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“Over the Top” Shots


A few years back, I posted about seeing a visual quote of a Transformers shot in Tangled/Rapunzel and another in Rango. Since then I have found three four five seven many more. Does that mean I get to name it? If so, I’m dubbing it the “over-the-top” shot.

Here are the original three that got me started:

This is a rare example of a shot from a contemporary film spawning imitation soon after its release. Usually, it takes years before filmmakers get up the courage to use an especially innovative technique (think dolly/zoom and DePalma 360).

The obvious exception would be bullet-time from The Matrix (itself borrowed from Tim MacMillan’s pioneering Time Slice work). The success of The Matrix immediately led to a flood of bullet-time shots. I even worked on a bid for a movie with a whole plot built around the effect. Thankfully, it never got the green light. I think seeing a bullet time shot in Shrek was my signal that that type of shot was officially done.

It’s also exciting to think that I have found “patient zero” for a type of shot during its initial theatrical release and can start collecting examples from the beginning. That is, of course, assuming that the Transformers shot is not itself a quote of another shot.

Well, when I put the word out, super-pal, Khris Brown reminded me that there might be one with a horse in Lawrence of Arabia, and when I checked, it was close, but not quite. However, a quick check showed no shot of horses leaping over the camera…but tickled the Butch Cassidy region of my brain just enough to remember this:

It doesn’t go on the official over-the-top list, but deserves to be on the “contributed to the development” list.

Beca remembered that there was one in Wanted.  Well, if anyone would make effective use of an over-the-top shot (aside from Mr. Bay), it would be Timur Bekmambetov.  And that made me think there might be one in either Night Watch or Day Watch.

Jackpot! Both Wanted and Day Watch have Over the Top shots! But I didn’t find one when I scrubbed through Night Watch. But, the one in Day Watch predates the one in Transformers! It’s not exactly the same kind of single shot, but it sure sets the precedent for fast moving, heavy thing flying over the head of unsuspecting/innocent person whose reaction is captured in slow motion.

I eventually found an even earlier example from Blur Studio‘s first animated short, In the Rough, which was released in 2005.

So, I had originally awarded over-the-top shot “patient zero” status to Day Watch, and credit for polishing and popularizing it to Transformers, but now I consider In the Rough the first occurrence of a true over-the-top shot. 

UPDATE: There is one in Night Watch! When I saw the one in Hellboy, it jogged my memory!

This makes Night Watch the current “patient zero” for over-the-top shots and makes Timur Bekmambetov the originating director. I still give credit to In the Rough for refining/defining the trope.

Next to be added was an over-the-top from Battleship…that was not worth watching that terrible movie to discover.

Before it was released, I was tipped off by friends at Disney Animation that there was going to be an over-the-top shot in Wreck-It Ralph. There is, and it’s a good one!

The two next additions came from unexpected sources: the Transformers-inspired opening credits for the latest season of Hell’s Kitchen and the Jhen Mohran cinematic from Monster Hunter 3!

This one in The Incredibles is actually more of an interrupted over the top shot:

Despicable Me 2 has one that I noticed while almost falling asleep in the the theater:

My friend Alex Espigares alerted me to one in Jurassic Shark!

While Annika and I were watching Mythbusters, they did one. It even has stoic Jamie watching Buster fly by in slow motion!

Next up, it’s a shot from Big Ass Spider, which ends with the titular spider landing very quietly.

Blur Studios‘ “Father to Son” Batman: Arkham Knight announce trailer got lots of well-deserved attention when it was released, and its over-the-top shot is nicely done:

Plus, it’s from the studio that helped give birth to the over-the-top shot in In the Rough!

Bee Movie doesn’t have much to offer an audience, but it does have an over-the-top shot. Or rather an over the side shot.

R.I.P.D. didn’t do well at the boxoffice, but it has some great visual effects (thank you, R&H) and some really interesting cinematography, including this somewhat disturbing over-the-top shot.

Two shots from Hellboy which each have elements of a proper over-the-top shot. That truck punch certainly owes a direct debt to Night Watch.


In the winter of 2014, coworker Matt Cordner sent me a gameplay clip from Call of Duty that had a first-person, real-time, in-game over-the-top moment:

Which reminded him of All Quiet on the Western Front, which indeed has some great precursor over-the-top shots in it:

Matt also reminded me that during World War I, when troops went up and out of their trenches and into No Man’s Land, it was called going “over the top.”

While binging our way through The Legend of Korra over the 2014 Christmas holiday, Beca spotted one while I was out of the room…um…responding to nature’s call. “Go back! There was an over-the-top shot!” And there sure was!


ILM pal Tom Martinek pointed me to three overlooked sources for over-the-top shots, and while two were worthy of inclusion on this page as precursors to over-the-top shots, Bolt yielded three genuine examples! First, here are the Bolt shots:

The ones that didn’t make it to the edit are still worth looking at as almost over-the-top shots. But they are also from extremely low budget movies and feature gore (you have been warned!). One is from The Evil Dead (of course there is one in there), and features Ash jumping over the camera:

The other is from that classic of eighties exploitation, Street Trash, and features a woman jumping over a severed head, to provide one last opportunity for a look up her skirt. I did say it was an exploitation movie:

When Finding Dory was in theaters, I had a few people message me and ask if I’d seen it…for no specific reason <wink>. 8 times out of 10, that means there is an over-the-top shot in a movie. The other times it’s usually a dolly-zoom or um…it’s just a good movie they think I should see. But usually it’s an over the top shot.

I was hoping to find one in the Smite “To Hell and Back” cinematic, but while there are a bunch of shots that start as over-the-top shots, the all cut before they can…well…get over the top. Watch and imagine my frustration!

Found an overlooked one in Speed Racer. Not a surprise to find one there, I suppose.

I saw this one in the trailer for Neighbors 2, and waited for the it to come out so I could get the shot in context. But when I watched it, the over-the-top shot was not in the final cut! Here it is from the trailer:

There are two in the Boss Baby trailer, but I can’t wait for it to come out. I’ll swap it out when it does, but until then:

I can’t blame trailer editors for using over-the-topshots, they are kinda perfect for that. It’s where is usually find them in films I would not otherwise watch. It’s how I found this one in what is purported to be one of the worst movies in recent memory:

When Finding Dory was in theaters, two friends messaged me to see if I’d seen it yet…for no reason <wink>. When I get these types of messages, 8 times out of ten, it’s to alert me to an over-the-top shot. The other times, it’s either a dolly-zoom shot, or simply to let me know about a film they think I’d enjoy…but it’s usually an over-the-top shot. When I finally saw Finding Dory, I was legitimately shocked at this over-the-top shot orgy:

It’s one thing to have fellow film-goers sharing over-the-top shots with you, it’s quite another to have a film-maker let you know that you should keep your eyes open for their next cinematic trailer, and that it might have a present for you in it. I think this is some sort of landmark in my research:

And of course, wouldn’t it be great if Over the Top had an over-the-top shot in it?

20 comments on ““Over the Top” Shots

  1. It makes me sad that the images/videos are not showing up, all I get is the Stallone poster at the bottom.

    • Wait. What? What browser/OS are you using? You are my target audience! If you say Firefox on Linux, I’ll cry, because that means most effects and animation artists can’t see them either! I may ask you to help me trouble-shoot.

  2. Hmm seems to be working today. yay!

  3. What movie is the shot of the red car driving along the side of the building from?
    Must add to Flecks list.

    • Looks like the VideoPress UI is covering up my labels in the upper right corner! If you mouse off the movie it will go away.
      That movie is Day Watch. Highly recommended, as is the series of books which are even better!

  4. The only thing I have to add is that the Transformer might also be the only “rocket jump” recorded on film.

  5. Isn’t there one in the original Hell Boy?

    • I think there is another one in Hellboy where he punches down on the hood of a car and if flips over him. Although that may be a side view…

  6. Ha! There *are* two! And yes, the truck totally counts. It also reminded me of another one with a flipping ambulance in Day Watch or Night Watch!

  7. Saw an over the top while at VES award nominations: Dreamwork’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Scene is during Trojan battle scene, when Mr. Peabody slo-mo flips over a Roman soldier.

  8. Just saw another one in Bolt. Not really sure where it is in the movie (it was part of a clip) but probably near the beginning while he still has “super powers”. The girl is being chased by a car in an alley and bolt runs into it and the car flips over the top of the girl.

  9. Just found another one at a Flecks screening of Street Trash. Its near the end of the film, right after the junkyard bad guy gets his head blown off, a girl jumps over his severed head giving him one last up-skirt view before he dies.

  10. There’s also one in Bolt. I believe its near the end of the opening action sequence when the dog still appears to have super powers. I don’t have the reference with me, but let me know if you can’t find it and I’ll give you better information.

  11. Found another one! The original Evil Dead. About 20 minutes before the end. The clock stops, Ash is fighting with one of the demons by the window, he shoots her outside the house, she starts to come back. He runs and jumps over the camera.

  12. Pingback: Cheating Depth: The Magic of Split Diopter Shots – LOS ANGELES: 2019

  13. Pingback: Cheating Depth: The Magic of Split Diopter Shots – Sanctuary Moon

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