Which is why it’s so baffling that visual effects artists rarely get the credit they deserve. Without them, our favorite movies wouldn’t be escapist fantasies, they’d be stuck on the ground in reality. Here are some of the most impressive moments of transformation that prove visual effects are truly an art form.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the best movies of the year, and the non-stop thrill ride was thoroughly enhanced by explosions, sandstorms, and a whole lot of chrome.
2. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
When you look at the behind-the-scenes production of Alice in Wonderland, it’s astounding how little was actually there on the set. Now that Alice Through the Looking Glass is set to premiere in 2016, be prepared for another landscape full of realized imagination.
3. Life of Pi (2012)
Director Ang Lee famously thanked everyone but the visual effects artist when he accepted his Best Director Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. And when I say “everyone,” I mean even the tiger that was generated entirely by computer generated imagery.
4. Maleficent (2014)
Maleficent was one of the most successful movies of 2014, and it certainly would have suffered without its warrior trees and mystical forest creatures.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
When a humanized ape is one of the main characters, a fully articulated face with a full range of emotions is downright mandatory. Luckily, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was able to create a totally believable Caesar out of Andy Serkis.
6. The Avengers (2012)
Though awards typically go to traditional performances that include emotional breakdowns and biopic impersonations, I’m extremely impressed by the actors who can pull out memorable scenes surrounded by only a green screen. The Avengers cast has so much chemistry, they’re convincing even in a stark set.
7. Godzilla (2014)
The most recent reboot of Godzilla brought back the monster movie with a vengeance, and even though he was totally CGI, you could practically feel his scales when he was finally revealed.
8. Game of Thrones (2011- )
As far as TV is concerned, Game of Thrones has pretty much cornered the market when it comes to unbelievable effects. The ever-growing dragons are reason enough to tune in, but the continents of Westeros and Essos are so vast that there’s always another aesthetic surprise.
9. Ghost Rider (2007)
Many have tried to forget about Nicholas Cage’s turn as the Marvel antihero, but I couldn’t resist including it solely for that before shot. Talk about terrifying.
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Hobbit trilogy pushed the envelope so far when it came to visual effects, many viewers felt the effect went beyond real. Still, Peter Jackson’s team built a remarkable world that won’t soon be forgotten.
11. The Martian (2015)
To round out the list, Ridley Scott’s latest space epic invented an entire Martian landscape that Matt Damon briefly called home. The planet’s storms and the moments out in space were so effective, most people ended up on the edge of their seats hoping this one astronaut makes it home.