Best Cinematographers of All Time

When it comes to commending a great movie, we often go for the actors, actresses, or director. But a movie becomes excellent because of a collection of people working on the project, including the cinematographers or directors of photography, who supervise the camera and the lighting crew responsible for the look, color, lighting, and framing of every single shot of a film.

a man standing behind a camera

A cinematographer’s role is crucial to the end results of a film; thus, we are putting the stoplight on the best cinematographers that have worked or continuously works for the film industry.

1. Roger Deakins

Starting our list is one of the most well-known cinematographers that has graced the film industry. His notable works include 1917, Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, Hail, Caesar!, Sicario, Unbroken, Prisoners, The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Dead Man Walking, The Big Lebowski, A Beautiful Mind, and No Country for Old Men. Quite a profile, right? He is famous for his use of natural and practical lighting, subtle camera work, and innovative use of colors. Deakins has won 2 Oscars, other 118 wins, and 149 nominations.

2. Caleb Deschanel

Caleb Deschanel has continuously shown his audience how he uses the camera to capture movement on film with a defining style of camera movement. He showcases this style in his films, The Black Stallion, The Natural, Fly Away Home, The Right Stuff, Jack Reacher, The Passion of the Christ, and The Lion King (2019). His work on the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was praised for crafting fictional adventures around the real-life character. For his works, he has earned 5 nominations from the Oscars.

3. Rodrigo Prieto

As soon as his work on Amores Perros caught the international eye’s attention, Rodrigo Prieto became an exciting addition to the industry’s talented cinematographers. He utilized high-speed film through a handheld camera and Steadicam rigs in his ambitious project, 21 Grams and Babel. Prieto achieved unique visuals for the stories, utilizing various cameras, film stocks, and camera lenses. His work includes Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution, Alexander, Amores Perros, Frida, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence.

4. Robert Richardson

Having to work with Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese, Robert Richardson has helped craft several memorable films in the world. Richardson, also known as “the silver fox,” delivers a bold and prominent top-back-light signature. He prefers manual cranes and his rim lighting blown out.

You may know him from his works with Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, The Aviator, The Hateful Eight, Shutter Island, Casino, A Few Good Men, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. He has won 3 Academy Awards, 15 other wins, and 98 nominations for this body of work.

5. Emmanuel Lubezki

Being the only person to win the Oscars for cinematography back-to-back three years in a row, including another 5 nominations, does staple a name as one of the greatest. Emmanuel Lubezki typically works with natural and diffused lighting, wide-angle lenses, and long takes. You can see his works in Children of Men, Gravity, The Revenant, and Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). His style on long takes creates what seemingly unedited “extended takes.”

He has also showcased his talent in films, such as Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess, and Tree of Life. Although shot with different approaches, these movies show how versatile the storyteller Lubezki is.

6. Hoyte van Hoytema

The career of Swedish-Dutch cinematographer Hoyt van Hoytema has quickly catapulted with his works on Interstellar and Dunkirk. As a cinematographer, he likes placing light sources off-camera and stifling light sources. He puts subtlety at the center of his works, underexposing instead of highlighting characters. He has worked for films, such as Interstellar, Dunkirk, Let The Right One In, Her The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Spectre.

7. Christopher Doyle

Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle delivers an Eastern-oriented touch to his filmmaking, including Paranoid Park, Hero, 2046, and In the Mood for Love. He is known for his long and wide-angle lenses juxtaposed to a different fields, angles, and color palettes to create ecstatic visuals.

8. Matthew Libatique

Mathew Libatique is known for his eye for the specific use of color and natural lighting usage. On the technical side, he prefers to film with a handheld camera and some 16mm film. His epic works are apparent in his collaborations with director Darren Aronofsky. His work includes Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, A Star Is Born, Gothika, Inside Man, Tigerland, and Iron Man.

9. Dion Beebe

Dion Beebe is a man of versatility. This Australian-born director of photography has traversed various landscapes, from the dystopian future, science-fiction to Japanese period romance. He is described as using lighting and scene composition to highlight characters’ visual impact in extreme emotions. He has won 1 Oscar for his works, such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Collateral, Nine, and Chicago.

10. Chung-hoon Chung

Korean cinema had never been the same when Chung-hoon Chung stepped on the scene. His debut work with director Park-Chan Wook, Oldboy (2003) was significant enough to be dubbed as a modern classic. The movie also garnered an American remake.

As a cinematographer, his style is described as surreal and psychological in effect. He is unconventional, playing with vibrant colors, heavy contrasts, and breaking and making techniques. Chung has worked for the films It (2017) and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl (2015).