10 Movies with The Best Uses of Point-of-View Shots

10 Movies with The Best Uses of Point-of-View Shots's icon

Created by Igor_Brynner.

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A point-of-view (POV) shot is one where the camera is positioned in such a way to give the audience the impression that they are viewing the scene as a character in the film. It creates the effect that the viewer is immersed in the action, as if he/she were directly taking part in the movie itself, as opposed to a deep-focus or master shot where the viewer is placed outside of events, passively observing like a “fly on the wall”.

There are various types of POV available to the film-maker: the ‘subjective viewpoint’, for example, can be used to replicate the first-person narrative of a novel by showing the action through the eyes of the central character, whereas a more objective experience may be achieved by placing the camera cheek-to-cheek with another actor in the film to show what that character is able to see without implying that the viewer is actually taking part in their place.

These kinds of shots are often followed immediately by a close-up of the character in order to show his/her reaction to what they (and the audience) have just seen — an editing combination known as “shot, reverse-shot”. A similar type of POV angle, regularly used in action movies, is where the camera is placed close to ground level alongside one of the wheels of a speeding car, adding excitement through a feeling of participation in the drama of a chase scene.

POV shots have been used by directors since the dawn of cinema and they are a standard part of the film-maker’s toolkit. One of the earliest well-known uses of the technique is in Napoleon (Abel Gance,1927) when the camera was wrapped in protective padding and then violently punched around the set by a group of actors in order to recreate the ordeal of the central character being beaten up.

Orson Welles originally planned in 1939 to film an entire version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (later transplanted to the Vietnam war and shot from regular angles by Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now) entirely as a first-person narrative from the protagonist’s perspective. He discarded the idea as impractical, however, and concentrated on Citizen Kane instead; although he did later revisit the technique in 1952 when he used POV in his 1952 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play, Othello.

Some directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, are famous for using point-of-view cinematography in many of their works to build suspense or add to the sense of fear they are trying to instil in the audience. The technique is especially beloved of horror and thriller filmmakers who can use it to show the villain’s actions without revealing the identity of the culprit.

Nowadays, POV photography is everywhere and has become totally ubiquitous as just about anybody can go out and buy a Go-Pro camera, strap it to their ski- or bike-helmet and start filming away; Facebook and YouTube are full of first-person accounts of thrill-seekers hurtling down black runs or bumping along single-track mountain trails. It is the more memorable cinematic examples, however, that shall be examined in the following list.

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  1. 1 new

    Rear Window

    1954, in 31 top lists Check
  2. 2 new

    Enter the Void

    2009, in 7 top lists Check
  3. 3 new

    Lady in the Lake

    1946, in 2 top lists Check
  4. 4 new

    Jaws

    1975, in 29 top lists Check
  5. 5 new

    Dark Passage

    1947, in 6 top lists Check
  6. 6 new

    Vertigo

    1958, in 42 top lists Check
  7. 7 new

    The Terminator

    1984, in 24 top lists Check
  8. 8 new

    Halloween

    1978, in 17 top lists Check
  9. 9 new

    Strange Days

    1995, in 4 top lists Check
  10. 10 new

    Lord of War

    2005, in 0 top lists Check
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Last updated on Feb 25, 2024; source