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Top 15 Movies with the Best VFX (Visual Effects) of All Time

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The contemporary world is full of movies which are excelling in technical terms. Each film which is being released contains strong VFX skills that are changing the film game. Be it a 3D movie or a general movie, these movies have some highly influential characters, incredible visuals and other invisible designs that enhance the outlook of the movie. Most of the audience doesn’t even realize that a lot of effort has been invested in these movies for the output to turn out the way that it is. When we have entered into the VFX world and asked them for the films that have impressed them the most, they have come up with the top 30 Movies with the Best VFX of all time.

The criteria to get included in the top 30 Movies with the Best VFX are quite simple. The movie should have an exquisite running time of around 60 minutes more. It should have a cinematic release and also should contain innovative CG or VFX elements/animations in it. Also, these elements should be blended with live action so that everything comes together, as a package.

#1 Avatar:

Undoubtedly, Avatar is the most noted film with the VFX design and favorite of the most. Back in 1996, the director James Cameron has announced that he will release a movie called Avatar which would contain computer-generated photorealistic characters. However, it was shelved because of the technology which wasn’t available during that time. All the elements available could not fulfill the desires of the director and therefore, he has delayed it. By the year 2009, Cameron had caught up with the things and the rest is history. He has excelled in making a fantastic and new CG world altogether leaving the astonishing details of the film. His team has spent years in designing the horticultural environment where a total of 1,800 shots were created altogether. The environment doesn’t only contain characters but exotic plants and trees that contain millions of polygons.

The most proficient thing about Avatar is that it has thousands of plants that have to be rendered in any frame and it requires a lot of efficiencies. Therefore, the director had to use many proxy versions and further render it procedurally, one after another. A lot of detailed strategies have been put up close for lesser geometry and more details. Even with the plants, Avatar was manageable to watch in 3D until the 3D ships were added. It is only after that, that the movie has been pushed to stereoscopic 3D. Untested, this medium has fetched millions for the director by being the highest grosser ever.

#2 Gravity:

“Gravity” is the 21st century “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Alfonso Cuaron. This film is pure in its tradition and has Hitchcock all over the film. It connects the innovative VFX of Framestore with the production design of Andy Nicholson, making it more than what it is. Emmanuel Lubezki has elevated the film with his cinematography and everything can be clearly shown through the 13-minute opening shot. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, you can study all the details involved in the visual and the dramatic forces. The long shots of Sandra Bullock in the space from various viewpoints tethered an amazing perpetual motion to elevate the celestial space.

It took a lot of new and advanced techniques for the director in order to get this realistic look where gravity doesn’t play a picture. It is heard that the director has used the LED lightBox for spinning Sandra Bullock in the space and cameras are actually mounted on the robotic arms attached with wire rigs. However, the visual poetry with elasticity has been achieved through reverse engineering from Tim Webber who managed to leave us in awe! Things in Gravity are animated ahead of the time and therefore, the faces of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are actually placed in the virtual environment first and then the suits and helmets are constructed around them through camera graphics. However, the interiors of the movie are placed inside capsules of an ISS space station to make things realistic. The details about this animation are spectacular and this brought an intimacy in the audience given the panic-stricken breaths and the reflections.

“Gravity is a hybrid: it’s partly live-action, but is similar to [an animated feature] in many respects. Very large parts of it are fully CG”, says Max Solomon, the animation supervisor. The parts of the movie included space shuttles, the International Space Station, the external appearance of the Earth and the Hubble Telescope. All of these elements are projected on the screen for an entire duration of 13 minutes where various tracking shots are shown. At the start of the process, we can see that most of the parts of Gravity are computer-generated. Various tests have been done earlier clearing the traditional methods but later they have adopted the new technology for better results.

#3 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

This movie has been on the tongues of people because of the reverse-aging character it has. Nominal, yet fashioned in a fable way; this movie is highly inspired from the short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald back in 1922. Brad Pitt hasn’t appeared on the screen until the 52 minutes. However, we see the old image of Brad Pitt throughout the movie. The Pitt-esque that we see in the starting stages of the movie, especially when he is in his 80s, 70s or 60s is actually from CGI with emotional capture software.

The techniques involved with the visual effects are specially crafted in the film. The transformation of him was far from what the director has managed to take out. Cate Blanchett’s character in the movie matures like 80 years, supporting character ages to 80 years and all of these elements are only done through the amazing visuals. The budget of the film is known to be $150 million, for which it has received around 13 nominations and triumphed in three, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction and Best Makeup.

#4 Jurassic Park:

Why is Jurassic Park so predominant in the crowd? Is it just because of the visual effects. While no one has the exact answer to this, Dennis Muren at the Industrial Light & Magic tries to explain the answer to us. According to Muren, the reason why the entire world has been taken away by the Jurassic Park is that it is the first time that someone has put a living and breathing animal in the synthetic form in the action movie. There is nothing like it that we have seen before and the reality is pretty close to the natural animals. According to the sources, the director was so keen on making this documentary film in a way that the animals can create the uneasy environment so that the audience won’t know what’s going to happen next. So, will the VFX of this movie is going to scare you? Yes.

The animator has worked on the CG animals and proved that these animals can be as scary as the real animals. In the scene where a T-Rex snags Martin Ferrero out of the bathroom, a face replacement has been planted so that it falls through during the raptor attack.

#5 Terminator – Judgement Day:

Terminator 2 is a movie which has broken the thick grounds than the Jurassic Park. The visual effects of this movie are from an Oscar winner for this classic and the reasons behind it is the composition, complex rendering and the extreme details. Muren took almost a year to read a 1200 page book in order to get a hold on the Camera Graphics. The movie introduces you to the T-1000 iconic metal liquid cyborg with various reflection maps that anchor with the framing. The background of the movie creates an environment that gets reflected in the character where the distortions remain constant on the other end.

Another challenge that people has faced during the film is when the T-1000 adapted the form of Robert Patrick. By doing it, the animators made the T-1000 move like a human. They did not want to tamper with the geometry or with the tearing given the situations. However, through Photoshop they have managed to do a lot of things that we haven’t imagined would happen. The biggest innovation of Terminator 2 is the digital effects where the film recorders worked tremendously.  With the help of scanners and film recorders, they have managed to make the most sophisticated digital manipulation.

#6 Inception:

This dreamy premise of Nolan has blown the minds of many people because of the sensation that it has created. The director has managed to bring up various special effects that are not only enigmatic but extremely provocative. When a person has watched this movie, he sure considers it a remarkable ride throughout his life. Inception fleshes a lot of elements out of its capacity given the dream hopping ambiance it has. When I initially saw Inception, I was amazed at the initial dream sequence scene that has amazed the introductory dream sequence where the buildings and the roads keep changing the planes. Inception manages to flesh out the surroundings and the visual allure of the movie has managed to take the audience to the unexpected places.

The dizzy shoutout of the movie has confined us in a room where things turn upside down. The combatants in the movie have ultimate dexterity which keeps the audience at peaks. The maze-like cityscapes and the maneuverings seem to contract, collapse with seamless movement. The flicking of the surrealist beings with brushes are kept unknown but the outlook gets reflected in amusement.  The entire credit goes to Paul Franklin for blending the digital animation with the craft miniatures given the realism and the unprecedented blend of pieces. The reason why people have put this movie in the list of movies with the best VFX design, the wondrous play of light and shadows in unexpected places giving us an ambiguous ride altogether. It takes you inside and out of the dreams blending between reality and the non-reality.

Instead of relying on the vendors for furnishing the 500 digital shots, Nolan has let the Double Negative handle complete the CG work along with Paul Franklin, the VFX supervisor. When asked about it, he mentioned; people need a VFX supervisor in order to work with several studious across the world. Chris wants to simplify this relation and therefore, he came up with up a 1970 model where the VFX department operated in the film studio. Double Negative has won the Oscar for its VFX for this movie. The team has realized that there are multiple worlds where nature is altered. In a particular scene where Ariadne starts messing the physics of the world, the dreamscape changes and folds up in front of Leonardo DiCaprio and his unbelievable eyes. This scene has taken around 300 shots to create the intricacy of the movie replicating the stills and scans in order to replicate the photorealistic model.

#7 Interstellar:

Double Negative has once again collaborated with Christopher Nolan with this movie which has the unrealistic alien planets, a visualizable black hole with the accurate measurements, a Tesseract (four-dimensional area) where time is considered as a physical dimension. Nolan has taken the assistance of the infamous Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist in order to provide the required math for the black hole equation. The artists of the studio have delivered the visuals and altogether, they have prompted the Academy to give them an award. A lot of science has gone into this movie, but importantly it has got a cool facade on it. For the viewers, there are many shots in this movie that will be craved on their brains. For me, it is the beautiful depiction of Gargantua, the black hole for which it is said that the Double Negative managed to design it keeping the realistic behavior of the black hole in the light.

The entire credit of Interstellar goes to Oliver James, a scientist who had a physic degree from the Oxford University. Kip Thorne and Oliver James have together executed the equations for the black hole and described the entire measurements of the light paths to the team. A new renderer has been invented for this movie in the name of Double Negative General Relativity which has gained a lot of fame. It has enabled many artists throughout the world to generate images of the black hole through the gravitational lens by setting parameters: mass, diameter and also the rate of the spin. The work for Interstellar has broken the ground, both scientifically and also artistically; that Eugenie Tunzelmann and Paul Franklin were published in the paper written by Oliver James in the American Journal of Physics.

#8 The Matrix:


The Matrix has been released for almost 20 years now but it still manages to keep people in awe. The movie has a lot of thrilling science fiction that almost touched the spine of the people. It even has beaten The Phantom Menace in the race of Academy Award for the best visual effects. The movie has been launched by John Gaeta, the first time supervisor for the visual effects who managed to make a film that has been etched in the history forever especially because of the fight sequences. The most iconic scene of the movie is the frozen moment, known as the infamous ‘bullet time’. Keanu Reeves manages to dodge the bullet as the camera circles around him and this sequence is spectacular, even today.

It is said that the team has trained an array of 122 cameras in order to capture the moment, by placing them on Keanu Reeves. As the cameras are located on particularly one side and are visible to people who are on the other side, Gaeta used photorealistic sets and software in order to take the cameras out of the frame. However, the game has been stepped up when he managed to display it in the code by enabling the users to take the risk. While this has been considered an extremely important thing in the world, the designers have given a lot of freedom that inspired, encouraged and even engaged them. Reflecting back, there are few shots in the movie which can be crude when viewed from the today’s lens.

#9 Avengers: Age of Ultron:

The Avengers Age of Ultron, the sequel to the first movie of the series has been the greatest thrill that Marvel has offered till date. Joss Whedon has not only written the script but also managed to direct the movie with the help of Chris Townsend, the visual effects supervisor. It is known that he has managed around 10 studious in order to get the Avengers film right where the Industrial Light & Magic has handled around 800 VFX shots including the closing and the opening of the battles. As we can see the movie, the three main characters that needed the CG are the Iron Man, the Hulk and the new Ultron Villain and this work have been divided equally between Singapore, San Francisco, London, and Vancouver.

Hulk, who appears in 50% of the shots, is the highlight for the visual effects of the movie. He appears in almost 50% of the shots than in the previous film. The studio has taken an entirely new approach in order to build the giant green muscles and flesh of the human. They have come up with various skin stimulations for Ultron, the character so that they can devise a layered muscle system. Spectacular VFX were shown in this movie where everything is so perfect. The flesh stimulation is the evidence for the effort that they have invested in the movie. They adjusted the penetrations and jiggles according to the body so that the output is six times effective. With the other keys expanding in a similar way, the result of the super-heroic proportions where the scenes are delivering new treats is commendable.

#10 Pacific Rim:

Guillermo del Toro is known for creating out of the box visual effects which are in synchronization with the tales. This blockbuster hit of his involving the badass robots is all about saving the humankind from the sea creatures. Looking at his films, I think he has a kind of obsession with the water beings. In order to get the best result, he has managed to assemble a dream team full of conceptual designers including Wayne Barlowe, a Sci-Fi artist who knows all about the sea monsters. This artist has managed to design the Kaiju and Jaeger for us, and the rest is seen in the movie.

The spectral motion of these beings is led by Industrial Light & Magic who took the support of Base FX, Hybrid, Ghost FX and as well as Rodeo FX to get things done.

“We put a lot of time into the [Jaegers] Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka because they have the most screen time and the most actions. We focused on how the shoulders and hips would work and how all the mechanisms would fit together. Along the way, we’d adjust proportions and other things [based on] Guillermo’s input, and we’d then start to move them and see what they looked like in various poses. We focused on how all the mechanisms would fit together”, said Hal Hickel; the ILM supervisor. ILM has spent around four months on Gipsy Danger and has put a lot of intricate details on the model. They have planned the model carefully by looking at the scenes and sequences so that these details do not give out as the scene is filmed. The dressing of the details has been commendable. The Pacific Rim creatures, as a result, have joined the canon of movie monsters that the audience has loved, hated and as well as feared in equal measures with the visual effects, being nominated for six awards at VES Award nominations.

#11 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

The second movie of the series, built on Rise of the Planet of the Apes; this tale is about intelligent and intellectual apes and humans who are battling for their survival. The post-apocalyptic future of the movie is a masterpiece when it comes to the technology, especially the visual effects. The CG creatures by Weta Digital has made the movie,  a star of the show where the apes are shown the entire screen time. With the absence of human interaction, the intimate moments of the movie stand out with the actors reacting with the computer-generated Apes which carry emotional depth to the CG characters. Advancing in action, it is shown to carry at a narrative in the movie.

Andy Serkis and other people have helped people in portraying the creatures. The digital apes are around 12 characters along with 20 extras are created using a mixture of handmade sketches and motion captures. The footage of Andy Serkis has beautifully portrayed the creatures, much of mocap has been shot on the location. An overhaul of visual effects has been hauled in the mountains, with Weta Digital excelling with authentic performances. The actors discovered that the intelligent apes should fight without biting. Matt Reeves, the director of the film is consistent with getting the grip on the new workflows. Filming of the actors in the virtual space have set the later camera angles and the setting beats using the artificial cameras. The hard work resulted in the VES Awards nominations and as well as Oscar nominations for the Best Visual Effects. Hollywood has accepted the motion related performances to nominate Andy Serkis for the Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

#12 Ex Machina:

There has never been a moment in which Alicia Vikander is not shown as a real human being. Ex Machina is one of those movies in which the lead is highly exuberant and creates an ambiance about it. You don’t believe that Ava is not real because of the highly sophisticated graphics that appear as the real feat. However, the appearance of the movie has tremendously moved the audience because of the emotional touch it has. Her face and her entire body along with the minute details on her had will constantly remind us that she has been created but still is someone who is born. It is the best and the most necessary trick of all, where the entire film doesn’t work. The entire film has canny graphics which are a combination of technology and live action where the subject of the film is about the details.

The best trick to watch this movie is to believe that she is really like Caleb or else the film will not work for you, despite the most beautiful visual effects, you have seen. The film has a canny combination of technology and action considering the subject of the film. The entire film has been shot at the live action with the green screen playing an amusing role. All the robotic elements of Ava are included in the post-production with an ease using the newly invented rotoscope. All the required bits, erasing of data and fitting it with the robot parts is the marvel of the visual effects technology. The film contains a total of 800 VFX shots while 350 of them belong to Ava.

#13 The Jungle Book:

Justin Marks, the screenwriter, and Jon Favreau have managed to take the classic tale of Mowgli, written by Rudyard Kipling. He got the help of James Cameron and Rob Legato (the VFX master of Martin Scorsese) to create this seamless wonder. The movie contains naturally exuberant digital world with many characters and a human, Neel Sethi. The movie has been highly built on the advanced techniques that are used in movies like Gravity and Avatar. Favreau has called upon his memories of the animated musical with the same name made by Disney, back in 1967. Christopher Walken has directed this movie with a giant orangutan (Gigantopithecus) which is modeled by Marlon Brando. Favreau has managed to recognize the pitfalls making everything extremely naturalistic. As the keeper of the game, he has orchestrated creative artists in order to come up with a single goal to create the cohesive narrative. Legato along with Favreau has managed to do an amusing job with the most immersive environment and as a result, the film has managed to make $964 million on the global level.

#14 Life of Pi:

It is not just the zebra in the boat or the boat floating in the middle of the sea. The set ocean or the still waters are amusingly set with wonder. The Zebra-filled space has eventually managed to hold a boy and then a tiger, a hyena and the orangutan over the period. Having multiple animals which are not only wondrous but are extremely real has been managed through the extensive rendering with which the movie has come with. While the film seemed to be unfilmable due to all the elements at that time before a couple of years, later everything came possibly when the collaboration with the visual effects has happened. Ang Lee has managed to make the adaption of the bestselling novel with the same name by Yann Martel. A combination of three months has been spent to construct this wave tank along with the post-production work required for visual delights and as well as several animals. While it is a fairy tale that makes you hold things up, the magic of the movie abated when things went in an extremely enthusiastic way.

#15 King Kong (2005):

Joe Letteri, the VFX master from Weta Digital has managed to create the Gollum, the digital character. The movie is entirely based on King Kong along with the giant ape of Jackson. Andy Serkis has acted to give this performance again as usual with his extraordinary skills. He managed to wear the mocap suit all over again, studded with reflective stripes and reference marks. All of these moments are captured by the movements which are mapped to the digital characters. As the Gollum face is animated entirely with the hand, King Kong has managed to give the third straight performance with Serkis perfecting the ways to move and as well as transmit emotions. The computers have managed to pick all the muscle movements by strategically placing the animators, sensors, and dots in complex algorithms so that they can turn the movements involved with the intelligent ape. However, there is no denying that the actor has managed to give these performances with an excellence.

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