After receiving requests from my readers, following the last published article on books for photographers, here is another similar list on the top movies that every photographer should see. There are a good number of documentaries but this is a list of films with a story-line, which you can enjoy with your non-photographer friends too.
Roman Holiday (1953, English)
No list of photography films can ideally begin without mentioning this one. A princess longing for living the life of common folks, ends up being shown around the place by a photographer struggling to make his mark. This one is an iconic film in Black and White. Romance with a touch of comedy makes this movie worth watching again and again.
Rear Window (1954, English)
This Alfred Hitchcock movie shows Jeff, a professional photographer, who is confined to his room due to an injury. He uses his camera with a telephoto lens to watch the occupants in the building visible from his window. An intriguing story thus unfolds.
Blow-Up (1966, English)
This obviously is the first movie that comes to anyone’s mind when talking about photography. The film film tells the story of Thomas, a fashion photographer, who discovers he accidentally captured a murder on a photograph, while he’s developing and printing it in the darkroom. The film shows various photo-shoots, beautiful cameras that he uses and the overall photographic workflow in the film era. From medium formats to rangefinders, different cameras keep showing up here and there to keep the photographer in you glued to the seat. The end is a bit of a disappointment and left to a viewer’s imagination, but that happens to be just my opinion. Overall, it is a film that has a cult following.
Zig-Zag of Success (1968, Russian)
This is Soviet era film which revolves round the misadventures of a photographer. Vladimir wants to become a professional photographer and he gets the opportunity to do so after he wins a government lottery from borrowed money. Vladimir wants to receive the money for himself to buy his camera and set up a studio, but his colleagues object to him, because the money that he spent on the bond were public. According to them the money should be divided equally among all workers. How it gets resolved is to be watched. The Soviet camera that keeps appearing from time to time, keeps the photographer in me happy. The film can be found with English subtitles.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983, Hindi)
Two budding photographers, who have recently inaugurated their new photo-studio, are employed by a newspaper editor to expose the scandalous activities of the rich. Similar to the lines of ‘Blow-Up’ film, they accidentally photograph a murder. The film is a comedy all through-out, especially for people who are aware of Indian culture and practices. This can be watched again and again, and with small kids as well.
Under Fire (1983, English)
Three journalists in a romantic triangle are involved in political intrigue during the last days of the corrupt Somozoa regime in Nicaragua before it falls to a popular revolution in 1979. (Description From Wikipedia). I have not yet watched it but including it here based on recommendation of someone who is a movie buff and a close friend.
Proof (1991, English)
How do blind see the world? Now, the bigger question, can there be a photographer who is blind? Are photographs proofs of the reality? Should one trust the words said by a good companion or the comments made on the photographs? The film is an interesting story and stirs some really deep emotions. This is about a blind photographer. Make sure to watch the correct movie, which was released in 1991. There have been multiple films with the same name.
Bridges of Madison County (1995, English)
This is a movie based on the book by the same name. Robert Kincaid, a traveling professional photographer who had come to Madison County, Iowa, to shoot a photographic essay on the covered bridges in the area. He falls in love with Francesca, a lady whose husband and children were at the state fair in Illinois. This movie makes it to my list since I too am very keen on photographing these covered bridges someday.
Pecker (1998, English)
A great movie with some amount of weirdness. This is the story of a small town sandwich shop employee who gets turned over night fine art photography sensation, when he is discovered by a big city art dealer. The film also provides a peek into the world of fine art photography scene as it was in those days, with obviously some false impressions to entertain the viewer. This is again a movie that can be enjoyed both by photographers and non-photographers.
Gentlemen’s Relish (2001, English)
A satirical, comedy film with some hits of romance, set in the bygone era. The influence of pornography and portraiture on popularizing photography as a mass medium is visible in the movie. Interesting movie which most people don’t know about.
Amélie (2001, French)
This is a cute movie with a very interesting perspective. Though not directly related to photography, it does involve photo-booths. The movie itself has very nice cinematography which can be quite inspiring just to look at. Simple street scenes are meticulously planned and photographed to create this film.
One Hour Photo (2002, English)
A story about a photo-store technician who is obsessed with a family and secretly makes extra prints for himself everytime this family brings a film for developing & printing. Interesting watch!
City of God (2002, English)
This is a story of two boys who grew up in the tough neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. One of them grows up to be a photographer. The photography in itself is not the central idea but it does keep factoring in from time to time. Good watch.
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006, English)
This movie is basically about a housewife desperate for independence suffocating under her husband, a small time photographer. Diane, played by Nicole Kidman gives a great performance. Though the title itself says the name of Diane Arbus, the film is very far from her real life but still an interesting one time watch.
Everlasting Moments (2008, Swedish)
It is a story about the life of Maria Lawson, an immigrant from Finland. She wins a camera in a lottery. Maria works with her camera to support her children while tolerating frequent abuse from Sigfrid, her not too ideal husband. She documents her life with the camera.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, English)
What happens behind the glossy prints? What goes on in the offices of the famous magazine? This film tries to give a sneak-peak into the world of these magazines with some cliche corporate culture scenes. This particular movie is one of my favorites because of the exotic locations and the race to find the missing negative. Very beautiful movie but with some exaggerated and glamorous portrayal of professional photography.
I have left out the documentaries from this list. There are many nice documentaries that have been made on some famous photographers and some on not so famous. Those may be interesting for us photographers but may not be so for our family and friends. So, watch those documentaries when you are alone.
Here is the list of books that prompted my readers to point out the need for this list too – 10 Books on Photography – Must Reads