The Definitive Top 5: Cinema’s Best Extended Takes

Everyone has their own personal opinions when it comes to any kind of list or ranking for movies, but those opinions are wrong. Here is the correct answer.

This Week: The top five extended takes, or long takes or one-shots or whatever you want to call them. The only qualifier is that it be a true practical shot, with no digital effects or green screen. This eliminates otherwise terrific shots like this one by David Fincher in ‘Panic Room’ or this one in ‘War of the Worlds’ (which really is great and would have made the list even though I hate Spielberg).


The reason Orson Welles is still so highly regarded as a cinematic genius is because Orson Welles was a cinematic genius. The opening scene from this 1958 movie which he wrote, directed, and starred in is a perfect example. Look, the fact is that most old movies suck and people only say they like them because they’re snooty and wanna seem smart, but some are terrific, including almost everything from Welles.

The genius here is not only that it’s the opening scene but the simplicity; a timer is set on a bomb which is hidden in the trunk of a car right before an unsuspecting couple drives off and winds down the streets of a quiet border town. And then we, the audience, just sit here. Waiting. Knowing it could go off any second, while Charlton Heston as a Mexican walks next to the car again and again.

It’s amazing no one has stolen this shot since a modern version with some massive CGI explosion might make it even better. Because if there’s one thing I know about modern movies, it’s that you gotta have a bunch of explosions.


For this spot it was either ‘Oldboy’ or Tony Jaa’s nearly 4-minute fight in ‘the Protector’, but this gets the nod because the movie is so great, because our hero mostly only uses a f*cking hammer, and because it’s Korean and Korean girls are incredibly hot. Granted that last part has no relevance to the scene but it is a fact which clouds my thinking in almost every facet of life.


I love this movie and this scene, where Little Bill catches his wife having sex with some random guy for the millionth (and final) time, but I don’t like how it paints whores in a negative light. I owe a great deal to whores, and I won’t sit idly by while they’re slandered for no apparent reason.


(skip to the 3:40 mark)

Remember the one and only rule to this list, about no CGI? Well that rule might have to f*ck off because, even though director Alfonso Cuarón has never admitted it as far as I know, and everything you’re seeing here-the stunts, the gunshots, the blood, all of it-was filmed just as you see it, many suspect he did use some digital effects to make it so seamless. Either way, it’s amazing. And if he did, fine. It’s like a girl with natural D’s getting implants; it takes something great and makes it even better!


This list was actually written to figure out 2-5 because there was no question that this shot by Martin Scrosese in ‘Goodfellas’ was number 1. Normally a director will have an extended take just because they’re really cool. Here, Scorsese actually uses it to help tell the story. This is Karen’s first date with Henry Hill, and because it’s shot as a long take, you see his world the way Karen does, and it’s instantly obvious why she’s swept off her feet. Much like when I bring a first date home and show her how I took pictures from her Facebook to make a scrapbook of our wedding.