Random Question: Tracking Shots

Today’s Random Question is looking at your favourite tracking shots, expensive crane shots, impressive shots or just long takes in general. Some of my favourites include the tracking shots in Boogie Nights, I Am Cuba, Goodfellas and Werckmeister Harmonies, but you can probably think of a lot more. Let me know some of your favourites and we’ll discuss them in the comments below. If you want to leave a clip to the shot on YouTube, then feel free!


Posted on December 18, 2011, in Movies, Random Question and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. The opening scene from Touch of Evil.

  2. Run Antoine run (400 Blows).. just over a minute but it captures Antoine’s freedom magnificently. Also love the Goodfellas one and The Player’s celebrated opening 8 minutes that sets up the whole story in the one shot. Also in the club at the start of Irreversible, the camera just keeps running and you just wish it wouldn’t.

  3. I’m not sure if this counts as a full on tracking shot since if i remember Kubrick cuts a few times during it when Cruise’s character walks through the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut is one of my fav scenes in the whole movie. I would love to do something like that in my own film. Also the tracking shot in paths and Glory is notable imo.

    The tracking shot in Hanna and Atonement are also pretty memorable.

  4. Christian Hallbeck

    Fassbinder is not a favourite for me; but this shot is elegant in it’s own way. (You can actually see the actor stepping over the dolly track at the end of the shot.)

  5. Christian Hallbeck

    It’s a pity that the picture becomes jumpy when submitted to the comment field. If you want to experience the full effect of the shot, please watch it on Youtube’s own site.

  6. The ultimate tracking shot, of course, is the entirety of Russian Ark.

    That scene from I Am Cuba literally made my jaw drop when I first saw it. I’m hugely excited that Criterion are releasing Kalatozov & Urusevsky’s earlier film Letter Not Sent next year.

    Also, the traffic jam from Godard’s Weekend, and the hallway fight scene in Oldboy.

    • Yeah, RUSSIAN ARK is *the* king of tracking shots.

      I AM CUBA is fantastic, and that shot is a big reason for its brilliance.

      There’s another shot in WEEKEND where the camera makes two full 360 degree turns that I thought was far more impressive and thought-provoking than the traffic jam.

  7. Atonement is the first one that comes to mind, due to its sheer length. Also the car attack in Children of Men was filmed in one single shot and that scene with the hammer in Oldboy where the protagonist beats up a bunch of thugs in a corridor all by himself.

  8. That Boogie Nights one is ace! I can’t really think of any off the top of my head but I’ll keep thinking. When there are these massive, sweeping shots I do wonder if they were shot in one take or not. The sets must be pretty huge if they are!

    • There ain’t nothing like a good long take or tracking shot, especially if it’s well pulled off and helps keep the story going good. There’s one in pretty much every Paul Thomas Anderson movie.

  9. What? No Kubrick following Jack’s son around on his big wheel in The Shining? It’s criminal to overlook that one. Ahaaa… see what I did there?

    Wes Anderson like P.T. Anderson always has lovely tracking shots.

    I would also like to give an honorable shout out to Hitchcock’s Rope which would have been entirely shot in one take had he had the technology.

  10. My favourite one is the second long shot in Children of Men. It always takes my breath away when everybody let{s them pass cause of the baby, but as it has already been mentioned I will say that I liked the opening for Lord of War

  11. Don’t have footage of these, but four favorite shots:

    1) Not a tracking shot–actually the stationary shot near the end of the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, with several seconds of an image of an empty sky, until a car, seemingly weightless, flies through the frame in super slo-mo, tires still spinning, as Ed Crane drives off the road, killing Bertie as she tries to give him a blow job.

    2) The beautifully edited, highly stylized sequence in Hitchcock’s The Birds when Tippi Hedren’s character, looking out the restaurant window, follows the path of the burning gasoline trail that ultimately leads to a huge explosion.

    3) The final hail of gunfire in Bonnie and Clyde, which remains a classic of the editor’s art–even more than 40 years on, the rapidly accelerating cuts, followed by agonized slow motion, still pack a big visceral punch.

    4) The wonderfully chilling title sequence (accompanied by a knockout score by the little-known and underappreciated composer Gail Kubik) of the 1955 film The Desperate Hours (one of Bogie’s last, remade in 1990 by Michael Cimino, with Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins), in which the camera, 10 or 20 feet off the ground, glides through the streets of a suburban neighborhood like a sinister, menacing giant.

    • I’m familiar with the first three of those but haven’t seen Desperate Hours. That scene in The Man Who Wasn’t There is priceless (“Heavens to betsy, Bertie!”).

  12. The Player opens with a couple of studio execs talking about the long tracking shot to open Touch of Evil, all the while this movie is having a several minutes long tracking shot itself. Serenity also has a long tracking shot that introduces all the characters, as well as the layout of the ship. And Timecode features four realtime, continuous tracking shots seen in the four quadrants of the screen for the whole length of the movie, with them sometimes overlapping each other.

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