The 15 Most Visually Stunning European Films of the Last 5 Years

8. Shame (2011)

Shame opening

Brandon is the main character of this motion picture, directed by Oscar-winning British director Steve McQueen. The film is following a story about Brandon sexual addiction. Film was shot by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who was nominated for the Golden Frog in Poland and won the European Film Award for cinematography in this film.

The film is mostly colored in cold shades, which perfectly describes the personality of Brandon (Michael Fassbender). The camerawork is not very calm and the camera is moving and hovering almost all the time.

Bobbitt used minimal light and shot this film like he was a third person in dialogue scenes; he did not walk around the actors and film them from different angles, but rather sitting in front of them and watching them through the lens. This gives viewers the impression that they are with the characters at that time in New York, where the film was shot.


9. A Coffee In Berlin / Ah Boy (2012)

A Coffee in Berlin

This is the portrait of a young man and his life on the streets of Berlin. Niko Fischer is the main character created by German filmmaker, Jan Ole Gerster.

If black and white films have a future, cinematographer Philipp Kirsamer is definitely one of its writers. Every single frame from this film can be frozen and placed in a frame like a photo.

This film is visually reminiscent of those of the 50s and 60s and the style of cinematography is reminiscent of the French New Wave, because of the natural light and plenty of free and trembling camera movements. It is the one of the best films by Gerster, and everyone who is nostalgic for old European films should watch it.


10. Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Broken Circle Breakdown

This powerful love drama is about two people who are going through a relationship crisis after their 6-year-old daughter dies from a serious illness.

What characterizes this melancholy film is the incredibly pleasing color palette and how they fit each other, the often calm atmosphere, and the beautiful dusks and sunsets with magnificent colors and marvelous lighting. The big part of this film is the music, which completes the energy of it and makes the audience feel the story.

This motion picture was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and it comes from Belgium. This extremely sensitive motion picture was directed by Felix Van Groeningen and shot by cinematographer Ruben Impens.


11. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

This is the third part of Roy Andersson “Living” trilogy, along with “Song from the Second Floor” (2000) and “You, the Living” (2007). It’s a Sweden comedy-drama about two traveling sellers and their adventures full of metaphors, fantasy and the absurd.

It was shot by Hungarian cinematographer Istvan Borbas and he surely done a great job. Every single shot is perfectly composed, designed and arranged in a photo-like way. Also, the costumes are in harmony with the set and a color palette was carefully selected.

The colors are peaceful, mostly neutral or pastel, and pleasing to the eye. Many scenes were filmed in central symmetry and are generally very bright in terms of lighting. Also, the music follows the rhythm of the film nicely.

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” was premiered at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, where it was awarded the Golden Lion.


12. Elena (2011)

Elena (2011)

One of the most successful Russian filmmakers, Andrey Zvyagintsev, is the creator of this motion picture.

It is a story about Elena, a Russian housewife and her life. This Russian piece of art is full of metaphors, societal criticism and harsh reality.

It was shot by Mikhail Krichman, who did a great job, as always. The film is dominated by the range of cool neutral colors, mainly blue and gray shades, and the frames are layered. The atmosphere and the story of the film are complemented by gloomy socialist architecture and the urban lifestyle of the city.

The film is full of natural light and reflections, and the camera movements are calm and float-like. This Russian drama was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Zvyagintsev won the Special Prize of Jury and is surely one of the most visually stunning films of 2011.


13. Broken (2012)


Skunk is the main character of this film and she is an 11-year-old diabetic girl who lives in a British suburb in a very crazy neighborhood.

This film is directed by talented independent British filmmaker Rufus Norris, and it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, where Norris was nominated for a Golden Camera. An interesting fact is that screenwriter Mark O’Rowe wrote the screenplay based on the same name novel by writer Daniel Clay, who was influenced by “To Kill a Mockingbird’ while he was writing his novel.

The film was shot by Rob Hardy, who also shot “Ex Machina” (2015) and was nominated for a Golden Frog at Camerimage in 2012 for “Broken”. It was filmed in a very interesting way; scenes are frequently shot from the girl’s height so the adults seem to have severed heads.

The camerawork is in harmony with the music and together they give us a beautiful visual harmony. Skunk sees beauty even in broken things, so the scenes on the Scrap car are covered with a warm, soft light that is very well thought out.

If you want to watch a visually great film that will hit you in the heart, this is a perfectly complex and high-quality story for you.


14. Mood Indigo 

Mood Indigo 

This is the aesthetically magical French film, directed by famous surreal filmmaker Michel Gondry, and shot by cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne. The film has received high praise since its premiere on Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

It’s a love story between Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tautou) in Paris; Chloe becomes ill after a strange flower starts to grow in her lungs when they were on their honeymoon.

This film is full of imagination, colors, and eccentric characters. Gondry once again turned on his machine named creativity and invented a magical world like Paris is in this film. Every single frame is extremely visually interesting and this could be an ideal film morsel for everyone who loves sci-fi and has a vivid imagination.


15. Son of Saul

Son of Saul

This Hungarian motion picture from 2015, directed by Laszlo Nemes, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language, and also received four prizes and two nominations, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

It is one of the most innovative enterprises in film shooting last year. The cinematographer of this film, Matyas Erdely, was nominated for the Golden Frog and won a bronze one on Camerimage festival in Poland in 2015.

This film not only deals with the timeless and very important subject of the experience of Auschwitz, but the way in which it was shot was reminiscent of the chaos in Auschwitz during the Second World War.

The movements of the camera are often fully in line with the emotions the film deals with – chaos, furious, restless, wild and fast. The film is dominated by a soldier-like colored palette, full of shades of green, grey, brown, beige, ocher, yellow and other camouflage colors. Maybe the most interesting fact is that the whole movie was shot in close-up, so the camera follows the characters all the time and sometimes they are out of focus.

You definitely need to watch this film, not only because of excellent cinematography, but also because of the strong theme that it deals with.

Author Bio: Mladen Teofilovic is a photographer and film lover from Serbia who wants to become a cinematographer. You can follow his work on instagram: teofilovic_mladzo or flickr: mladenteofilovic.