Smartphone Films by Critically Acclaimed Directors

22 Sep 2021 / by akintundesmith in Blog

Still doubt you can do great things with your smartphone? This list below should settle it for you once and for all. It’s a list of films by critically acclaimed directors shot on smartphones. I hope it inspires you to start now.


High Flying Bird” (2019)

Soderbergh shot “High Flying Bird” on an iPhone 8, which is now capable of filming in 4K resolution. The wealthy and bright realms of power atop expensive restaurants and skyscrapers for high-powered agents is far different than the mood Soderbergh was chasing on “Unsane,” but the film even has a sequence in which the action of a one-on-one basketball match isn’t captured on camera but by teenagers on, what else, their phones.


“Unsane” (2018)

The first time Steven Soderbergh utilized an iPhone for a film was for 2018’s “Unsane,” a claustrophobic B-movie set inside a hospital starring Claire Foy that he shot in just 10 days. Using apps and other tools on the iPhone 7 Plus allowed Soderbergh to achieve a gritty, 16mm look that captured the feel of a ’70s horror classic.


“Tangerine” (2015)

Sean Baker’s debut film “Tangerine” was the most successful and critically acclaimed movie to date to be shot entirely on iPhones. Baker used three separate iPhone 5s to give the film a mobile, energetic quality and pay homage to Dogme 95 directors who came before him.


“Rage” (2009)

The first ever film shot on a phone was “Rage,” from director Sally Potter (“Orlando”). Potter’s film is constructed entirely of close-up profile shots and interviews of actors such as Steve Buscemi, Riz Ahmed, Judi Dench and more. Broken up into seven parts for easier download, Reuters billed the film as the future of “Naked Cinema.”




“Snow Steam Iron” (2017)

After he was removed from directing duties on “Justice League,” Zack Snyder turned to this short film called “Snow Steam Iron” that resembled some of his earlier films like “300” and “Sucker Punch.” Snyder used an iPhone 7 Plus and an app called Filmic Pro to give the short a cinematic quality.


“Searching for Sugar Man” (2012)

The Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” was saved by an iPhone app that cost just $1.99. Director Malik Bendjelloul used an app called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film after telling CNN that he had run out of money.


“Uneasy Lies the Mind” (2014)

Imagine if Stanley Kubrick filmed “The Shining” on an iPhone. In this thriller from director Ricky Fosheim, a man slowly loses his sanity while on a retreat with his wife in an isolated mansion. Fosheim wrote an article for American Cinematographer saying that he purchased an iPhone 5 and a Turtleback SLR jacket lens adapter and compared his own footage to that of pricier cameras. “The results blew my mind: The iPhone footage was raw, dirty, vignetted and unlike anything I’d seen before.”


“I Play With the Phrase Each Other” (2013)

The filmmakers of this “I Play With the Phrase Each Other” boast not only that their film was shot on cellphones, but that it’s the first feature film that tells its story entirely through cellphone calls. The drama starring Jay Alvarez won the Special Jury Prize for Original Vision from the Slamdance Film Festival in 2014.


“Night Fishing” (2011)

“Oldboy” director Park Chan-Wook made his 2011 short film “Night Fishing” on an iPhone 4. It’s a 30-minute fantasy horror film about a fisherman who catches a mystical shaman in a river. It won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.


“9 Rides” (2016)

Before he executive produced the Best Picture-nominated “BlacKkKlansman,” filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry made “9 Rides” about an Uber driver who gets life-changing news on New Years Eve. Not only did he shoot it on an iPhone 6 in 4K resolution, he also funded the film via Kickstarter. “9 Rides” eventually played at the SXSW Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.



“Romance in NYC” (2015)

Filmmaker Tristan Pope filmed this romantic love story in New York on an iPhone 6, and it’s novel for being filmed from the point of view of a boyfriend on a date with his girlfriend in the city. The film was funded on Kickstarter, it won the top prize at the now annual iPhone Film Festival in 2015 and is available on iTunes.



“Detour” (2017)

Michel Gondry made his fantastical and colorful iPhone movie specifically as a commercial for Apple. The “Eternal Sunshine” filmmaker filmed it on an iPhone 7 Plus about a kid’s tricycle that miraculously tries to make its way back to a vacationing family.



There are many more films, we couldn’t possibly make a full list. You should check out smartphone film festival sites to see the levels of cinematographic creations by smartphone creators all over the world.

Here ‘s a list of smartphone film festivals


That’s it then, if you have a smartphone device, there is nothing stopping you from getting your name on lists like these. Who knows, you could be the next Orson Welles.


Looking forward to your masterpiece.


All the best.

Akintunde Smith

Creative Director





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