Find a list of your saved stories here

5 of the greatest single shots in movie history

Save Story

Save stories to read later

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY - It's unfortunate that many people still don't recognize film making as an art form. It's sad really considering that almost everything associated with it is art. The creativity and wit injected into a script, the emotion portrayed by the actors and the vision that is translated through both director and cinematographer.

It's true not all films are considered great art, take "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" for example, but some moments in film can leave us speechless. These moments can literally take our breath away and send us in a panic looking for the remote to rewind or yelling at the projectionist to back up the reel.

One of the most impressive things in film can be the single shot. This is when the camera follows the action in one solid shot. To give you an idea of how difficult a single shot is, everything must be planned out perfectly. Everything must be set up and ready to go, from the actors, to the effects to the cinematographer's route.


Here are five of the most impressive single shot scenes from movie history.

Hugo (PG) - 2011, Scene Length 2:13

Martin Scorsese is known for his steadicam shots. The man has a way of telling a story though a single scene and a perfect example of his work is from the Copacabana scene from the 1990 film "Goodfellas." However, the shot we're highlighting today is from Scorsese's first ever family film "Hugo."

An incredible behind the scenes look at how the final scene of "Hugo" was shot popped up online recently and gives us an idea of how beautiful these shots can be and really how difficult they can be to pull off.

Touch of Evil (PG-13) - 1958, Scene Length 3:30

Touch of Evil

Orson Welles will always be known as one of the greatest directors of all time. Welles created shots that others thought impossible, and he pulled them off with great mastery.

In Welles' 1958 film "Touch of Evil" he opened the movie with one of the most ambitious shots ever attempted. The opening scene is a single shot that lasts more than three minutes, and what's more impressive is the fact it was done without the help of a steadicam.

Steadicam's were introduced to Hollywood in 1975, nearly two decades after "Touch of Evil" was released. A Steadicam gives a camera operator the ability to move around on his own two feet and eliminate the jostling his walking would cause.

Welles executes a near flawless single shot that captures the action and emotion of the scene which sets up the entire film.


Rope (NR) - 1948, Scene Length: 6:00

Alfred Hitchcock was an innovator and an auteur and he made it a point to constantly think out of the box.

In 1948 Hitchcock constructed a film that was shot in 10 takes. At the time the maximum amount of film a camera magazine and film projector could hold was just over 10 minutes. To accommodate film changes, Hitchcock would close in on a suit jacket, or the back of a chair to black out the shot. They would then change the film and start the new take.

The entire movie is a testament to Hitchcock's talent, but the final scene is a marvel, not just for the single shot aspect, but to see James Stewart at his best. Hitchcock often managed to get some of Stewart's best work for his films.

To truly appreciate Hitchcock's brilliance with "Rope" the film must be watched in full, but the final scene is well worth the 10 minutes.

Russian Ark

Russian Ark (NR) - 2002, Scene Length: 99 minutes

In 2002 visionary Russian director, Aleksandr Sokurov, took the single shot concept to a whole new level. Sokurov shot the entire film "Russian Ark" in a single take.

Love the film or hate it, this is truly something to behold. The film is 99 minutes long and features over 2,000 actors. One can barely imagine the hours of planning and rehearsal that went into the film. Additionally, it's daunting to think that if one actor or crew member made one tiny mistake 90 minutes in, everyone had to reset and start again.

"Russian Ark" stands as the only film to take on such grandeur and ambition into one single shot.

Atonement (R) - 2007, Scene Length: 5:09 (Video is embedded at the top of story)

Director Joe Wright took years developing the novel, Atonement, for the screen. The film is a visual juggernaut, but one scene in particular stands out from the rest 123 minute movie.

Robbie Turner, played by James McAvoy, finds himself on a beach with thousands of fellow soldiers during World War II and makes his way through the chaos in search of a drink.

Turner can barely fathom what he sees on the beach, and as the audience it's difficult to fathom the detail that went into the five minute steadicam shot.

It is one thing to have everything choreographed perfectly, but the immensity of the shot that Wright and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey managed to capture is awe inspiring. To explain the vastness of the shot is useless, it's something that needs to be beheld to truly appreciate.

Are there single shot scenes I missed that you feel should be on the list? Let me know on the comment boards and Facebook. Or you can shoot me an email.

Most recent Features stories

Related topics

John Clyde


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast