Throughout 2019, the Society will honor the best-photographed films of the 20th century, as voted on by ASC members.
Founded on January 8, 1919, the American Society of Cinematographers celebrates its 100th anniversary today.
As part of the centennial festivities, the Society released their members’ list of the 100 milestone films in the art and craft of cinematography of the 20th century. Organized by Steven Fierberg, ASC (Secretary, Love & Other Drugs, The Affair) and voted on by ASC members, the list is the first of its kind to showcase the best of cinematography as selected by professional directors of photography.
“I believe that as individuals and also members of the ASC we need to share with the public what influenced and inspired us in our work and our artistry — films we all consider landmarks in our profession,” Fierberg says.
Part of the Society’s longstanding mission, he adds, is to revere and preserve the history of cinematography. As the ASC enters into its centennial year, this initiative is aimed at honoring the significant achievements of cinematographers whose artistry changed or furthered the art and craft of the profession and whose legacy is still felt today.
The 100 films list will serve as a library of influential, key titles that all cinematographers should see as well as an educational tool for students, teachers and film lovers to better understand and appreciate the importance of cinematography. “It is our hope that the list will help cinematography to be better understood by the public — the audience — [and to showcase] each of us as an artist who is an essential contributor to the magic of cinema,” offers Fierberg.
The list represents a range of styles, eras and visual artistry, but, most importantly, it commemorates films that are inspirational or influential to ASC members and have exhibited enduring influence to generations of filmmakers.
The list culminates in a Top 10 by number of votes, while the other 90 titles are unranked.“We are trying to call attention to the most significant achievements of the cinematographer’s art,” Fierberg assures. “We do not presume to call one masterful achievement ‘better’ than another.”
Members chose to frame this list around the 20th century to ensure that enough time has passed for the titles and work to reasonably exhibit enduring influence.
The process of cultivating the 100 films began with ASC members each submitting 10 to 25 titles that were personally inspirational or perhaps changed the way they approached their craft. “I asked them — as cinematographers, members of the ASC, artists, filmmakers and people who love film and whose lives were shaped by films — to list the films that were most influential,” Fierberg explains. A master list was then complied, and members voted on what they considered to be the most essential 100 titles.
Since the ASC list is specifically focused on outstanding cinematography, several titles here do not appear on typical “best of” lists — such as Baraka, The Conformist and I Am Cuba — and members were encouraged to submit films for consideration that they believed were overlooked or ahead of their time.
Detailed essays and historical information on each title will be published over the coming months, celebrating the diverse, global art form of cinematography throughout the ASC’s Centennial year.
The Top 10:
1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), shot by Freddie Young, BSC (Dir. David Lean)
3. Apocalypse Now (1979), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola) (more here)
4. Citizen Kane (1941), shot by Gregg Toland, ASC (Dir. Orson Welles)
5. The Godfather (1972), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola) (more here)
6. Raging Bull (1980), shot by Michael Chapman, ASC (Dir. Martin Scorsese)
7. The Conformist (1970), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC (Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci) (more here)
8. Days of Heaven (1978), shot by Néstor Almendros, ASC (Dir. Terrence Malick) (more here)
Titles 11–100 (in order of release):
Metropolis (1927), shot by Karl Freund, ASC; Günther Rittau
Napoleon (1927), shot by Leonce-Henri Burel, Jules Kruger, Joseph-Louis Mundwiller
Sunrise (1927), shot by Charles Rosher Sr., ASC; Karl Struss, ASC
Gone with the Wind (1939), shot by Ernest Haller, ASC
The Wizard of Oz (1939), shot by Harold Rosson, ASC (more here)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940), shot by Gregg Toland, ASC
How Green Was My Valley (1941), shot by Arthur C. Miller, ASC
Casablanca (1942), shot by Arthur Edeson, ASC (more here)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), shot by Stanley Cortez, ASC
Black Narcissus (1947), shot by Jack Cardiff, BSC
The Bicycle Thief (1948), shot by Carlo Montuori
The Red Shoes (1948), shot by Jack Cardiff, BSC
The Third Man (1949), shot by Robert Krasker, BSC
Rashomon (1950) shot by Kazuo Miyagawa
Sunset Boulevard (1950), shot by John Seitz, ASC (more here)
On the Waterfront (1954), shot by Boris Kaufman, ASC
Seven Samurai (1954), shot by Asakazu Nakai
The Night of the Hunter (1955), shot by Stanley Cortez, ASC (more here)
The Searchers (1956), shot by Winton C. Hoch, ASC
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), shot by Jack HIldyard, BSC
Touch of Evil (1958), shot by Russell Metty, ASC
Vertigo (1958), shot by Robert Burks, ASC (more here)
North by Northwest (1959), shot by Robert Burks, ASC (more here)
Breathless (1960), shot by Raoul Coutard
Last Year at Marienbad (1961), shot by Sacha Vierny
8 ½ (1963), shot by Gianni Di Venanzo
Hud (1963), shot by James Wong Howe, ASC (more here)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), shot by Gilbert Taylor, BSC (more here)
I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba; 1964), shot by Sergei Urusevsky (more here)
Doctor Zhivago (1965), shot by Freddie Young, BSC
The Battle of Algiers (1966), shot by Marcello Gatti
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), shot by Haskell Wexler, ASC (more here)
Cool Hand Luke (1967), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC
The Graduate (1967), shot by Robert Surtees, ASC
In Cold Blood (1967), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC (more here)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), shot by Tonino Delli Colli, AIC (more here)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC (more here)
The Wild Bunch (1969), shot by Lucien Ballard, ASC
A Clockwork Orange (1971), shot by John Alcott, BSC (more here)
Klute (1971), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC
The Last Picture Show (1971), shot by Robert Surtees, ASC (more here)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC
Cabaret (1972), shot by Geoffery Unsworth, BSC
Last Tango in Paris (1972), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC (more here)
Chinatown (1974), shot by John A. Alonzo, ASC (more here)
The Godfather: Part II (1974), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC (more here)
Barry Lyndon (1975), shot by John Alcott, BSC (more here)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), shot by Haskell Wexler, ASC
All the President's Men (1976), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC (more here)
Taxi Driver (1976), shot by Michael Chapman, ASC
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC
The Duellists (1977), shot by Frank Tidy, BSC
The Deer Hunter (1978), shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC (more here)
All that Jazz (1979), shot by Giuseppe Rotunno, ASC, AIC
Being There (1979), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC
The Black Stallion (1979), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC
Manhattan (1979), shot by Gordon Willis, ASC
The Shining (1980), shot by John Alcott, BSC (more here)
Chariots of Fire (1981), shot by David Watkin, BSC
Das Boot (1981), shot by Jost Vacano, ASC
Reds (1981), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC
Fanny and Alexander (1982), shot by Sven Nykvist, ASC
The Right Stuff (1983), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC
Amadeus (1984), shot by Miroslav Ondricek, ASC, ACK
The Natural (1984), shot by Caleb Deschanel, ASC
Paris, Texas (1984), shot by Robby Müller, NSC, BVK
Brazil (1985), shot by Roger Pratt, BSC
The Mission (1986), shot by Chris Menges, ASC, BSC
Empire of the Sun (1987), shot by Allen Daviau, ASC
The Last Emperor (1987), shot by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC
Wings of Desire (1987), shot by Henri Alekan
Mississippi Burning (1988), shot by Peter Biziou, BSC
JFK (1991), shot by Robert Richardson, ASC
Raise the Red Lantern (1991), shot by Fei Zhao
Unforgiven (1992), shot by Jack Green, ASC (more here)
Baraka (1992), shot by Ron Fricke
Schindler's List (1993), shot by Janusz Kaminski
Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC
Trois Coulieurs: Bleu (Three Colours: Blue; 1993), shot by Slawomir Idziak, PSC
The Shawshank Redemption (1994), shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (more here)
The English Patient (1996), shot by John Seale, ASC, ACS
L. A. Confidential (1997), shot by Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC (more here)
American Beauty (1999), shot by Conrad Hall, ASC
The Matrix (1999), shot by Bill Pope (more here)
In the Mood for Love (2000), shot by Christopher Doyle, HKSC
Look for updates on theasc.com and our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as we showcase each of these 100 films and discuss why they have endured as inspiring examples of exemplary cinematography.
An enterprising AC reader created a Letterboxd playlist of these titles here.