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The 25 Most Visually Stunning Movies From 2011 To 2014

07 October 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Alexandra Gandra

18. Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

Mexico has been coming up with some very interesting visuals in the past few years, and this is yet another example of that. Notably influenced by fellow Mexican Emmanuel Lubezki and his collaborations with Terrence Mallick, comes director Carlos Reygadas. His regular DP is Alexis Zabe and, luckily so: Zabe does a great job, particularly in this film, by mixing the lyrical and the plain odd as if they belonged together. The long-take style so typical of Reygadas can be seen here again with his taste for first-time actors. He has admitted that people ask him: “Is it just a collection of images?”

The fact that it is filled with natural beauty, astounding shots of a jungle, the sea, etc., doesn’t mean that it’s supposed to be light and less dramatic. It wraps around our mind until we fully understand the complexity of what we’re seeing. Whenever there’s an exterior scene, the edges around the screen are blurred – and somehow it appears as if it’s extremely meaningful to the story.

 

19. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis

The first thing anyone notices about this film, in a way that surely distinguishes itself from all other films on this list, is its truly unique color palette, a washed out effect plastered in the entire film. Thanks to DP Bruno Delbonnel, the visuals tell the story of exactly how Llewyn sees the world. There’s so much emphasis on the visualization points that it’s almost as if the rest is only a consequence of it. The representation of loneliness and helplessness is in the lack of light, and everything else seems as if folk music was a picture.

The acclaimed DP, most known for his work on “Amélie”, personally wanted to have something sad throughout the film, so he chose to use the same light to light both the actor and the set, making it constantly fall off to darkness, keeping the fill levels at a minimum.
It’s kind of a testament to Roger Deakins, the Coen’s regular cinematographer, but with a psychological angle that adjusts to the directors’ iconic humor and mannerisms without actually communicating much with him about it.

 

20. The Master (2012)

The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA for short) has admitted his wish to recreate the look of classic films such as “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest”, therefore testing some Panavision equipment (65mm cameras) for this film, when eventually it all started coming together very clearly to him.

The format fit the story, and it seems the film was shot in a “let’s keep trying” way – which worked until it was almost finished. For longer, more intimate sequences, PTA and cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. confirmed filming in 35mm, trying to delicately juggle between formats without being too noticeable.

The use of film almost automatically means greater image area and emotional depth on the screen, drawing viewers further into the story. It’s an all-around gorgeous movie, wonderfully using a color palette straight from 1950s America, and the montage rhythm couldn’t be more tumultuous and narrative driven.

 

21. Ida (2013)

Ida (2013)

This film is a beautiful puzzle right from the start. Pawel Pawlikowski and his usual cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski tell the story of a nun through black and white photography, perfectly adapted to the spirituality portrayed. Despite being shot on video, every other detail is designed to achieve a silent film feel, with a mood and images so beautiful that one can easily get lost in them. They managed to capture the main character with incredible fluidity through camera work, advantageous lighting and framing, and meaningful focus on contrast – almost a study-case of the latter, actually.

It’s a rich film, quiet but intense, incredibly emotional and a breakthrough when it comes to experimenting with aesthetics from the 1950s and 1960s – which make perfect sense in this particular film. The handheld camera, persistence in close-ups and breathtaking imagery make for an overall masterful work, one that will easily stun any kind of viewer.

 

22. Oh Boy / A Coffee in Berlin (2012)

Oh Boy

This German film, seriously reminiscent of “Frances Ha” from thematic components to the black and white, tells the story of Niko, who dropped out of law school yet still accepts his father’s funding without informing him he’s no longer being schooled. It features some issues from the younger generation, irresponsibilities and uncertainties regarding the future.

Cinematographer Philipp Kirsamer films Berlin in its urban glory, making Niko seem incredibly lost among an endless flux of people, busses, trains, subways, while making it obvious that it is a city in transition. The modernities and buildings contrast with empty spots and constant constructions, making it the perfect metaphor for Niko’s struggles in building something for himself while he slowly matures.

Aiming at current realities, such as financial dependence and general frustration, Kirsamer and director Gerster move the camera as if it is the very representation of Niko’s emotional states – whenever Niko’s moving fast towards something, the camera can hardly keep up with him. Being quintessentially indie, it’s not surprising how much critical acclaim it got in Germany, and it’s certainly one of their best in the last few years.

 

23. Upstream Color (2013)

Upstream-Color-628x348-628x348

The first thing anyone should know about this film is that it was written, directed, produced, edited, composed, designed and cast by Shane Carruth. He also co-stars in it. It’s the ultimate indie film, portraying one person’s view in almost every aspect, including distribution.

Not implying that he was great in every one of his “jobs”, he did make a powerful intimate film, both puzzling and straightforward. This visionary created a language that doesn’t abide by any specific rules: the narrative may be intense and obvious, but then the shot selection is connected to sound, with a very narrow depth of field and an unlikely representation of nature.

The characters are complex and uncertain, but the cinematography draws us so close that it’s impossible to not try to understand it as a whole. While being an apparently subjective experience, it’s densely layered without relying much on dialogue. The obsession with color, textures and movements recall a drug-trip, flawed and mesmerizing.

 

24. Pina (2011)

pina

This eccentic work of art is unlike anything else on this list. In a representation of dance and the power of performances, Wim Wenders, Hélène Lovart and Jörg Widmer accomplish a sort of theatrical cinematography that is ultimately jaw-dropping, to say the least.

Everything is wonderfully choreographed, and Wenders makes everyone else who’s directed dance films look bad. Through the use of unique cinematic techniques, mind-boggling close-ups and POV shots, every frame seems to complement the next, with graceful cutting from one piece to the other.

Experimenting with 3D cinematography further underlines his meticulous work in terms of space usage and the physical depth implied – this results in one of the best uses of 3D technology, innovative while extremely appropriate. A whole new experience, relying mostly on visuals, and impossible to miss amongst any of the most stunning recent films.

 

25. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive

This perverse vampire film is unlike any other, and the cinematography is haunting, making it a visual delight. It relies on the bizarre – being a gothic romance – and French DP Yorick Le Saux (“I Am Love”) gives aesthetic cohesion through composition and costuming, and exceptionally in the camera work.

Being one of the most celebrated cinematographers in the world, Le Saux brings power through guitars, as Tom Hiddleston plays a dead rock star, and manages to make Tilda Swinton look as fashionably dark as possible.

The director, Jim Jarmusch, usually goes for self-indulgent throws at society, making fun of it, but this is almost an ode to his tendency for minimalism, pure and simple while still being tender and spooky at the same time. Adding music and art to the equation only makes it more visually alluring, while still featuring a cynical tone. It throws all vampire movies into a corner, disarmingly poetic and freakishly fascinating.

Author Bio: Alex Gandra is a Portuguese writer and filmmaker.She graduated this year in New Communication Technologies from the University of Aveiro and is currently in a master’s degree in Digital Audiovisual. She spends too much time in cafés writing scripts and other kinds of texts you can find at medium.com/@gandra_le. She’s also writing a book she hopes to finish some day.

 

 

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  • Maricarmen Cavero Arrivasplata

    You are missing a masterpiece called Helter Skelter by Ninagawa Mika.

  • Charles Barnes

    Uncle Boonmee and Under the Skin must be considered honourable mentions, at the very least 🙂

    • Michel Linstrom

      Right on. Uncle Boonmee’s catfish sex scene was beautifully weird.

  • Bhrushank Ved

    I think Rush was also visually stunning. And yes, Under the Skin as well.

  • Pete Howell

    What we are seeing in much of Post Tenebras Lux are dreams.

  • Pavan Kumar

    Inception?

    • mamaku

      2010

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  • Nava Hsu

    Yang yang

  • Kimpy

    Ummm… you guys missed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Hobbit! Most stunning landscapes IMO

  • linqs

    ENTER THE VOID?

    • Guest

      2009

  • Jacob Rayis

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty????

    • aRthica

      Thank you =)

  • Andrew Hubbard

    Skyfall? It’s probably Roger Deakin’s best work since The Assassination of Jesse James.

    • X Y

      *Skyfall is impressive!

  • talln45

    Nice placement of the share bug.

  • Deebee

    Pacific Rim and Lovely Bones should make it in there. Two films that had immense detail from camera angles, special effects and color palette.

    • Carmen Sandiego

      Lovely Bones was a visually precise movie, interesting colors, and it’s main strength was in the art direction and cinematography, and the CGI was fully taken advantage of to bring page to screen.

  • Dhaval Bhavsar

    I though Cloud Atlas was really beautiful. Also, I’m surprised that Inception didn’t make the list. It’s visual scheme was so ambitious. Also, what were your thoughts on Avatar. I mean despite the unoriginal story, the way the film looked was pure magic.

  • sorval

    author missed
    Pans labyrinth
    The Fall
    I think both are more striking than most of whats on this list.

    • John

      2006 was not within the last 5 years.

  • Drew

    So they’re all sad…

  • Jeff

    Nice “taste” in cinema. Check out Samsara, you might want to edit your list.

  • Zot OfKithairon

    spring breakers????!!! big korine fan, but that was one of the worst movies ever!!!!!!!!

    • Alex Arthur

      I think it was making a comment on itself. It was meant to be cheap and trashy and pointless.

    • Paesito Paez

      I personally loved the film for its message, but even if you didnt like the film you cant refute the fact that its a “beautiful to look at film”

  • D.j. West

    Frances Ha above Tree of Life? Nebraska above SPring Breakers? Lleywn Davis above upstream color? No Under The Skin or Enter the Void? Is this real life?

    • jaily

      Dude, this is not in a real order. It’s just numbered. All 25 movies are visually stunning.

  • Guest

    Heartbeats, aka Les amours imaginaries?

  • Michael Eng

    Heartbeats, aka Les amours imaginaries should be on here…

  • Ashku

    Hugo?

  • Raveena Vishwanath

    THE GREAT GATSBY!

    • Jade

      Totally agree tbh

    • Shadowfax

      VOILA !

  • James Davis
  • Guest

    No Kubrick films here?

    • Jade

      I doubt he made any movies in the past 5 years according to the fact that he passed away in 1999

  • Jade

    You should check out Short Term 12, amazing movie and it looked gorgeous from beginning to end.

  • Beto Díaz

    Great list, and I’m glad, you included Reygadas in there. I’ll just add “The Strange Color of your Body’s Tears” a movie with a strong giallo feeling, that’s full of candy-color imagery

    • Emmanouil Zifos

      In the same category/league, I would also add “Beyond the Black Rainbow”…

  • Emmanouil Zifos

    Enter the Void and Under the Skin ought to be in this list…

  • BabalooMandel

    Avatar?

  • nick

    There will be blood, Black Swan, Bronson, Grand Budapest (thats why i clicked on this link)

    • Krishna Prashant

      Weren’t made in the last five years mate , havent seen There will be blood yet(savoring to see it last in PTA’s filmography) but i found work in Bronson brilliant too, especially given its 90% inside the prison screenplay…

      • chrosTV

        Black Swan came out in 2010. This list was created in 2014

        • Krishna Prashant

          That was for There will be blood and Bronson.

  • Leandro Monjardim

    I made a list in Letterboxd site to make this a little easier. 😉
    http://letterboxd.com/monjardim/list/the-25-most-visually-stunning-films-of-the/

  • Scheme Gene

    Her is in every list

  • j.deleón-serratos

    Where’s…
    Vanishing Waves
    Enter the Void
    Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears,
    We Need to Talk About Kevin, and
    The Skin I Live In?

    • Hanna Hyeyoung Jin

      I totally agree with your list! Especially We Need To Talk About Kevin – the tomato festival scene is one of the most powerful visuals I have ever experienced

  • That Guy Who Said That Thing

    Some millenial idiot wrote this. Next time you compile a list, do a little more research than scrolling through your Netflix recommendations.

  • Walcamus

    Should be Wild Tales!!

  • Krishna Prashant

    Under the skin and Drive are to be considered at the least under honorable mentions..

  • Raymond

    Wow great list! I love all the black and white movies and the Wong Kar Wai love too.

  • Hanah

    Great list here! The Fall starring Lee Pace is another movie with incredible visuals. I was blown away pretty much throughout, I’d defintely reccomend it.

  • Henke

    Beasts of the Southern Wild

  • Fera Ponce Gutiérrez

    The blue planet!!!

  • Akshay Bhanot

    these movies are based on good visual cinematography

  • Peter

    lost river

  • Qualiarella18

    pls join this cinema forums..

    http://www.welikecinema.com/

  • Raul Humberto Maravilloso

    Snowpiercer … The Congress !!!

  • Francis Serrano

    “Norte, The End of History (2013)” for your consideration. 🙂

  • Mario Ride

    I’m Portuguese too, and I can confirm that indie directors and films have lot of market here. I feel that the portuguese movie fan believes that the almost blockbusters films don´t give anything to life, mind, to think and discuss. Btw Love this list and cheers to (my) portugal. Convido o Alex visitar a Tribo Cinéfila das tapas e vinho tinto no facebook, somos muitos e bons. Saudações.

  • BK207

    The Fall(2006) cmon

    • Alkis3

      You said (2006)…

      • BK207

        Oh fuck yea nvm dude

  • Alex Arthur

    what about ‘I am Love? and ‘Rust and Bone?’

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  • Samuel Segura

    Birdman, The Babadook, Mad Max, Black Swan, Cloud Atlas, Hugo 🙂

  • Richard Anderson

    Mad Max: Fury Road. There, I said it.

    • Elias

      Why not? I concurr…

    • Bernhardt Le Mechant

      Great visuals in Mad Max, and infinitely better than some of these.

      • Christian Wiederwald

        Great visuals, no story though.

        • Elliot Brown

          Every time someone says Fury Road has no story, I have to question if they actually watched the film. There is a story. Not a hugely complex one, but there is one nonetheless. A lot of it is also not spoonfed to the audience and is instead told visually.

    • chrosTV

      It definitely would have been included,if this list had not been made in late 2014.

  • Nacho Rockatansky

    A looooot of missing movies.
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Inception, Interstellar, Güeros, Dredd, Birdman and so on . ..

  • George Romerofan

    Jupiter Ascending

  • Efren TD

    Gravity is shit

  • Daniel Mudo Lopez

    where’s DRIVE?

  • so suave

    As a polish person, IDA was the biggest piece of shit to have ever disgraced polish culture. It’s not even technically polish…

  • Tessa Giomi

    The Fall

  • Hero “Ying xiong”

    • Alkis3

      2002…

  • Jeannie Wood-Ramberg

    Tarsems The Fall?

    • Alkis3

      2006…

  • acgogo

    “The Master” was good. I don’t know about “visually stunning”. I bet most people don’t even know what it’s really about.

  • Lesley

    The Fall? How could that not be included?

  • Pooja Kumar

    Have anyone watched Indian film ‘I’.Visually jaw dropping movie.And also Emmanuel Lubezki’s Birdman,awesome!

  • Flávio St Jayme

    And where is The Great Gatsby??

  • Brian D. Meredith

    ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ — 2011. Superb.

  • William Cimino

    And according to this, no production designer or decorator involved

  • Michel Linstrom

    Man, I was so bummed out I didn’t get to see Tree Of Life in the theater. Even on my small laptop screen it was visually stunning.

  • Bernhardt Le Mechant

    ENTER THE VOID – probably one of the most visual movies ever made.
    and Mad Maz has amazing visuals as well.

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  • Christian Wiederwald

    Hero

  • ttt

    the list is too short and movies like Spring Breakers, Frances Ha or The Master dosnt fit.

    I would add:
    Beyond The Black Rainbow , Revenant, Under The Skin, Hardcore Henry, Pentameron, Lost River, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Godzilla, The Double, Cloud Atlas, High Rise, Holy Motors, Inception, Mad Max,

  • Fajrianur Afnan

    I would put Moonrise Kingdom, Brooklyn, Submarine, Tracks, and my favorite of the year The Witch 🙂

  • Cristhian Caicedo

    Bunraku!

  • Michael A Tucci

    what about “Ink” ?????
    Visually stunning!!!

  • Tim Creek

    House of Flying Daggers

  • X Y

    *can’t believe the number of idiots replying here.

  • Ted Wolf

    I found hidden river gorgeous

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  • oscarstan

    LMAO “Her” at #1? What are you people smoking

  • 26ml of Syrup

    No Wes Anderson’s movies ?

  • angelii

    Japanese do make quality of movies HD …let’s watch HD 2017 movies==>> GOODFILM99.BLOGSPOT.COM

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0a679f70c4d6fc0387eadb8ed66a98e7e3029575ff1ddf3fe2aabdf5fad121bf.jpg