20th Century Fox
Numerous movies have made use of groundbreaking visual effects.
The first use of CGI in a movie came in 1973 during a scene in "Westworld."
"Cats" has been ridiculed for its strange use of CGI, but that doesn't mean it isn't innovative.
Other poorly received movies have been important for the development of CGI techniques.
The first movie to use computer-generated imagery (CGI) was "Westworld." The process, which involves rendering special effects on a computer rather than physically, has only become more prevalent since then.
Some critically acclaimed films, such as "Titanic" and "The Matrix" changed the face of moviemaking with CGI. Others — "Tron" and "Young Sherlock Holmes" — are less fondly remembered, but were groundbreaking nonetheless.
"Cats," the 2019 adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical of the same name, has come under fire for its weird, fiendish use of CGI, but the technique, which digitally grafted fur onto the actors, is still innovative.
Read on for a list of the 14 most groundbreaking CGI movies ever.
14. "Cats" used digital fur technology to make the human actors appear like felines.
Though largely reviled by audiences and critics alike, "Cats'" creation and implementation of "digital fur technology" is groundbreaking, and may be put to better use in the future.
To achieve the creepy effect of putting fur, ears, and whiskers on actors, artists combined CGI with motion capture technology.
13. "The Irishman" is not the first movie to de-age actors, but it is the best.
This three-and-a-half-hour epic used de-aging technology to make Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci look younger. Many others have attempted the process, and to some extent succeeded — notably on Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" — but never on this scale.
12. "Star Wars" has hardly any CGI, but it laid the foundation for more bold applications in the future.
Though most of the effects were created with matte paintings and models — the rest were added in the following years — the original "Star Wars" did have a couple of small computer generated effects, namely the Death Star diagram that was displayed in the briefing scene.
The largest contribution that came out of the movie, however, was the creation of George Lucas' company Industrial Light and Magic, which is still an industry pioneer.
11. "Titanic" is a perfect example of what good CGI can do for a movie.
One of the best uses of CGI was in James Cameron's "Titanic." In shots of the boat, Cameron took live action footage of actors (hanging out on board or jumping into the water) and digitally placed them onboard the model. The result was so convincing it befuddled even the legendary critic Roger Ebert.
10. "Jurassic Park" is an example of how just a little CGI can go a long way
Though most of the effects were done with animatronics, there are only four minutes of CGI in the whole movie, and the computer-generated parts still hold up. It shows how effective CGI can be when used correctly.
9. "Avatar" used 3D CGI in a way that had never been seen before.
Before "Jungle Book," "The Lion King," or any other live-action remakes, there was "Avatar."
The movie is comprised of about 70% CGI and was filmed in 3D. It still ranks as one of the most expensive movies ever made and is regarded as one of the best uses of CGI in history — no matter what people say about the plot.
8. "Gravity" pushed the use of CGI to a whole new level.
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
If nothing else, "Gravity" shows that it is possible to use a ton of CGI without sacrificing quality. Just look at the opening three minutes, which is pretty much entirely computer generated.
"Gravity" is an example of not only how far CGI has come, but also where it can go.
7. "Tron" is not a good movie, but it was important for the development of CGI.
Though not well-received, "Tron" was the first movie to put live actors into a computer generated world (literally the plot). The film includes at least 15 minutes of 3D modeling.
The animation technology was so primitive that creators had to physically film the computer monitors they created it on in order to get the shots.
6. "The Matrix" used CGI so well in the bullet scene that a whole technique was named after it.
"The Matrix" was the first movie to make use of an effect known as "bullet time," which was literally named after the famous scene in which Keanu Reeves dodges a hail of bullets in slow-mo as the camera runs at normal speed.
According to Vulture, the shot was achieved by lining up "120 side-by-side still cameras set to go off serially within microseconds of one another. Space and time could then be cleft in twain." Even with that explanation, it's still as mind-bending as the movie's plot.
5. "Young Sherlock Holmes" has largely been forgotten, but its contribution to CGI is more important than you'd think.
This little-remembered movie, which was produced by Stephen Spielberg's company Amblin, was the first to incorporate an entirely computer generated character — a hallucinated evil knight.
The roughly 30-second graphic took about six months to make and was done by Lucasfilm Graphics Group — which would become Pixar just a few years later.
4. The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy had a ton of great effects, but none more important than Gollum.
IMDb/New Line Cinema
There's a lot of good CGI in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but the best was saved for Gollum. As one of the earliest characters created with the use of 3D motion capture, he proved to everybody that the technique could be used without sacrificing an actor's facial expressions and movements.
3. "Toy Story" pioneered the use of 3D animation, which is commonplace today.
Walt Disney Studios
The graphics in "Toy Story" may look weird and outdated now, but in 1995 they were as fresh as Buzz Lightyear's spacesuit. Not only was this the first Pixar movie, but it was the first feature film to be made entirely with 3D animation, which is the basis for most modern CGI.
2. "Westworld" was the first movie ever to use CGI.
This is the movie that started it all. In a couple scenes, audiences are able to look through the eyes of Gunslinger, an evil robot. The shots are essentially just pixelated footage, which isn't much compared to today. The impressive part is that the film's creators didn't really have a model to follow, so they made their own with the help of a 1970s scanner, and inspiration from the first pictures of Mars.
1. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" used CGI to create one of the most iconic villains ever.
Once again James Cameron makes the list with his innovative techniques. When "The Terminator" came out in 1984, the only way to make a robot come to life on screen was through animatronics and models.
"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" changed all that by using computer graphics to create the newer, scarier T-1000 villain. It was not only completely unique, but still holds up today as one of the best uses of CGI in a movie.
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