The 5 most visually striking movies in cinema


What makes a visually striking movie? Nowadays, mainstream cinema seems to be blowing up big time with audiences across the world. With hugely popular blockbuster series like Marvel and Star Wars releasing massive next-level productions, people have started to expect a certain level of ‘wow’ factor when they casually head over to their local cinema. With people expecting more and more from the entertainment industry, it seems as though some movies can actually lose this ‘wow’ factor amongst the race to become the “next big thing” of the year.

So, how does a huge blockbuster break away from the rest? And what constitutes a movie to be ‘fantastic’? For some, it might be an incredible plot twist from an M. Night Shyamalan movie or even a super strong character development found in most Christopher Nolan dramas. Whatever the case, most audiences look for something with “impact” and something that grabs their attention on a deeper level. So I’ve created a list of the most visually striking movies that audiences have experienced. Movies that provide a deeper level of impact and emotion through the viewpoint of the characters on-screen!

Moonlight (2016)

MoonligMoonlight visually striking movieht visually striking movie

In 2016, Moonlight was one of the biggest movies of the year. It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture, along with 8 nominations for the 89th Academy Awards. Critics have dubbed Moonlight as one of the best movies of the 21st Century, as director Barry Jenkins highlights the emotional challenges of sexuality and identity as a unique coming-of-age drama. Although the plot is absolutely amazing, the movie is an incredible watch for more than just the message it sends to audiences.

The Moonlight production team worked with colourists before shooting the film, in order to obtain the true essence of Miami. By using tropical lush greenery against pastel styles, the cinematography of Moonlight offered a stunning experience for its audience. With powerful uses of contrast, the character’s faces sculpted by shadowing and differently lighting settings. It uses sunlight and moonlight to illustrate the climate of Florida in one of the most visually artistic ways possible.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014

When The Grand Budapest Hotel was first released, Wes Anderson brought one of the wackiest yet most incredible films to cinema audiences in 2014. The movie was a huge production. Although many scenes were strongly edited in post-production, the complexly varying on-set lighting techniques including dimmer-controlled lighting and paper lanterns provided the warm-toned feel of the entire movie. This use of tools on-set created some of the most unique visual effects for any movie of this genre. Especially as these effects were done before post-production editing.

Wes Anderson also ensured that the two different timelines that take place within the movie differentiate in colour. The 30s era of the movie uses a lot more red and pink colours as contrasts whereas the 60s utilises warmer tones of oranges and yellows. With the strong use of a wide-angle lens for head-on shots, and the soft, varying colour tones throughout the movie, it created a unique visual experience for The Grand Budapest Hotel audiences that are yet to be seen in any other film.

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar amazing visuals

In 2014, Christopher Nolan brought one of the most thrilling space odyssey stories to cinema audiences around the world. As we follow a group of space explorers when they venture across our solar system. Interstellar introduced audiences to some of the best visual effects and digital art of any movie to date. The movie was a huge success. Christopher Nolan blended an excellent plot steeped in moral environmental undertones with the most stunning visual art that you might have ever seen in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Christopher Nolan and his team went to extreme measures to create the most incredible visual experience for the Interstellar audiences. By researching dust storms in Northern African deserts, the team could blend these real-life events with high-tech computer graphics in order to create the thrilling space storms on-screen. The movie’s visual effects were so incredibly stunning that Interstellar won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

Sin City (2005)

Sin City 2005 unique visual effects

When Sin City hit cinema’s in 2005, audiences experienced the exceptional visual effects of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s concept of a graphic novel brought to life. Although Sin City had an awesome plot, the neo-noir crime movie was like nothing cinema audiences had ever experienced. This was primarily due to the incredibly unique visual effects. Similar to most movies on this list, Sin City’s amazing scenes were created predominantly in post-production.

With a unique play on colour, the movie reflects the illustration aspects of the original graphic novel. The movie is completely unique in every sense. From the thrilling use of colour to the futuristic setting with a strong 1940s feel. Although many movies have received praise for their incredible visual effects, Sin City is so refreshingly unique that audiences are yet to experience anything similar to date.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind stunning

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind has a strong Hollywood cast starring Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey. But the movie couldn’t be further from a typical studio-endorsed blockbuster. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind blends romance, psychology and a bit of science-fiction into the form of a beautiful independent movie. It focuses on the concept of love and introverted heartbreak in a very unconventional way. With poignant scenes such as the house collapsing as a metaphor for the breakdown of a relationship, the use of awesome visual effects that were far beyond its time when first released in 2004.

The early 2000s saw a lot of CGI in many blockbusters.The trend was becoming increasingly common. However, when it came to  Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, most of the visual effects were achieved on-set by creative lighting techniques and cinematically forced perspectives. With this movie, the story was as unique and beautiful as the stellar visual effects. These unique yet unpopular techniques of this era, paid off massively, as the movie was hugely successful. having won multiple awards for the Best Original Screenplay, including a Golden Globe nomination.

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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