Film buffs, it’s time to get your geek on. This Laboratory 101 page devoted to great tracking shots in films is tailor-made to start arguments and inspire comparisons. If nothing else, it gives you an excuse to revisit some cool moments from flicks like Boogie Nights, Touch of Evil and The Player. John Cole makes his pitch for Donnie Darko, while Andrew Sullivan singles out the pool party from Boogie Nights.
Long tracking shots were something of a signature for Stanley Kubrick even before there was a Steadicam to make it easier. I think he never made more effective use of it than he did in the 1957 war drama Paths of Glory. In this clip, the tracking shot begins at about 6:10:
For most of the sequence, the camera is retreating before the officer as he tours the trenches, then shifts to follow him, as though eavesdropping, after the meeting with the shellshocked soldier.
I couldn’t find a suitable clip, but the opening of A Clockwork Orange (a film I otherwise loathe) always impresses with the way Kubrick has the camera draw back from Alex and his droogs, like a fearful courtier, gradually revealing the interior of the Korova milkbar and the perverted environment Alex prefers.
Since the famous “trip” sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey takes an astronaut from our solar system to (presumably) a completely different galaxy, it technically qualifies as the longest tracking shot in human history:
I guess a distant second would be the opening sequence of Contact, which pretty much fixes our place in the universe:
I realize these last two are special-effects shots, but should that disqualify them? Most of the shots cited by Laboratory 101 would have been impossible without some kind of technological boost. I am open to argument on the subject.