What are the Best Photography Movies?
Photography has always been a fascinating medium for artists and storytellers alike.
From capturing the beauty of landscapes to exploring the depths of human emotions, photography has the power to capture moments and create unforgettable stories.
These films not only offer a glimpse into the world of photography but also tell compelling stories that inspire and entertain.
From classic masterpieces to modern-day gems, this list includes something for every photography enthusiast.
So whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting in the world of photography, these films are sure to inspire and captivate you.
List Of Top 25 Best Photography Movies Every Photographer Must Watch
- Under Fire -1983
- Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus -2006
- One Hour Photo -2002
- Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens -2008
- Rear Window -1954
- The Bridges of Madison County -1995
- Closer -2004
- Jerry & Maggie: This Is Not Photography -2012
- Pecker -1998
- Blow Up -1966
- Harrison’s Flowers -2000
- High Art -1998
- Smoke -1995
- Memento -2000
- Gregory Crewdson Brief Encounters -2012
- Kodachrome -2017
- In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -2013
- The Salt of the Earth -2014>
- Manufactured Landscapes -2007
- Proof -1991
- The Bang Bang Club -2010
- City of God -2002
- Finding Vivian Maier -2013
- War Photographer -2001
1. Under Fire -1983
“Under Fire,” directed by Roger Spottiswoode, is a political thriller set during the late 1970s Nicaraguan Revolution.
The film follows three journalists, played by Nick Nolte, Joanna Cassidy, and Gene Hackman, as they cover the battle and become engaged in it.
Nolte’s character is a photographer who takes dramatic photographs of the revolution and its effects on the local community.
2. Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus -2006
“Fur” directed by Steven Shainberg and starring Nicole Kidman, is a fictionalized story of the life of famed photographer Diane Arbus.
The film follows Arbus’s artistic journey as well as her unorthodox connections, such as her acquaintance with a mysterious neighbor played by Robert Downey Jr., who wears a fur coat from head to toe.
The film depicts Arbus’s life and works in a bizarre and inventive manner.
3. One Hour Photo -2002
“One Hour Picture” directed by Mark Romanek, stars Robin Williams as Sy Parrish, a lonely and obsessive photo lab technician who becomes hooked on a family whose photographs he processes.
Sy’s unsettling conduct escalates as he becomes more involved in their lives, and the film examines issues of voyeurism, obsession, and the perils of delusion.
4. Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens -2008
Barbara Leibovitz’s documentary takes an intimate look at the life and work of renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.
The documentary includes interviews with Leibovitz as well as friends, family members, and colleagues, and it delves into her creative process, partnerships with famous people, and the hurdles she has experienced during her career.
The documentary provides an intriguing peek into the world of one of the most prominent photographers of our time through a combination of archive material and personal experiences.
5. Rear Window -1954
“Rear Window” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is a classic thriller about photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries -played by James Stewart, who becomes obsessed with watching his neighbors through his apartment window while recovering from a broken leg.
When Jeffries suspects one of his neighbors of murder, he enlists the assistance of his girlfriend -played by Grace Kelly to conduct an investigation. The picture is a masterclass in suspense and visual narrative, with superb visual effects.
6. The Bridges of Madison County -1995
Directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller.
In 1960s Iowa, a National Geographic photographer named Robert Kincaid -played by Clint Eastwood and a housewife named Francesca Johnson -played by Meryl Streep had a brief but intense love affair.
The film examines themes of desire, regret, and the strength of connection, with stunning photography by Jack N. Green capturing the majesty of the Iowa environment.
7. Closer -2004
“Closer” directed by Mike Nichols and based on Patrick Marber’s play, is a deep and dramatic drama that explores the interactions of four people: a photographer -Jude Law, a writer -Clive Owen, and a stripper -played by Natalie Portman
And, over several years, a photographer’s assistant -played by Julia Roberts.
The film delves into themes of love, betrayal, and sexual desire, and features stunning cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt.
8. Jerry & Maggie -2012
“Jerry & Maggie: This Is Not Photography” directed by Errol Morris, is a short documentary about two photographers, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, who are also husband and wife.
The film delves into their creative process, collaboration on their art, and personal relationships.
The film offers an insight into the realm of high art photography and the relationship between art and love through interviews with the couple and behind-the-scenes footage of their work.
9. Pecker -1998
“Pecker” directed by John Waters, is about a young amateur photographer named Pecker -played by Edward Furlong who becomes an overnight phenomenon in the art world after his work is discovered by a New York art dealer.
As Pecker’s celebrity increases, he finds it difficult to maintain relationships with his working-class family and friends in Baltimore. Pecker’s unusual and offbeat photography appears in the film, which is a satirical look at the art world.
10. Blow Up -1966
“Blow Up” directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, is a mystery thriller about a fashion photographer named Thomas -played by David Hemmings who accidentally pictures what appears to be a murder while working in a park.
Thomas is lured into a world of deception and danger as he becomes more concerned with discovering the truth behind the images.
Carlo Di Palma’s classic photography appears in the film, which is a sleek and intriguing meditation on the nature of photography and reality.
11. Harrison’s Flowers -2000
“Harrison’s Flowers” directed by Elie Chouraqui, is a war drama about a photojournalist named Harrison Lloyd -played by David Strathairn who goes missing while covering the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s
His wife -Andie MacDowell goes out to find him and ends up taking over his task, risking her life to acquire the story.
The film showcases breathtaking images by cinematographer Vilko Filac and tackles themes of love, loss, and the ethics of war photography.
12. High Art -1998
“High Art” directed by Lisa Cholodenko, is a drama about a magazine editor named Syd -played by Radha Mitchell and a reclusive photographer named Lucy Berliner -played by Ally Sheedy who was formerly a great artist.
Syd finds herself lured into a web of addiction and dysfunction as she becomes increasingly entangled in Lucy’s world.
Tami Reiker’s gorgeous photography complements the film’s complex and thought-provoking look at the art world.
13. Smoke -1995
“Smoke” directed by Wayne Wang, is a drama about the lives of numerous characters in Brooklyn, including a cigar shop owner -Harvey Keitel, and a writer -William Hurt who is battling to finish his novel.
Vilko Filac’s magnificent photography is included in the film, which examines themes of creativity, loss, and redemption. A series of images taken by Keitel’s character serves as a visual reflection of his recollections and experiences in the film.
14. Memento -2000
“Memento” directed by Christopher Nolan, is a neo-noir thriller about a man named Leonard -played by Guy Pearce who suffers from anterograde amnesia, a condition that makes it impossible for him to form new memories.
The story is narrated in reverse chronological sequence, with each scene occurring before the one before it.
Leonard depends on his Polaroid images and a system of notes and tattoos to keep track of his inquiry as he strives to find the man who murdered his wife.
The film is a mind-bending investigation of memory and identity, with cinematographer Wally Pfister’s innovative and beautiful photography.
15. Gregory Crewdson Brief Encounters -2012
“Gregory Crewdson Short Encounters” directed by Ben Shapiro, is a documentary that presents an intimate portrait of acclaimed photographer Gregory Crewdson as he prepares to create his epic, large-scale photographs.
The film follows Crewdson as he collaborates with his team and performers to bring his cinematic dreams to reality, and it delves into his work’s primary themes of alienation, loss, and the American ideal.
The documentary also includes interviews with Crewdson as well as discussions with art professionals and critics.
16. Kodachrome -2017
“Kodachrome” directed by Mark Raso, is a road movie that follows a record company executive named Matt -played by Jason Sudeikis on a road trip with his estranged father -played by Ed Harris and his father’s nurse -played by Elizabeth Olsen to the country’s last remaining Kodachrome lab before it closes down.
Along the way, Matt discovers a box of photographs taken by his father and learns about his past and the reasons behind their strained relationship.
The film is a moving examination of family, regret, and the ability of photography to preserve memories, with stunning photography by cinematographer Alan Poon.
17. In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter
“In No Big Hurry” directed by Tomas Leach, is a documentary that looks at the life and work of photographer Saul Leiter, who is noted for his pioneering use of color in street photography.
The documentary includes interviews with Leiter as well as commentary from photography specialists, and it delves into his creative process as well as the themes of memory, loneliness, and the beauty in the ordinary that are essential to his work
Leiter’s photography is also included in the film.
18. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -2013
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” directed and starring Ben Stiller, is a comedy-drama that recounts the adventures of Walter Mitty, a daydreaming photo editor at Life magazine who embarks on a real-life expedition to find a missing negative from photographer Sean O’Connell -played by Sean Penn.
The film is a visually stunning exploration of the power of photography to inspire and change lives and features breathtaking landscapes and scenes shot in Iceland, Greenland, and Afghanistan.
The film also features a beautiful score by composer Theodore Shapiro.
19. The Salt of the Earth -2014
Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is a documentary that explores the work of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.
The film includes stunning black-and-white photographs by Salgado that document the struggles and beauty of people and landscapes around the world, as well as a glimpse into the photographer’s life and creative process
The film also features interviews with Salgado and his son Juliano, who co-directed the film.
20. Manufactured Landscapes -2007
“Manufactured Landscapes” directed by Jennifer Baichwal, is a documentary that follows the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky as he documents the impact of industrialization on the natural landscape.
From vast factories in China to piles of discarded electronics in Ghana, the film features stunning images of landscapes transformed by human activity .
The film raises important questions about the human-environment relationship and the impact of our actions on the world around us. Michael Brook’s haunting score also appears in the film.
21. Proof -1991
“Proof” directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, is a drama about a blind photographer named Martin -Hugo Weaving and two people in his life who try to take advantage of him: his housekeeper Celia -Genevieve Picot and his new neighbor Andy -played by Russell Crowe.
The film is a character study that delves into themes of trust, identity, and perception, and it includes stunning photographs taken by Martin that unusually capture the world.
22. 2 The Bang Bang Club -2010
“The Bang Bang Club” directed by Steven Silver, is a drama based on the true story of a group of photojournalists who covered the violent conflicts that erupted in South Africa during the final days of apartheid.
The documentary follows the lives and work of four photographers – Greg Marinovich, Kevin Carter, Ken Oosterbroek, and Joo Silva – and provides insight into the risks and rewards of covering war and conflict.
The film contains powerful and sometimes disturbing images that depict life in a war zone.
23. City of God -2002
“City of God” directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, is a crime drama set in Rio de Janeiro’s slums.
The film follows the lives of several characters, including Buscapé -Alexandre Rodrigues, a photographer, as they navigate the violent and often deadly world of drug gangs and street crime.
The film is remembered for its gritty realism and stunning cinematography, which captures the vibrant and chaotic energy of the favelas. The film also has a pulsing soundtrack that reflects the city’s rhythms.
24. Finding Vivian Maier -2013
“Finding Vivian Maier” directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, is a documentary that tells the story of a previously unknown photographer named Vivian Maier.
Maier spent most of her life as a nanny in Chicago, but in her spare time, she took thousands of photographs of the city and its people.
Following Maier’s death in 2009, a young collector named John Maloof discovered her work by purchasing a box of her negatives at an auction.
The film delves into the mystery surrounding Maier’s life and work, and it includes stunning images that provide a unique perspective on mid-century America.
25. War Photographer -2001
“War Photographer” directed by Christian Frei, is a documentary that follows the life and work of photojournalist James Nachtwey.
Nachtwey is known for his powerful and often graphic images of war and conflict around the world, and the film provides insight into the risks and rewards of covering some of the world’s most dangerous places.
The film features interviews with Nachtwey and his colleagues, as well as footage of him at work in places like Kosovo, Indonesia, and Afghanistan.
These 25 photography movies are a must-watch for every photographer, photography enthusiast, or anyone interested in the art of capturing moments through the lens.
They offer a diverse range of perspectives, from the biopics of famous photographers to fictional stories that revolve around photography.
Whether you are a seasoned professional or a beginner, these movies will inspire and entertain you, and offer a unique insight into the world of photography.