50 Greatest Cinematographers

Wally Pfister

The Cinematographer: Though he’s currently making the transition to director (with 2014’s Transcendence), Pfister has long been Christopher Nolan’s go-to man when it comes to cinematography.

Pfister has worked with Nolan on all of his films apart from Following – so that’s his Batman trilogy, plus Memento , The Prestige and Inception .

Greatest Achievement: Really, take your pick.

Of course, freshest in our minds is The Dark Knight Rises , which swapped the flame-licked palette of The Dark Knight for something murkier, greyer and altogether more ominous.

Vilmos Zsigmond

The Cinematographer: A lover of vivid colour and natural light, Hungary-born Zsigmond first came to the USA when he fled his homeland with footage of the Soviet invasion. (He sold the footage to CBS.)

His most notable work comes in the varied form of The Long Goodbye and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Greatest Achievement: Close Encounters nabbed him his first Oscar win (three more nominations would follow, the most recent in 2007 for The Black Dahlia ).

Roger Deakins

The Cinematographer: Deakins has been responsible for many of the Coen Brothers’ finest films, having collaborated with the siblings since 1991.

With complete command of colour and mood, he gave The Man Who Wasn’t There a monochrome opulence, while O Brother, Where Art Thou? was blushed warm with sepia tones.

Greatest Achievement:
Last year’s Skyfall , one of the best-looking Bond films ever made.

Ellen Kuras

The Cinematographer: A frequent collaborator of Spike Lee (and one of the few established female cinematographers out there, don’t ask us why), Kuras’ work on He Got Game e levated that film to a whole new level.

Greatest Achievement: The potentially unruly Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind , which busts film form wide open.

Kuras embraced the challenge, though, and the result is something entirely unique.

Eduardo Serra

The Cinematographer: Serra most recently worked on Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2 (yep, he’s one of the guys that ensured the series got consistently darker).

Serra’s other credits include comic-book redux Unbreakable , Blood Diamond and The Wings Of The Dove.

Greatest Achievement:
Girl With A Pearl Earring , in which Serra brought the paintings of Joannes Vermeer to life on the screen.

Dante Spinotti

The Cinematographer: Manhunter made things change for Spinotti after a career in Italian TV.

With that film, he showed significant flare for feverish visuals, something Michael Mann obviously valued – he hired Spinotti again for Heat and Public Enemies .

Greatest Achievement: LA Confidential oozed noir ‘50s glamour while Heat was as slick as they come.

Darius Khondji

The Cinematographer: Born in Iran and educated at the New York University, Khondji quickly realised that he was more interested in shooting other people’s films than his own.

“I was concerned with the power of the image and much less with story,” he admits. He went on to work with David Fincher, Oliver Stone, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski among many others.

Greatest Achievement: In France, Delicatessen had an oily, glowing ambience, while in the US, Khondji ensured that Se7en was suitably scuzzy and atmospheric.

Bruce Surtees

The Cinematographer: With a style that echoes that of Tonino Delli Colli’s work on Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, it’s no surprise that Surtees spent much of his career working with Clint Eastwood.

He sadly died last year after complications related to diabetes.

Greatest Achievement: Lenny , for which Surtees received an Oscar nomination.

And rightly so – the biopic of stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce relied heavily on Surtees’ lighting techniques, especially in the pivotal stage-set scenes, which are evocative and mesmerising.

Robert Richardson

The Cinematographer: A fan of mixing things up, Richardson has utilised a variety of different techniques throughout his career thus far, including changing up lenses and film stock depending on the project’s demands.

It’s a loose and free style that has made him a firm favourite for Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone.

Greatest Achievement: Richardson’s CV is amazing ( Natural Born Killers, Kill Bill, JFK ), but he accomplished the impossible with Hugo , which not only looked fantastic, but it also looked fantastic in 3D.

Robert Krasker

The Cinematographer: Heavily influenced by German expressionism and film noir, Aussie-born Krasker is best known for moody, noir-ish masterpieces like Brief Encounter , The Third Man and Uncle Sila s .

Greatest Achievement: Krasker won an Oscar for The Third Man , and it’s not difficult to see why.

Harsh lighting, quirky camera angles and deep, rich blacks all gave the film an intense mood that’s difficult to shake off.

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