Iconic and Inspirational VFX

by andrewrzeller | created - 23 Sep 2017 | updated - 23 Sep 2017 | Public

Movies and series that have pushed the boundaries of VFX, popularized a style or technique, or created unforgettable imagery that continues to inspire active artists. -AZ

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1. 2012 (I) (2009)

PG-13 | 158 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

49 Metascore

A frustrated writer struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind.

Director: Roland Emmerich | Stars: John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet

Votes: 322,087 | Gross: $166.11M

2. 300 (2006)

R | 117 min | Action, Fantasy

52 Metascore

King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

Director: Zack Snyder | Stars: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West

Votes: 681,176 | Gross: $210.61M

3. Avatar (2009)

PG-13 | 162 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

83 Metascore

A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez

Votes: 1,020,243 | Gross: $760.51M

4. Alien (1979)

R | 116 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

83 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 695,634 | Gross: $78.90M

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

R | 137 min | Action, Sci-Fi

75 Metascore

A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced and powerful cyborg.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

Votes: 885,485 | Gross: $204.84M

6. Jurassic Park (1993)

PG-13 | 127 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

68 Metascore

During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Votes: 763,259 | Gross: $402.45M

7. The Matrix (1999)

R | 136 min | Action, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 1,466,416 | Gross: $171.48M

8. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

R | 138 min | Action, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

Following the events of The Matrix (1999), Neo and the rebel leaders estimate they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams.

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 470,200 | Gross: $281.49M

9. The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

R | 129 min | Action, Sci-Fi

47 Metascore

The human city of Zion defends itself against the massive invasion of the machines as Neo fights to end the war at another front while also opposing the rogue Agent Smith.

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 408,082 | Gross: $139.31M

10. Hollow Man (2000)

R | 112 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

24 Metascore

When the leader of a team of scientists volunteers to be the test subject for their experiment in human invisibility, he slowly unravels and turns against them, with horrific consequences.

Director: Paul Verhoeven | Stars: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens

Votes: 113,211 | Gross: $73.21M

11. Life of Pi (2012)

PG | 127 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

79 Metascore

A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Tabu

Votes: 522,309 | Gross: $124.99M

12. Interstellar (2014)

PG-13 | 169 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy

Votes: 1,250,552 | Gross: $188.02M

13. Inception (2010)

PG-13 | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe

Votes: 1,789,173 | Gross: $292.58M

14. Forrest Gump (1994)

PG-13 | 142 min | Drama, Romance

82 Metascore

The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, Vietnam, Watergate, and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field

Votes: 1,561,011 | Gross: $330.25M

15. Titanic (1997)

PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance

75 Metascore

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates

Votes: 931,234 | Gross: $659.33M

16. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

PG-13 | 166 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

70 Metascore

Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond

Votes: 528,937 | Gross: $127.51M

17. Babe (1995)

G | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

83 Metascore

Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, learns to herd sheep with a little help from Farmer Hoggett.

Director: Chris Noonan | Stars: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes

Votes: 106,888 | Gross: $66.60M

18. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

63 Metascore

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate "Captain" Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor's daughter, from Jack's former pirate allies, who are now undead.

Director: Gore Verbinski | Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Votes: 947,675 | Gross: $305.41M

19. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

PG-13 | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

47 Metascore

Jack Hall, paleoclimatologist, must make a daring trek from Washington, D.C. to New York City, to reach his son, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.

Director: Roland Emmerich | Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok

Votes: 378,090 | Gross: $186.74M

20. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

PG-13 | 179 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

87 Metascore

While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom

Votes: 1,315,143 | Gross: $342.55M

21. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

PG-13 | 178 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

92 Metascore

A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean

Votes: 1,471,143 | Gross: $315.54M

22. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

PG-13 | 201 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

94 Metascore

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Votes: 1,454,511 | Gross: $377.85M

23. Death Becomes Her (1992)

PG-13 | 104 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

56 Metascore

When a woman learns of an immortality treatment, she sees it as a way to outdo her long-time rival.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn, Isabella Rossellini

Votes: 92,454 | Gross: $58.42M

24. Independence Day (1996)

PG-13 | 145 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

59 Metascore

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive.

Director: Roland Emmerich | Stars: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell

Votes: 486,895 | Gross: $306.17M

25. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

R | 118 min | Drama, Fantasy, War

98 Metascore

In the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Director: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

Votes: 560,262 | Gross: $37.63M

26. Twister (1996)

PG-13 | 113 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

68 Metascore

Bill and Jo Harding, advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes.

Director: Jan de Bont | Stars: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz

Votes: 159,762 | Gross: $241.72M

27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

PG-13 | 130 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

87 Metascore

Harry, Ron, and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord as the final battle rages on at Hogwarts.

Director: David Yates | Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon

Votes: 674,584 | Gross: $381.01M

28. Starship Troopers (1997)

R | 129 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

51 Metascore

Humans in a fascist, militaristic future wage war with giant alien bugs in a satire of modern world politics.

Director: Paul Verhoeven | Stars: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Jake Busey

Votes: 247,750 | Gross: $54.81M

29. Transformers (2007)

PG-13 | 144 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

61 Metascore

An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.

Director: Michael Bay | Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson

Votes: 562,751 | Gross: $319.07M

30. Gravity (2013)

PG-13 | 91 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

96 Metascore

Two astronauts work together to survive after an accident leaves them stranded in space.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen

Votes: 691,853 | Gross: $274.09M

31. The Perfect Storm (2000)

PG-13 | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

59 Metascore

An unusually intense storm pattern catches some commercial fishermen unaware and puts them in mortal danger.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane

Votes: 145,164 | Gross: $182.62M

32. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

PG | 101 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

84 Metascore

A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armour worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

Director: Travis Knight | Stars: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes

Votes: 101,704 | Gross: $48.02M

33. King Kong (2005)

PG-13 | 187 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

81 Metascore

In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann

Votes: 360,301 | Gross: $218.08M

34. Kong: Skull Island (2017)

PG-13 | 118 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

62 Metascore

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts | Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly

Votes: 224,623 | Gross: $168.05M

35. Godzilla (2014)

PG-13 | 123 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

The world is beset by the appearance of monstrous creatures, but one of them may be the only one who can save humanity.

Director: Gareth Edwards | Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe

Votes: 341,031 | Gross: $200.68M

36. The Avengers (2012)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

69 Metascore

Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.

Director: Joss Whedon | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

Votes: 1,144,783 | Gross: $623.36M

37. Iron Man (2008)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

After being held captive in an Afghan cave, billionaire engineer Tony Stark creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight evil.

Director: Jon Favreau | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

Votes: 828,870 | Gross: $318.41M

38. Doctor Strange (2016)

PG-13 | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

72 Metascore

While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong

Votes: 474,521 | Gross: $232.64M

39. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

PG-13 | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

76 Metascore

A group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.

Director: James Gunn | Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana

Votes: 902,582 | Gross: $333.18M

40. Deadpool (2016)

R | 108 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

65 Metascore

A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.

Director: Tim Miller | Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein

Votes: 790,340 | Gross: $363.07M

41. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

84 Metascore

When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Votes: 2,009,751 | Gross: $534.86M

42. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

PG-13 | 164 min | Action, Thriller

78 Metascore

Eight years after the Joker's reign of anarchy, Batman, with the help of the enigmatic Catwoman, is forced from his exile to save Gotham City, now on the edge of total annihilation, from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman

Votes: 1,355,626 | Gross: $448.14M

43. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

PG-13 | 132 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

75 Metascore

The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy

Votes: 604,986 | Gross: $233.92M

44. X-Men (2000)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

64 Metascore

In a world where mutants (evolved super-powered humans) exist and are discriminated against, two groups form for an inevitable clash: the supremacist Brotherhood, and the pacifist X-Men.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Votes: 524,313 | Gross: $157.30M

45. X2 (2003)

PG-13 | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

68 Metascore

When anti-mutant colonel William Stryker kidnaps Professor X and attacks his school, the X-Men must ally with their archenemy Magneto to stop him.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen

Votes: 470,719 | Gross: $214.95M

46. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

PG-13 | 151 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

53 Metascore

Jack Sparrow races to recover the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving his soul to Jones' service, as other friends and foes seek the heart for their own agenda as well.

Director: Gore Verbinski | Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport

Votes: 602,406 | Gross: $423.32M

47. District 9 (2009)

R | 112 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller

81 Metascore

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.

Director: Neill Blomkamp | Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt

Votes: 595,554 | Gross: $115.65M

48. Chappie (2015)

R | 120 min | Action, Crime, Drama

6.8