The 25 Photography Movies Everyone Needs to See At Least Once
Whether you’re facing a creative block or simply looking for a way to celebrate that your photography website is finally live, sitting down to watch a good film is always a solid choice. They have the power to make us forget all our troubles for at least a couple hours, and can also serve as a great source of inspiration.
This handpicked selection includes some of the best photography movies of all times, from thrillers and dramas to comedies and biographies. No matter what you’re in the mood for or what your personal genre preferences are, you’re sure to find the perfect match within this list.
City of God (2002)
2h 10min | Crime, Drama
City of God follows the rise of violence, drugs, and organized crime in Cidade de Deus, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. Loosely based on real life events, the narrative focuses on Li'l Zé, a gang leader, and Rocket, a young passionate photographer. It is through photography that these two polar opposites come together.
Rear Window (1954)
1h 52min | Mystery, Thriller
Rear Window tells the story of an adventure photographer who finds himself confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg. To pass the time, he uses binoculars to spy on their neighbors and assign them character roles and names. After witnessing some suspicious behavior, he becomes convinced that one of his neighbors commited a murder. Over 60 years after its premier, this captivating work by horror film mastermind Alfred Hitchcock is still considered one of the greatest photography movies of all times.
One Hour Photo (2002)
1h 36min | Drama, Thriller
One Hour Photo sees Robin Williams as Seymour "Sy" Parrish, a mentally unstable photo technician who runs a one-hour film photography developing lab in a big-box store. A beloved worker by customers, due to his perfectionism and generosity, Sy develops an obsession with a middle-class family whose pictures he has developed for many years.
1h 27min | Comedy, Drama
Pecker narrates the story of a teenager with great photography skills and a mad family living in Baltimore. Pecker takes every chance to snap a shot of his family, friends, or any stranger with whom he crosses paths. After his work catches the eye of an art dealer, Pecker gets dragged into the crazy art scene of New York City.
Blow Up (1966)
1h 51min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Blow-Up tells the story of a London-based fashion photographer living a seemingly lifeless existence despite his wealth. His passion for life is reborn after he stops at a park to capture some pictures of an embracing couple. Upon developing the images of them, he becomes conviced that he has witnessed a murder. He returns to the park and discover that there is, in fact, a dead body lying near the place he saw the couple. The rest of the photos in the roll will be crucial to reveal whether the victim’s partner did it, or there was a third person involved.
Under Fire (1983)
2h 8min | Drama, War
Under Fire follows three journalists covering guerrilla warfare in Central America during the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979. Each of these professionals specializes in a different field -newspaper, photography, and TV reporting - allowing viewers to explore the story through three unique perspectives. Throughout the film, we see the photographer evolve from a neutral artists to an activist who uses photography to raise awareness about human rights.
Everlasting Moments (2008)
2h 11min | Biography, Drama, History
Everlasting Moments is the heartwarming story of a young working class woman whose life takes a 180 degree turn upon discovering photography. Inspired by the true story of Maria Larsson, the film narrates how a devoted housewife in an abusive marriage finds in photography a way to open up her world after winning a camera in a raffle.
2h 2min | Drama, History, Thriller
Salvador tells the story of a veteran photojournalist down at heel who travels to the Salvadoran Civil War with a friend in hopes of finding some lucrative freelance photography jobs amidst the country’s political disorder. After reaching their destination, the pair realizes that the situation is much more serious than what they expected.
The Public Eye (1992)
1h 39min | Crime, Drama, Romance
The Public Eye takes place in the New York of the 1940s, following a freelance crime and street photographer dedicated to his work. With a trunk-turn-darkroom and a police radio under the dashboard, he spends his days sitting in his car waiting for action to happen. This allows him to be the first one at the scene of horrific crimes and accidents to capture exclusive shots. Eventually, his utter dedication to his photography career leads him into the center of a conspiracy.
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
1h 40min | Horror, Mystery
The Midnight Meat Train revolves around a photographer who captures the dark side of living in the big city in hopes of achieving fame and fortune. His obsession with obscure matters eventually sets him on the footsteps of a serial killer who stalks late-night commuters to butcher them in gruesome ways.
A Thousand Times Good Night (2013)
1h 57min | Drama, War
A Thousand Times Good Night follows a world-class photojournalist with a passion for documenting dangerous war zones. After a near-death experience during an assignment, her husband levels an ultimatum: give up her photography career or lose the family she counts on returning to after every venture.
The Bang Bang Club (2010)
1h 46min | Biography, Drama, History
The Bang Bang Club is the true story of four photojournalists who chronicled apartheid-era South Africa: Greg Marinovich, João Silva, Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek. The film follows their experiences in combat zones and shares the extremes they went to in order to document the events. Focused on the townships of South Africa between 1990 and 1994, the movie also touches on Carter’s most famous shot, and eventual demise, “Starving Child and Vulture.”
1h 45min | Drama
Kodachrome builds a heart-wartming story around the discontinuation of Kodachrome film in the late 2000s, taking place in the final days before the processing ended. The plot revolves around a terminally ill photographer who wants to have his last Kodachrome rolls developed before he dies. To do so, he enrolls his nurse and estranged son on a roadtrip to the last lab that can still process them.
1h 44min | Drama, Romance
Closer follows the story of two couples’ relationships as they meet, fall in and out of love, and swap partners back and forth. Photography has a significant role in the film, as Julia Roberts plays a famous American photographer and her profession serves as a plot driver through the movie.
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
2h 15min | Drama, Romance
The Bridges of Madison County is about the illicit love affair between a National Geographic photographer and an Italian war bride. The story begins when the globetrotter cameraman heads to Madison County, Iowa, for a landscape photography piece on the covered bridges in the area. It is shortly after arriving to the location that he meets the housewife, and thus the couple commences a four-day extramarital affair.
2h 45min | Drama
Boyhood revolves around Mason, who is six years old at the beginning of the film, his older sister, Samantha, and their divorced mother, Olivia. The filming of this coming-of-age began in 2001 and finished in 2013, allowing viewers to see characters grow and evolve at the same pace as the actors did.
Throughout the film, we see the family’s struggles in each new phase of their lives both from the kids’ and the mother’s perspective. We cannot really discuss much about the importance of photography in this movie without dropping some major spoilers, but let’s just say that along the way little Mason falls in love with the art and finds in it a route of escape.
Harrison's Flowers (2000)
2h 1min | Drama, Romance, War
Harrison's Flowers follows the journey of an American wife who travels to the warn-torn Balkans to find her husband, a Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer who was reported dead. Upon reaching Yugoslavia, she teams-up with CNN reporters to learn more about her husband’s whereabouts and find out the truth about his status.
1h 26min | Drama, Romance
Proof narrates the story of a blind photographer who uses pictures to determine whether he can trust people. Utterly convinced that everyone might lie to him, he uses braille to describe each photo he captures and later asks people to tell him what’s in the image in order to know whether they’re reliable or not.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
1h 54min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty follows the journey of a negative assets manager at Life magazine who is constantly daydreaming about wild adventures. After the work of a highly regarded photojournalist goes missing, the quiet assets manager sets off on a life changing journey across the world to find the cameraman and save both of their jobs in the process.
1h 53min | Mystery, Thriller
Memento revolves around a man who suffers short-term memory loss every five minutes as a result of a past trauma. The last thing he remembers is the brutal rape and murder of his wife, and all he wants is to track down her murderer and get revenge. In order to do so, he uses an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos with crucial information.
1h 58min | Drama, Romance
Carol is set in the New York of the 1950s, and explores the love story between an aspiring photographer and a high-class woman stuck in an unhappy marriage. Through the film, we see how this relationship is allowing the young photographer to grow both in a personal and in a professional manner.
1h 47min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Delirious follows a small-time paparazzi who dreams of making it big in the industry. To achieve his dreams, he partners up with a homeless teen who admires him so much that he is willing to work as an assistant for free. But everything changes after his apprentice becomes romantically involved with a famous popstar, as the photographer lets jealousy get the best of him and does everything within his power to take his former partner down.
The Killing Fields (1984)
2h 21min | Biography, Drama, History
The Killing Fields shares the real-life story of two journalists, an American and a Cambodian, during the US evacuation from Vietnam in 1975. Following the New York Times photojournalist correspondent, the film shows the atrocities of tyrant Pol Pot's bloody “Year Zero'' cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of 2-3 million civilians within four years.
High Art (1998)
1h 41min | Drama, Romance
High Art is centered around a young intern working at a respected high-art photography magazine who has her whole life mapped out in front of her. That is, until she discovers that her upstairs neighbor is a former photography prodigy who is struggling with drug addiction. Together, they seek to exploit each other to build up their careers, falling in love with each other in the process.
2h 2min | Comedy, Romance
Amélie offers a whimsical version of the French capital, coupled with an outstanding accordion and piano-driven soundtrack by Yann Tiersen. The film tells the story of a shy Parisian waitress who decides to change the lives of those around her after coming across an old photo hidden in her apartment. But this is not the only time photography plays a significant role in the story, nor in the lives of the characters.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Editor of the Wix Photography Blog