Stylized to look like a single take but actually comprised of a bunch of long shots, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman took home Best Picture at the Oscars and earned itself plenty of praise for its ambitious camerawork. It remains full of exceptional long takes, even if some viewers have since cooled on the rest of the film.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s name has already been dropped, so his inclusion here was inevitable. He might be the only one left who knows how to master these kinds of long takes present throughout his filmography, but Boogie Nights might be his greatest example of all.
Martin Scorsese is the king. Goodfellas’ long take, starting outside a restaurant and moving through the kitchen and into the main dining area, remains one of the all-time greatest long shots. That’s all there is to say.
John Carpenter’s influence on horror remains seen today—his debut was just remade for the second time back in 2018—and part of why his filmography is so memorable is because of how many risks he was willing to take. Don’t believe it? Check out Halloween’s long takes.
John Woo hasn’t had a big hit in a while, but for about a decade at the end of the 90s and the start of the 2000s he was the true king of adventurous blockbuster filmmaking. His 1992 film Hard Boiled has obviously influenced countless action films, and its embrace of the long take would certainly be welcomed in American action movies today.
Before Stanley Kubrick was cementing his status as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live, he was directing small-budget war films. Paths of Glory is the most impressive of the bunch, and its utilization of the long take shows a director with plenty of potential for superstardom.
Clearly a big influence on Birdman, Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rope was shot as if it were made in a single take but actually consists of plenty of long takes strung together to look like one. Hitchcock knows what he’s doing—there’s no denying it.
Robert Altman’s long takes are often used to push a bit or a gag to its limits, which makes his long takes a gimmick unlike any other. Most of these examples within this slideshow are long takes in thrillers or action films or dramas, but none are long takes used for comedy.
Returning to his roots, Kubrick whipped out a few long takes in his hugely successful Stephen King adaptation The Shining. Reminiscent of Paths of Glory, The Shining’s long takes amp up the suspension tenfold.
Like Scorsese, Orson Welles is a king. His opening shot in Touch of Evil goes on for quite a while, setting the stage for the rest of the film by portraying the pivotal crime in full detail, refusing to cut away from the action.