Top 50 Special Effects Shots

This is from an older, but excellent, post on Den of Geek listing the top 50 special effects ever.

Some highlights include:

46: The Fifth Element (1997) – Bruce Willis’s air-taxi pulls out of the garage.

The Fifth Element (1997) - Bruce Willis's air-taxi pulls out of the garage

The surfaces and lighting are flawless in this shot of the flying yellow-cab setting off for work, but crucially it’s the accuracy of the physics that sells it. As the cab brakes to avoid an oncoming vehicle, its weight settles back into its own suspension before forward-thrust takes it off again for a right turn. It’s a little thing, but it makes a huge difference, and is arguably one of the biggest barriers CGI has yet to confront. Another excellent example of correct weight and movement in an exit is the 180-degree turn that the Millennium Falcon makes when exiting the Death Star in Star Wars (original 1977 release). That’s ironic, since it’s turning in zero-gravity and should have no weight. But then, there’s no sound in space either.

40: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – Entrance to V’Ger

Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979) - Entrance to V'Ger

The entrance to the inner heart of TMP’s monstrous space-urchin follows the organic motif established so impressively in Douglas Trumbull’s (perhaps excessively-used) footage of V’Ger. The thing is, it’s very hard to tell how that organic aperture is actually working. Is it an iris of some kind or are the ‘petals’ actually changing shape? Truth is that the gate segments are actually cones spinning in unison. Since the camera remains perpendicular to the circular bases of the cones, the secret is hard to guess.

29: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Entering the airlock without a space-helmet.

2001  A Space Odyssey (1968) - Entering the airlock without a space-suit.

The pioneering rotoscoping and miniature work of Douglas Trumbull, Wally Veevers and Les Bowie often overshadows one of the most effective zero-gravity shots ever filmed – and, unlike on Apollo 13, the film-makers had no need to hire NASA’s ‘vomit comet’ to obtain it. In the movie Dave Bowman – Keir Dullea – is forced to re-enter a spaceship without a space-helmet, and does so by depressurising his lungs and blowing the explosive bolts of his EVA vehicle, which is pressed hard to the airlock. The shot was accomplished by positioning the camera directly beneath the pod and airlock set and ejecting a roped Dullea from the prop pod with an accompanying puff of propane. The angle hides the support wires, and the lack of any sound (until the cabin repressurises) is what really sells the shot. Arguably the ejection of the oxygen in one blast might have moved the pod away, but that’s perhaps an unreasonable quibble. There are too many other SFX shot contenders from 2001 to even begin to list them here.

11: Return Of The Jedi (1983) – ‘There’s too many of them!’

Return Of The Jedi (1983) - 'There's too many of them!'

To give some idea of how hard a composite matte shot with 40+ elements was in the days of photochemical special effects, check out our interview with John Dykstra. Even with ILM’s improved compositing techniques, getting that many elements to combine when the failure of only one could mean starting from scratch, is a huge achievement.

1: Jurassic Park (1992) – T-Rex investigates the light.

Jurassic Park (1992) - T-Rex investigates the light

One of the oldest clips from the world of bitmap-textured CGI animation, and – to my mind – simply the most convincing ‘impossible thing’ ever committed to celluloid by Hollywood. The segue between the withdrawing of Stan Winston’s animatronic head and the appearance of the CGI version is effective and seamless, playing both technologies to their strengths. The movement of the musculature in the T-Rex combines with the very prosaic illumination of the car headlights to sell the Rex, and the camera judder combines perfectly with the footfalls of the massive beast. Rain and darkness have sold many a special effect before, and they certainly do no harm here, but the result is pure movie history.

Read the full post at Den of Geek