picture the God Father with cameras

Dave Sidaway's picture

The Bang Bang Club and War Photographer definitely right up there. I'll also toss into the ring, Rear Window and The Bridges of Madison County

Michael DeStefano's picture

I wrote a very similar Blog Post a few years ago. "15 Movies Every Photographer Should See."
http://bit.ly/1a3xCiy

Phocus Artiisan C Jr.'s picture

midnight meat train

Brandi N. Montreuil's picture

Harrison's Flowers should be added to your list

Ben Brewer's picture

I would say "Restrepo" should be possibly considered for the list, if only for the late Tim Hetherington's fantastic role in its creation.

David Reid's picture

If you include documentaries then I would say "War Photographer" about James Nachtwey.

Andy Bryant's picture

Seriously... no mention of We'll Take Manhatten - A look at the love affair between 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton and photographer David Bailey. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1885440/

Ronald Gesualdo's picture

For the horror lovers Shutter (2004) the thai version

Sokhim Kong's picture
Bruno Inácio's picture

At least put the director's names on synopsis. God post ideia!

Phil Babcock's picture

Since you've included a documentary, how about Bill Cunningham New York. Great man, great film.

Skip Watson's picture

Funny Face with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn - Astaire plays an Avedon-type fashion photographer. Also, Salvador, an early Oliver Stone film, with James Woods and John Savage as war photographers.

Skip Watson's picture

Thought of one more: The Photographer starring Reg Rogers. Quirky but interesting.

Phil Kirchmeier Photography's picture

Oliver Stone's Salvador should be in this.

Ricardo Biserra's picture

Palermo Shooting Directed by Win Wnders

Rory McLean's picture

5 Broken Cameras should be on the list.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125423/

Gaetan Cormier's picture

Bang Bang Club!!!

Lyle Griess's picture

This is kindof a stupid subject movies about photography?? whats next?? Movies with Dogs as cameramen?

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