One-take shots are some of those scenes in movies you forget are even happening until the first cut for the next scene comes into play. We see them in all genres of film and we don’t even realize how exhausting they are to shoot, but us film fanatics know the good ones when we see them. They present a tension through a portal into the characters exact motions and emotions for x amount of time to really bring us into the film.
With all this in mind, it just makes Birdman all the more impressive because of the exactness that is needed to get the scenes needed. The actors, the cameramen, and the writing have to be exact or the scenes tend to not work, but boy do these scenes work. By the way, Birdman doesn’t count because it’s not just a scene, but the entire film.
10. The Protector (2005): “Stairwell scene” – In context, Tony Jaa is after a two elephants stolen from his village. Through the martial arts epic, he must face countless foes in order to obtain his precious friends. He ends up in an underground restaurant of sorts that specialize in poached animals as delicacies and kicks ass in between.
9. Hard Boiled (1992): “Hospital shoot-out” – John Woo is one the biggest names in action films whether you’re from the East or the West and his ability to make gun play look so in the moment is a talent some rarely get a chance to say they have. For his cop epic, he has a hard-boiled cop on the loose against a crime syndicate and there are bullets to spare. As the title says, it’s one of the best action sequences ever filmed.
8. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003): “Bathroom scene” – You just knew Q.T. would be on here, it was just a matter of when he would show up. Kill Bill is classic Tarantino with the violence to match, but before the carnage ensues in the scenes to follow, the Bride must change out of her Bruce Lee inspired yellow jumpsuit, and with that, we see the setting in which she is about to cover in fake blood.
7. Oldboy (2003): “Hallway Fight Scene” – If any of you are fans of Daredevil on Netflix then you know where I’m going with this. The inspiration for such a great TV show fight scene like we saw in Season 1 of Daredevil came from this South Korean classic directed by Park Chan-wook and confirmed Asian film makers have a complete grasp on the single shot style in their films as you’ve seen up above. Did I mention that the reason this guy is fighting has to do with the fact that he was trapped in a hotel room for 15 years without a reason as to why? Yeah…
6. Atonement (2007): “Elegy for Dunkirk” – After rewatching this beautifully tragic scene with a war torn James McAvoy I even more excited for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk film to wrap up shooting and get to a theater near me. Capturing each harsh reality of war as well as what the soldiers and the lead are feeling that moment is painful, and yet so poetic.
5. Touch of Evil (1958): “The Opening Scene” – Future film makers will likely have seen this iconic intro to Orsen Welles’ classic crime noir and just exhaled in disappointment as well as admiration because of how early Welles was able to harness such a story telling technique such as this so early on. Welles and Kubrick are great for a reason.
4. Children of Men (2006): “Car scene” – One of the underrated science-fiction films in recent memory, the men of the world have become infertile, and Clive Owen becomes the reluctant and unexpected hero of the film. Director Alfonso Cuaron thought he didn’t get the take he wanted because the blood splatter on the camera, but the cast ignored his call for “cut” and it turns out this was their last and best take. Right on.
3. Creed (2015): “Adonis vs. Leo” – You know a scene is good when you only realized this scene was one-shot three days after seeing the movie. People kept talking about it and I was confused for the longest time, but when I saw it again, I realized how engulfed in this fight I became that I didn’t realize the mastery of the one-shot style for the fight. It’s one of the best fights in the whole movie too.
2. The Shining (1980): “Danny’s tricycle” – I could have a list of just Kubrick one-takes, but I chose to wind it down to one of his many iconic scenes by giving that title to “Danny’s tricycle”. The classic horror film brings python like tension to our hearts as the lack of sound beyond the wheels going from carpet to hardwood make for an unsettling combination. It doesn’t help we feel like he is being followed by something besides the camera…
1. Goodfellas (1991): “The Copacobanna Scene” – Scorsese is a master film maker and this confirmed it for the millionth time. His usage of a steady cam continuous doesn’t seem so tough, but in just this scene it tells Henry Hill’s story and his status in the crime world and the respect people have for him as well as the respect he has for them. It establishes that he is as big a deal as he thinks he is and he isn’t afraid to show it. It’s near flawless to the point he sits down with his date.