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Top 10 Director-Cinematographer Collaboration in Cinema History

07 May 2012 | People Lists | by David Zou

When I began watching films,I always had the wrong impression that if the image of a film is beautiful,it is the director’s credit.Of course I figured that out lately and found that it is the cinematographer who does the execution of the shooting,as I watched more and more films,I noticed more magic in the film cinematography,the color,the composition,the lighting,the camera movement,how lucky a director is if he finds a perfect partner who can realize his ideas visually.Here are some of the most successful director-cinematographer combination in cinema history.

Michael Powell – Jack Cardiff

red shoes

Short Note:Their collaboration produced some of the best technicolor films.

Collaboration works:

A Matter of Life and Death

Black Narcissus

The Red Shoes

Most celebrated collaboration:The Red Shoes

Most celebrated scene:The grand ballet dance in Red Shoes

Cinematographer’s Other famous work:Pandora and the Flying Dutchman


Bernardo Bertolucci – Vittorio Storaro


Short Note:The colors express emotions,the lights create moods.

Collaboration works:


The Conformist

Last Tango in Paris

The Last Emperor

The Sheltering Sky

Most celebrated collaboration:The Conformist

Most celebrated scene:Every single scene in The Conformist

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Apocalypse Now


David Lean – Freddie Young


Short Note:The grand landscape in the director’s most notable epic films

Collaboration works:

Lawrence of Arabia

Doctor Zhivago

Ryan’s Daughter

Most celebrated collaboration:Lawrence of Arabia

Most celebrated scene:A tiny dot of Oma Shariff’s figure appears on the horizen of the desert in Lawrence of Arabia

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Nicholas and Alexandra


Ingmar Bergman – Sven Nykvist


Short Note:Naturalism and simplicity

Collaboration works:

Sawdust and Tinsel

The Virgin Spring

Through a Glass Darkly

The Silence

Winter Light



Hour of the Wolf

The Passion of Anna

The Touch

Cries and Whispers

Scenes from a Marriage

The Magic Flute

The Serpent’s Egg

Autumn Sonata

Fanny and Alexander

Most celebrated collaboration:The Virgin Spring

Most celebrated scene:The girl rides in the country in peace and harmony

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: The Sacrifice


Jean Luc Godard – Raoul Coutard

Pierrot Le Fou

Short Note:One of  the most creative partnerships in cinema history

Collaboration works:


A Woman Is a Woman


Band of Outsiders


Pierrot le Fou

Week End


Prénom Carmen

Most celebrated collaboration:Pierrot le Fou

Most celebrated scene:The color changes as Pierrot enters different rooms

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Shoot the Piano Player


Max Ophuls – Christian Matras

Le Plaisir

Short Note:Unbelievable camera movements and shots

Collaboration works:

Le Plaisir

The Earrings of Madame De…

Lola Montès

Most celebrated collaboration:Le Plaisir

Most celebrated scene:The camera shot pierces through a window

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Grand Illusion


Krzysztof Kieślowski – Sławomir Idziak

three colours trilogy blue

Short Note:The brilliant use of the filter

Collaboration works:

A Short Film About Killing

The Double Life of Véronique

Three Colors: Blue

Most celebrated collaboration:Three Colors: Blue

Most celebrated scene:The ghostly blue light suddenly reflects on Julie’s face

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Gattaca


Steven Spielberg – Janusz Kamiński


Short Note:The granular sensation in the image

Collaboration works:

Schindler’s List

The Lost World: Jurassic Park


Saving Private Ryan


Minority Report

Catch Me If You Can

The Terminal


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

War Horse

Most celebrated collaboration:Saving Private Ryan

Most celebrated scene:The Omaha Landing Operation

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


Kenji Mizoguchi – Kazuo Miyagawa


Short Note:The constant camera movement

Collaboration works:


Gion Bayashi

The Woman in the Rumor

Sansho the Bailiff

The Crucified Lovers

Street of Shame

Most celebrated collaboration:Sansho the Bailiff

Most celebrated scene:The sister walks into the river slowly

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Rashomon


Wong Karwai – Christopher Doyle

in the mood for love

Short Note:The hand-held camera and some quirky shots

Collaboration works:

Days of Being Wild

Ashes of Time

Chungking Express

Fallen Angels

Happy Together

In the Mood for Love


Most celebrated collaboration:In the Mood for Love

Most celebrated scene:The woman descends the stairs

Cinematographer’s Other famous work: Hero


Which director-cinematographer Collaboration is your favorite? Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments.




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  • michaelgsmith

    Great list as usual. Two things: Godard and Coutard actually resumed their partnership in the 80s (on Passion and First Name: Carmen) and, while I’m willing to admit that Christopher Doyle is a genius cinematographer, I actually think his contribution to the overall visual style of Wong Kar-Wai has been somewhat overestimated. Let us not forget that the entire first story of Chungking Express, which constitutes most of the running time, was shot by Andrew Lau. I think Wong’s most important collaborator, and the one who has had the most impact on the “WKW look” is William Chang Suk-Ping.

    • David Zou

      Mike,you read it really carefully,yes,it’s my mistake,I will add the two films in the Jean Luc Godard – Raoul Coutard collaboration.

      I think Doyle and William Chang are equally important in Wong’s aesthetics system.Yes,William Chang did the production and custom design in Wong films,and they are a huge part,like the gorgeous cheongsam in In the Mood for Love,and the choice of location is brilliant in Ashes of Time,but you also can’t ignore the almost unique way of shooting it.

  • SJHoneywell

    Guillermo del Toro/Guillermo Navarro

    • David Zou

      Great addition,Steve.I need to see more of his films.

  • Steven Flores

    Let’s see. From the old-school side, Bernardo Bertolucci/Vittorio Storaro, Ingmar Bergman/Sven Nykvist, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger/Jack Cardiff, and Sergio Leone/Tonino Delli Colli.

    Of the new school, Gus Van Sant/Harris Savides, Lars von Trier/Anthony Dod Mantle, Wes Anderson/Robert Yeomen, Paul Thomas Anderson/Robert Elswit, Francois Ozon/Jeanne Lapoirie, Ang Lee/Rodrigo Prieto, Wong Kar-Wai/Christopher Doyle, Sofia Coppola/Lance Acord, Guillermo del Toro/Guillermo Navarro, Alfonso Cuaron/Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, & Terrence Malick/Chivo.

    • David Zou

      Thanks for so many additions,Steven.Yeah,I missed all the new school ones,but my intention is to do the classic ones.Lars von Trier/Anthony Dod Mantle,Gus Van Sant/Harris Savides, Wes Anderson/Robert Yeomen,Terrence Malick/Chivo are the collaborations I like.

  • David Blakeslee

    You probably don’t want to give any one director double entries on this list, but I’ll vouch for Ingmar Bergman/Gunnar Fischer as an honorable mention anyway. No slight on Nykvist at all, but some of Bergman’s most indelible images, the shots that first come to mind when his name is mentioned, are from The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. Smiles of a Summer Night and The Magician are also full of brilliant moments!

    • David Zou

      Yeah,I agree with you,Dave. The Magician really impressed me with the cinematography,especially the lighting,but unfortunately,Bergman’s collaboration with Sven Nykvist produced more cinema wonders,so I have to give up Gunnar Fische,but his name definitely worth a mention.

  • http://Website Chuck

    Woody Allen and Gordon Willis!!!

    • David Zou

      Thanks Chuck for stopping by and commenting,this is definitely an underrated collaboration.I know Gordon Willis’s brilliant work in Godfather,but did not notice his collaboration with Woody in his mid-career.I certainly love the cinematography in Manhattan!!

  • http://Website Rob

    I would definitely have included Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister. Even if we want to strike the Batman trilogy, the remaining works that the two have done together are fantastic.

    • David Zou

      I agree with you,Rob.Both Batman films by Nolan look amazing in Blu-ray disc,also the IMAX technology is so ahead of its time,and they are using it!!

  • http://Website Prasanna Rajan

    Christopher Nolan – Wally Pfister. Wally Pfister is the cinematographer for all the Nolan films.

    • David Zou

      Thanks for the comments,Prasanna.I also recall the cinematography in Memento,it is a good one also.

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  • http://Website Brett R

    Cuaron/Lubezki. Most underrated cinematographer.

    • David Zou

      Thanks for the addition,Brett,I agree he’s underrated.

      • pedro

        Children of Men. ‘Nuff said

  • http://Website Charlie

    How about Paul Thomas Anderson / Robert Elswit? I think There Will be Blood and Boogie Nights deserve immense respect, not forgetting Magnolia or Punch-Drunk Love in the slightest.

    • David Zou

      I love the long shot in the bar in Boogie Nights,and the long shot in the TV station in Magnolia,Thanks for the addition,Charlie!!

  • http://Website Sean

    Ozu and Atsuta

    • David Zou

      Atsuta’s camera is too steady for me,and I think the idea of steady is more important than the execution,but this won’t prevent me loving Ozu’s films.Thanks for the addition,Sean.

  • Candra Aditya

    Fincher and Cronenwerth?

    • David Zou

      That is a nice addition,Candra.I like the look in all Fincher films,especially Se7en.

  • http://Website Rory P.

    Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister. Not only is their work beautiful, but their use of IMAX technology is pushing filmmaking boundaries. They are also huge advocates for the continued use of shooting on film,, something that is becoming a rarity in this digital age.

    • David Zou

      Yeah,I’ve mentioned the IMAX tech in the replies above,I heard that they are gonna shoot more than an hour in IMAX with the new film,let’s expect!!

  • johnnyratface

    You forgot The Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins!

    • David Zou

      That’s another nice addition,Johnny.I especially love the cinematography in The Man Who Wasn’t There and No Country for Old Men

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  • http://Website casey

    Gregg Toland and Orson Welles are my one of favorite collaborations, but Burks and Hitchcock also deserve mention, if only for Vertigo alone.

    • David Zou

      That’s two excellent addition,Casey,thanks.Citizen Kane and Vertigo are both visually stunning.

  • http://Website Petersensor

    Vilmos Zsigmond …. somewhere ?? Altman , Speilberg, Cimeno .. So many good images from him..

    • David Zou

      Peter,thanks for liking my site and commenting,Vilmos Zsigmond is a nice addition!

  • Calum Campbell

    Good list and I endorse your choices but no list of this nature is complete without including Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Burks…

    • David Zou

      Thanks for the comments,Calum.Hitchcock and Robert Burks has been mentioned above and it is a great partnership that deserves to be in this list.

  • http://Website Rudolph

    I think Theodore Angelopoulos- George Arvanitis should have been mentioned

    • David Zou

      Thanks Rudolph.I love Theodore Angelopoulos’ films,especially Landscape in the Mist,the long takes are just beautiful.

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  • Slow Fader

    Alejandro González Iñárritu and Rodrigo Prieto

  • Zoobi Amir

    Over here people have completely forgotten the russian school. Really Sad. No mention about Urusevsky, Tisse, Vadim Usuf and many others who gave films like The Cranes are flying, I am Cuba, War and Peace,Ivan the Terrible, Stalker and many others

  • Sungeetaa Sangz

    Yes. Jack Green – Clint Eastwood

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  • Litani

    Park Chan-Wook and Chung Chung-Hoon