Best Continuous Shots in Movie History
There is nothing more stimulating in a film than when you get a single continuous shot spread out over a long period of time, capturing your audience and pulling them in for the ride. A single shot done this well can easily make the audience feel like they are there, inside the movie.
For directors and their continuous shots, it is all about the length. There have been some movies completed in one take and others that appear to be done as one single take. The idea behind this is to not break up the action one bit. We have found 9 films that feature the best continuous shots in movie history.
9. The Protector (2005)
The Protector is a 2005 martial arts film starring Tony Jaa as Kham, a young fighter who travels to Australia to take back his stolen elephant. The film is highlighted by one bone-crunching fight scene referred to as the “Restaurant Fight.” This single-shot scene follows Kham through multiple levels of the restaurant building, showcasing his amazing martial arts skills.
8. Gravity (2013)
Sometimes, “too much” is simply too much. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who find themselves in a perilous situation when out on a spacewalk, the Space Shuttle they were in is destroyed, sending them spinning off into space.
The 17-minute-long scene was so difficult that original star Robert Downey Jr. had to tap out, giving way to Clooney. The final result of this scene was so realistic that audiences had to leave their seats because they were getting sick.
7. Touch of Evil (1958)
Touch of Evil is a classic Orson Welles film that is riveting right from the start. Known for his technical innovation in film, Welles chose to open his movie with a three-minute unbroken take that tells you exactly where the film is going. The uninterrupted take is famous as it shows a bomb being planted in a car, then follows the car as it travels through the streets. Welles knows exactly how to build the tension with this continuous shot.
6. Atonement (2007)
It took the team of Atonement two days of rehearsals before they decided to shoot the continuous shot of the British soldiers facing the Dunkirk incident during World War II. This beach scene (a five-minute tracking shot) follows the main character navigating through the chaos and heartbreaking devastation. It turned out to be one of the greatest war scenes ever created.
5. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuarón began to get his reputation for continuous shots with Children of Men. The film stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine in a dystopian future where infertility has left society on the edge of collapse. In one car ambush scene, Cuarón delivers a seamless take following Owen during an intense attack that builds towards a grisly conclusion.
4. The Revenant (2015)
Leonardo Di Caprio is involved in one of the most brutal and realistic bear attack scenes in The Revenant. This sequence is in one continuous shot putting the audience smack dab in the middle of it. Not for the faint of heart, the realism portrayed in the scene is intense and seemingly goes on forever.
3. 1917 (2019)
This brilliant film follows two British soldiers through the trenches and brutal fighting in World War I. Director Sam Mendes crafted this movie to look like one continuous shot as he follows the two soldiers who are on a mission to deliver a message. The film was a stressful shoot that featured numerous complicated sequences that required picture-perfect timing to allow for that continuous shot effect.
2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s opening 15-minute shot following Michael Keaton’s Riggan perfectly exposed the theater in which he was working, the characters within the production, as well as his deteriorating mental status. It is a tension builder, for sure, all designed to look like one continuous shot. Iñárritu’s daring piece won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
1. Russian Ark (2002)
Russian Ark holds the world’s record for the longest continuous shot in movie history. Clocked in at 96 minutes, with the first three attempts failing because of technical difficulties. It was the fourth attempt at the unbroken shot that hit and the one that was used for the finished film. The movie is one of the most famous Russian films of all time.
The movie follows a narrator, who has died from a terrible accident and is now a ghost wandering through the halls of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. While wandering, he comes across numerous real and fictional people who make up the city’s 300-year history.