Every few months, not often enough, a film is released with visual special effects so stunning that they stop us cold, grab our attention, and set our imaginations on fire. Sometimes the effects pull the worlds within the movie apart with grand explosions and monumental shifts. At other times, the subtle artistry of the effects isn’t immediately obvious to the viewer.
One thing the 10 films on this list have in common is the masterful use of CGI and practical effects to create scenes so realistic and life-like that we never forget them.
A Trip To The Moon (1902)
Cinema hadn’t been around for a decade when filmmaker Georges Méliès began creating amazing effects. He dazzled his audience with simple techniques that produced astonishing transitions and transformations. He was among the first to discover that when different scenes were tied together, the human eye would fill in the gaps. His amazing illusions were the first generation of cinematic special effects.
The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Using four different flavors of gelatin powder on horses, a facsimile of a twister, and a sharp shift from sepia tones to amazing Technicolor, the musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was MGM’s most expensive film production at the time. Eventually, the costly effects paid for themselves and allegedly, the entrepreneurial minds that created them had no regrets.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic made space travel look amazingly authentic in 1968. Fifty years later, the film still impresses with the awe-inspiring surrealism of its final scenes.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The sequel to James Cameron’s career-launching The Terminator came along at a time when digital effects were in their infancy. Featuring a CGI shapeshifter as its primary villain, the body-morphing techniques used in this film kept copycats busy for several years.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg kicked off what many see as the beginning of the computer era in special effects with Jurassic Park. A perfect blend of CGI and practical effects, the journey into the return of the dinosaurs was so realistic that audiences were dazzled and terrified at the same time.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Aside from placing the film’s titular character in several huge historical moments, it also convinced us that Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan was a genuine double-amputee from the Vietnam era.
Pan’s Labyrinth (1996)
Guillermo Del Toro’s dark nightmare of a tale featured contortionist Doug Jones as two characters: the faceless monster Pale man and the bizarrely touching Faun. It featured the perfect blending of effects and sublime acting.
The Matrix (1999)
In a feast for the eyes that combined the best techniques of cinema and video games at the time, the Wachowski brothers developed the slow-motion tracking method that utilized complex multi-camera rigs for the truly unique shots used in the film.
In this film, James Cameron created a world of stunning 3D digital characters that are among the very best of the era of computer effects. Three more Avatar films are planned to create a franchise.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)
Using innovative special effects, the franchise hero Caesar, brought to life by actor Andy Serkis, and his cohorts are polished, technical wonders that offer so many realistic nuances that it’s easy to get lost in the suspension of disbelief.
Logan Sekulow is a renowned producer and director.