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Oscars: The Top 25 (Best Cinematography)

Oscars envelope 600x340

HOLLYWOOD NEWS NETWORK: Another new weekly series I’m going to be doing surrounds the top 25 Oscar winners in just about all of the categories. Aside from the shorts and something like Best Sound Mixing, I’ll be hitting them all, including of course the big eight categories. For starters though, I figured I’d go with one of the most highly regarded of the technical categories…Best Cinematography. Depending on the category, I may discuss the individual winners I’m citing specifically or just sort of give a broad overview of the winners, but for now, I’ll keep it simple. Honestly though, you all mostly want to see the list anyway, so I have no problem obliging you there. Just be patient over the next few paragraphs…

There are few categories more overtly artistic than this one, though the category has undergone some major changes over the decades. Up until 1967, the category was mostly split between black and white and color (though before 1936 there was only one award, since almost every movie was in black and white), so there were two Oscars given out before then, which gives you more winners than usual to sift through. Also of late, the trend has moved to rewarding 3D productions. In fact, only 3D works have won over the last few years, though time will tell if that’s what continues in the years going forward.

Among the black and white winners, the best in my book include Boris Kaufman for On the Waterfront and Robert Krasker for The Third Man, to name just a few. As for the 3D winners, the best so far is probably our most recent winner Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity, though that’s going to be an evolving group in the years to come, so we’ll see how that holds up in a decade or so. For now though, Lubezki is on top in that regard.

My personal favorite bit of Oscar winning cinematography to date has got to be Janusz Kamiński’s work on Schindler’s List, though I’d also put Kamiński’s work in Saving Private Ryan up pretty high to, so I think we can figure out who my favorite winner is here (though Conrad Hall gives him a run for his money with two top notch winners cited by yours truly on the list to come as well) . Honestly, a lot of my favorites are bits of cinematography that either were nominated and didn’t win or weren’t even nominated in the first place. That could be a whole separate list for another time, but among the winners, what Kamiński did with Schindler’s List is easily the best I’ve seen be rewarded by the Academy.

Enough talk though, let’s get to the good stuff that you’ve all been patiently waiting for. Here now is my personal list of the 25 top winners of the Best Cinematography Oscar to date:

25. Jack Hildyard – The Bridge on the River Kwai
24. Mauro Fiore – Avatar
23. Vittorio Storaro – Apocalypse Now
22. Anthony Dod Mantle – Slumdog Millionaire
21. Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
20. Loyal Griggs – Shane
19. Conrad Hall – Road to Perdition
18. Sven Nykvist – Fanny and Alexander
17. Daniel L. Fapp – West Side Story
16. Freddie Young – Doctor Zhivago
15. Russell Metty – Spartacus
14. Burnett Guffey – Bonnie and Clyde
13. Boris Kaufman – On the Waterfront
12. Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan – Gone with the Wind
11. Robert Krasker – The Third Man
10. Conrad Hall – American Beauty
9. Vilmos Zsigmond – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
8. Janusz Kamiński – Saving Private Ryan
7. Néstor Almendros – Days of Heaven
6. Geoffrey Unsworth – Cabaret
5. Robert Surtees – Ben-Hur
4. Guillermo Navarro – Pan’s Labyrinth
3. Freddie Young – Lawrence of Arabia
2. John Alcott – Barry Lyndon
1. Janusz Kamiński – Schindler’s List

Until next time ladies and gents, when I’ll likely be discussing one of the Screenplay categories…so stay tuned there!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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