Top 6: Travelling Shots

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

In Episode 14, our Top 6 list is about the best travelling shots. “Travelling Shots” is term that collectively refers to tracking shots, crane shots, handheld shots — any kind of shot where the camera is moving. We define “tracking shot” in Episode 14, and we’ll get to the others in the weeks to come. Anyway, often camera moves leave a lasting impression. They can be exciting or foreboding or drive home some other kind of dramatic beat, and as they often call attention to themselves, many become famous amongst film buffs.

Here are our favorite travelling shots. How about yours?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. The entire film of Russian Ark (2002)
  2. The opening of Touch of Evil (1958)
  3. The Copacabana scene from Goodfellas (1990)
  4. Tricycle point of view shot from The Shining (1980)
  5. The opening of The Player (1992)
  6. The four concurrent movie-length tracking shots in Timecode (2000)
  1. Dizzy from vertigo in Vertigo (1958)
  2. The opening of The Player (1992)
  3. Down the drain in Barton Fink (1991)
  4. The opening of Touch of Evil (1958)
  5. Through kitchenware in Panic Room (2002)
  6. Careening up a ladder in Raising Arizona (1987)


  1. WarpNacelle (48) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 1:27 am

    I’ve always liked the tracking shot in “Contact” that starts (after the signal has been picked up) when Jodie Fosters character leaves her car, runs into the building, up the stairs, through the hallways and into the control room.

    What I enjoy so much about this shot is that it takes a scene where nothing is said but radio jargon, stellar coordinates and such and turns it into a riveting, exciting moment.

    By the way, I really enjoy the pod cast. (Long time reader of Computer Stupidities and It’s a Bad Bad Bad Movie) I look forward to listening to it every week after my lunch break. :)

  2. Sam (405) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Welcome here, Warp.

    You’re right — I’d forgotten that shot, but it’s a great one. In a way, it reminds me of the end sequence of Amadeus. It’s not a tracking shot, but it also manages to create a “riveting, exciting moment” out of a bunch of unexplained jargon. I don’t know anything about radio or music, but these scenes are somehow so good at creating a sense of urgency, that a layman left behind by the lack of specialized knowledge still intuitively understands what’s going on. It’s fascinating to me that a film can do this. See also the photo-processing sequences in Blowup (1966).

  3. Ferrick (140) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Maybe I missed it but when talking about Raising Arizona and how the tracking shot is possibly an homage to Evil Dead, did either of you mention that the Coen brothers worked on the first Evil Dead?

    So, maybe they got it from Sam Raimi or maybe Raimi got it from the brothers. Or both.

  4. Aaron (35) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    I believe they mentioned that the Coens were friends with Raimi.

  5. Stephen (221) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    I don’t believe the Coens worked on The Evil Dead exactly (though they scripted Crimewave, which Raimi directed). I think they were hanging around the editing room at the university where Raimi and co. were editing Evil Dead — it was right around this time that the Coens were getting financing for Blood Simple. In fact, Bruce Campbell starred as the corpse who wouldn’t die in a mock trailer they made to raise money for Blood Simple.

    The IMDB lists Joel Coen as an assistant editor for Evil Dead, but I’m not sure how much of an official capacity he had in the cutting of that. I think they were just friends and hanging around more than anything, but I could be wrong.

  6. Ferrick (140) said,

    January 5, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Stephen, you may be right. I don’t remember where I’ve seen it other than IMDb but I thought I read in a book about the Coens (or Raimi or Evil Dead) that they did do some camera work on the movie. But since my memory of what I read is hazy, I may be remembering it incorrectly or putting too much stock into it.

    It doesn’t really matter. They knew each other.

  7. Rifty (64) said,

    August 25, 2007 at 7:21 am

    I just finished watching Russian Ark, and I have to say, that was fairly interesting. I’m gonna talk about different facets of the movie, and while there isn’t really anything to spoil, I think you’ll get more enjoyment out of the movie if you go into it cold.

    So, A spoiler warning. You’ve been warned.

    I like how the camera acts a viewpoint for the character, as he walks through the museum, looking at different things, and engaging The European in conversation. I didn’t expect it to be like that. I expected it to be a slow-moving travelling shot around the museum. Not any sort of character viewpoint. That was a welcome shot.

    This is another movie that might fit into the “Mysteries where the mystery isn’t important.” For instance, what happened to the character, and how did he come to be there? I’m probably not thinking deeply enough about the movie, though.

    I like how different characters recur. Or rather, just the one- the lady in white from the beginning of the movie. We see her at least three or four times throughout the course of the movie.

    The other thing I like is how The European seems to jump around. You see him walk in from the left side, walk in front, then go off to the right, as the camera pans around, looking at different stuff, or following people around, and all of a sudden, pop, there’s The European again. Very interesting.

    All in all, I quite liked it. Thanks for introducing this movie.


  8. nate42 (10) said,

    September 14, 2007 at 4:20 am

    Sam, I was listening to this podcast when you were talking about that great shot in Rasing Arizona, and you said that the camera zooms across the desert and careens up a ladder and finds Nicholas Cage looking alarmed, but that you didn’t understand the shot, or who’s point of view it is.

    I was watching it with some friends the other day, and it isn’t Nicholas Cage that is up in the room, it is the Mother finding that her boy is gone, and I always thought that the point of view was the Lone Biker of the Apoclypse, ha ha ha, I love that character. Anyways, it makes sense to me because the biker finds out about the boy almost immediately and starts tracking him right away. I don’t know. let me know what you think. I know that this is an old post, but hey, why not.

  9. Sam (405) said,

    September 14, 2007 at 8:56 am

    It isn’t Cage? Huh. Shows how that movie messes with one’s head.

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