My favourite photographer movies

Photo by Denise Jans/Unsplash

This time it is not as comprehensive a list as I made in the case of the photography documentaries. It is rather just a short selection of my favourite feature movies. A similar one I made about movies inspiring photographers. Some of them I already wrote about here on my blog (at least on the Hungarian version) while others I didn’t mention yet.

Tips for photographers in quarantine Click image for more!
Phot by One zone Studio/Unsplash

As I wrote in my tips to spend your time during pandemic I don’t suggest to spend too much of your time  with movies and entertainment. It  is way too easy to get things out of control and it is easy to waste too much of your time that could be much better used. Meanwhile some free time doesn’t hurt if you use your time useful otherwise during the lockdown. Let’s see some movie suggestions what to watch now!

Contrary to documentaries this list allows much broader freedom of choice what to consider to be a photographer movie. Do we consider all the Leonard Nimoy filmography to be it because the actor/director also created artworks in photography?

Photography documentaries
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Photo by Chelsea Marie Hicks/Flickr

Or do we consider the first Batman movie to be about a photographer, just because it tells Vicky Vale is a photojournalist, but she is seen with a camera only once in the entire movie and she doesn’t use it even then? Or how much we consider all the Spiderman movies to be about photography, or do we count here Bruce Willis’ Jackal movie because of the extreme use of a telephoto lens a sniping scope?

After this short list I simply skip these movies and rather concentrate on other movies in the following. The list is of course far from complete and it was not my goal with it to list all the movies anyone else would mention. I hope you all agree my choices and maybe you also find some new titles here along the well known ones. The order is close to random, I would rather not try to make an importance or any other ranking.

Kodachrome

Road  movie family drama 2017 – 105 min

Netflix Original, family drama infused into a road movie with a real life background story. The movie is set in the final days of the legendary Kodachrome film, what National Geographic made a documentary about too. New York Times published an article on 29th Decembre in 2010. with the title “For Kodachrome users the road ends in a Kansas photolab”. It was about Kodak already ended production of their popular film and the only place in the whole world where they still process them is Dwayne’s Photography lab in Kansas. Photographers from all around the world send their rolls to get them developed. This article inspired the synopsis of the movie.
The fictional world wide known photographer of the movie finds a few rolls of Kodachrome at home. As he has terminal illness and remembers all of his photos he ever took, demands to have his newly discovered rolls developed, He is keen on going to the lab personally with his adult son and his nurse. The long drive across the country leaves ample time for the family to reunite, get to know each other and to catch up with at least some of the time spent apart because of the vocation of the father in photography.

Durected: Mark Raso
Main actors: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen

Kodachrome trailer:

 

We’ll Take Manhattan

Biographical romantic drama – 2012 – 90 min

Storry of real life people set in the fashion photography world of the ’60-ies. Vogue Magazine’s British photographer David Bailey who became famous later discovers  and introduces Jean Shrimpton to the industry who later became the supermodel of the era. In the movie the photographer in the beginning of his career discovers the young and shy girl. He takes the girl onto a travelling photoshoot  in New York. The magazine aims to garb the attention of the yung generration with this series of photos. The magazine doesn’t waant to publish the photographer’s then revolutionary pictures. Later they decide this is what they need and this gives a jumpstart to the careers of both model and photographer.
Interrestingly the main actor Aneurin Barnard played the role of British fashion photographer   Bailey in the less photograrphy related (thus found in the end of my list) gangster movie Legend.
The main actrss of the movie Karen Gillan played in the series Dr Who along many other actors of the movie. But this is not at all a surprise in case of a BBC movie and their series. Especially as the acctress played a permanent role for three years in the series and we saw her in 36 episodes.
I could not find a Hungariann title of the movie and not even IMDB knows about it. Being a TV movie it is also possible it never aired in Hungaryn. Unfortunately despite it can be found on Amazon Prime, but due to regional restrictions it can only be watched from the UK and US, not the rest of the world.

Director: John McKay
Main actors: Karen Gillan, Frances Barber, Aneurin Barnard

We’ll Take Manhattan trailer:

 

Mapplethorpe

Biography drama – 2018 – 102 min

The life, career and troubbled life of Robert Mapplethorpe from his dedbut in 1970 until his early death in 1989.
In the main role with Matt Smith best known from his role as the eleventh Doctor in the sci-fi series Dr Who. He played in the series for three seasons  together with Karen Gillan star of the previous movie. Later he also played Duke of Edinbourgh prince Phillip in the first two seasons of Netflix original series The Crown.

Director: Ondi Timoner
Main actors: Matt Smith, Marianne Rendón, John Benjamin Hickey

Mapplethorpe trailer:

 

Life

Biographical drama – 2015 – 111 min

The story of Dennis Stock’s 1955 photo series that appeared in Life Magazine about the then only rising star James Dean. We have a peak into the early life of one of Hollywood’s most iconnic figures and we can also see how some of his iconic photos were taken.

Director: Anton Corbijn
Main actors: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Peter Lucas

Life trailer:

 

A dicsőség zászlaja
Részletekért katt a képre!

Flags of Our Fathers

Historic war drama – 2006 – 135 min

I wrote about this movie before on my Hungarian blog (not translated yet). The movie is based on real events that is set around the iconic photo of the marines raising a US flag after the victory on Iwo Jima. The movie shows how the photo symbolizing heroism was born, but also shows the background of it and especially the aftermath of the lives of the people in it in the direction of Clint Eastwood.
The story has a twin movie, shot and presented by the director together with this movie. Letters from Iwo Jima shows the fight for the pacific island from the Japanese perspective.
It is worth to mention one of the main actors of the first movie is Ryan Phillippe who may be mentioned in my list for the most times for playing in a movie related to photography.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Main actors: Ryan Phillippe, Barry Pepper, Joseph Cross

AFlags of Our Fathers trailer:

Letters from Iwo Jima trailer:

 

Louder Than Bombs

Family darma  – 2015 – 109 min

Disturbing sotry about the death of a mother and her life before it, but most of alll how her family handles it and why they cannot  overcome it in their own lives.
The main character of the movie is a warrr photographer who is constantly divided between her profession and family. While she works on the frontlines she misses her family, once she finally can be with them then she can’t find her place at home and misses her work. In the end she dies in a car accident in her peacefiul homeland and the movie only starts here. The woman’s work, life and problems starts to unfold after her death for us and her family too.
However the movie itself is not about photography and even the photographer can be seen in flashbacks, yet photography has a fundamental part of it. One of the emotional scenes shows the photographer at an airport waiting for her plane. She observes how fast people are flipping through pages of a newspaper with her images taken with efforts of hard work. Yet the movie has much more to offer for the viewers.

Director: Joachim Trier
Main actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert

Louder than Bombs trailer:

 

Nightcrawler

Crime drama – 2014 – 117 min

However this movie is not about photography but television the story and the problems it portrays are interesting and impotant to photographers too.
Crime drama in contemporary Los Angeles. The ambicious main character is desperate to do everything to find a job when he runs into a car accident and gets to know the work of television reporters. He buys a camera and starts to work in the same business becoming more and more succesful in it.
As actor Jake Gyllenhaal prepared for his role he went on shifts with real accident correspondents the Raishbrook Brothers to get familiar with the work he portrays. The brothers also appear in a scene of the movie.

Director: Dan Gilroy
Main actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton

Nightcrawler trailer:

 

Everlasting Moments

Historic family drama – 2008 – 131 min

Sotry of a houswife of a violent husband  in the   Sweden undergoing great society changes in the 1900 years. Her life changes forever when she wins a camera on lotto. First she would sell it, but later he uses it not only for photographing her children, but finds a livelihood in it.

Director: Jan Troell
Main actors: Maria Heiskanen, Mikael Persbrandt, Jesper Christensen

Everlasting Moments trailer:

 

C’est La Vie
(Le sens de la fete
)

French comedy – 2017 – 107 min

The story is set in current times at a wedding held in a 17th century palace. The main character is the wedding planner who tries to meticulously prepare and coordinate every deatail of the wedding day, but as it can be expected from such a movie everything turns upside down.
One of the main figures is the wedding photographer who could be acurriculum at photograrphy schools: how not to behave at a wedding. But every other aspects of the movie make it a must see – especially for those working at events or weddings either as a photographer or an  organiser. For those only preparing for their wedding I would suggest to delay watching it after the honeymoons, because before the wedding your smile could not be really honest!

Director: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Main actors: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Paul Rouve, Gilles Lellouche

C’est La Vie french trailer with Engllish subtitles:

 

City of God

Adventure packed social drama – 2002 – 130 min

Story of one the gutter children in the Rio de Janeiro slums. Amid violent gang wars hitting the streets a guy becomes a documentary photographer who chronicles the power shifts of the rivalries.

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Main actors: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Matheus Nachtergaele

City of God trailer:

 

Paparazzi movie
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Paparazzi

Fictional crime drama – 2004 – 84 min

Life of the rising action movie star and his family gets ruined by paparazzi photogaphers. Their unashamed and evil tricks dive the actor crazy and gets revenge for their cruel actions.
wrote about this movie before on the blog, it is worth reading it (yet it is only available in Hungarian, translation is not available).

Director: Paul Abascal
Producer: Mel Gibson
Main actors: Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Dennis Farina

Paparazzi trailer:

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Adventure comedy – 2013 – 114 min

Not really a movie about photography, yet essetially tied to it both in content and the underlieing message and philosophy too.
Comedy about the overy daydreamer photo editor of Life magazine who finds himself in a crazy adventure to find the last ever cover photo of Life Magazine. He has to fin the photographer currently workig in the field to get the cover photo of the last issue of the discontinued Life magazine. To find the photograrpher the editor has to follow him and face various hardships of field work.

Director: Ben Stiller
Main actors: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty trailer:

 

Bang Bang Club
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Bang Bang Club

War adventure drama – 2010 – 106 min

Movie based on the adventures of real life photographers. One of the most popular photography movies about four key figures of documentary photography. They worked under the name in the movie title Bang Bang Club covering the South-African events of the ’90-ies. They documented horrors of tribal wars with extreme courage what took the lives of two of them – also shown in the movie along the creation of some of their iconic photos.
The movie is based on the book published by two of the still living phtoographers and they also contributed to creating the movie.
At the time of premiere I wrote about it a few times, it is worth reading it (yet it is only available in Hungarian).

Director: Steven Silver
Main actors: Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Neels van Jaarsveld, Frank Rautenbach, Malin Akerman

Bang Bang Club trailer:

 

Apocalypse Now

War drama – 1979 – 147 min

The movie became 40 years old in 2019  . This war drama is a real movie classic, mentioned by literally all photograrphy movie collections.
A group of US soldiers tries to find a renegde elite unit during the Vietnam war. One of the movie’s icoinc figures is Denis Hopper’s war photographer, while a TV producer is played by the movie director Francis Ford Coppola.
Editing of the movie took originally two years, but later another edited version was released and now for the fourtieth anniversary another version was released into the cinemas with the title Final Cut.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Main actors: Denis Hopper, Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duval

Apocallipse Now trailer:

 

Harrison’s Flowers

War drama – 2000 – 121 min

The Pulitzer-award winning US war photographer  can no longer concentrate on his work, because his family occupies his mind alll the time he is on the battlefields. Ha takes on a last assignment on the Balkans before he quits his job. His family receaves word of his death in the South Slavic war, but his body was not found. His jourrnalist wife doesn’t give up the hope. Follows his missing husband to the Yugoslavia breaking up in war where two other photojournalists help her in search for his husband while she witnesses all of the adventures and horrors of war. Meanwhile their son tends for the flowers of the father and the hope his parents come back together from the war.

Director: Élie Chouraqui
Main actors: Andie MacDowell, Scott Anton, Elias Koteas

Harrison’s Flowers trailer:

 

Triage

Mistery drama – 2009 – 99 min

A photojournalist returning from Kurdistan in 1988 fights with the post traumatic stress caused by the horrors seen during his work and shocking experiences. The movie is about how he seeks processing these and his way back to normal life.

Directed: Danis Tanovic
Main actors: Collin Farrel, Paz Vega, Christopher Lee

Triage trailer:

 

The Public Eye

Neo noir crime drama – 1992 – 99 min

The main character could be called the godfather of photography. The movie is about a photographer taking photos of criminals in their lives and after their deaths in the New York of the ’40-ies. With the unmissable adventurous romance with the beautiful woman.

Director: Howard Franklin
Main actors: Joe Pesci, Barbara Hershey, Richard Riehle

The Public Eye:

 

One Hour Photo

US thriller – 2002 – 96 min

The lonely and maniac photo lab worker in a shopping mall gets closer to his customers by watching and collecting their personal photos – some times much closer than they would appreciate it.

Director: Mark Romanek
Main actors: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan

One Hour Photo trailer:

 

My Week with Marilyn

Biography drama – 2011 – 95 min

Sir Laurence Olivier shoots a movie in London with Marilyn Monroe, who gets involved in a closer relationship with an employee. The actress lets the boy close to herself into the most personal fears and insecurities of the celebrated star hidden away from the outside world.
The movie is not about photography, but even the trailer is filledd with flashes and photographers snapping pictures of the woman idol of the era. It can be interesting for a photographer what are the inner feelings and thoughts of a topmodel what cannot be seen on the photographs.

Director: Simon Curtis
Main actors: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh

My Week With Marilyn:

 

Smoke

Drama – 1995 – 112 min

A Brooklyn tobacco shop is in the centre of  the life of the neighbourhood. The owner photographs his shop on the street corner yet he captures the lives of everyone passing by in the cavalcade of people that flows like smoke. Photography has a marginal role in the movie, but has a deep philosophical meaning that is expressed in one of the scenes.

Director: Wayne Wang
Main actors: Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Giancarlo Esposito

Smoke trailer:

Photography scene:

 

Memento

Crime drama – 2000 – 113 min

The trhilling reverse movie is becoming a classic. Not closely related to photography. Not about a phtographer or work or photograrphy in generarl, but photos have a key role in the movie and it’s unusual way of developing the story of the main character with a short memory.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Main actors: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Memento trailer:

 

Spy Game
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Spy Game

Syp movie, adventure drama – 2001 – 126 min

Another movie I wrote about on my blog (only in Hungarian) despite it is only loosely relalted to photography.
Adventure movie with twists from the world of spies. In a great portion of it Brad Pitt is seen in a photojournalist cover in the heavilly bombarded Beirut. Another interesting aspect of the movie is much of it was shot in the often photographed parts of Budapest. However in the movie the city is told to be the cold war Berlin – mostly the western half if it. But the more rare East Berlin scenes were recorded here too, and even some Hungarian actors appear in supporting roles – but you have to really be looking for them.

Director: Tony Scott
Main actors: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack

Spy Game trailer:

 

Amelie (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Tale like romantic comedy – 2001 – 122 min

Parisian waitress looking for love tries to cheer up people around her while searching for her own happyness. The movie is not really about photography, but cameras and photos appear in it in many forms. The main character also takes photos (mainly clouds with funny shapes), investigates the mystery of a regular guest of a photo booth and cheers up people with funny photos.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Main actors: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus

Amelie trailer:

 

Far and Away

History adventure romance – 1992 – 140 min

The movie set in 1893 tells the story of a young Irish couple. They travel from Ireland to America to try their luck. During their struggling journey they have to face lots of hardships to settle on their own land in the end.
The movie has totally no relation to photography, but close to the end it has a very good recreation of the Oklahoma landrush where some period photographers are seen capturing the event.

Director: Ron Howard
Main actors: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Thomas Gibson

Far and Away trailer:

Landrush scene:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5kHdhithds

 

The Crown

History drama serries – 2016-current

Netflix original, British biography drama of Queen Elizabeth II from the start of her reign withs some shorter-longer flashbacks to her childhood. The series has no real connction to photography, but even in the trailer below it is apparent how many scenes have period photogrpahers in it. We can see photograprhers in various situations taking photos of the portrayed historic events.
Some times we see the process of official photos being taen in the court. We get to see how Princess Margaret and her photographer husband get together and even how her first and scandalous portrait was taken.
Maybe even the queen’s well known love for photography also appears in the series. But we more often see her with a moving film camera given to her by her father the then King George in the first episode.
The series was planned for six seasons, but will have only five of them. Various life ages of the characters are played by different actors in every two seasons. Actors were selected for their roles at least in part based on their resemblance to the original figures they play. In the first two season husband of the quenn Phillip prince of Edinburgh is played by Mat Smith already mentioned in the beginning of this llist for playing photographer Robert Maplethorp in the  2018 biography.

The Crown trailer: