[Editor's Note: This video essay is part of our "Everything You Need to Know" series created exclusively for No Film School by Senior Post. To revisit the first entry in the series, click here.]

Call us biased, but everyone loves a creatively-infused, mind-bending example of a good split screen, and chances are that you clicked on this article to see if your favorite made the list. The shot choice has long been a favorite amongst film fans and we're curious to see how it came to be (and which directors have showcased it the best). 

A strong use of the technique can produce a number of playful, ironic juxtapositions, running the gamut from producing different angles of the same event (Carrie), alternate outcomes (The Queen of Spades and 500 Days of Summer), parallel events running simultaneously (Passion) and even the miracle of twins (Adaptation, The Parent Trap, and The Social Network). 

How long has the presence of split screen been in effect? Does it work as both a narrative and nonfiction device?

These aforementioned examples only scratch the surface. The invention of the split focus diopter, combining two images to make a single shot in which both the foreground and background are equally emphasized, possesses an otherworldly effect that gives the brain a real workout, and the black borders sometimes used to emphasize the fact that we're looking at a split screen can be both performance-serving (two characters talking on the phone) and a means to finding a loophole in the face of censorship (Stanley Donen's Indiscreet).

If you're curious as to how long the presence of split screen has been in use (and how it can work as both an innovative narrative and nonfiction device), watch our video below to discover its origins and how each new configuration has produced inspiring results.

Inspired by the films' use of split screen and want to seek each one out yourself? Below is the full list!

Movies referenced

  • 500 Days of Summer (2009) dir. Marc Webb
  • Adaptation. (2002) dir. Spike Jonze
  • A Place to Stand (1967) dir. Christopher Chapman
  • Annie Hall (1977) dir. Woody Allen
  • Boogie Nights (1997) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Bye Bye Birdie (1963) dir. George Sidney
  • Cape Fear (1991) dir. Martin Scorsese
  • Carrie (1976) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Cassius (2017) dir. Alexandre Courtès
  • Chelsea Girls (1966) dir. Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey
  • Conversations with Other Women (2005) dir. Hans Canosa
  • Dressed to Kill (1980) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Grand Prix (1966) dir. John Frankenheimer
  • GUV’NOR (2012) dir. Ninian Doff
  • Hulk (2003) dir. Ang Lee
  • Indiscreet (1958) dir. Stanley Donen
  • Jaws (1975) dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Kill Bill (2003) dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Life of an American Fireman (1903) dir. Edwin S. Porter & George S. Fleming
  • Mean Girls (2004) dir. Mark Waters
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) dir. Clint Eastwood
  • Napoleon (1927) dir. Abel Gance
  • Ocean’s 13 (2007) dir. Steven Soderbergh
  • OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009) dir. Michael Hazanavicius
  • Passion (2012) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Phantom of Paradise (1974) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Pillow Talk (1959) dir. Michael Gordon
  • Requiem For A Dream (2000) dir. Darren Aronofsky
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Run Lola Run (1998) dir. Tom Tykwer
  • Santa Claus (1898) dir. George Albert Smith
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) dir. Edgar Wright
  • Sisters (1973) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Snake Eyes (1998) dir. Brian DePalma
  • Snatch (2000) dir. Guy Ritchie
  • Sideways (2004) dir. Alexander Payne
  • Spun (2002) dir. Jonas Akerlund
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) dir. Robert Wise
  • Stranger Than Fiction (2006) dir. Marc Forster
  • Suspense (1913) dir. Lois Weber
  • The Boston Strangler (1968) dir. Richard Fleischer
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) dir. David Fincher
  • The Four Troublesome Heads (1898) dir. George Melies
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) dir. David Fincher
  • The Green Hornet (2011) dir. Michel Gondry
  • The Social Network (2010) dir. David Fincher
  • The Parent Trap (1961) dir. David Swift
  • The Parent Trap (1998) dir. Nancy Meyers
  • The Queen of Spades (1916) dir. Yakov Protazanov
  • The Rules of Attraction (2002) dir. Roger Avary
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) dir. John McTiernan

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