Top 10 Most Difficult One-Take Movie Scenes Ever Filmed



Top 10 Most Difficult One-Take Movie Scenes Ever Filmed

VOICE OVER: Andrew Tejada WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
From sheer length to intricate staging, these shots required the utmost precision to capture. For this list, we'll be looking at anyone-take that was really hard to complete. Our countdown includes “Creed”, "1917", “Children of Men”, and more!

Top 10 Most Difficult to Film One-Take Movie Scenes

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Difficult to Film One-Take Movie Scenes.

For this list, we’ll be looking at any one-take that was really hard to complete. From sheer length to intricate staging, these shots required the utmost precision to capture. While movies like “Atomic Blonde” had great scenes that looked like one shot, this list was only for examples that were captured without edits.

Did we forget your favorite one-take movie scene? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: Boxing Match

“Creed” (2015)

In "Creed," filmmaker Ryan Coogler captured the action of a boxing ring in a four-minute take. In one fluid motion, Adonis Creed and his opponent traded jabs and crosses. In another movie by another director, the scene would have been filmed in several shots due to the difficulty of capturing the full contest. Instead, the camera kept all of the action in frame in an engaging and much more intense scene. Both actors had to master the whole fight like a dance, knowing exactly where to move and punch over the course of the scene. Making sure that the audience was in lockstep with the boxers, Coogler followed the entire sequence from bell to bell in an expertly choreographed match.

#9: Car Bomb Explosion

“Touch of Evil” (1958)

Beginning “Touch of Evil” with a bang, Orson Welles opened his noir classic on a bomb being planted in a car. While the unassuming driver took off with an explosive device, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh walked across a border town none the wiser. Trading tension and extended dialogue scenes, the film followed the two leads with an impressive crane shot. Setting up the movie’s complicated criminal story, Welles’ camera floated down streets and around buildings. Every move in the three-minute plus scene had to be exact to make sure everyone was in the correct position. Before the car went up in flames, the filmmaker’s camera trick introduced the characters and set the tone of the piece.

#8: Running Across the Battlefield

“1917” (2019)

Sam Mendes’ award-winning film “1917” featured a number of advancements in the realm of long takes. Collaborating with cinematographer Roger Deakins, the director orchestrated a scene set during a World War I battle charge. The camera followed the lead, George MacKay, at a precise pace to keep him in frame, while operators transitioned the camera to a separate rig mid-shot. Also, the set-piece provided a visceral action spectacle that required hundreds of background performers and live explosives. Raw and energetic, the actor preserved the take by running even after accidentally knocking into other soldiers. Mendes juggled a number of moving parts to bring this authentic war sequence to life.

#7: 37-Minute Take

“One Cut of the Dead” (2017)

Defying the trend of horror films with quick and dramatic cuts, “One Cut of the Dead” featured a lengthy one-take opening. In a staggeringly original 37-minute shot, this meta narrative gets off to an oddly engrossing start. The story followed a cast and crew that created a zombie movie, turning the genre on its head. After six attempts, the director Shin'ichirō Ueda delivered the extended shot that sets up a disastrous undead film halted by real zombies. Not only was the idea complicated, but the use of blood and effects also demonstrated an added difficulty in nailing the scene. Boundlessly inventive, “One Cut of the Dead” presented a multi-layered opening scene for the horror genre.

#6: Staircase Fight

“The Protector” (2005)

Thai fighting sensation Tony Jaa performed this scene from “The Protector” like it was another day at the office. The martial artist tore through several floors of bad guys as a steadicam followed after him. Each confrontation needed to go off without a hitch as the performer ascended the stairs. Jaa issued many kicks and punches that all landed perfectly and looked super painful. To make the high intensity sequence even more difficult, it required multiple high falls from trained stunt men. After he dispatched everyone in the nearly four-minute fight, the actor and camera team completed the scene without breaking a sweat.

#5: Car Ambush

“Children of Men” (2006)

Alfonso Cuarón crafted his sci-fi story “Children of Men” around stellar set pieces like this complex scene. With the all-star cast piled into a van, the director and his award-winning cinematographer filmed the shot with a special camera rig. Able to snake around the vehicle, the dynamic camera movements allowed the cast to drive and talk in real-time. That would be impressive enough, but the scene ramped up when the car got ambushed. As technical as it was exciting, this went from an intimate dialogue scene into an action scene with ease. Outside, a stunt team on a motorcycle chased the van to make things even more difficult. Cuarón and his team executed the compelling one-take with cutting-edge technology.

#4: Hospital Raid

“Hard Boiled” (1992)

Among the best international action directors, John Woo went all out for this hospital shootout. While his muses shot their way through hallways, Woo’s camera got it all in one gloriously violent take. Bullets flying everywhere, the in-camera effects and choreography made the exciting sequence extra chaotic. Instead of going to another floor, the two policemen waited in the elevator as the set was changed in real-time. The crew seamlessly altered the stage without the need for edits. Add to that the number of practical effects and explosives needed and this scene expertly mixed together on and off-screen craftsmanship. In the end, John Woo proved he was one of the greatest action visionaries ever with this one-take.

#3: Chaos in Space

“Gravity” (2013)

From the first scene of “Gravity,” the sci-fi film sent the audience for a ride with an incredible shot. Over the course of several minutes, the crew of a shuttle went from a peaceful spacewalk to a harrowing debris storm. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and the production team engineered a long take that stretched the possibilities of filmmaking. Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Stone flailed around helplessly in a scene that looked like it was really in orbit. While an amazing team of visual effects artists added their expertise to the scene, the in-camera shots still demanded the most of the actors and camera team. When Stone flew into the abyss, the breathtaking one-take capped itself off with an incredible finale.

#2: The Long Night

“Victoria” (2015)

Director Sebastian Schipper dared to film an entire crime thriller in one shot. The titular character found herself on a night that she would never forget. The filmmaker shot a variation made up of ten-minute sections, but ended up finishing the project in its intended form instead. Shockingly, the movie was built off of a sparse script with improvised dialogue. Over the course of three takes, the final one-cut version was completed by a brave cast and crew. From club dance scenes to a bank robbery, the demanding production required each performer to be at the top of their game. It’s fair to say that this one-take pushed the limits of the medium.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Beach Scene, “Atonement” (2007)
Joe Wright’s Detailed & Elaborate One-Take Recounted the Disastrous Evacuation of Dunkirk

Going in the Copacabana, “Goodfellas” (1990)
A Series of Complex & Intricate Camera Moves Revealed the Gangster Lifestyle in One Shot

Funeral Procession, “I Am Cuba” (1964)
This Scene Managed Tons of Extras & a Difficult Camera Move to Film a Funeral

Hallway Fight, “Oldboy” (2003)
Oldboy’s Centerpiece Captured a Brutal, Choreographed Brawl in Painstaking Detail

The Burning House, “The Sacrifice” (1986)
Tarkovsky’s One-Take Featured a Climactic House Fire of Epic Proportions

#1: The Whole Movie

“Russian Ark” (2002)

"Russian Ark" applied the one-take movie concept to a period piece. The unconventional historical film needed a whole host of extras and extravagant costumes. The camera glided through the halls of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, as a ghostlike protagonist explored various eras of the city’s history. It was truly singular in its artistry and complexity, as part travelogue and part historical drama. The filmmakers made seamless transitions and densely packed scenes that felt entirely natural. One of the first feature-length projects that dared to be finished in one unedited shot, “Russian Ark” had one of the most difficult and important productions ever.