Feb 09 2011

Five Awesome Long Take Scenes in Movies

Published by at 9:00 am under Lists,Movies

The long take, or long shot, is when a long sequence of film is made without stopping the camera.  The effect can be used to evoke a huge array of emotions and actions.   This too has actually been used in Hollywood for quite a while but it was so revolutionary at the beginning that it took some getting used to before it really took off in the mainstream.

Here are five great uses of the long shot….

Strange Days Intro

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU14evKo-v4

This is a most uncomfortable scene but a great way to introduce a film.  The movie, in case you haven’t seen it is a Kathryn Bigelow special and takes an interesting “dystopian” view of the future (well back then it was the future).   It explores the black market of “fantasies” and shows a strong divide between the poor and rich.  P.S. this scene was shot with a handheld camera which is why it’s kind of nauseating.

Boogie Nights Opening Scene

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SDyb4PiJ64

Starting from the title of the movie, we move through the street and into the club Boogie Nights.  It’s the first 2:57 of this clip.  There is actually one other scene where it’s an extremely long take.  Remember the “Jessie’s Girl” scene?  Yup.  Paul Thomas Anderson is the man.  Personally I still think this is his best film.

Last Days

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFWnZW3esb8

In case you are unaware of this movie, the entire film is done using long takes.  And since it’s about Kurt Cobain it’s almost appropriate in a way isn’t it?  The long take in this movie is used to display feelings of despair and loneliness and boy does it work.

Hard Boiled Hospital Scene

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSIoIOtm2Wg

This famous action sequence in a burning hospital, is shot with a single handheld camera  in which Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung alternately fight off enemies in frantically choreographed action.  The scene actually lasted over 2 minutes.   It’s pretty cool how the scene takes place in multiple rooms and has tons of activity.

Goodfellas Club Scene

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyG2VKnUK4w

Remember how they spoofed it in the movie Swingers?  This is one of the most famous long takes in movie history.  What makes this scene pretty awesome is that it takes an audience point of view.  Ah screw it, if you haven’t seen this movie you’re an idiot.





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42 responses so far

  • http://www.archollective.com illeaturfamily

    My favorite on this list is def Goodfellas. That’s a baller scene. My favorite that’s not included here (my all-time favorite and it’s probably pretty cliche) is end war scene in Children of Men. It makes me feel like I’m playing an escort mission in a video game, only it’s real.

  • Ryan

    Children of Men.

    • Nattyb

      Good Call

  • jimsmuse

    This is a great list, but if you want a truly classic ‘long take’ shot, watch the opening scene of Orson Welles’ ‘Touch of Evil’. If you want an even longer ‘long take’, try ‘Russian Ark’ which is a little artsy, but one continuous steadicam shot comprises the entire movie. Awesome!

  • jibson

    Goodfellas is appallingly overrated but that’s a different topic.
    This single take fight scene from the protector is awesome, Tony Jaa breaks dozens of stuntmen in one 4 minute take.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K06wDn3XsZE

  • Etienne

    Love every movies on this list, except of Hard boiled, which I haven’t watched. But one thing always bothered me with this (amazing) Goodfellas scene. Isn’t it a little dumb to go through the kitchen when he could have gone straight ahead to enter the club ? I may be wrong, but I think he turns left to enter the kitchen, then go back to the same corridor.

  • Alex

    I’m surprised you didn’t put the fight scene from Tom Yum Goong AKA The Protector, where Tony Jaa works his way up a building. It was almost 4 minutes without a cut!

  • Guy Incognito

    The Kill Bill Vol. 1 restaurant scene.

  • Dinki

    I agree with illeaturfamily. Children of Men has three of the best long takes in ever. But also, the fight scene in Ong Bak. That’s pretty epic. And you have to wonder how long it took for them to make that Boogie Nights intro. All of the lighting, all of the actors. The smooth transitions between the crane and the possibly steadicam, to the rails. I mean, that’s just insane. I would love to know, how they did that. Probably gonna have to look at the dvd bonus.

  • Nutcookie

    Four rooms had one scene that was 6.30 min long http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXuc_Tp5dk from 0.30 to 7min

  • gimpmonster

    Hey JGIBSON…you are a total moron. Goodfellas appalingly over-rated? Really? But the Protector is great? What level of education do you have? Do you liberally use the word “bra” in conversation? Ridiculous.

    Love all your choices, with Boogie Nights being my personal favourite (that movie is an astonishing feat), but I agree – Children of Men was unfairly left off the list. Cuaron did something special.

  • Henrik

    What about the opening of JCVD where a 50 year old Van Damme still shows he can kick ass?

  • http://nathanielray.com nathanielray

    Have you heard of Russian Ark? It’s a 2003 Russian movie that is 96 minutes long and it is all done in one take. Let me repeat: THE ENTIRE MOVIE IS ONE TAKE, no computer edits on the back end, and there is a huge ballroom dance scene at the end. Pretty epic.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318034/

  • Sara C.

    I’m going to go ahead and girl it up here and mention the party scene in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. Several different characters’ narratives all intertwine with each other within (and without) the walls of one house. Pretty awesome storytelling. The beach scene in Atonement was also pretty rad. Joe Wright loves his long takes.

  • pedro

    Soy Cuba, its a documentary but the scenes are long shots, not like Russian Ark. There is one long take in a film from Tony Jaa, i think its The Protector, its like a God of War stage

  • dan1

    no snake eyes?

  • VonMelee

    The movement through Serenity ship near the beginning of Serenity? No? Nothing? Bueller?

  • danielo

    The Fight Scene in Oldboy was done in 1 long take. It was like 30 guys with sticks and knives vs one corean guy with a hammer.

    The hammer wins.

  • zomgmouse

    The penultimate film in Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975) is about 7 minutes long, and most of the action happens off-screen.

  • Rob

    What, never seen Hitchcock’s Rope? it’s almost entirely one long take, pretty good list otherwise.

  • IvanD
  • pedro

    This one deserves a second round with the suggestions

  • brian

    pvc-1 the whole movie is just one long shot http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1031951/

  • Aaron

    Kill Bill Vol. 1 in the house of green leaves.

  • Juan

    Brian…I love ye for mentioning that one.

    As a Colombian, I’m proud we made that film.

    Also, Serenity has a pretty good one at the beginning.

  • kenyon

    didnt read the comments but did you see the ong bak fight scene where he fights up a circular tower spiraling to get to the shemale lady boy who has killed his elephant? its like five mins of choreographed fighting. and before sunset is one long scene. the entire movie is just one scene. check it yo.

  • Chris

    Robin Williams’ long take in Good Will Hunting won him an Oscar. Brilliant scene.

  • Jim

    You could do a whole list with Robert Altman’s long shots but the most well known must be 1992′s The Player:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0epB5Z6ijpk

  • foestwo

    pffff not even one tarantino scene? what about the long ass shot from 4 rooms, or reservoir dogs.

  • B. Loobie

    That long shot in “Hunger” is brutal. Also there a several Children of men scenes, the one where they’re escaping the farm is epic. Some little consistency or logic flaws but definitely forgivable when getting such a long shot.

  • http://techdraginfo.blogspot.com/ shenoyjoseph

    long take scenes are very irritating to see with family

  • Bob Ramsdell

    One of the first long shots was in Orson Welles “Touch of Evil”. Orson was in it along with a very young Charlton Heston. It took place along US border with Mexico.

  • Drew

    This list should be 10 long.

    Obviously the shots in Children of Men deserve praise for their technical mastery, even though they are multiple shots digitally comped together at times.

    But you need to recall the father of all of these long takes… Hitchcock’s masterpiece, “Rope”.

  • deadderek

    Excuse me, but what about Rick Moranis from Ghostbusters 1? Party scene. :)

  • snichael

    Has no one mentioned the long tracking shot near the beginning of the 1944 Preston Sturges film, “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”? Not the longest, but maybe a candidate for the earliest…?

  • LAUREN

    Raging Bull?

  • Aleina

    Surprisingly you have not included any fight scenes.
    http://funnyandspicy.com/the-greatest-movie-scenes-of-all-time-starring-you

  • http://sql-plsql.blogspot.com Sachin

    def Goodfellas — my most favourite…… but wht abt reservoir dogs??

  • Dave MingCheng

    1979 Russian movie: Stalker.

  • http://www.siteofsound.com Henry

    Ong Bak, Children of Men and Atonement are crucial. Probably the best ones ever besides Goodfellas.

  • http://www.tradingcardgamespot.com Jason Holbert

    Nobody mentioned Seven? Brad Pitt’s first real turn at proper acting in my book and he didnt do such a bad job of it. Head in the box scene still up there as one of the greatest in modern cinema.

  • Jesus

    Children of men?

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