What Movies Are the Best Examples of Different Film Lighting?

What Movies Are the Best Examples of Different Film Lighting?

Film lighting production crew at work on film sets. What movies are the best examples of different film lighting?

Enhance your creative projects with some new light. Explore iconic movie examples of different film lighting and discover the power of lights.


Let your muses, characters, and sets shine with a little bit of light. Lighting plays a prominent role in theatre, photography, art, and film. It establishes tones, highlights subjects, and offers lots of room for creative experimentation. There are many ways to illuminate your creative projects, giving you multiple possible directions for your final piece. Here are four iconic movie examples of different film lighting to explore and learn from.

Facial Lighting: The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather gives you lots of creative offers you can’t refuse. From the writing and character portrayals to the cinematography and musical score, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather features head-to-toe quality film production. One of its most notable filming techniques is facial lighting.

Throughout the film, lighting accentuates the characters’ facial features. It enhances personas, importance, and dramatic effect. When illuminating the godfather himself, Vito Corleone, lighting establishes his darkness and power. It casts shadows under his eyes, making them look hollow and skull-like.

Another prominent facial lighting used is half-face shadowing, which illuminates the two sides of characters—the façade and their dark other half. The Godfather uses lighting techniques to cast shadows that depict the mysterious, foreboding darkness of the characters and storyline.

Candlelight Lighting: Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon experiments with ambient, practical, and motivated lighting. One of the most famous parts of the movie is called the candlelight scene, in which Kubrick used a special camera to capture the low lighting that candles cast.

The use of natural lighting from the flames keeps the set and story accurate to the time period and creates warm ambient glows, setting a specific tone. It also complements the 18th-century makeup that the actors wear, making it seem more natural for the time period rather than overly dramatic, which many period pieces tend to do.

Atmospheric Lighting: Blade Runner (1982)

Lights can set a scene with ease. Their hues and shadows present a story within themselves, transforming tones, moods, and visual ambiance. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner uses many different types of video production lighting to set the moody and grim atmosphere of his story.

There are scenes shot with soft and blue lighting, while others use hard lighting to create distinct shadows. Scott uses backlighting to create scenes where characters are simply shown as silhouettes and even throws in some experimental flashing lights in dramatic moments. Blade Runner explores multiple lighting methods to bring its sci-fi setting and story to life.

Natural Lighting: The Revenant (2015)

Alejandro González Iñárritu used natural lighting to shoot most of The Revenant. Whether the sun shone bright or clouds created soft glows, Iñárritu worked with whatever light nature brought to their outdoor sets.

Shooting with natural light comes with many challenges and leaves you with minimal control. However, since a majority of The Revenant’s story takes place outdoors, the natural changes of sunlight throughout the day make sense.

These four iconic movies provide you with many different film lighting examples, from facial lighting to natural and ambient lighting. Exploring the range of possibilities lighting presents allows you to enhance and transform your shots in many ways. Experiment and shed a different light on your creative projects with varying lighting techniques learned from past movies.

What movies are the best examples of different film lighting that you know? Share your thoughts with us. Leave a comment