There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
I know Birdman is famous for that.
I just learned about a lesser-known Hitchcock movie called Rope that does it: In Rope, Hitchcock attempted the daunting technical challenge of filming the entire picture in one long, seemingly uninterrupted take. Actually, there are several edits in the movie: since a reel of film was divided into two ten-minute minireels back in 1948, the internal reel-breaks are "fudged" by having a dark object briefly obscure the camera lens, sustaining the illusion that no editing has taken place. (From Rotten Tomatoes)
Two pieces of media come to mind. In the first season of the Netflix Daredevil show, in the second episode there's a very long fight scene in a hallway that is very impressive. Second, the movie Creed has a few scenes of fight prep/fight in it that are very long. Makes me want to watch Creed again.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind—Einstein
A second nod to Russian Ark. The film company I believe had the run of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg for one day only. It's an amazing single shot with 2000+ actors. A small cheat, though, the sound was recorded later.
According to In One Breath, the documentary on the making of the film, four attempts were made. The first failed at the five-minute mark. After two more failed attempts, they were left with only enough battery power for one final take. The four hours of daylight available were also nearly gone. Fortunately, the final take was a success and the film was completed at 90 minutes. Tilman Büttner, the director of photography and Steadicam operator, executed the shot on 23 December 2001.
There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night, and if you go no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone. Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.
To seek the sacred river Alph, to walk the caves of ice, to break my fast on honey dew and drink the milk of paradise... I had heard the whispered tales of immortality, the deepest mystery, from an ancient book I took a clue.
Elephant (2003) by Gus Van Sant did quite a bit of one take shots, especially in following the various characters. I thought it was quite a technical feat and solid, if not tragic movie.
There's the Dunkirk scene in Atonement that was so much of a show off it made the film worse as a result.
I think like a good score, the best long/single takes you don't even notice that it's all one take (at least in first-viewing or unless someone gives you a heads-up ahead of time).
Altman's The Player has a pretty famous long tracking shot to start the film.
Exactly. Too many films use the long take to show off technical prowess rather than considering how it enhances the film. The Player is a great use of the tracking shot because it's actually a meta joke--some characters directly address the use of long takes in the scene.
The long takes in Children of Men (mainly the car chase, the war zone) work because they give you the feeling that you're right in the car/streets there with them rather than some all-seeing observer. (CoM also has some long takes where you don't even realize it, like the opening coffee shop bombing sequence.)
The tour-of-Serenity in Serenity works because it gives you a mental map of the ship as well as a fun way to introduce the characters.
Birdman really works for me because it's an exercise in self-indulgence, but it's in a film about self-indulgence.
The only time I like long takes for the sake of technical prowess are in action films like The Protector video above. We watch action films to watch people kick ass. The longer the take, the realer it looks.
There is a pretty terrible movie from the early days of digital cameras called that was shot with four cameras and consisted of four continuous shots showed splitscreen concurrently.
Maybe it wasn't terrible, I mostly just remember not enjoying it very much.
I remember Ebert talking about this film. This was shot in one continuous take with four cameras following four different people as they walked around New York and eventually interacted with each other. The audio on the quadrants that were not important would fade out so you could tell which quadrant to focus on.
I understand it was hell trying to film a scene with four different cameras without any of the cameras showing up in each others shots. I have never seen it, but it sounded fascinating.