10 Favourite Cinematography
Oscar Winners

By Cristina I. De Leon

Best Director, Best Animated Feature Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Sound Editing – all of these categories are vital to making the Academy Awards a memorable night, which makes history. More importantly, these movie awards raise the bar for the creation of outstanding films and help lay the foundation to success to inspire future filmmakers. However, the category that covers uniqueness, precision, and creativity, specifically with film speed, the exact angle and height of the camera, the choice of lens, and the overall look of the film that fits with the direction’s vision goes to… Best Cinematography.

Here is a list of the 10 Top Favorite Oscar Winning Films in the Best Cinematography category over the last 30 years, with #1 being the favorite:


1. Titanic


Year: 1997
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron
Cinematographer: Russell Carpenter
Summary: Rose Bukator, a 100-year old woman and a survivor of the Titanic, tells the story of her voyage in 1912 to her grandchildren. Young, American painter, Jack Dawson meets Rose, who is about to marry a wealthy, snobbish man, Cal Hockley. Jack and Rose fall in love, despite the dissatisfaction from her upper-class family. When the ship crashes into an iceberg on April 15th, 1912, Jack and Rose decide to escape together, but only Rose is about to survive through the icy waters. Though she leaves Jack behind, he remains a footprint, as her first love, in her life forever.


2. Gandhi


Year: 1982
Director: Richard Attenborough
Writer: John Briley, Alyque Padamsee, Candice Bergen
Cinematographer: Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor
Summary: After being mistreated for being of Indian descent in a South African train, Gandhi protests for his rights to be recognized. After a successful mission, he tries to claim Indian independence from the British, in spite of numerous imprisonments and animosity from opposers. Despite the newfound independence of India, religious tensions start to form within the country. Gandhi becomes involved in the issue and attempts to end the rivalry. However, India is soon divided and Gandhi is assassinated because of his unending persistence. Nevertheless, he is remembered as a brave soul that transformed history.


3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

 Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2001
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie
Summary: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, captures the journey of a small hobbit named Frodo, along with his band of heroes: Gandalf, the Dwarf, Aragorn, and the rest of the fellowship. Their mission is to destroy an immensely powerful ring, which contains the ability to rule above all others, but more importantly, it will destroy the evil, dark Lords once and for all. The group must travel to Mt. Doom, the single place, where the ring can be burned for eternity.


4. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Year: 2008
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle
Summary: The film centers on Jamal Malik, an 18-year old orphan from Mumbai. He is in the midst of answering his final question on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” when he is suddenly accused of cheating because of his acute intelligence level. Malik’s ability to accurately answer the questions is demonstrated by his storytelling of certain phases of his life: being an orphan, growing up with his brother, forming a relationship with another orphan girl, and living on the streets.


5. JFK


Year: 1991
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Oliver Stone, Zachary Sklar
Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
Summary: New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison decides to investigate the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who died on 22 November 1963. Garrison is suspicious of the FBI report announced to the public and persists to find the truth by looking at forbidden files, even at the risk of the lives of his family. Garrison then finds the cause of Kennedy’s assassination and traces it down to the Vietnam War.


6. Apocalypse Now

 Apocalypse Now

Year: 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro
Summary: This film occurs in the height of the Vietnam War in 1969, when U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Willard is ordered to eliminate Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz. His journey begins as he travels down Nyung River and into the jungle to complete his assassination. However, the expedition toughens, when security increases and his men are killed. Willard realizes his need to accomplish his mission, when he becomes a man of great honor and reliability.


7. Schindler’s List

 Schindler's List

Year: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Cinematographer: Janusz Kamiński
Summary: Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Czech businessman, aims to operate a factory business for the German military in Poland. His business entails using extremely cheap labor of the Jews. Realizing the gravity of the Jews’ future, Schindler undergoes a complete transformation, as he decides to save more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 


8. The Last Emperor

 The Last Emperor

Year: 1987
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writer: Mark Peploe, Bernardo Bertolucci
Cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro
Summary: The film is a biographical film on Puyi, the last Emperor of China, who was captured by the Red Army in 1945 and was held hostage by the Soviet Union. During his imprisonment, the audience sees stages of his life through flashbacks and flash forwards. The audience is taken to Puyi’s royal childhood, his responsibility of creating peace in the Japanese war, occurrences in the Mao cult, his exile, his future life as a gardener, and Puyi’s acting as a tourist in the Forbidden City.


9. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

 Master and Commander

Year: 2003
Director: Peter Weir
Writer: Peter Weir, John Collee
Cinematographer: Russell Boyd
Summary: This film is set in 1805, when Captain Jack Aubrey, leader of a British warship – H.M.S. Surprise, has to destroy and sink a much larger and quicker French warship, named Acheron. Keeping in mind the drastic measures of continuing his plans, Aubrey contemplates on surrendering to Acheron or fighting to win his mission. Aubrey, together with the aid of doctor on board, Stephen Maturin, devises a method to hopefully become as superior as their competition. 


10. The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields 

Year: 1984
Director: Roland Joffé
Writer: Bruce Robinson
Cinematographer: Chris Menges
Summary: New York Times journalist, Sydney Schanberg, records his travel observations on the civil war in Cambodia. Together with his partner, Dith Pran, they discover the absurdity and terror of the tragic event. Though the U.S forces exit Cambodia, the pair stays to document the war. Schanberg has no difficulty leaving the country, but Pran, as a local, becomes sought after by the Khmer Rouge.


All of these films are available here:

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About The Author

Rory O'DonnellCristina I. De Leon is currently interning for the summer at Raindance. She enjoys helping them advertise their courses and working in her favorite city, London! Though originally from the Philippines, she is an incoming sophomore at Boston College. According to her, she aspires to come back and work in London in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family and friends, dancing, playing tennis, “creating and designing stuff,” and oh yes – watching films, of course.




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 10 Favourite Cinematography Oscar Winners