10 Of The Most Impressive Long Takes In Movie History

2) Goodfellas

Goodfellas

The dialogue is endlessly quotable and the world of the movie is irresistible, but the long tracking shot in Goodfellas was one of the biggest reasons it drew people in so deeply and effectively early on. The brilliant conceit of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece is that it captures why a person would be attracted by the life of a criminal while also depicting the doomed and futile nature of such a life. Part of that purpose is fulfilled by seducing the audience into the lifestyle led by the men Henry Hill aspires to be, and then by Henry himself as he woos his future wife, Karen.

The long shot comes in as Henry takes Karen to Copacabana nightclub. It’s about a 3-minute take, which considering the average shot in a movie is 3 to 7 seconds, is like an eternity (for further reference, Gravity’s opening shot is listed as 17 minutes long, so it’s, like, literally longer than eternity). It’s one of those wonderful moments in movies where we are put in the position of both of these characters simultaneously.

On one hand, we’re Karen, being seduced as Henry, via this long tracking shot, tours us through this intoxicating world where he knows everybody and is treated like royalty. On the other hand, we’re vicariously experiencing this world through Henry, who states in the movie’s opening that he always dreamed about being a gangster, and as he’s admitted through the back door and passes through a sea of familiar, adoring faces to a seat in the front of the club, we see that dream coming to fruition. The technical difficulty of shooting sequences like this almost go without saying; when they are carried out to enhance the story the way this shot in Goodfellas does, it’s cinematic technique put to its greatest possible use.

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