People make storyboards to set out their vision for a scene. While it takes a bit of time to make a good storyboard in the beginning, it saves you a lot of time further into the process. The best storyboards use stick figures or comic book-style sketches to show close-ups, wide shots, pov (point of view), special effects, and everything else that makes up your shot list.
In this post, we’re going to show you a few scenes from our favourite films, and the storyboards that helped create them. Hopefully, these storyboard examples help you see how storyboarding is an integral part of the video production process as you set out to create your own blockbuster. On which note, don’t forget to check out our free storyboard templates. Your production team will thank you!
Although it came out in 2004, some of the action scenes in Spiderman 2 are still breathtaking 15 years later. This fight scene between Spiderman and Dr Octopus, which takes place on top of a fast-moving train, is particularly spectacular. The storyboard sample shows what’s moving in each shot, and in which direction, so that the production team is crystal clear on the desired end result – which is exactly what a professional storyboard should do.
Spiderman 2 fight scene storyboard
Sparks fly when Carl and Ellie first meet in Up, and it’s all thanks to a rigorous storyboard that highlights all the necessary details. Notice the way Carl looks down at his badge after Ellie pins it on, and his little smile as he looks back up. Not to mention the way he turns red with embarrassment after Ellie grabs his hand – which is the only bit of colour we can see on the storyboard. We give this storyboard 9 cute points out of 10.
Flicking from video to storyboard, you can see how this scene was mapped out in painstaking detail by the storyboard artist. The storyboard shows exactly where Batman flies into the scene, how each punch connects with (or misses) its target, and where lighting – like the moon, or various spotlights – is used throughout the scene. All of which helps the team to speed up video production. Kablam!
Adventure Time is certainly on the quirkier end of the cartoon spectrum. But you wouldn’t sense that from its orderly, highly-detailed storyboards, which break the scene down into its core elements: dialogue, action, and timing. It’s super-specific, freeing things up for the fun to continue.
The world of Summer Camp Island is a fantastical place, with costume changes happening as if they’re… well, magic. The storyboard here shows how a hat miraculously grows, sleeves appear and change colour, and stars fly out of the character’s body as their arms move up. Magic!
Plot twist: this example is from a game, not a film. While the images here can be a little tough to follow at first glance, due to their sketchy style and minimal colouring, you can see how the storyboard informs the in-game result.
The clipped, minimal wording that accompanies this storyboard has a unique charm. While the final result is light and humorous, the storyboard text is purely functional. However, the images give the director everything they need to make the scene sing.
In his line of work, James Bond is no stranger to a dramatic escape. Although this scene from Tomorrow Never Dies might be the first time an escape’s involved a huge banner. Like all the best storyboards, this one pinpoints the key shots to capture: Bond cutting the rope with a massive knife, a zoomed-out shot of the banner mid-tear, the two lovebirds swinging many metres from the ground.
In a macabre twist on Groundhog Day, Tom Cruise finds himself killed again and again (and again), as he attempts to defeat some nasty aliens. The repeated sight of Cage and his comrades careering towards the ground on flimsy lines never ceases to amaze. It’s made especially dramatic by the choice of camera angles, as set out in the film’s storyboard.
Like skinning a cat, there are many ways for a Transformer to burst into a building and wreak havoc. This beautiful storyboard shows exactly how the carnage should happen, and how the crew should capture it. Note the small details like the soldier getting flung back into the room, surrounded by shattering glass.
What this storyboard lacks in precise detail, it makes up for in sheer beauty. The storyboard doesn’t give granular direction, but it does highlight some key shots, and what the colours should look like in the scene. It also shows how to capture the magnitude of all those helicopters blazing across the sky.
This movie storyboard looks a little different. Probably because it’s the handiwork of renowned designer, Saul Bass. As well as designing myriad company logos and movie posters, Bass also put his design skills to work as a storyboard artist for movies like West Side Story. This storyboard is a prime example of his ability to, in his words, “symbolize and summarize”.
If you plan on making an all-singing, all-dancing box office smash, you’ll find that a good storyboard goes a long way. It’s amazing to watch this clip and see just how closely the onscreen action mimics the sketched storyboard scenes. We doff our caps to storyboard artist, Maurice Zuberano.
Although it was made back in 1939, this fiery scene from Gone With the Wind is still just as visceral eighty years later. The orangey, smoky hues make the whole scene feel apocalyptic – like the world is on fire – and it’s clear to see how much those colours are inspired by the accompanying movie storyboard.
When you’ve lined up 8,000 extras to shoot the final scene in your movie, making mistakes is pretty costly. Which is why Stanley Kubrick roped in our pal Saul Bass to knock up these exceptional storyboards for the iconic closing fight in Spartacus. It shows all the key camera angles and close-ups that Kubrick needs to get the job done.
In this particularly terrifying scene from Jurassic Park, the storyboard artist details how a velociraptor pokes his head up through an air duct, sandwiching Lex to the ceiling. Thankfully, Grant is on hand to kick this hungry dino in the chops before he can do any damage. Things get a little spicier when Lex falls through the duct, inching closer to the velociraptor. But, as we see in the storyboard, Grant’s able to drag her to safety in the nick of time.
Villains don’t come much more villainous than the sublime Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men. The movie storyboard for this scene details the wide camera angle for Chigurh’s entry, how the camera should pull as Chigurh walks towards the car, and the wide shot and low angle that’s needed for the moment Chigurh dives behind a car to avoid Llewelyn’s bullets.
There’s so much to love about Forrest Gump, not least the moment where he moons the President while showing him a gunshot wound in his buttock. It’s all laid out in the accompanying video storyboard, including specifics like the close-up shot of the President placing the medal around Gump’s neck, right before he drops his trousers in front of a shocked audience.
Poor Maximus already has his work cut out in this fight, without throwing a tiger into the mix. But it does make for great viewing. The storyboard sets out exactly how the camera should capture the tiger from behind as it races towards our intrepid warrior, capturing its claws as it swipes at Maximus’ body.
Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film is a riotous romp of dancing, singing, and pure flamboyance. Like this scene, where Satine swings through the Moulin Rouge and tantalises her adoring fans. All the key shots are laid out in the accompanying storyboard, including close-ups on Satine’s face, and wider shots that show the sheer scale of the production.
In one of Game of Thrones’ trippier moments, Daenerys gives birth to three dragons. Of course she does. The storyboard captures exactly how the action should come across onscreen, including a close-up on the beating of the dragon’s wings as it sits on Daenerys’ shoulder. Not to mention the looks of awe (or is that terror?) from people witnessing one of the more bizarre births in cinematic history.
Speaking of bizarre births, Ridley Scott got there first with this peach of an arrival in the 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien. The movie storyboard shows the crew merrily eating around the table, before Kane starts writhing in agony, much to the confusion of his dining companions. Then, just as the storyboard dictates, a strange creature pops out – covering Kane’s gleaming white shirt in blood. Delicious.
Many called Christopher Nolan’s film a masterpiece. Others were just… confused. And its ending doesn’t do much to help. This storyboard by artist Gabriel Hardman shows how the camera should zoom in on the spinning top, before cutting for the end of the film. That’s exactly what Nolan does – leaving the audience to wonder whether we’re in a dream, or whether this is reality. The mystery continues…
Creating a hit motion picture series doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time – and a few good storyboards along the way. Like this one for the original Star Wars, which illustrates exactly how some of the movie’s most iconic shots should look onscreen. Those are some finely-drawn explosions, right there.
The storyboard for this scene perfectly shows the darkness and fear that’s needed to make the final result as scary as possible. Every image feels ominous, with a look of pure terror on poor Potter’s face. Don’t worry, though. Harry and his pals make it out alive in the end. Phew!
Alfred Hitchcock is the master of scenes that are packed with suspense, and this classic from The Birds is no exception. The storyboard shows how Melanie should be moving back and forth on a swing, as an army of crows gathers behind her – much to her surprise. Meanwhile, the schoolchildren watch as the scene unfolds. They’ll be scarred for life, no doubt.
Bass also dipped his toes into the horror world as the storyboard artist for the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. While the scene was directed by Hitchcock, it was heavily styled by Bass. The way he depicts an unsuspecting victim, the extreme close-up on her mouth as she screams, the iconic silhouette of her attacker. It’s all there, right in Bass’ storyboard. And it definitely gives you the willies.
While some storyboards show everything in pictures, others lean more heavily on text to get the point across. Take this example from Interview with the Vampire: ‘Lestat’s bony hand rises up from the rear seat well […] Lestat suddenly attacks!’ A few words go a long way in helping the production team to capture the vision for a particular scene.