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15 of The Most Insanely Detailed Films of All Time!

Movie making is a long and expensive process and in this age of digital media, constant reruns and fan forums, attention to detail is partially what pushes up the budgets of these films as fans and filmmakers alike try to create as realistic and immersive worlds as possible. Some filmmakers take this a step beyond others and really invest a lot of time and effort into the little things.

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Here we look at just a few of some of the most insanely detailed films ever made.


15. The Neon Demon

Anyone familiar with the work of director Nicholas Winding Refn will be aware of his all-encompassing visual style that creates a gorgeous if not intense aesthetic around his films and The Neon Demon is no different to this. The subject matter takes a rather droll look at the fashion industry by turning the dog-eat-dog world of fashion into a literal metaphor as it focuses on a cabal of satanist, cannibalistic models.

The gorgeous scenes force you to focus on everything from the lighting to the stunning costumes and then the gore and guts that are all juxtaposed in such a perfect manner that it all must be taken in, to really appreciate it.


14. The Usual Suspects

Modern crime drama revolves around plot twists and more often than not, the grand story-altering one is signposted and foreshadowed with great intricacy and design that, upon second, third of fourth viewings you can still pick up little clues as to the final reveal and few do that better than The Usual Suspects where a petty criminal is brought into the police station and thought to be able to provide information on an infamous gang leader.

 

The story this small-time hustler spins is detailed to the extreme and even focuses on the small things in the room he is being questioned in and yet they all, somehow, relate to the bigger picture.


13. 300

300 often splits opinion down the middle. It is a beautifully crafted and faithful adaptation of the gory graphic novel of the same name but the film sees Gerard Butler chewing the scenery as swathes of green screen monsters and a twisted take on history play out in spectacular action sequences and not much else.

However, those who are au fait with the work of comic book creator Frank Miller will see how painstakingly loyal to his original vision the film is, which is no easy task given that comic book panels provide a whole picture in one frame whilst movies are, obviously, a moving medium. However, if one film could be described as almost a comic book, it would be this, for better or worse.


12. Coraline

In a stop-motion adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book, the design and aesthetic are very clear from the outset as stop-motion films often are due to the days of filming often only mounting up to a few seconds of screen time due to each frame having to be meticulously positioned and staged. Where Coraline goes a step beyond of most others are the costumes.

Despite being figurines, each individual item of clothing was hand knitted for characters no taller than a few inches high. This meant needles as small as toothpicks were used to create items such as socks that didn't even make it into the consciousness of most viewers.


11. The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King

To say that any of The Lord of The Rings trilogy are detailed would be an understatement of epic proportions. Given that the book saw whole languages developed from pre-existing proto-European script and was littered with Saxon imagery and is a massive allegory for Christianity, the filmmakers wanted to capture the level of in-depth study put into the novels as the books and this shows through in everything done with the films

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The reason that the final film in the series has been picked out for special recognition is because of its immense battle scenes that see hundreds of characters wearing uniquely personalized armor that revolved around their mythical origins. All the chain mail was hand-made link by link and, given the sheer amount of extras in the film, that is something impressive.


10. Once Upon A Time In America

For a man that came to fame for creating Westerns on a budget with actors of different nationalities being dubbed over for each market, you would think his mastery of the cheap would prevent Sergio Leone ever creating a truly detailed epic and critics agreed when the two-hour release of Once Upon A Time In America  was released  it was widely panned.

 

The reason for this was that it had to be cut from Leone's intended 4-hour run time which was released some years later and became lauded for its historical details, delicate storytelling and character building process above so many other films. In fact, after finishing filming, Leone had almost 10-hours of film to work with which may actually be too much detail for any one film. Still, if you do ever find yourself with four hours to kill, do search out the longer cut.


9. The Shining

Director Stanley Kubrick is known for being the ultimate perfectionist in his work, so much so that he drove actors insane and, in the case of Shelley Duvall, almost literally. Kubrick sank his teeth into this adaptation of Stephen King's novel and set about creating something that shows how isolation can make a person insane with space and architecture employed to best effect.

 

So wrapped up in his own vision, King disavowed the film saying it completely missed the point of his writing. In order to create a realistic feel of a tormented women, Kubrick would often shout and scream at actress Duvall and frighten her for no reason and threatened others on set not to comfort her which nearly drove her to a mental breakdown, perhaps taking his demand for perfection a little too far.


8. The Mirror

Created by Soviet-era Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, The Mirror is as magnificent a film as it is frustrating. Diving into the memories of a dying mind the film is all about the thoughts and feelings of a regular life lived and as such focuses intently on the little things like the rustle of leaves. This break from the normal in to-the-point filmmaking can feel heavy going when scenes such as rain falling last for minutes by themselves.

 

The art of the film is that it shows the regular, the extraordinary of the unextraordinary, in all of its unwavering beauty and the detail put into a life are unimaginably well thought out.


7. Heat

When it comes to crime drama, there are often two distinct paths a filmmaker can go down which are the bombastic but often highly implausible with explosions, guns, and car chases that all rely on a certain suspension of disbelief or the realistic and more down to Earth depictions of the day to day criminal dealings.

 

Where Heat succeeds over many others is how it shows the nitty gritty of how a heist is planned from acquiring and making untraceable explosives to the selling of negotiable bonds and obtaining building blueprints. It may not sound exciting but the thrill comes from the glimpse of the daily routines of criminals.


6. Vertigo

Director Alfred Hitchcock is famed for his attention to detail and none more so than his most personal film which saw James Stwart's character become obsessive over a woman and this plays out as the character starts to notice the tiniest of details about his infatuation so do the audience but Hitchcock employs visual tricks to heighten this emotional turmoil.

Using jarring colors or softer tones when there is a lull in tension, each frame is carefully considered for their look alone.


5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is arguably one of the finest visual filmmakers of a generation and the detail he puts into the aesthetic and look of each of his projects is immense and none more so than the comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel which saw actress Saoirse Ronan actually having to learn how to make the signature dessert of the hotel.

 

The costumes are all designed to the highest degree whilst Tilda Swinton spent five hours in the makeup chair to play an 84-year-old and it is this that makes Anderson's work an undeniable treat for the eyes.


4. The Departed

Martin Scorsese is a master of his art and will undoubtedly go down in the annals of history as such but in one of his least lauded films (which says a lot considering how lauded it actually is) The Departed employs visual clues and foreshadowing to great effect and this attention to detail and creation of a running theme is what makes Marty one of the best.

 

In this films about informants and double crosses, the use of rats is fairly evident in many shots but a more subtle addition is the 'X' that appears to mark the impending death of a character.


3. Once Upon A Time In The West

Another Sergio Leone film on the list and another that details a period in America's history that saw bloodshed and moments of great violence in amongst long periods of inactivity. With lingering shots of the mundanities of life at the time, such as gang members just sitting around or a family trying to draw water from a well, the smallest imagery suddenly has the greatest importance.

 

This detail to accuracy as well as just focusing on how mundane life can be, makes for rather compelling viewing as becomes evident when viewers find themselves enthralled by a fly that lands on a gunslingers face during a tense stand-off.


2. V For Vendetta

A film about fascism, political terrorism and the very notion of freedom, the Wachowski's both take from the source material of the original graphic novel as well as employing their own unique style for a film that so much tiny detail packed into it, a lot of it is simply missed. Take, for example, the letter 'V' being included in almost every frame of the film, sometimes being far more obvious than others.

The dialogue is of great importance especially and it all harks to something greater in the end.


1. Barry Lyndon

Although by no means Kubrick's greatest work, Lyndon certainly showcased his talent and eye for detail as the period piece was shot and designed in such a way as to evoke certain 18th-century paintings which would often lead to the director demand retakes just for lighting or a certain je ne sais quoi to be changed.

Much of the wardrobe was genuine antiques whilst symbolism is heavy throughout.


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