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The Top 25 Best Cinematography Winners So Far

We’re back at it! Continuing a tradition I’ve been keen on for years, I’m ranking the new crop of Academy Award winners. For nearly all of the Oscar categories, you’ll see me list the top 25 recipients of that prize. Sometimes, our newest winner will appear. Other times, they’ll be relegated to the Honorable Mention category. Who knows, maybe one or two won’t even make the cut? It’s a list series that I’ll do each and every single year, in the weeks after the ceremony concludes. So, while this is a fun way to think about the Oscars in the aftermath of the latest telecast, it’s also a beginning for another column here on the site. Of course, definitely show us your own lists as well, in the comments section below. We’re definitely keen to know what you think!

This week, I’m doing Best Cinematography. The newest winner, Mank, features some very strong work from Erik Messerschmidt, but with such a phenomenal category, does he/it even make the cut for the top 25? Everyone has a different type of cinematography, or cinematographer, that they love, so your mileage may vary here. For me, DP’s like Roger Deakins and Janusz Kaminski are at the top of the class, so their films are going to be well represented. Movie-wise, Schindler’s List takes top honors, but I think my ranking is, overall, pretty diverse, with some utter classics of cinema sharing space with very new flicks. Take a gander below and see…

Here are what I consider to be the 25 best winners of the Best Cinematography Oscar, to date:

Schindler’s List – Cinematography by Janusz Kamiński

25. Erik Messerschmidt – Mank
24. Daniel L. Fapp – West Side Story
23. Conrad Hall – Road to Perdition
22. Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
21. Sven Nykvist – Fanny and Alexander
20. Vittorio Storaro – Apocalypse Now
19. Burnett Guffey – Bonnie and Clyde
18. Russell Metty – Spartacus
17. Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
16. Boris Kaufman – On the Waterfront
15. Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan – Gone with the Wind
14. Robert Krasker – The Third Man
13. Linus Sandgren – La La Land
12. Conrad Hall – American Beauty
11. Geoffrey Unsworth – Cabaret
10. Vilmos Zsigmond – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
9. Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049
8. Néstor Almendros – Days of Heaven
7. Robert Surtees – Ben-Hur
6. Guillermo Navarro – Pan’s Labyrinth
5. Janusz Kamiński – Saving Private Ryan
4. Freddie Young – Lawrence of Arabia
3. John Alcott – Barry Lyndon
2. Roger Deakins – 1917
1. Janusz Kamiński – Schindler’s List

Honorable Mention: Mauro Fiore (Avatar), Loyal Griggs (Shane), Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai), Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire) and Freddie Young (Doctor Zhivago)

“Mank” (2020) Cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt

Stay tuned for another category later on this week or early next week!


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  1. Another great job with this. My for whatever it’s worth list is below.

    1. Hustler, The
    2. Bonnie and Clyde
    3. Barry Lyndon
    4. Apocalypse Now
    5. Lawrence of Arabia
    6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    7. The Third Man
    8. Birdman
    9. Schindler’s List
    10. American Beauty
    11. JFK
    12. Days of Heaven
    13. Road to Perdition
    14. On the Waterfront
    15. Saving Private Ryan
    16. From Here to Eternity
    17. Mank
    18. Hud
    19. There Will Be Blood
    20. Doctor Zhivago
    21. Revenant, The
    22. Mississippi Burning
    23. Inception
    24. La La Land
    25. A River Runs Through It
    H/M’s – An American In Paris, Bound for Glory, Bridge on the River Kwai, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Defiant Ones, The, Glory, Gravity, Master and Commander, West Side Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

  2. 25. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
    24. The Picture of Dorian Gray
    23. American Beauty
    22. Shane
    21. Gandhi
    20. La La Land
    19. There Will Be Blood
    18. Shanghai Express
    17. Dances with Wolves
    16. The Fellowship of the Ring
    15. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    14. Gravity
    13. Black Narcissus
    12. Lawrence of Arabia
    11. The Hustler
    10. Rebecca
    9. Schindler’s List
    8. How Green Was My Valley
    7. Roma
    6. Life of Pi
    5. Inception
    4. The Diary of Anne Frank
    3. Road to Perdition
    2. The Third Man
    1. Barry Lyndon

    Well that was exceedingly not easy. Extremely pleased to see Barry Lyndon so high on the list, though. Good list.

  3. I am surprised that no one has mentioned The English Patient, John Seale’s work was fantastic in my opinion.

  4. It was close to being an honorable mention for me. Was probably the next one or two. But had Fargo won as I believed Deakins should have it would have been top 10 and maybe top 5.

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