After highlighting the finest cinematography of the last year, it’s time to look at the classics. Back in 1998 and then in 2008, American Cinematographer polled the American Society of Cinematographers group, made up of the most accomplished directors of photography in the field, for the best work in three separate eras. First was 1894 to 1949, then 1950 to 1997, then 1998 to 2008.

While the full lists consisting of 150 films total can be read at the links below (with a hat tip to HitFix), we’ve included the top 10 in each category. Topping the respective rundowns were Gregg Toland for Citizen Kane, Freddie Young for Lawrence of Arabia, and Bruno Delbonnel for Amélie. While one of my all-time favorites, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, just missed the cut on the lattermost list, it includes great work like Children of Men and No Country For Old Men.

Among the other lists are the iconic silent films Sunrise and Metropolis, Terrence Malick‘s magic hour beauty Days of Heaven, the ravishing The Conformist, and more. Hopefully in about three years, we’ll see another poll, which I imagine/hope will include The Tree of Life and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, among others. As Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner, and Unbroken go toe-to-toe at this year’s Oscar ceremonies, check out what the experts in the cinematography field consider to be the best examples below.

1894-1949 (full list)

1. “Citizen Kane” (Gregg Toland, 1941)
2. “Gone with the Wind” (Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan, 1939)
3. “Sunrise” (Charles Rosher, Karl Struss, 1927)
4. “Metropolis” (Karl Freund, Günther Rittau, 1927)
5. “The Wizard of Oz” (Harold Rosson, 1939)
6. “The Magnificent Ambersons” (Stanley Cortez, 1942)
7. “Casablanca” (Arthur Edeson, 1942)
8. “Battleship Potemkin” (Eduard Tisse, 1926)
9. “The Third Man” (Robert Krasker, 1950)
10. “The Birth of a Nation” (G.W. Bitzer, 1915)

1950-1997 (full list)

1. “Lawrence of Arabia” (Freddie Young, 1962)
2. “The Godfather” (Gordon Willis, 1971)
3. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (Geoffrey Unworth, 1969)
4. “Days of Heaven” (Néstor Almendros, 1978)
5. “Schindler’s List” (Janusz Kaminski, 1993)
6. “Apocalypse Now” (Vittorio Storaro, 1979)
7. “The Conformist” (Vittorio Storaro, 1970)
8. “Raging Bull” (Michael Chapman, 1980)
9. “Blade Runner” (Jordan Cronenweth, 1982)
10. “Touch of Evil” (Russell Metty, 1958)

1998-2008 (full list)

1. “Amélie” (Bruno Delbonnel, 2001)
2. “Children of Men” (Emmanuel Lubezki, 2006)
3. “Saving Private Ryan” (Janusz Kaminski, 1998)
4. “There Will Be Blood” (Robert Elswit, 2007)
5. “No Country for Old Men” (Roger Deakins, 2007)
6. “Fight Club” (Jeff Cronenweth, 1999)
7. “The Dark Knight” (Wally Pfister, 2008)
8. “Road to Perdition” (Conrad L. Hall, 2002)
9. “City of God (Cidade de Deus)” (César Charlone, 2003)
10. “American Beauty” (Conrad L. Hall, 1999)

What do you think of the list? Did any of your favorites miss the cut?

See the best-edited films of all-time, according to editors.

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