Posted by: ckckred | August 25, 2013

What Is Your Favorite Tracking Shot?


Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film, won’t arrive in theaters until 2014, but to the delight of his die-hard fans (which I am proudly a member of), someone posted a picture of a dolly shot (see above) in the film online.  The track stretches a long 470 feet.  Paul Thomas Anderson is pretty famous for his tracking shots, so that inspired today’s question: what’s your favorite tracking shot?

A few come into mind.  The intro of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil would be one, which is one of the most  impressive I’ve seen.  Magnolia also has an amazing, long tracking shot through the game show building.  The hallway scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining also ring visual perfection.  The Copablanca scene in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas may be the best example, setting up the character Henry Hill.

But what’s your favorite?


  1. I’d say any maze scene from The Shining. With all those twists and turns, you’d need to leave a trail of bread crumbs if you didn’t plan it right.

    • Nice pick. Kubrick’s control of the camera is so amazing there. I think it’s the best example of his visual perfection.

  2. Great post, I’ll go with Notorious, when the camera slowly reveals the key in Ingrid Bergman’s hand.

    • Thanks! I haven’t seen Notorious yet, though I have a copy on DVD.

  3. The two that immediately come to mind – Touch of Evil and Goodfellas are already covered in your post! In terms of recent movies, I was very impressed by the tracking shot that opens The Place Beyond the Pines. I also loved the way Cuaron’s Children of Men use uninterrupted tracking shots to really capture the sense of chaos and shock that unexpected violence provokes.

    • Nice picks! In a film class I took, I had to cover the tracking shots in both GoodFellas and Touch of Evil. It’s amazing what Scorsese and Welles did in their films. The tracking shots in The Place Beyond The Pines and Children of Men really impressed me as well.

  4. You’ve already mentioned a couple (Touch of Evil, Magnolia, Goodfellas, Children of Men) I admire. I’d only add KILL BILL Vol 1…

    …and Contact’s

    • Nice picks! Kill Bill’s one if pretty great

      • Atonement’s Dunkirk tracking shot was pretty awesome, too.

  5. I’m with Vinnieh. The descent from the top of the stairs to the ring in Ingrid’s hand is stellar.

    • Nice pick! Still need to see Notorious.

      • Yeah these comments are making me commit to hunting it down. One of the many gaps in my knowledge of Hitchcock!

  6. I like the rooftop tracking shot in Godfather 2. And I agree with Leopard for the Contact opening. Its an audio tracking shot. Fantastic.

    • Nice picks! I forgot to mention the tracking shot in The Godfather Part II, that’s one of my favorites as well.

  7. Great question. There’s loads of great ones, although for me it’s Children of Men, Boogie Nights, Atonement (the Dunkirk evacuation) and the closing shot of Antonioni’s The Passenger. All great.

    • Thanks! Nice picks, both Children of Men and Boogie Nights have great tracking shots. I have unfortunately not seen the others.

  8. Great question… and too many to choose from really. But I always loved the one in Full Metal Jackets where Kubrick uses the camera as the eyes of one of the platoon as they move forward towards and an enemy town, weaving in and out of concrete blocks for cover.

    • Thanks! Nice pick, that’s an impressive shot for sure, one of the be3st moments in Full Metal Jacket.

  9. So many to choose from. All the ones you mention are top class. Children of Men does spring to mind and I love Anderson’s Boogie Nights were he even goes through the swimming pool and back out again.

    • Nice picks! I recently saw Children of Men again and that shot really amazes me. The pool scene in Boogie Nights is also really impressive.

  10. For me, cinema’s great tracking shots are in the late-1960s films of the Hungarian director Miklos Jancso (The Round-Up or The Red and the White both have excellent sinuous examples of the form). His fellow Hungarian Bela Tarr took his influence there and there’s a beautiful one in a derelict hospital at the heart of Werckmeister Harmonies (actually there are lots throughout many of his films, but that’s one that stands out).

    • Nice picks! I haven’t seen any of the films you listed unfortunately.

  11. Long tracking shots are one of my favorite things in movies! You can always count on Kubrick for good ones; Paths of Glory has some good ones in the battle scenes if I remember correctly, I think that’s where I first noticed them.
    I haven’t seen Touch of Evil, but we watched the opening tracking shot in class and it was so amazing! I can’t wait to see the rest of the film!
    There’s also this rather obscure Russian/Cuban propaganda film called I am Cuba which has some truly spectacular tracking shots. They go underwater, the cameraman is suspended outside of a window at one point; it’s insane.
    I don’t know what my favorite would be; I basically love all long tracking shots!
    Really excited for Inherent Vice as well; glad that PTA and Phoenix are teaming up again!

    • Nice picks! Forgot Paths of Glory, that’s a great tracking shot. I also first saw the track shot for Touch of Evil in film class, it blew me away and made me want to explore more of Orson Welles’ work.

      I’m pumped for Inherent Vice as well. If PTA and Joaquin Phoenix suddenly had the urge to make the next Smurfs movie, I would be first in line to see it.

  12. I’m going with thew Dunkirk scene in “Atonement”. The logistics of that shot are boggling.

    • Nice pick! I have unfortunately not seen Atonement.

  13. I love long tracking shots. A few of my favorites are the opening scenes of Touch of Evil and Boogie Nights, and Michael Fassbender’s jog through New York in Shame.

    • Nice picks! I first saw Touch of Evil’s tracking shot in film school and it really blew me away.

  14. Also the Swedish Bookstore scene from “Top Secret”

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