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Ranking The 20 Greatest, Most Celebrated Long Takes

Ranking The 20 Greatest, Most Celebrated Long Takes

This weekend, “The Raid 2” opens, in all its chop-socky glory, in limited release and will expand in the weeks to come. Continuing on from the original “The Raid,” though by all accounts (ours included) creating fight scenes even more fluid and flabbergasting than its predecessor (which was pretty much all one fight scene), it employs many takes of above-average length to give an extra edge of realism and dynamism to the old ultra-violence. This approach characterized Gareth Evans‘ shooting style last time out too and still feels like a refreshing counterpoint to the hyper-kinetic Michael Bay school of editing, which often feels like it’s hiding as much as it’s showing. 

But if the use of long takes in action sequences is still a relatively novel phenomenon, the cinematic history of the extended take in general is much longer and we thought we’d take this opportunity to choose our favorites. This turned out to be a timely endeavor, because as you may know, recently a debate has kicked off in the (God forgive me) blogosphere about whether or not critics and film commentators should talk and write more about the form and craftsmanship aspects of filmmaking than they (we) currently do. 

Sparked off by a well-written, interesting and articulate post by Matt Zoller Seitz over on with which we disagree so violently we may have dislocated something, the debate actually has some bearing on this feature: it is, after all, about a group of films that are sharing column space based on formal rather than thematic or narrative similarity. And yet, for us, that’s exactly the paradox that hovers round the fringe of this list: contrary to the kind of analysis after which Seitz seems to hanker (echoing Andrew Sarris, among others), our own impulses are always toward the description of the effect of a particular technique on one’s understanding of the story or mood, rather than on the technique itself. So where Seitz states “Films… are made by filmmakers. Write about the filmmaking” we’d have to counter with “yes, but films are made for viewers. Write for the viewer.” How much do any of us, as viewers, want to know how the sausage is made, and how much do we just want to know, in the most literate and insightful way possible, that it’s going to taste delicious?

Yes, we digress, but this was all on our minds when we assembled our list of long takes, because as much as we dislike the fetishization of form over content, in that debate, the long take may well be ground zero, as it’s one instance of formal experimentation that is often so ostentatious that even the casual viewer, or the most determinedly story-oriented critic, can and does pick up on it. Those cases may make for impressive moments, but ultimately, they can also break a film’s spell and so, while we’ve of necessity included a few, mostly we’re heavily weighing our picks toward extended takes that have a definite narrative purpose outside of “look at me! I haven’t used a cut in minutes!” Why? Because even here, in a feature about a formal convention, we’d rather talk about story than style. We’re incorrigible. 

20. “Panic Room” (Fincher, 2002) DP: Darius Khondji, Conrad Hall
So let’s start by totally breaking the augment-the-storytelling rule with this almost insultingly show-offy, CG establishing shot floats impossibly through banisters, coffee pot handles, into and out of keyholes and then through the ceiling. The technical virtuosity here is inarguable, and warranted it a spot on this list alone, but we’d argue it’s also an example of putting form before content to a detrimental degree. The house feels porous, the geography malleable, when it should be confining and contained, and the claustrophobia of the premise is undercut by the sense, established early, that there is someone else already in the house—the inquisitive, omnipotent camera. 

19. “Werckmeister Harmonies” (2000) Director: Bela Tarr DP: Patrick de Ranter

There are some directors for whom long takes are not so much a tool in their arsenal as a way of life, and not-for-everyone Hungarian maestro Bela Tarr can definitely be counted among those. Indeed the 145-min Harmonies’ is a series of just 39 languid shots (the average film has 5000-ish cuts), but this particular scene does stand out for its complex staging and for its creepy absence of dialogue as the invading thugs lay waste to a hospital with almost lobotomized violence. And then the weird reverie culminates in an oddly beautiful tableau as they come across an old man, naked as a martyr, and shame, one of the themes of the film, overcomes them. 
18. “Atonement” (2007) Director: Joe Wright DP: Seamus McGarvey
Another instance of a long take that is rather self-conscious in its placement in the middle of film that otherwise doesn’t employ this same style, this epic shot from “Atonement” may be atypical, but the complexity of its choreography alone, as well as its ambition (to capture the chaos and hope and tragedy of Dunkirk) can’t be faulted. But there’s also something artificial about it, almost theatrical (though the stage is vast) that gives it a heightened, hyperreal feeling—every moment is so packed with incident and detail that, like a couple of other instances on this list, it’s a shot that could almost stand alone outside of the film which it ostensibly serves.
17. “Hard Boiled” (1992) Director: John Woo DP: Wang Wing-Hang
With “The Raid” movies and the films of Tony Jaa, among others, gaining recognition for their graceful, often long-take approach to action, we should remember that there was a time when the word “balletic” was reserved as a descriptor for action scenes from the original ballet master, John Woo. “Hard Boiled,” his last Hong Kong film before decamping to Hollywood (to diminishing returns, we’d say), is one of his best not only gifting us that iconic image of Chow Yun-Fat with a baby in one arm and a shotgun in the other, but also this bravura 2m40s shootout (which includes a 20 sec elevator conversation during which the crew reset the entire set).
16. “The Earrings of Madame de…” (1953) Director: Max Ophüls  DP: Christian Matras
An avowed influence on Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson, and pretty much any other filmmaker who’s ever moved their camera, Ophüls’ more famous, and longer, long take is the opening to “La Ronde,” but this one just feels more special to us. Here, combining movement with mise-en-scene and framing, the shot serves the story absolutely by introducing a character and a milieu so succinctly. But then, this whole list could be dedicated to Ophuls, whose style even caused James Mason to write a poem: 
A shot that does not call for tracks
Is agony for poor old Max,
Who, separated from his dolly,
Is wrapped in deepest melancholy.
Once, when they took away his crane,
I thought he’d never smile again.

15. “Paths of Glory” (1957) Director: Stanley Kubrick DP: Georg Kraus
This early example from Kubrick is not his longest shot nor his most complex, but it does brilliantly illustrate how longer takes can be used to bolster storytelling, rather than remove you from it. The camera glides effortlessly as the general, oozing condescension, delivers his “morale-boosting” words to grateful, doomed troops, until we butt-edit up against a close up of the shellshocked, silent man who is not reading from the same script, and the hypocrisy is abruptly laid bare. (Course, we could easily have included the opening from “A Clockwork Orange” or the shots following Danny on his tricycle in “The Shining” or any of several sedate takes in ‘2001‘ etc.) 
14. “The Secret In Their Eyes” (2009) Director: Juan José Campanella DP: Felix Monti
Another prime example of a long take (it clocks in at 5 mins) that is totally justified on a story level, this is an absolutely bravura sequence from the terrifically entertaining 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar winner. Established by a wide “helicopter” shot of a packed football stadium, we fly in to close up on our heroes in the stands, swim in and out of the crowd as they embark on their impossible search, before it morphs into an extended chase during which the subject is found, then lost, then found again, before ending up in a panting heap on the middle of the football pitch, mid-game. Completely breathless, exciting filmmaking that is so immersive you lose yourself within it.
13. “Snake Eyes” (1998) Director: Brian de Palma DP: Stephen H Burum
Throw a dart at a de Palma movie and chances are you’ll end up in the middle of a long take—the director’s filmography is lousy with them, and the occasionally dubious quality of the surrounding films (naw, we love him really, here’s our retrospective) means that sometimes not for the best of reasons, they do stand out. And there’s none that exemplifies that paradox (interesting shot; subpar movie) more than this 12-minute sequence from terminally silly Nic Cage thriller “Snake Eyes,” (which, yes, has concealed cuts hidden in whip pans and what not, but the effect is still pretty seamless). Except maybe the beginning of “Bonfire of the Vanities” but we drank to forget that film.

12. “The Protector” (aka “Warrior King” aka “Tom Yum Goong“) (2005) Director: Prachya Pinkaew DP: Nattawut Kittikhun
“Where’s my ELEPHANT?” may still be our favorite recurring line of dialogue from any martial arts movie ever, but no list of this sort could fail to take note of the amazing staircase fight from this Tony Jaa movie. Playing out like a brightly lit, more humorous version of the original “The Raid” in miniature, in just under four minutes Jaa works his way up multiple flights of stairs dispatching anyone he meets in unmistakably non-stunt-double form. The vast landings and prevalence of bamboo dividers through which people can be thrown is obviously stagy, but when the results are this much fun, who cares?
11. “Gravity” (2013) Director: Alfonso Cuarón DP: Emmanuel Lubezki
The most recent entry on our list is also one of the longest: the 17-minute long sequence that starts the multi-Oscar-winner in such unforgettable style. With directors often employing longer takes as beginning or end shots (the rhythm of the film being less disturbed that way) this may go down as one of the most brilliant “establishing shot”s ever: I mean, how does one evoke a sense of geography where there is no geography? Lulling us into a sense of weightless safety before terrifyingly shattering that comfort, this stunning shot’s length has only one drawback: humans can’t actually go 17 minutes without breathing. The last 3m20s of that sequence is below:
10. “The Sacrifice” (1986) Director: Andrei Tarkovsky DP: Sven Nyqvist
There’s no list on earth that could do justice to Tarkovsky’s shotmaking (look at the burning barn in “Mirror” or the dream sequence in “Stalker” or the hypnotic driving scene in “Solaris” or all of “Andrei Rublev” etc etc). So we’re going to go with this scene from the Bergman-indebted (shot in Gotland by Bergman collaborator Nyqvist) “The Sacrifice,” Tarkovsky’s last film. This 6 min shot is actually his second longest (the first is at the beginning of this film), but famously required the rebuilding of the house after the camera stalled. We’re still not sure we understand how he manages to imbue what could be ridiculous, Benny-Hill-esque long-shot running-about with such tragic, aching mood, but then we could spend our lives trying to decipher Tarkovsky’s skill. And probably will. 
9. “Magnolia” (1999) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson DP: Robert Elswit
As clearly pointed out in this video deconstructing PTA’s steadicam use, there’s no film of his within which we couldn’t find an example of the long tracking shot. But we’re plumping for “Magnolia,” even over the two spectacular “Boogie Nights” examples because as terrific as they (and the lesser-known one from “Hard Eight“) are, they feel quite indebted to their influences, Scorsese in particular, and it’s really “Magnolia” that feels like it’s doing completely its own thing. The fluidity of this inquisitive, restless shot establishes character and location yes, but mostly acts an encapsulation of a film that’s all about labyrinthine relationships between people struggling to connect, but only ever passing by.
8. “Touch of Evil” (1958) Director: Orson Welles DP: Russell Metty
The literal ticking time bomb of Welles’ opener to his Charlton Heston-starrer is as good a reason as anyone’s ever discovered for an extended take, with added epic feel coming from the wild variance in scale from the close up of the bomb to the high angle crane shot that picks up Heston, then loses him then picks him up as his path interweaves with that of the doomed car. It’s an insanely complex shot that of course Welles makes look as effortless as falling off a log, though a sight more graceful, before it culminates in a kiss that is also an explosion. It’s an amazing, peerless symbiosis of form and content. 
7. “Weekend” (1967) Director: Jean-Luc Godard DP: Raoul Coutard
One of a series of perfectly self-contained moments that characterize Godard’s experimental black comedy thingummajig (in fact we’d suggest that the film is more comprehensible, and certainly more watchable if viewed as a collection of vignettes rather than a coherent feature, which it ain’t and don’t want to be), the 7-minute long traffic jam is probably the director’s most famous shot. Not especially complex in terms of camerawork (it is just one long sideways track) nonetheless as it follows the line of cars we get these terrific little voyeuristic glimpses of the lives of the occupants, sometimes comical, sometimes odd, and it’s all very Tati-esque and charming. Until the bodies and the tire tracks through the blood. 
6. “Oldboy” (2003) Director: Park Chan-Wook DP: Chung Chung-Hoon
And from one classic lateral track to a more modern version—Park’s awesomely violent original “Oldboy” just oozes style all over, but this corridor fight really felt like something we’d never seen before. Again, complex in its choreography and set design (and amazing lighting technique to make things comprehensible but also chiaruscuro-beautiful, like a Caravaggio) rather than its simple side-to-side camera movement, it’s 2m 40s-ish of sheer badassery that will forever remain simply one of the coolest things we’d ever seen in a cinema. 
5. “I Am Cuba” (1964) Director: Mikhail Kalatozov DP: Sergey Urusevsky
Without a doubt one of the most beautiful films ever shot, it’s astounding that “I Am Cuba” was so long neglected, following the negative reaction to its initial release in the Soviet Union and Cuba. It took valiant efforts of film conservationists such as Martin Scorsese to get it restored to its former glory, which is characterized by several mesmerizing long takes, notably one that ends up underwater in a hotel pool. But we’re choosing to showcase this shot, which one would have thought impossible with the technology of the time, in which a protest march turns into a funeral procession and we follow in and out of buildings, high above the streets. 
4. “The Player” (1992) Director: Robert Altman DP: Jean Lepine
Featuring Welles‘s “Touch of Evil” lower on this list than the Altman-directed long take that literally references it may seem a bit sacrilegious, but hey, we’re iconoclasts. And also, this shot is just an absolute blast, a witty inside-baseball look at the workings of a film studio in a film about filmmaking in which everyone works in the film industry and everyone only talks about films. It’s a little like Playlist Towers in that regard, only everyone’s better looking and it’s sunny. While the meta, look at me! nature of extremely long takes is sometimes an issue, this one is in service of an extremely meta film, so it gets a joyous pass. 
3. “The Passenger” (1975) Director: Michelangelo Antonioni DP: Luciano Tovoli
Many of these shots contain a “how did they do that?” element, which is often part of the problem, as regards something that distracts you from the story. But we’ll suggest that that distraction is part of the reason the penultimate shot of Antonioni’s enigmatic identity-swap drama works as well as it does. As the camera first follows Jack Nicholson around the hotel room, then ventures out through the bars to the courtyard outside, the discomfort of the “impossible” move is part of what is puzzling about the sequence and it sets up an uncanny sense of “things happening beyond our ken” which is perfect reflection of watching the business of the courtyard while an offscreen death is occurring. Still amazing, still unknowable.
2. “Goodfellas” (1990) Director: Martin Scorsese DP: Michael Ballhaus
Well. We could write a novel about this shot, and about all it represents and everything it has influenced since, but really it’s simply an example of as close to perfect a long-take shot as has ever existed in film. It tells us so much about the characters, and their relationship, it establishes so much of a world and a mood, and it does all that so stylishly and with such fluidity and dynamism that it should surely feel a million times rehearsed. And yet the real genius of this shot (and why it rides so high on this list, when “Raging Bull” has terrific examples too, as has late entry “The Wolf of Wall Street“) is that it feels natural—the complexity of the shot never, ever, detracts from its vitality. Compared to other, impressive but more stately long takes (some of which we’ve shouted out here), this is a peerless example of virtuoso filmmaking whose technical virtuosity feels like the last thing on its mind. 
1. “Children of Men” (2006) Director: Alfonso Cuarón DP: Emmanuel Lubezki
And here we are, breaking our one-entry-per-director guideline, not for Tarkovsky or Kubrick or PTA or Scorsese, but for Best Director Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón. But there’s no getting away from the flat-out amazingness of this scene, which famously required days to shoot, whole new rigs to be built and which at one point Cuarón was convinced they hadn’t got because of blood splatter on the camera lens. But as much as the technical heights it scales cannot be underestimated (“Gravity” after all, was hugely complex but somehow more controllable than this shot with all its variables of vehicles, characters, performance, timing etc), most impressive to us is the fact that this scene is one which, the first or second time out, we didn’t even register as a one-take wonder. So wrapped up were we in the story that the craft only ever worked on us in a completely subconscious manner (as opposed, for example, to the other fantastic, emotional long shot of Clive Owen walking through the ruined hospital with the baby, whose length and grace we actively noticed). This long take, that breaks so many long take “rules” (like how the truly shocking moment happens not at the end but in the middle) is for us simply the supreme example of masterful, accomplished filmmaking being put in service of sky-high dramatic stakes. 

Notable by their absence are a few no-brainer films that we excluded because they almost feel like they have a different agenda. So “Russian Ark” which is of course all one take, Hitchcock’s “Rope,” which is stitched together to give the impression of takes even longer than they actually were, Mike Figgis’ “Timecode,” with its real-time split-screen long takes and Michael Snow’s “Wavelength” which is an experiment in long takes, do not appear but are all instructive for devotees of this sort of thing.

And there are some that just missed the cut: the introduction of the ship and its inhabitants in Joss Whedon’s “Serenity” is a terrific example of establishing geography and character with wit and economy; Tarantino’s voyage around the teahouse in “Kill Bill Vol 1” is a fun ride; Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” and “Last Days” both contain several very long takes (some might say tryingly so); as does Robert Siodmak’s “The Killers.” Hitchcock examples from “Frenzy” and “Young and Innocent,” the first-person intro of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” and the initial, journey-through-the-galaxy intro to “Contact” were all also considered, while long takes that are more static, such as those that characterize the work of Michael Haneke or Steve McQueen’s along with very long takes that are more about dialogue or monologues than action or camera hi jinks, such as in Linklater’s “Before”  trilogy or one-man-shows like “Bronson” we’re also saving for another day. 

But let us know the favorite one of yours that we missed, or how you feel about striking the balance between form and content in film criticism, below. 

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Amores Perros!!!


"Hunger" really must’ve been on the list… One of the best long takes ever!


You missed the intro to the Battlestar Galactica 2003 mini-series. A fantastically done 5 and half minute long single take shown right at the beginning sets up all the main characters, the setting, and the history of the world all in one take! Its definitely worth taking a look at.


Hi, what about "The Circle" (2005), "PVC-1" and "La casa muda" with its "The Silent House" remake.


The heist scene in Rififi is timeless, I’m amazed it wasn’t discussed in this list.

Devin Cutler

There is a single take helicopter shot in The Longest Day that is the most spectacular long take I have seen (although Children of Men comes close). Check out the fight for Ouistreham in The Longest Day.

Shin Domba

The scene where Bacon is chased through the multi story car park in ‘Death Sentence’. The camera changes floors several times without a cut. Its much superior to some of the above mentioned.


What about, Lawrence of Arabia ? In the distance, Omar Sharif rides his camel toward Lawrence in the fore ground which seems to take forever.


Miklós Jancsó warrants a look – especially his late ’60s stuff, when the the long takes were still integrated into the narrative. A huge influence on Tarr and Scorsese, and Cuarón.


I remember an opening scene with Charlton Heston as the star, he was a Texas cop going into Mexico.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a really good tracking shot in the middle. Everyone should go check that out.


Can't believe that no one has mentioned Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives. Nine discrete (but connected?) stories, each shot in single takes. The supermarket scene with Robin Wright and Jason Isaacs is a really impressive single take.


You guys need to update your #1 choice [Children of Men – car chase scene] with a note or take it out all together. The scene was not a single shot. It was MADE to look like a single shot but actually was a few shots, over many days and different locations, digitally edited to look like a single take seamless shot.


I compiled frames from many of these long takes in a series called Shot Stitches. Check out my stitch of Children of Men:

Also on the site are stitches for Oldboy, Taxi Driver, and True Detective


As mentioned below, I think you guys missed the point of Seitz article. He was only asking that you describe how the filmmaking applies to what you're getting out of the movie. Not asking you to give a list of ingredients per se. And no, writing for the viewer is not what a critic should be doing. They should be writing about the film itself on a film by film basis.


Such a pity that the unforgettable opening scene of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) isn't here.


Not a bad list but you forgot one of the most important films in this category of long takes: Russian Ark. The whole movie is shot in one take how can you leave that off?


Opening sequence of Boogie Nights? You meet almost the entire cast in a single shot, ending on Mark Wahlberg


Gaspar Noe's work with Benoit Debie in Irreversible and Enter the Void deserve a mention as well.

Gabe Rodriguez

What about Nicole Kidman taking her seat at the symphony in "Birth"?!


There's a beautiful long take in Sam Fuller's 1956 western FORTY GUNS, when the protagonists walk along Main Street discussing their options in dealing with their opponents, meanwhile chatting to various establishment owners. For over 2 minutes the camera follows them effortlessly displaying the entire length of main street, finishing the shot off with Barbara Stanwyck and her forty men stampeding into town in impeccable timing.

Also, Frank Borzage has two long takes complementing each other in his 1928 film STREET ANGEL.


Good list. The biggest names missing are Miklos Jancso who – well before fellow Hungarian Bela Tarr – was the master of long take shots and Theo Angelopolous whose films are almost exclusively long takes. Also Kenji Mizoguchi did many long takes in his films.


"Sparked off by a well-written, interesting and articulate post by Matt Zoller Seitz over on RogerEbert with which we disagree so violently we may have dislocated something" — how on EARTH can you disagree with an article that calls on critics to stop being lazy bastards, educate themselves and actually do their job? Perhaps because then you'd actually be required to do yours?


Nothing from Theo Angelopoulos?

Not the rape scene from "Landscapes in the Midst"? Or the bus scene from "Eternity and a Day"? Or the end scene from "Ulysses' Gaze"?

I thought you folks were into cinema?


mmmmmuch further down the list, but clocking in at the high end of the length spectrum at seven minutes, the proposal scene from something called "Straight-Jacket"


Theo Holen

True detective episode 3 ending

Jimmy arms

The film kind of sucks but silent house should get an honourable mention.


Much as I like Panic Room, that is not a continuous shot. It's broken up by CGI and fades to black.

Larry Gross

The long elaborate sequence shot depicting a child memory image of a fire, in Tarkovsky's Mirror.
The midnight snack chat between Agnes Moorhead and Tim Holt in Ambersons "Don't bolt your food George."
The long poignant dialogue between Theresa Wright and Macdonald Carey in Shadow of a Doubt.

Christopher Derrick

They either choose the wrong or failed to recognize the other long take in TOUCH OF EVIL that is just as impressive (perhaps more so because of how critical it is to the story); when Vargas discovers that Quinlen framed Sanchez… to skip this means that real research wasn't done.

Terry Scot

Have you seen "The Longest Day"???? There is an incredible huge moving battle fought and filmed in one very long take.

Matthew McInerney

The long take in the metro in Haneke's supremely underrated CODE INCONNU is definitely my favourite long take. So simple, but it is incredibly powerful, watching as Juliette Binoche's character is assaulted. The formal rigidity and distance of the shot makes it seem like documentary, but it also highlights how helpless both she is as a character and we are as the audience.

Erik Rikard

It is a great list and I suppose by saying it's the 20 greatest takes that points it to being a subjective list. But if we can't contest such subjectivity then cinema would be no fun. So kudos on the list as I said but I think two sequences from Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia deserved being included – the 9 minute track shot of the transporting a lit candle and the 2 minute 17 seconds breathtaking final scene reveal. Thanks Peter Scarlet for directing me to UGETSU – it was brilliant. Thanks also to Viggo Strydom for directing me to BREAKING NEWS and FAUX DEPART – outstanding long takes.

Peter Scarlet

Three startling omissions from three not-to-be-missed films:

SUNRISE (directed by F.W. Murnau, USA, 1927, cinematography by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) – the extraordinary and mysterious trajectory followed by the peasant character known only as "The Man" (George O'Brien)as he stumbles through the swamp toward a fatefully erotic encounter with the vamp from the city (Margaret Livingston).

THE CRIME OF M. LANGE (directed by Jean Renoir, France, 1936, cinematography by Jean Bachelet) Рa 360 degree pan around the courtyard that is the center of the united creative energies of the publishing cooperative who are the film's focus, as their childlike leader, Am̩d̩e Lange, shoots the evil capitalist exploiter Batala (Jules Berry) who, having fled from the police, returns to reclaim the business he wants only to exploit for profit. "A work touched by divine grace," wrote Fran̤ois Truffaut, and Andr̩ Bazin, his mentor, wrote a brilliant analysis of this sequence and of the entire film.

UGETSU – (Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953, cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa) This film contains many unforgettable sequence shots, but perhaps the most moving is the climactic return of Genjuro the potter, who had abandoned his home and was seduced by a princess who turns out to be a ghost. He returns at the end to discover his wife, whom we believe had died, is there and cooking him a meal to mark his homecoming; as he sleeps, she mends his kimono. But he awakens to discover that she too, is a ghost.


The Body is Buffy the Vampire Slayer???

Alberto Farina

Great list – I confess I went through it half-hoping I could find it was missing some fundamentals and I am glad to say that for what it's worth I found it comprehensive, balanced and informative. If I may offer a few not-too-obscure contributions myself, here are my 2 or 3 cents:

Mike Figgis's boundary-pushing "Timecode" (2000) is not a particularly satisfying movie when it comes to whatever plot it tells, and yet it provides 4 simultaneous, interconnected, uninterrupted, 90-minutes long takes that run on 4 quadrants and at times create striking combinations between one another. Check it out if you can.

"I guappi" (1974), a ho-hum Pasquale Squiitieri drama about the heydays of neapolitan Camorra, has an interesting closing long sequence that while it's nothing special on a technical level does hold some interest in the fact it begins in a Court of Law in the late 19th Century and it ends in the streets of Naples in the 1970s, somehow inferring not much has changed in a few decades.

Olivier Dahan's Edith Piaf 2007 biopic "La mome", besides providing Marion Cotillard the chance for an Oscar-worthy performance, also has a cool long take that brings the protagonist from a happy wake-up call with her lover kissing her awake in a wonderful sunny day to an eerie slide into a nightmarish but real situation as we slowly realize, along with Edith, that she has but imagined the nice part and that in fact her lover has died in a plane crash.


I was expecting Children of Men to make the list…I just wasn't expecting that scene. Great list though. It's a treat watching these scenes.


Russian Ark was one shot, though there is one cut.

Jim D'Arcy

Kenneth Branagh"s 1989 film of Shakespeare's "Henry V". A complicated 4 minute take as Branagh [King Henry V] , after the battle of Agincourt, walks through the battlefield surveying the dead, wounded, scavengers, and camp followers, all the while carrying the dead body of a trusted page boy [a very young Christian Bale] on his shoulder. With the melodic underscoring of composer Patrick Doyle, this makes for one of the most rousing, memorable sequences in film.

Joey Jones

Boogie Nights?

Adam C

I was going to say 'Rope,' but the dude below me clearly got to it first.

Omar Ipodriguez


Where is ROPE?

Hitchcock's masterpiece is an ENTIRE FILM THAT IS ONE LONG TAKE

I honestly wasn't surprised as I clicked along and it wasn't on the list, because I expected it to be #1! The only two cuts in the entire movie are simply for changing reels, and he goes out of his way to point out 'I didn't have to cut right there, but I was forced to switch reels'

You need to see ROPE and then re-publish this list, it literally is lacking the greatest long take ever.


I can't believe The Place Beyond The Pines intro wasn't on there! that was just ridiculous.


The mayonnaise conversation in pulp fiction


Scarface (1932) opening shot.

Viggo Strydom

Hej. I am a big fan of long takes or what we can also call One Shots. Hong Kong directors have used it brilliantly and there are a films that have surpassed Hard Boiled in their ambition and execution in particular Johnnie To's 'BREAKING NEWS'. I feel there are some better examples missing from this list and as a critical cinephile it is really important to recognise short films that have used the long take/one shot excellently since they do not have the budgets or stars like To, Scorsese, Tarantino . Can i suggest to my fellow cinephiles and indiewire to check out Shekhar Bassi's 'FAUX DEPART'.


I'm surprised Singin' In The Rain isn't on here.


I would mention one of the penultimate scenes from Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien, where Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdu share a hilarious, and hilariously vulgar, drunken conversation about their trip and their relationships that lasts 6 minutes or so and ends with the trio dancing, and since nobody mentioned it the tracking shot at the end of Royal Tenenbaums that ends with Royal and Chas finally bonding after Royal presents Chas with a new dog–the emotional highlight of the film in my estimation…


No Polanski's "Cul-de-Sac" ? That 7 minute take is awesome.


Neither of the celebrated shots in Children of Men are single takes. From Wiki: 'Visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill explains that the effects team had to "combine several takes to create impossibly long shots", where their job was to "create the illusion of a continuous camera move." Once the team was able to create a "seamless blend", they would move on to the next shot. These techniques were important for three continuous shots: the coffee shop explosion in the opening shot, the car ambush, and the battlefield scene. The coffee shop scene was composed of "two different takes shot over two consecutive days"; the car ambush was shot in "six sections and at four different locations over one week and required five seamless digital transitions"; and the battlefield scene "was captured in five separate takes over two locations".'

Christopher Binder

Any of the ten shots that make up Talking to Strangers.

I don't like it when people do these kinds of lists because they always do a diservice to whoever is left off.


What about "Russian Ark" (2002)??? It is because the whole movie is one big long shot (96 min) it didn't end up in this ranking?


I am not an expert, but I think the fourth-wall breaking scene in JCVD, where Jean Claude van Damme litterally rises up, out of the scene he is in and talks about his life as a moviestar, deserves mentioning here. Who would expect a scene like this in a film like that? Who would expect Van Damme to be such an accomplished actor to be able to pull this off?


I think Kidnapped (2010) deserves some sort of mention, the whole film is only 12 long takes and they're all so damn intense. Agree that something from Irreversible or Enter the Void should be included. The club long take in Irreversible is cut together from different shots but the camera roves through the whole place in such an unnerving, disorienting manner that it feels like entering a nightmare in a striking way that left a permanent imprint in my mind of a twisted hell.


That's the perfect list really.

honest rob

No "The Player"?
C'mon! Parody on top of craft!


What about Nicole Kidman's full-on close-up in Birth?


Don't forget Raging Bull's long tracking shot from the dressing room, down the corridor, into the auditorium and through the expectant crowd and finally into the boxing ring.


I remember hearing that Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien once comically referred to the Kodak 10 1/2-minute film magazine as "a form of censorship," though I can't seem to find any reference to it now.


I believe the 'blood on the camera lens' story belongs to the other long take in Children of Men, the assault on Bexhill – not to downplay this incredible scene, which I didn't even realize was a long take until someone told me. I noticed the other one.




I'd include Magnificent Ambersons party scene.


Miklos Jancso's 1969 feature "The Winter Wind" runs 80 mins and contains just 12 shots.


A list of long takes without one from McQueen (dir.)?! At the very least, the 17 minute scene in Hunger of the discussion between Fassbender and Cunningham has to be here. And then there is the running scene in Shame or Northup's near lynching in 12 Years a Slave…


Definitely agree! That long take in Children of Men blew my mind away. I think Gaspar Noe's work on "Irreversible" and/or "Enter the Void" was worth mentioning and I loved what Steve McQueen did with the long take in "Shame" and in "Hunger" but I still agree with this list. Great article!!!


Can't argue with Children of Men… That dropped my jaw when I saw it…amazing Lubeski!




"while long takes that are more static, such as those that characterize the work of Michael Haneke or Steve McQueen’s along with very long takes that are more about dialogue or monologues than action or camera hi jinks, such as in Linklater’s “Before” trilogy or one-man-shows like “Bronson” we’re also saving for another day. "


I was expecting Russian ark to place, at lest.


Steve McQueen much?


Claudia Cardinale's arrival in Once Upon a Time in the West?


Good article but i have to disagree about one thing, which is that the opening scene in Boogie Nights should have been on the list over the Magnolia long take, not just because it's more fun, but because it's both a technical and narrative brilliance, introducing virtually every major character of the movie in one go and changing POVs several times. Basically everything you need to know about the movie is established in one take, which is quite amazing. Also LOVE the barn burning scene in The Mirror but I see now that you mentioned that


Glad you included Werckmeister Harmonies. That hospital scene (and the movie itself) made me feel that I was truly in a dream that I could not escape (not that I wanted to but if I did!). Tarr's work is built on this styling and there are oher more extreme examples, but that one is the most emotionally powerful and truly (and literally) mesmerizing.


Everyone said that long take in the True Detective episode was mesmerizing and nail butting. I thought it was showboating and a waste of time. Scene felt like it was trying too hard to be this scene that everyone will gush on about. What was the point? It held no dramatic weight due to knowledge that we know these characters make it out of the situation, alive.

I await replies telling me I'm a moron and objectively wrong.


how is the touch of evil opening shot only at 8?


The levee scene in Memories of Murder.


Enter the Void.


I agree with Brace. The dinner scene in 4 Months 3 Weeks And 2 Days is astounding. It gives off so much ever-tightening, ever-intensifying tension. When that phone rings, it's like a knife in the gut. And you can't take it out. A little surprised you guys didn't include this film, as there are definitely other examples from it than this one. It's a film built upon very impressively staged, long takes. Good list nonetheless.

Nathan Duke

The scene in "Hunger" when Michael Fassbender meets with the priest.


Very good article. Finally a list in which I completely agree with the top choice.


the dinner scene in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Gerardus D


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