Best Visuals (Color) in Film History

  1. Warning: SPOILERS ... NOTE: Some of the accompanying videos to these works were only available without their original soundtracks. The main purpose of these selections are to promote the visual artistry of these respective films, so for this list, sound is not so much a factor in my decisions as to which were the best choices for representation (though, where possible, I would of course choose videos that are without any alteration).

  2. Blade Runner - Ridley Scott (1982)
  3. Video - Tribute:
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick (1968)
  5. Image - The Dawn of Man - Monolith
  6. Image - The Dawn of Man - Monolith Signal:
  7. Image - The Dawn of Man - Discovery:
  8. Image - 4000 Year Jump Cut:
  9. Image - Space Station:
  10. Image - Moon Base:
  11. Image - Moon Monolith:
  12. Image - Discovery One Mission:
  13. Image - Discovery One Mission - Attempted Rescue:
  14. Image - Discovery One Mission - Attempted Rescue:
  15. Image - Discovery One Mission - Zero Gravity Entrance:
  16. Image - Discovery One Mission - Revenge:
  17. Image - Discovery One Mission - Inside HAL:
  18. Video - Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite [with altered soundtrack]:
  19. Mirror - Andrei Tarkovsky (1974)
  20. Video - Tribute:
  21. Video - Tribute:
  22. Video - Wartime Newsreel [incomplete]:
  23. Nostalghia - Andrei Tarkovsky (1983)
  24. Video - Tribute:
  25. Video - Tribute:
  26. Brazil - Terry Gilliam (1985)
  27. Video - Tribute:
  28. Medea - Lars Von Trier (1988)
  29. Video - Tribute:
  30. Stalker - Andrei Tarkovsky (1979)
  31. Video - Tribute:
  32. Video - Stalker's Dream, Monologue [incomplete by one shot]:
  33. Video - Ending - Stalker's Daughter:
  34. The Conformist - Bernardo Bertolucci (1970)
  35. Video - Tribute:
  36. Fellini Satyricon - Federico Fellini (1969)
  37. Video - Trailer:
  38. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover - Peter Greenaway (1989)
  39. Video - Trailer:
  40. Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
  41. Video - Opening:
  42. Video - Tribute:
  43. Antichrist - Lars Von Trier (2009)
  44. A Zed and Two Noughts - Peter Greenaway (1985)
  45. Underground - Emir Kusturica (1995)
  46. Video - Tribute:
  47. Hero - Zhang Yimou (2002)
  48. Video - Trailer:
  49. Video - Flying Snow vs. Moon:
  50. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - Terry Gilliam (1989)
  51. Video - Tribute:
  52. The City of Lost Children - Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995)
  53. Video - Trailer:
  54. Video - Nightmare Sequence:
  55. Delicatessen - Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995)
  56. Amelie - Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995)
  57. Video - Trailer:
  58. The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick (2011)
  59. Video - Tribute:
  60. Video - Prayer/History of the World [incomplete by a few scenes]:
  61. Ran - Akira Kurosawa (1985)
  62. Video - Trailer:
  63. Video - Trailer:
  64. Natural Born Killers - Oliver Stone (1994)
  65. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors - Sergei Parajanov (1968)
  66. Once Upon a Time in the West - Sergio Leone (1968)
  67. Video - Trailer:
  68. The Pillow Book - Peter Greenaway (1996)
  69. Why Has Bodhi Dharma Left For the East? - Bae Yong-Kyun (1989)
  70. Days of Heaven - Terrence Malick (1978)
  71. The Red Shoes - Michael Powell (1948)
  72. Video - Trailer:
  73. Video - The Red Shoes Ballet Performance:
  74. Three Colors: Red - Krzysztof Kieslowski (1994)
  75. The Thin Red Line - Terrence Malick (1998)
  76. Alien - Ridley Scott (1979)
  77. The Sacrifice - Andrei Tarkovsky (1986)
  78. Waltz With Bashir - Ari Folman
  79. Hausu - Nobuhiko Obayashi (1977)
  80. The Element of Crime - Lars Von Trier (1984)
  81. Walkabout - Nicolas Roeg (1971)
  82. Playtime - Jacques Tati (1967)
  83. Black Narcissus - Michael Powell (1947)
  84. Lost Highway - David Lynch (1997)
  85. The Empire Strikes Back - Irvin Kershner (1980)
  86. The Holy Mountain - Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973)
  87. A Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick (1971)
  88. The Fifth Element - Luc Besson (1996)
  89. 2046 - Wong Kar Wai (2004)
  90. The Birds - Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  91. Marnie - Alfred Hitchcock (1964)
  92. Vertigo - Alfred Hitchcock (1958)
  93. Taxi Driver - Martin Scorsese (1976)
  94. Cries and Whispers - Ingmar Bergman (1972)
  95. Point Blank - John Boorman (1967)
  96. Belly of an Architect - Peter Greenaway (1987)
  97. Requiem for a Dream - Darren Aronofsky (2000)
  98. The Godfather - Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
  99. The Godfather, Part 2 - Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
  100. Miller's Crossing - Joel Coen (1990)
  101. The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky (2006)
  102. Batman Returns - Tim Burton (1992)
  103. Southland Tales - Richard Kelly (2006)
  104. Holy Motors - Leos Carax (2012)
  105. The Wild Bunch - Sam Peckinpah (1969)
  106. The Dance of Reality - Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013)
  107. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - Robert Zemeckis (1988)
  108. City of God - Fernando Meirelles (2002)
  109. Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino (1994)
  110. Eyes Wide Shut - Stanley Kubrick (1999)
  111. Dressed to Kill - Brian De Palma (1980)
  112. McCabe & Mrs. Miller - Robert Altman (1971)
  113. The Draughtman's Contract - Peter Greenaway (1982)
  114. Blow Out - Brian De Palma (1981)
  115. The Searchers - John Ford (1955)

  117. The Wizard of Oz - Victor Fleming (1939)
  118. Gone With the Wind - Victor Fleming (1939)
  119. Pinocchio - Ben Sharpsteen (Walt Disney) (1940)
  120. Rear Window - Alfred Hitchcock (1954)
  121. North by Northwest - Alfred Hitchcock (1959)
  122. Rosemary's Baby - Roman Polanski (1968)
  123. The Color of Pomegranates - Sergei Parajanov (1969)
  124. El Topo - Alejandro Jodorowsky (1970)
  125. Solaris - Andrei Tarkovsky (1972)
  126. Zardoz - John Boorman (1972)
  127. Chinatown - Roman Polanski (1974)
  128. The Traveling Players - Theo Angelopoulos (1975)
  129. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Steven Spielberg (1977)
  130. Star Wars - George Lucas (1977)
  131. Fanny and Alexander - Ingmar Bergman (1982)
  132. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial - Steven Spielberg (1982)
  133. Return of the Jedi - Richard Marquand (1983)
  134. The Terminator - James Cameron (1984)
  135. Legend - Ridley Scott (1985)
  136. Aliens - James Cameron (1986)
  137. The Last Emperor - Bernardo Bertolucci (1987)
  138. Raising Arizona - Joel & Ethan Coen (1987)
  139. Landscape in the Mist - Theo Angelopoulos (1988)
  140. Batman - Tim Burton (1989)
  141. Drugstore Cowboy - Gus Van Sant (1989)
  142. Wild at Heart - David Lynch (1990)
  143. Saving Private Ryan - Steven Spielberg (1993)
  144. Ashes of Time - Wong Kar Wai (1994)
  145. Leon: The Professional - Luc Besson (1994)
  146. Twelve Monkeys - Terry Gilliam (1995)
  147. Conspirators of Pleasure - Jan Svankmajer (1996)
  148. Trainspotting - Danny Boyle (1996)
  149. Strange Days - Kathryn Bigelow (1996)
  150. Face/Off - John Woo (1997)
  151. Eternity and a Day - Theo Angelopoulos (1998)
  152. Saving Private Ryan - Steven Spielberg (1998)
  153. Mulholland Drive - David Lynch (2001)
  154. Minority Report - Steven Spielberg (2002)
  155. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Michel Gondry (2004)
  156. The Weeping Meadow - Theo Angelopoulos (2004)
  157. Inland Empire - David Lynch (2006)
  158. Avatar - James Cameron (2009)
  159. Melancholia - Lars Von Trier (2011)

  161. Kwaidan - Masaki Kobayashi (1964)
  162. The Immortal Story - Orson Welles (1968)
  163. Kagemusha - Akira Kurosawa (1980)
  164. Prospero's Books - Peter Greenaway (1991)
  165. The New World - Terrence Malick (2005)
  166. The Great Beauty - Paolo Sorrentino (2013)


I haven't seen most of these movies, but Stalker can't be anything other than number 1.

You should definitely see all of them -- each one is a stunning visual experience and although you may not change your mind about Stalker's ranking, you'd probably end up with at least a handful breathing down its neck.

It's hard to make an argument against Stalker because there really isn't one. The visuals are absolutely astonishing. It's a VERY close call, but I do find it to be slightly behind 2001, and now Brazil (just rewatched last night). If I were ranking cinematography alone, Stalker would probably be #1 (Black & White or Color).

2001 was unbelievable given the time when it was made and the quality of special effects and sets, but while I thought Stalker was a bit pretentious and waffley (not something I can see you agreeing with), the visuals were incredible.

I've seen a few of the lower ones, I can't disagree with Come and See, which is in my top 10 films, or Mirror, if not only for *that* shot at the start. Taxi Driver didn't really stand out as being overly spectacular, Inland Empire was fantastic for a digital movie, but City of Lost Children is an interesting pick. Most of the rest of the films are ones you very highly rate, but City is marvelous in it's own right. I can't think of a better example of 'world building', maybe Cabinet of Dr Caligari withstanding.

RE: 2001... It's still unbelievable ( : See it on the big screen if you ever get the chance

RE: Stalker... I did actually find portions of it somewhat boring the first time I saw it (many moons ago), but the more I've returned to it the more intriguing the characters and the more extraordinary the themes have become--the film is a haunting, mysterious journey to the darkness of man, as well as a miraculous, profound religious experience...

RE: Mirror... "that" shot is truly extraordinary - there are also SEVERAL others such as the scenes in the burning house with the debris falling down all around them in slow motion, there's the shot sequence which miraculously goes through walls without a noticeable cut and suddently arrives into a totally different time period, the cinematography in many of the in-house shots bleeds nostalgic childhood, etc. BUT the portion of the film that most lifts it into the upper pantheon of film visuals is the incredible "film stock war montage" sequence.

RE: Taxi Driver isn't spectacular in a way that, say, Brazil is, or 2001. It's grainy, partly surreal, partly pseudo-documentary... it's very nightmarish, particularly the scenes where Travis drives through rain-soaked New York and he views various frenzied, distorted visuals of the people on sidewalks... the scene that takes the cake though is the finale, which is one of the most stunning visual sequences in history...


I'm glad Inland Empire is on here. It is a good example of a film making use of cheaply made visuals in a very effective and beautiful way. (Seen some other films done entirely on DV or even VHS that are a hundred times more beautiful than any number of saccharine-ly pretty 35mm or 3D films manufactured by the dozen)

Agreed, though it might not survive the top 20... #20 - #15 are a little uncertain, with many other films outside of this list knocking on the door, while #14 - #1 are very secure

Eh, well, it's an arbitrary number to stop at anyway. So AS LONG AS IT'S THERE. <3

Fantastic list. Very well selected.
2046 was a pleasant surprise.
But I honestly think that this list could use a single over the top technicolor marvel... Like Black Narciusus or Red Shoes (dunno if those are your type of movies, but you can't deny that they do look great).
I would also have Paris, Texas on my list.

Just watched Black Narcissus and I definitely agree with you on its inclusion. Visually stunning.

I'm glad you do.
Still a great list in my opinion.

There's a great chance for any of those (especially Black Narcisuss). Only problem is at this point is that I haven't seen any of them except short excerpts/trailers. I have a strong interest in all 3 of them so that will be rectified. Thanks ( :

NOTE: I am virtually guaranteeing, after seeing clips and trailers for it, that Malick's new film The Tree of Life will be on this list within the top 20 once I see it.

Tree Of Life looked like it teetered between completely mind-numbingly overbearing and heartrendingly beautiful from the trailer. But trailers are often awful at representing the movie. But still, I'll be going to the film with a neutral expectation.

To me, it was effing extraordinary... a deeply rewarding film that asks many profound questions and never completely answers any of them, leaving the film open to myriad interpretations... it is incredible visually, thematically, compositionally, and acting-wise... hope you enjoy it...

I wrote a dopey little thing in my media-log about it and put it right belot Uncle Boonmee in my 2010s-film-rankings thing.

I've read some great things about Uncle Boonmee. It's definitely one of the films I most want to see right now.

uhmmmmm, ditto! :-) I'll be moving into the movie theater for the next week. I have seen it once, but that is not enough for me.

I look forward to your thoughts on it. I thought it was amazing all 3 times ( :

Yes to Ran. HELL YES TO RAN. Even more impressive since Kurosawa made that film while he was mostly blind.

I love his Noh inspired films. Ran and Throne of Blood being my two favourites of his (next to the highly sentimental but just as beautiful Rhapsody in August)

Haven't seen Throne of Blood (yet), but we definitely agree that Ran is one of the great visual experiences in film history. It's actually been off and on this list a couple times - I have no idea why it was ever "off".

Also, you may want to give Ikiru another shot one of these days, and Rashomon. I know you weren't big on them before but they're 'growers', and you may come around to them at some point. For Ikiru especially make sure it's the Criterion release - other copies I've seen have crappy visuals by comparison, to the detriment of the entire experience.

I do not remember most of the films that I have seen on this list as having great visuals/cinematography, but the ones I do are sure locks for a list like this. Have you considered The Searchers? I know that it is not Ran, Amelie, or 2001, but that is the main reason I like the film.

And, hey, it's been a long time. Nice to see you are still at this.

The Searchers definitely deserves consideration - not sure where to put it. I may have to see it again first...

Nice to see you back. Any lists on the horizon?

Cool. I plan to update some things. Many albums have fallen down or off the list that is there now, and things need to be moved around on my album list and movie list. Nothing new or interesting on the horizon.

I don't plan to listen to 100s of 2011 released albums like in 2009, but my favorite song from 2011 is "I don't want love" by The Antlers. Though, I don't think it is a great song, and if I did listen to 100s of albums I doubt it would be anywhere near the top 10 best songs of the year. It is a very sentimental sounding song; I am a sucker for that stuff.

Nice. Looking forward to these updates...

Note: at this point I'd say 1-25 is very accurate while the following 25 is a bit uncertain in its order. In due time, I'll have it all satisfactory...

enter the void a candidate? the colours are extremely striking and almost overpowering. each scene is awash with such colour that its hard to take your eyes of the screen. visually breathtaking on a par with 2001 surely?

It's a candidate for sure. Perhaps if I extend the list past 20.

Im a filmaker and the most poetic beautiful color/b&w film ive ever seen, is WingsOfDesire by Wim Wenders. I consider it the single most beautiful cinematography ever captured in a popular feature film. HOLLYWOOD had to go and minimize its impact with the ridicules City Of Angels but then again thats what the pimps of celluloid do. I would love to see a disscusion somewhere about just what Hollywood would be if it werent for all the european great nonamerican filmakers we got free when they fled Hitlers Germany. Believe me we wouldnt have had the same world wideimpact without them...I detest Hollywood and the crap they spew out on the world....

I too rank Wings of Desire very highly (both visually and overall) :) As a majority of the film is black and white, it's featured on my "Best Visuals (Black & White) in Film History" list.

The amazing thiing about Wings of Desire is that the crosscutting between B&W & color showcases not only some examples of the best of both but allows the viewer to apprecite why a great filmaker makes visual choices. In the hands of a master cinematographer and director these type of choices and how they are woven into other choices landscape wardrobe climate etc are what great films are about, something Hollywood forgot decades ago. Jl

I agree :)

Tuvalu deserves to be on this. Watch it if you haven't seen, maybe you would give it a 7.5/10 (or at least a 7/10).

Thanks, I've never seen it but perhaps I'll get around to it one of these days

I think Baron Prasil (1961) should be on here as well, the movie that I assumed Terry Gilliam loved, since he used the same animation technique for Monty Python *and* he remade it in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It's spectacular looking, but unfortunately impossible to find.

EDIT: And I know you aren't as high on Jigoku as you used to be, but seriously, it should be on here as well. Even the visuals/lighting before the Hell sequence are stunning.

Before your comment, I hadn't even heard of Baron Prasil. Maybe it will get re-released at some point...

Not sure about Jigoku being on here though I agree it's visuals are interesting

In the Mood for Love?

Maybe :)

As a note: this list is not fully up-to-date though all of the current entries would still rank highly regardless

Suggestion: Tourneur's Canyon Passage. Most tasteful technicolor ever in my opinion.

Thank you, never seen it, but now I have to at least give it a shot :-) Is the film good as a whole?

Yes, very interesting. Gorgeous northern landscapes, a curious affection for functional communities, not just individuals, sparse (or concentrated) use of violence, unusual sub-plots, a lovely choreographed house-building scene. Maybe not as together as Stars in my Crown but definitely worth seeing.