Cinematography is a crucial element of filmmaking. It encompasses all the technical aspects of camera work, lighting, color, framing, and movement that create the visual language of a film. When you see all of these aspects at their full potential, you can’t help but remember those images forever.

The Academy Award for Best Cinematography celebrates the best shots from that year’s films. Although the category was not initially tied to a specific film, and instead focuses on the cinematographers themselves.

The Oscar for Best Cinematography is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize exceptional achievements in the art and craft of cinematography. The award is given to the director of photography, who is responsible for the visual style and look of the film, including lighting, camera angles, and visual effects. The award recognizes the technical and artistic excellence of the cinematographer's work in creating the visual language of the film and how it enhances storytelling.

Before we get into the complete list of Best Cinematography winners, let’s get into the history of the award and its most significant moments in our industry.

List of Oscar Winning Best Cinematography'Dune: Part One'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

A Brief History of the Academy Award’s Best Cinematography Category

The award recognized the role of the cinematographer in shaping the visual language of films and bringing stories to life through lighting, camera angles, and visual effects. The award has been presented since the 1st Academy Awards in 1929, and winners are chosen by members of the Academy who work in the field of cinematography. Winning the award is considered one of the highest honors for a cinematographer, and it often leads to increased recognition and opportunities in the film industry.

The Oscar for Best Cinematography was not initially tied to a specific film in its first year, but to all the work by nominated cinematographers during the qualifying period. This caused problems when two cinematographers were nominated for their work on one film and other films they had worked on were also listed.

List of Oscar Winning Best Cinematography'Tabu: A Story of the South Seas'Credit: Paramount Pictures

Since 1931, the system changed to nominate each individual for a single film. From 1929 to 1967, there were separate awards for color and black-and-white cinematography.

Floyd Crosby won the award for Tabu in 1931, the last silent film to win in this category. Hal Mohr won the only write-in Academy Award in 1935 for Cleopatra. Rachel Morrison became the first woman to receive a nomination in 2018. In 2019, Alfonso Cuarón became the first winner of this category to have also served as the director of the film.

The cinematographer who has won the most Oscars is Joseph Ruttenberg, who won four times for his work on the films The Great Waltz (1938), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), and Gigi (1958). Other cinematographers who have won multiple Oscars for Best Cinematography include Leon Shamroy, Winton C. Hoch, and Conrad L. Hall, who each won three times, and Emmanuel Lubezki, who won three times in a row for his work on Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014), and The Revenant (2015).

So, which films and DPs have won the award for Best Cinematography at the Oscars?

Check out the complete list below!

List of Oscar Winning Best Cinematography'Black Narcissus'Credit: General Film Distributors

All of the Academy Award Winners for Best Cinematography

Here is a comprehensive list of all the Oscar winners for Best Cinematography since the category was first introduced in 1928:

2023: - Hoyte Van Hoytema - Oppenheimer

2022: James Friend - All Quiet on the Western Front

2021: Greig Fraser – Dune

2020/21: Erik Messerschmidt – Mank

2019: Roger Deakins – 1917

2018: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

2017: Roger Deakins Blade Runner 2049

2016: Linus Sandgren – La La Land

2015: Emmanuel Lubezki The Revenant

2014: Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

2013: Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity

2012: Claudio Miranda – Life of Pi

2011: Robert Richardson – Hugo

2010: Wally Pfister – Inception

2009: Mauro Fiore - Avatar

2008: Anthony Dod Mantle – Slumdog Millionaire

2007: Robert Elswit – There Will Be Blood

2006: Guillermo Navarro –Pan's Labyrinth

2005: Dion Beebe – Memoirs of a Geisha

2004: Robert Richardson – The Aviator

2003: Russell Boyd – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

2002: Conrad L. Hall – Road to Perdition

2001: Andrew Lesnie – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2000:Peter Pau – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

1999: Conrad L. Hall – American Beauty

1998: Janusz Kaminski – Saving Private Ryan

1997: Russell Carpenter – Titanic

1996: John Seale – The English Patient

1995: John Toll – Braveheart

1994: John Toll – Legends of the Fall

1993: Janusz Kamiński – Schindler’s List

1992: Philippe Rousselot – A River Runs Through It

1991: Robert Richardson – JFK

1990: Dean Semler – Dances with Wolves

1989: Freddie Francis – Glory

1988: Peter Biziou – Mississippi Burning

1987: Vittorio Storaro – The Last Emperor

1986: Chirs Menges – The Mission

1985: David Watkin – Out of Africa

1984: Chris Menges – The Killing Fields

1983: Sven Nykvist – Fanny and Alexander

1982: Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor – Gandhi

1981: Vittorio Storaro – Reds

1980: Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet – Tess

1979: Vittorio Storaro –Apocalypse Now

1978: Nestor Almendros – Days of Heaven

1977: Vilmos Zsigmond – Close Encounters of the Third Kind

1976: Haskell Wexler – Bound for Glory

1975: John Alcott – Barry Lyndon

1974: Fred J. Koenekamp and Joseph F. Biroc – The Towering Inferno

1973: Sven Nykvist – Cries and Whispers

1972: Geoffrey Unsworth – Cabaret

1971: Oswald Morris – Fiddler on the Roof

1970: Freddie Young -–Ryan's Daughter

1969: Conrad L. Hall – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

1968: Pasqualino De Santis – Romeo and Juliet

1967: Burnett Guffey – Bonnie and Clyde

1966: Haskell Wexler – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Black-and-White) Ted Moore – A Man for All Seasons (Color)

1965: Ernest Laszlo – Ship of Fools (Black-and-White) Freddie Young – Doctor Zhivago (Color)

1964: Walter Lassally – Zorba the Greek (Black-and-White) Harry Stradling – My Fair Lady (Color)

1963: James Wong Howe – Hud (Black-and-White) Leon Shamroy – Cleopatra (Color)

1962: Jean Bourgoin and Wlater Wottitz – The Longest Day (Black-and-White) Freddie Young –Lawrence of Arabia (Color)

1961: Eugen Schüfftan – The Hustler (Black-and-White) Daniel L. Fapp – West Side Story (Color)

1960: Freddie Francis – Sons and Lovers (Black-and-White) Russell Metty – Spartacus (Color)

1959: William C. Mellor – The Diary of Anne Frank (Black-and-White) Robert Surtees – Ben-Hur (Color)

1958: Sam Leavitt – The Defiant Ones (Black-and-White) Joseph Ruttenberg – Gigi (Color)

1957: Jack Hildyard – The Bridge on the River Kwai

1956: Joseph Ruttenberg – Somebody Up There Likes Me (Black-and-White) Lionel Lindon – Around the World in 80 Days (Color)

1955: James Wong Howe – The Rose Tattoo (Black-and-White) Robert Burks – To Catch a Thief (Color)

1954: Boris Kaufman (Black-and-White) Milton Krasner – Three Coins in the Fountain (Color)

1953: Burnett Guffey – From Here to Eternity (Black-and-White) Loyal Giriggs – Shane (Color)

1952: Robert Surtees – The Bad and the Beautiful (Black-and-White) Winton C. Honch and Archie Stout – The Quiet Man (Color)

1951: William H. Daniels – A Place in the Sun (Black-and-White) Alfred Gilks and John Alton – An American in Paris (Color)

1950: Robert Krasker – The Third Man (Black-and-White) Robert Surtess – King Solomon’s Mines (Color)

1949: Paul C. Vogel – Battleground (Black-and-White) Winton C. Hoch – She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Color)

1948: William H. Daniels – The Naked City (Black-and-White) Joseph Valentine, William V. Skall and Winton C. Hoch – Joan of Arc (Color)

1947: Guy Green – Great Expectations (Black-and-White) Jack Cardiff – Black Narcissus (Color)

1946: Arthur C. Miller – Anna and the King of Siam (Black-and-White) Charles Rosher, Leonard Smith and Arthur Arling – The Yearling (Color)

1945: Harry Stradling – The Picture of Dorian Gray (Black-and-White) Leon Shamory – Leave Her to Heaven (Color)

1944: Joseph LaShelle – Laura (Black-and-White) Leon Shamroy – Wilson (Color)

1943: Arthur C. Miller – The Song of Bernadete (Black-and-White) Hal Mohr and W. Howard Greene – Phantom of the Opera (Color)

1942: Joseph Ruttenberg – Mrs. Miniver (Black-and-White) Leon Shamroy – The Black Swan (Color)

1941: Arthur C. Miller – How Green Was My Valley (Black-and-White) Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan – Blood and Sand (Color)

1940: George Barnes – Rebecca (Black-and-White) Georges Périnal – The Thief of Bagdad (Color)

1939: Gregg Toland – Wuthering Heights (Black-and-White) Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan – Gone with the Wind (Color)

1938: Joseph Ruttenberg – The Great Waltz (Black-and-White) Oliver T. Marsh and Allen Davey – Sweethearts (Color – Special Achievement)

1937: Karl Freund – The Good Earth (Black-and-White) W. Howard Greene – A Star Is Born (Color – Special Achievement)

1936: Tony Gaudio – Anthony Adverse (Back-and-White) W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson – The Garden of Allah (Color – Special Achievement)

1935: Hal Mohr – A Midsummer Night's Dream

1934: Victor Milner – Cleopatra

1932/22: Charles Lang – A Farewell to Arms

1931/32: Lee Garmes – Shanghai Express

1930/31: Floyd Crosby – Tabu: A Story of the South Seas

1929/30: Joseph T. Rucker and Willard Van der Veer – With Byrd at the South Pole

1928/29: Clyde De Vinna – White Shadows In The South Seas

1927/28: Charle Rosher & Karl Struss – Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans