The camera doesn’t matter — it’s the story, the talent and the imagination that helps a film stand out. While some creators get stuck at the technological aspects, others take advantage of what they have in their pockets. Is it possible to make a professional movie on an iPhone? We’ve collected five examples that prove it is (Oscar winners included).
List of Popular Movies Filmed on iPhones
1. Searching for Sugar Man (documentary feature film, 2012)
This film investigates the story of a mysterious American folk singer who vanished in the 1970s, so the director, Malik Benjelloul, decided to shoot on 8mm film to recreate the feeling of the era. During production, he completely ran out of money and couldn’t afford any more expensive film stock. Then he discovered the 8mm Vintage Camera app for £1.49. The app imitated the look and grain of 8mm film so well that the crew continued shooting with an iPhone. Not only did it blend perfectly in the picture, but it helped the movie to win an Oscar for Best Documentary.
2. Tangerine (feature film, 2015)
It was no surprise that a film about two transgendered prostitutes found it impossible to secure much funding. Because of these budget constraints the director, Sean Baker, decided that the best way to make the film was to shoot it entirely on an iPhone.
The result went far beyond their expectations — a long festival run, prestigious awards (from Sundance and Indie Spirits) and worldwide recognition. The film didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially acquired one of the iPhones for the Academy Museum. Though Baker swore not to use iPhones for filming again, he didn’t stick to his promise: he had to take out his smartphone again for the final scene of his next feature, as the crew didn’t get permission to shoot inside the Walt Disney World Resort.
3. Only One (music video, 2015)
Spike Jonze is best known for the Oscar-winning features Being John Malkovich and Her, but he is also recognized as one of the most unconventional filmmakers working today. Over the course of his career, he has created more than 50 visually stunning videos for Beastie Boys, Björk, Weezer, and many other artists.
In 2015, he shot a music video for Kanye West. To emphasize the intimacy of the song, Jonze used just his iPhone, with no additional features. The home-movie-style shaky image perfectly matched the song’s beautiful message from West to his 18-month-old daughter in the middle of a rain-soaked field.
4. Détour (short, 2017)
The man behind the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry, came from the world of commercials and music videos. He was approached by Apple to create a short film that would demonstrate the technical advantages of the smartphone’s camera. Known for his inventive and whimsical style, Gondry made a charming short about a family trip as seen by… a little tricycle that got lost along the way. The result is a 10-minute-long bittersweet journey through France.
5. Snow Steam Iron (short, 2017)
The director of Watchmen and Batman v. Superman, Zack Snyder, proved he could work without a big budget and studio support: with a little help from friends and relatives, he made a short film in just one weekend. The 4-minute noir lacks any dialogue and includes all Snyder’s trademarks: slow-motion, nudity, a bleak color palette, and ultraviolence. Additional bonus — a soundtrack by Junkie XL.