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Signature Shot

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A recurring shot in the works of a film director. Can form part of a Signature Style. The literary/unintentional equivalent of this is an Author Catchphrase, and the actor equivalent of this is just a normal catchphrase ("I'll be back").

May be the result of conscious or subconscious Author Appeal.

An important distinction to make in this trope is the difference between mise-en-scene and cinematography. Mise-en-scene is WHAT is shown on screen, while cinematography is HOW it's shown on screen. The two frequently combine to make a director's signature shot. So Michael Bay's love for helicopters at sunset is more "signature mise-en-scene" (see Creator Thumbprint), but his usage of low angled telephoto shots of said helicopters silhouetted over the sunset would be a Signature Shot. Others walk the line- Tarantino's close-ups on feet are sort of signature mise-en-scene (feet) and sort of signature cinematography (the close-up on the feet as anchor point for a larger scene). We're looking for that cinematography- that particular use of the camera, its focus and placement.

Many of these can be found in trivia sections on IMDb.

Not to be confused with a Pinball designer's preferred table layout.

Does not include overarching Signature Style elements of a body of work, or explicit trademarks, such as Alfred Hitchcock's silhouette or Walt Disney's signature.


  • Paul Thomas Anderson has used Iris Shot in every film he's ever made.
  • Wes Anderson always has a Walking and Talking scene where the camera spins around the protagonist as he does a surprising amount of work.
  • Michael Bay is heavily associated with a particular shot in which the camera dramatically circles around a character, usually from a low angle.
  • Ingmar Bergman is known for his intense close-ups of faces in despair. He has another one where the intense close-up is in profile, while including another character a bit further away facing the camera. George Stevens did a beautiful homage to it at a tense moment in I Remember Mama.
  • Busby Berkeley is very famous for his overhead shots, especially where dancers form kaleidoscope-like or artistic patterns. Even today putting overhead shots into your film is considered an homage to Berkley.
  • Kenneth Branagh's love of Dutch Angles is well-documented.
  • Tim Burton: Tunnel Vision.
  • James Cameron: Feet-First Introduction. Also characteristic of Ken Burns (one of his Ken Burns Effects).
  • Claude Chabrol uses shots of where the camera climbs a spiral staircase in four different films.
  • Jonathan Demme loved extreme close ups where the character LOOKS at the camera, especially ones where Anthony Hopkins stares at you and does this. His technique is so iconic, directors like Paul Thomas Anderson replicated it. A gallery of his close-ups can be seen in this supercut.
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder is known for still-shots framing characters in doorways.
  • Lucio Fulci often uses a extreme close up of characters' eyes, either with or without a zoom. It is present in almost all of his films several times.
  • Terry Gilliam: Extreme close-ups of actors with extremely wide lenses. Ditto for Peter Jackson.
  • Doctor Who director Graeme Harper puts a shot of a character seen through a lens in every episode he directs.
  • Alfred Hitchcock used a technique called "cross-tracking", a variation of shot/reverse-shot, in which a character, walking towards a threatening object is intercut with that object.
  • Stanley Kubrick: the Kubrick Stare and the use of One-Point Perspective.
  • Spike Lee has his double dolly shot, which involves an actor being moved through a scene via a dolly, in addition to the camera, giving the impression that they are essentially gliding through the environment.
  • Sergio Leone loves long close-ups of faces and Eyed Screen.
  • Sam Mendes: Mendes likes shots where the protagonist stares into the distance, regardless if it took place inside (where he/she looks out the window) or outside (where he/she would look at a beach or a landscape). He'd have been wonderful with Katharine Hepburn or Greta Garbo.
  • Yasujiro Ozu really liked to shoot conversations by having the person speaking directly face the camera and cutting to different members of the conversation with 180˚ cuts, rather than put two people in the same shot, or shoot over the shoulder of the person who's listening. As his style developed, he moved the camera less and less until he did not move it at all; he liked to shoot people at their center of mass when they were standing, and he liked the camera being two or three feet above the ground.
  • Sam Raimi: Whip Pan (along with Shaky P.O.V. Cam).
    • He also does that thing where he rapidly zooms in on something in the scene, then rapidly zooms in on something a different detail in the scene, and so on, always using a sound effect with the zoom.
  • Steven Spielberg does at least one reflection shot per film. Also, the "Spielberg Face" is his signature shot where we see a character's face as they look in awe toward some wonder or during some monumental event. Long before Spielberg, William Perlberg had Jennifer Jones do a Spielberg Face in The Song of Bernadette, where Bernadette first sees her lady.
  • Quentin Tarantino: Shots from the POV of a car trunk. He's also partial to feet.
  • Orson Welles famously used deep-focus shots typically featuring three planes- front, middle, and back, all simultaneously in focus, but clearly separate.
  • John Woo: pulled back tight angle shots of Disturbed Doves are a frequent Harbinger of Asskicking and accompaniment to Hit Stops in his works. Action scenes frequently involve highly mobile cameras and various forms of Adrenaline Time and Bullet Time, becoming more extreme as a film's budget rises. He's also known for a particular form of close-up Mexican Standoff featuring lots of WhipPans and ReactionShots over Gunpoint Banter.
  • Robert Zemeckis often uses Object Tracking Shots.