13 Films That Changed the Way We Make Movies

Credit: Paramount
The films of the great DP Gordon "Prince of Darkness" Willis and director Terrance Malick are among this baker's dozen list of cinema's most influential contributions. Did your favorite movie make the cut?

The best compliment we can give these movies is that we wish we made them.

Movies like Frances Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part II and Terrance Malick's perfect Days of Heaven earned their deserved places on the New York Film Festival's list of 13 films honoring the 100th anniversary of the American Society of Cinematographers, reports IndieWire.

New York Film Festival programmers Kent Jones and Dan Sullivan are celebrating the milestone with a 13-film retrospective, as the 2019 festival sets out to highlight the works of legendary DPs as Gordon Willis, Gregg Toland, James Wong Howe, and Robby Müller. The movies serve as a history exhibit as well, honoring the craft at 24 fps. 

“We couldn’t do a comprehensive history of the ASC as a film series, and once we accepted that, it freed us to make some more interesting choices,” said Sullivan. “There’s some canonical titles, personal favorites, and weird things people might not necessarily think about in this context and might appreciate differently. But I would say roughly we were trying to capture the trajectory of the development of cinematography in the United States over the passed 100 years. And I think if you were to see every film in the series, in order, the movement from ‘Street Angel’ to Ellen Kuras’ work in ‘Block Party,’ I think the viewer would really be struck by how the medium has changed over the last 100 years.”

Yup, Dave Chapelle's Block Party made the cut. But why select this underrated concert film from 2005?

“We wanted the lineup to reflect the shift in documentary filmmaking and how important that’s been in American film history,” said Sullivan. “This film is an impressive feat. The event comprises a bulk of the film, and you can see how tough it was to film. Kuras breaks the space of the event from so many different angles and makes it look easy.”

In addition to Godfather, Part II, Party, and Heaven, other films being screened include Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). 

While these 13 films may not be everyone's favorite, there is no denying that each serve as essential building blogs to furthering cinematography and our appreciation and application of it. If you are able to see these films on the big screen in NYC, please check them out.      

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Your Comment


What about Shawshank Redemption.

October 18, 2019 at 6:10PM


I don't understand why you're still allowed to post on NFS?
Your articles have been awful. Your work has literally been drivel, I expected more from NFS.

Also, you're writing 'articles'
You've just thrown titles at us with literally no context as to why -
EXPAND on these titles.
Don't just give the little piece of drivel what you've sneezed out and delivered here - You've linked ANOTHER article, quoted it and written a sentence or two.
You've essentially bastardised another article to look like you are posting content.

Why does the NFS NEVER. EVER respond to critique or address these issues?
Back up your opinions with discussion and links and thoughts.

October 19, 2019 at 5:16AM, Edited October 19, 5:16AM


Sounds a little harsh David,

But you do make some excellent points. I'm sure it isn't easy coming up with original content every week, but that's the challenge.

October 20, 2019 at 9:33AM


It's basically the NFS MO at this point. They just post a link to another article or YouTube video and say "What are YOUR thoughts?". It's so lazy. V. Renee used to be nearly as bad, although she's at least started re-stating the exact points from the video or article in her own words, which is like 3% less lazy.

October 20, 2019 at 8:59PM, Edited October 20, 9:00PM


Don't forget / NFS / Minus /11-23-18 / TrueID

October 21, 2019 at 4:51AM

John Dureuil

I have to agree, but I feel curating content from all over the internet that could/might be interesting to filmmakers is important. I know I appreciate it.

Perhaps NFS could signify which "articles" are curated content and which are original content. Then it would become clear how much, or little, the writers are doing AND would make the curated content less harshly criticized because we would all know that it was not meant to try to be original.

I don't think anyone would fault them for that because, as i said before, I feel curating all this stuff in one place is appreciated. But I feel we can all agree that original, insightful, and well put together content will always be king.

February 5, 2020 at 1:46PM


Blade Runner, JFK and The Matrix are three of the most influential films I can think of from a standpoint of cinematography. You can see their influences spill out into other films, commercials and TV after they were released.

October 21, 2019 at 9:17AM


Yes!! A must see!

February 6, 2020 at 12:55PM

Javier Diez

"Terrance" Malik ?

February 6, 2020 at 1:41AM

Eusebio Abbondanza