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Here’s a smart taxonomy of what makes a great cinematic long take

Screenshot: Nostalgia (YouTube)

Back in 2014, the YouTube channel CineFix put together their list of the “12 Best Long Takes in Film History.” Now, four years later, they’re willing to admit they made some mistakes. It’s not entirely their fault, though. The impressive, long take has become a staple of modern film and television, and there are a lot of new directors that are deserving of recognition. More than that, the public’s fascination with these feats of cinematography has increased tenfold in the last few years, resulting in countless articles and listicles dissecting obscure shots from film history. With the benefit of hindsight, CineFix is able to amend their previous list into a new top 10 and provide a pretty solid breakdown of what makes a great cinematic long take.

While the technical difficulty of the shot is certainly an important factor when ranking a long take, CineFix makes it clear that the shot should also convey something important to the audience, either emotionally or in terms of the narrative. The long take boxing scene from Creed gives a certain intimacy to the violence on screen as the camera movies along in tandem with the boxers. Meanwhile, the largely static long take from Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flowers Of Shanghai invites the audience to simply sit and enjoy the company of the film’s characters. “The unparticular, casual way in which this scene is shot conveys an unmistakable fondness for its subjects,” CineFix says.

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In the end, the specific ranking of each of these films is largely unimportant. They are each deserving of praise in their own unique way. The important thing is to come away from this video with ten films (and over a dozen honorable mentions) that you’ll want watch as soon as possible.

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About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.