Storaro’s first mainstream American film was Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979, for which Storaro won his first Oscar. Coppola gave Storaro free rein on the film's visual look and it is regarded by many critics as one of the most visually spectacular films of all time. He has also received Oscars for Reds (1981) and The Last Emperor (1987). Dick Tracy (1990) garnered him a fourth nomination.
Storaro is widely regarded as a master cinematographer with a sophisticated philosophy largely inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's theory of colors, which focuses in part on the psychological effects that different colors have and the way in which colors influence our perceptions of different situations. With his son, Fabrizio Storaro, he created the Univisium format system to unify all future theatrical and television movies into one respective aspect ratio of 2.00:1. In 2002, Storaro completed the first in a series of books that attempt to articulate his philosophy of cinematography more substantively.
Storaro is known for stylish, fastidious, and flamboyant personal fashion. Francis Ford Coppola once noted that Storaro was the only man he ever knew that could fall off a ladder in a white suit, into the mud, and not get dirty.