Top 10 Movies Shot With Handheld Cameras

If you are an independent filmmaker on a budget, one of the easiest ways to cut down your costs is to shoot your movies on handheld cameras. You may be apprehensive about this, which is why I’ve compiled 10 great movies which are better off for using handheld footage.

handheld camera used to shoot movies

1. The Blair Witch Project

Possibly one of the most commercially successful independent movies of all time. The Blair Witch Project’s low budget of $60,000 lent itself naturally to a handheld shooting style.

The movie went on to earn a staggering $248.6 million at the box office. It just goes to show that audiences are more than happy to watch a film shot through shaky handheld footage, as long as the story is compelling enough.

Consider how shaky the handheld footage from the following scene is and how it adds to the texture of the “haunted” premise of the movie:

2. Paranormal Activity

If you are an independent filmmaker, you may be thinking that whilst shaky handheld footage worked for The Blair Witch Project in 1999, it would not work now. While you are right that technology has advanced significantly in the last twenty or so years, the audiences haven’t lost their appetite for movies with handheld footage.

Consider one of the most successful low budget horror films of recent times, Paranormal Activity. It was shot with a budget of $15,000 and returned a mindblowing amount of $193.4 million at the box office.

The shaky handheld footage actually adds to the paranormal vibe of the movie.

3. Children Of Men

But what if I don’t want to create a horror film? One of the highest budget genres worldwide is Sci-Fi and somewhere where you would definitely not expect to see handheld footage.

However, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki did exactly the opposite when shooting one of the most revered Sci-Fi films of recent times, Children of Men. The cinematography was so good it actually went on to earn Lubezki a nomination at the Academy Awards.

Consider of the long takes from the movie and see what you think:

4. Jarhead

Continuing along the thread of revered cinematographer, this film was shot by Roger Deakins. Deakins has been nominated for an Academy award FIFTEEN times, with two wins under his belt. A seriously impressive feat, from a man who clearly knows what he is doing.

On his website, Deakins claimed to have shot Jarhead almost entirely handheld. He claims it is work he “love[s] doing”. Although he did state that he is not a fan of the “kind of camerawork that draws attention to itself”.

5. Project X

Project X has gone on to receive cult status. It is an incredibly fun movie which uses its handheld footage to immerse the audience into the movies world, being that of a bunch of wild high school seniors.

The handheld style actually works in favour of the films theme. This is something to consider when deciding which style to shoot in for your movie.

6. 28 Days Later

Danny Boyle is a masterful director. His use of handheld shooting in his movies, especially 28 Days Later, is never done unintentionally. It is used to create an unsettled atmosphere which further terrifies the audience.

7. City Of God

If you haven’t seen this film, click on the link above and watch it now. It is incredible. Rated 8.6 on IMDB and 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is generally seen as one of the greatest films of recent times.

The movies use of handheld footage helps create a raw and gritty feel to this urban story about two young men choosing differing paths in 1970s Rio de Janeiro.

8. The Revenant

The Revenant is one of the most beautiful movies ever shot. It is certainly not a movie you would associate with a handheld shooting style.

That is exactly why I wanted to include it on this list. Handheld footage does not have to result in unaesthetic movies.

Consider the scene below, and despite all the destruction, the movie is able to capture the natural landscape beautifully.

9. Bourne Ultimatum

Handheld shots are fantastic for action scenes. They can help give the audience a sense of panic and unsettle them, similar to what the protagonist feels.

Consider the scene below and how the handheld aspect of the shooting style enhances the feeling of the movie:

10. Tangerine

This 2015 film was shot entirely on an iPhone. It is the ultimate inspiration to all low budget filmmakers that equipment does not need to be a barrier in creating movies.

The movie was largely shot in a handheld style.

If you are inspired by this article to shoot your own short film, but don’t have the budget to do it, don’t worry – we have you covered! Here is how to create a short film for FREE!

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