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The Top 25 Best Cinematography Winners So Far (Updated for 2023)

After a mini film festival-related break, we’re back at it with this series! 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 is, of course, James Friend for All Quiet on the Western Front. The previous winner, Dune, features some very strong work from the until-now perpetually underrated Greig Fraser, but with such a phenomenal category, will he/it even remain in the top 25? What about Friend? 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. Mauro Fiore – Avatar
24. Sven Nykvist – Fanny and Alexander
23. Conrad Hall – Road to Perdition
22. Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
21. Burnett Guffey – Bonnie and Clyde
20. Vittorio Storaro – Apocalypse Now
19. Greig Fraser – Dune
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 – 1917
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 – Blade Runner 2049
1. Janusz Kamiński – Schindler’s List

Honorable Mention: Daniel L. Fapp (West Side Story), Mauro Fiore (Avatar), Loyal Griggs (Shane), Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai), Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire), Erik Messerschmidt (Mank), and Freddie Young (Doctor Zhivago)


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


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Written by Joey Magidson

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