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15 Visually Stunning Films That Deserve To Be Seen by Everyone

26 August 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by David Williams

8. Sawdust and Tinsel (1953, Ingmar Bergman)

Sawdust-and-Tinsel

Swedish film giant Ingmar Bergman and his DP Sven Nykvist made some of the most beautiful films (The Virgin Spring, Persona, Cries and Whispers) in their careers.

One of their lesser-known collaborations is Sawdust and Tinsel, a early masterpiece of Bergman. The highlight of the cinematography is the high-contrast scenes of dreams at the opening and the exquisite composition in those mirror scenes. If you are a fan of Bergman, don’t miss this one.

 

9. A Day in the Country (1946, Jean Renoir)

A Day in the Country

French master Jean Renoir is usually associated with innovative techniques (using deep focus way ahead of Citizen Kane) than beautiful images. However, his picturesque short film effortlessly captures the beauty of the mother nature.

This little gem set along the banks of Seine is actually an unfinished film, but it’s worth a watch for the beautiful boating scene alone.

 

10. Charade (1963, Stanley Donen)

Charade-1963

It goes without saying that any film with Audrey Hepburn is “visually stunning” by default.

This romantic comedy/suspense thriller is often credited as “the best Hitchcokian film Hitchcock never made”, but you could also view it as a fashion show of Audrey Hepburn with gorgeous costumes and beautiful sight of Paris. With memorable Henry Mancini scores and theme song, this film is a treat for both eyes and ears.

 

11. Purple Noon (1960, Rene Clement)

Purple Noon (1960)

This film is like the sister film of Charade. Instead of a gorgeous actress, we have the handsome French star Alain Delon as the lead.

It’s loosely based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is also the source material of a more famous movie, Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon and Jude Law. In terms of both visuals and storytelling, this French classic is a far superior one.

 

12. The Horse Thief (1986, Tian Zhuangzhuang)

The Horse Thief

Those who are familiar with the works of the Chinese fifth generation directors admire the stunning visuals of Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern and Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, but the real gem of this period goes to Tian Zhuangzhuang’s original film The Horse Thief.

The movie focuses on the Buddhist ceremonies and the magnificent landscape of Tibet. Martin Scorsese named it as one of his favorite films of the 1990s. (The movie was not widely released in the US until the 1990s).

 

13. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939, Kenji Mizoguchi)

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums

As one of the least talked-about filmmakers of the “big three” of Japanese cinema, Kenji Mizoguchi made some of the most beautifully sad pictures focusing the social status of women in traditional Japanese society. Miziguchi is famous for his tracking shots which is often compared to unfolding a scroll of Japanese painting.

This film has some of the most amazingly executed tracking shots ever, that’s why we choose it over his other classics like “Ugetsu” or “Sansho The Bailiff”.

 

14. The Trial (1962, Orson Welles)

The Trial

Genius and movie magician Orson Welles made Citizen Kane, one of the greatest and probably most studied films in cinema history, at the age of 26. Though he made many classics afterwards, we could say they are all overshadowed by his magnum opus to a certain extent.

One could say that his Kafkaesque film The Trail is a masterpiece equally brilliant as his debut. Its use of light, tracking shot and matte painting are all extremely impressive. If you are looking for one film that almost captures the vision of Franz Kafka, this is it.

 

15. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, Andrew Dominik)

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

English cinematographer Roger Deakins has been nominated 13 times for Best Achievement in Cinematography and never won. If there is time he comes closest to the award, it is Andrew Dominik’s revisionist Western masterpiece The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Deakins’ amazing talent and craft shine in those night scenes, the highlight is the unforgettable train robbery scene at the beginning of the film, one of the most visually stunning moments in recent memory.

 

 

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  • Avrilios Koukoutsis

    …IMO, Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall” (2006) is one of the most visually stunning films ever (and a very good movie in general as well) and it really deserves much more attention and appreciation…

    • Luuk.vanRiel

      It’s a great film indeed. Really special cinematography and hypnotic as hell. I did find it a bit cheesy at times but thats just me.

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  • Luuk.vanRiel

    Yeah these are the kinda lists I love. A nice mix of known and more unknown films. About half of these I had never heard about and now am inclined to watch so great work.

  • Prince Purple

    Happy to see “Picnic at hanging rock” in here. If’s one of my most favorite films of all time.

  • William T. Garver

    BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) was not Mario Bava’s debut film. He started directing in 1946.

  • V.C. Privitera

    Awesome List, Excellent Choices!
    “Yo Soy Cuba” is seriously one of the most stunning (also Important) works of Art in all of Cinema…couple years ago, I purchased the Special-Edition Box Set, which is just as “Stunning” as the Film itself; I kid you not, the Set is made up as a legitimate Cuban Cigar box….and it’s just perfectly beautiful…so I recommend this film for any interested-seekers, especially the Box-Set I mentioned for Fans of this cinematic-opus!

    Other Considerable Choices:
    “Seconds” dir: John Frankenheimer (1966)
    “Paris, Texas” dir: Wim Wenders (1984)
    “The Master” dir: Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)
    “Do The Right Thing” dir: Spike Lee (1989)
    “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” dir: Kenneth Anger (1954)
    “Persona” dir: Ingmar Bergman (1966)
    “The Phantom Carriage” dir: Victor Sjostrom (1921)
    “The Passiom of Joan of Arc” dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928)

    …other noteworthy consistent Filmmakers that have a solid sense of visual style/technique…of course this includes the Cinematographers each has worked with for their films, if they weren’t the D.P.’s themselves:

    Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Parajanov, Stanley Kubrick (obviously), Peter Greenaway, Ken Russell, Werner Herzog, Maya Deren, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch….I know there’s plenty more, but these are some heavy-hitters in making visually stunning films.

  • Spring Breakers should be more appreciated, and its visually stunning

  • Anthony

    Le Samourai
    Days of Heaven
    Opening of The New World, as well as the rest of it.
    Great list!!

    • Tjakko Martijn

      Le Samourai and Days of Heaven. couldn’t agree more!

  • NGboo

    Just to name several more, both old and recent, deserving the title “visually stunning”…
    … any film by Antouanetta Angelidi
    … any film by Woodworth & Brosens / “Khadak”, as personal favorite,
    “A Spring for the Thirsty” and “Mavka – Song of the Forest” by Yuri Ilyenko, who worked as Parajanov’s DP on “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”,
    “Fragile as the World” by Rita Azevedo Gomes,
    “I, Olga Hepnarova” by Petr Kazda & Tomas Weinreb,
    “The Neon Demon” by Nicholas Winding Refn,
    “Garden of Delights” by Silvano Agosti,
    “The Sea” by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi,
    “Another Trip to the Moon” by Ismail Basbeth
    “The Forbidden Room” by Guy Maddin
    “Shirley: Visions of Reality” by Gustav Deutsch
    “Tale of Tales” by Matteo Garrone
    “Test” by Alexander Kott
    “Away with Words” by Christopher Doyle

    “Marketa Lazarová” by Frantisek Vlacil
    … and I’ll stop here. 😀

  • An obvious one, Road To Perdition

  • Torsten Nielsen

    Hero

  • EasyAndy

    Nice choice of photo at the top of the article. “The Assassination of..” is for my money the best work of the great Roger Deakins.

  • Darren

    Good diverse list

  • Mohamed Amine Haji

    shit is too old to handle
    apart from Nbr 15 which is a deja vu

  • MnkyLv

    The Age of Innocence