The 10 Best Special Effects Movies Ever

The 10 Best Special Effects Movies Ever

Ask any fanboy and they’ll tell you that one of the big reasons they go see a science fiction or genre movie is to have their face melted off by awesome special effects. Over the years there have been some amazingly convincing effects created, and we’ve compiled a list of the 10 movies that pulled off their special effects so well that they still hold up years after the original release.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park, even more than the original Star Wars, changed the world of effects. As soon as ILM convinced Spielberg that they could pull off the dinosaurs digitally, the entire effects industry was in for a revolution that would lead to some of the most stunning effects ever created. But none of that would have happened if not for that amazing Brachiosaurus or the jaw-dropping T-Rex in the rain. It’s been eighteen years since the release of Jurassic Park, and it still looks incredible.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3

Pirates above Star Wars? Yes for one reason: Davy Jones. So many people think that Davy Jones was just a large suit with a CGI face. Not so, the entire “costume” of Davy Jones was computer generated. If you didn’t know that you would naturally think it was a real suit, but ILM did such a great job creating it photo real that it fools almost everyone.

Star Wars Saga

Like Jurassic Park that followed it more than a decade later, Star Wars changed the world of special effects. It founded ILM and spawned a whole new generation of space operas. The Original Trilogy is perfect in almost every way effects-wise, but the Prequels have more rough spots. The reliance on CG backdrops, especially in Episode II, creates some less-than-convincing visuals (the Jedi Temple behind Obi-Wan, Mace, and Yoda for example).


Like Davy Jones, Avatar earns its place on the list for a completely convincing photo-real Pandora. The entire jungle of Pandora, everything in it…every blade of grass…is computer generated. All of the scenes on Pandora are entirely CG, but it really fools you to think that only the Na’vi and Avatars are.

Transformers Trilogy

Giant photo-real CG robots smashing the crap out of each other and, in the third movie, nearly leveling Chicago to the ground. It’s another amazing job by ILM and legend has it that the second movie was so effects intensive that it melted a few of ILM’s machines while they were rendering some of the effects for the climatic battle in Egypt at the end of the second movie.

The Lord of the Rings

WETA’s work on The Lord of the Rings does get some whining from some fanboys online; there’s some wonky compositing in Two Towers and then there’s Legolas sliding down the Mumakil trunk. But the movies didn’t rake in the Oscars for having sub-par effects. The majority of the trilogy is pulled off amazingly well, and Gollum paved the way for Avatar and other similar movies with CG characters.

Blade Runner

To this day Blade Runner is still studied for its effects. It was made in the days of models, and the futuristic Los Angeles is a triumph in both design and execution. The long and slow shots deservedly show off what remains one of the most stunning movies ever put to film. The Final Cut didn’t really mess with the effects aside from cleaning up some matte lines and wires.

War of the Worlds (2005)

When Spielberg decided to make an alien invasion movie, he naturally turned to ILM to produce effects that fit right in with the real environments they were set in. The first tripod that shows up sets the tone, and the following destruction of a freeway is jaw dropping. The effects mostly take place in the background, but they’re completely convincing.

Independence Day

ID4 arrived at an interesting time when the age of models was passing away and people were quickly moving to CG. So while there is a large amount of model work in the movie, it does have it’s share of CG sprinkled in. The combination of the two produced a summer blockbuster and yearly July 4th television tradition that still holds up years later.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Combined with The Abyss, this is the movie that convinced ILM that they just might be able to pull off computer generated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The CG is simple, but Cameron and ILM were able to harness it to show people something they’ve never seen before. The T-1000 is a classic movie effect.


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