Iconic and Inspirational VFX

by andrewrzeller | created - 23 Sep 2017 | updated - 03 Sep 2020 | Public

"Movies and series that have pushed the boundaries of VFX, popularized a style or technique, or created unforgettable imagery that we continue to talk about or be influenced by today." -Andrew Zeller

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1. King Kong (1933)

Passed | 100 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack | Stars: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher

Votes: 85,271 | Gross: $10.00M

2. The Invisible Man (1933)

TV-PG | 71 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

87 Metascore

A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers

Votes: 34,889

3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Approved | 83 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

95 Metascore

Exiled into the dangerous forest by her wicked stepmother, a princess is rescued by seven dwarf miners who make her part of their household.

Directors: William Cottrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen | Stars: Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell, Lucille La Verne, Roy Atwell

Votes: 197,678 | Gross: $184.93M

4. Fantasia (1940)

G | 125 min | Animation, Family, Fantasy

96 Metascore

A collection of animated interpretations of great works of Western classical music, ranging from the abstract to depictions of mythology and fantasy, and settings including the prehistoric, supernatural and sacred.

Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, David Hand, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen | Stars: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Corey Burton

Votes: 95,991 | Gross: $76.41M

5. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

Not Rated | 81 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him.

Director: Jack Arnold | Stars: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton

Votes: 18,093

6. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Passed | 65 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

When an abused socialite grows to giant size because of an alien encounter and an aborted murder attempt, she goes after her cheating husband with revenge on her mind.

Director: Nathan Juran | Stars: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Roy Gordon

Votes: 5,584 | Gross: $0.48M

7. Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

G | 93 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

80 Metascore

A wily old codger matches wits with the King of the Leprechauns and helps play matchmaker for his daughter and the strapping lad who has replaced him as caretaker.

Director: Robert Stevenson | Stars: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, Jimmy O'Dea

Votes: 8,269

8. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Approved | 129 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

An Edinburgh professor and assorted colleagues follow an explorer's trail down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the earth's center.

Director: Henry Levin | Stars: James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker

Votes: 17,657 | Gross: $10.00M

9. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

G | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Family

69 Metascore

The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece.

Director: Don Chaffey | Stars: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith

Votes: 28,049 | Gross: $4.58M

10. Mary Poppins (1964)

G | 139 min | Comedy, Family, Fantasy

88 Metascore

In turn of the century London, a magical nanny employs music and adventure to help two neglected children become closer to their father.

Director: Robert Stevenson | Stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns

Votes: 171,261 | Gross: $102.27M

11. Fantastic Voyage (1966)

PG | 100 min | Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi

72 Metascore

A scientist is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his bloodstream with a small crew. Problems arise almost as soon as they enter it.

Director: Richard Fleischer | Stars: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence

Votes: 18,952

12. Planet of the Apes (1968)

G | 112 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans

Votes: 179,310 | Gross: $33.40M

13. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

After uncovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, a spacecraft is sent to Jupiter to find its origins - a spacecraft manned by two men and the supercomputer H.A.L. 9000.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

Votes: 659,672 | Gross: $56.95M

14. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Thriller

87 Metascore

When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community off Cape Cod, it's up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 594,852 | Gross: $260.00M

15. Star Wars (1977)

PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

90 Metascore

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

Votes: 1,343,644 | Gross: $322.74M

16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

PG | 138 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

Roy Neary, an Indiana electric lineman, finds his quiet and ordinary daily life turned upside down after a close encounter with a UFO, spurring him to an obsessed cross-country quest for answers as a momentous event approaches.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon

Votes: 200,454 | Gross: $132.09M

17. Superman (1978)

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

81 Metascore

An alien orphan is sent from his dying planet to Earth, where he grows up to become his adoptive home's first and greatest superhero.

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando

Votes: 174,026 | Gross: $134.22M

18. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounter a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission.

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

Votes: 866,315 | Gross: $78.90M

19. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

PG | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

82 Metascore

After the Rebels are brutally overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda, while his friends are pursued across the galaxy by Darth Vader and bounty hunter Boba Fett.

Director: Irvin Kershner | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Votes: 1,271,018 | Gross: $290.48M

20. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

PG | 115 min | Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi

91 Metascore

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape from Earth and return to his home planet.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace

Votes: 403,852 | Gross: $435.11M

21. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

PG | 113 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

67 Metascore

With the assistance of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using the life-generating Genesis Device as the ultimate weapon.

Director: Nicholas Meyer | Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan

Votes: 121,014 | Gross: $78.91M

22. Blade Runner (1982)

R | 117 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

Votes: 758,820 | Gross: $32.87M

23. TRON (1982)

PG | 96 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

58 Metascore

A computer hacker is abducted into the digital world and forced to participate in gladiatorial games where his only chance of escape is with the help of a heroic security program.

Director: Steven Lisberger | Stars: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan

Votes: 121,372 | Gross: $33.00M

24. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

PG | 131 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

58 Metascore

After a daring mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels dispatch to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke struggles to help Darth Vader back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor's trap.

Director: Richard Marquand | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Votes: 1,037,987 | Gross: $309.13M

25. Ghostbusters (1984)

PG | 105 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy

71 Metascore

Three parapsychologists forced out of their university funding set up shop as a unique ghost removal service in New York City, attracting frightened yet skeptical customers.

Director: Ivan Reitman | Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis

Votes: 409,459 | Gross: $238.63M

26. The Last Starfighter (1984)

PG | 101 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

67 Metascore

High schooler Alex Rogan conquers the Starfighter video game, only to find out it was just a test, and is transported to another planet. He has been recruited to join a team of the best starfighters to defend their world from the attack.

Director: Nick Castle | Stars: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Kay E. Kuter, Dan Mason

Votes: 42,552 | Gross: $28.73M

27. The Terminator (1984)

R | 107 min | Action, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

A human soldier is sent from 2029 to 1984 to stop an almost indestructible cyborg killing machine, sent from the same year, which has been programmed to execute a young woman whose unborn son is the key to humanity's future salvation.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

Votes: 853,155 | Gross: $38.40M

28. Cocoon (1985)

PG-13 | 117 min | Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi

65 Metascore

When a group of trespassing seniors swim in a pool containing alien cocoons, they find themselves energized with youthful vigor.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy

Votes: 63,397 | Gross: $76.11M

29. Back to the Future (1985)

PG | 116 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

87 Metascore

Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Votes: 1,179,709 | Gross: $210.61M

30. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

PG-13 | 109 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery

65 Metascore

When assorted people start having inexplicable delusions that lead to their deaths, a teenage Sherlock Holmes decides to investigate.

Director: Barry Levinson | Stars: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins

Votes: 21,339 | Gross: $19.74M

31. Labyrinth (1986)

PG | 101 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

50 Metascore

Sixteen-year-old Sarah is given thirteen hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother Toby when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King Jareth.

Director: Jim Henson | Stars: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Shelley Thompson

Votes: 136,076 | Gross: $12.73M

32. Aliens (1986)

R | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

Fifty-seven years after surviving an apocalyptic attack aboard her space vessel by merciless space creatures, Officer Ripley awakens from hyper-sleep and tries to warn anyone who will listen about the predators.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser

Votes: 707,943 | Gross: $85.16M

33. The Fly (1986)

R | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel

Votes: 179,661 | Gross: $40.46M

34. Willow (1988)

PG | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

47 Metascore

A young farmer is chosen to undertake a perilous journey in order to protect a special baby from an evil queen.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, Jean Marsh

Votes: 113,682 | Gross: $57.27M

35. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

PG | 104 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

83 Metascore

A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit's only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer

Votes: 199,835 | Gross: $156.45M

36. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

PG-13 | 127 min | Action, Adventure

65 Metascore

In 1938, after his father Professor Henry Jones, Sr. goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. finds himself up against Adolf Hitler's Nazis again to stop them from obtaining its powers.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliott

Votes: 745,984 | Gross: $197.17M

37. Die Hard (1988)

R | 132 min | Action, Thriller

72 Metascore

An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson

Votes: 865,745 | Gross: $83.01M

38. Batman (1989)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure

69 Metascore

The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl

Votes: 374,468 | Gross: $251.19M

39. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

PG | 93 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

63 Metascore

The scientist father of a teenage girl and boy accidentally shrinks his and two other neighborhood teens to the size of insects. Now the teens must fight diminutive dangers as the father searches for them.

Director: Joe Johnston | Stars: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland

Votes: 154,138 | Gross: $130.72M

40. The Abyss (1989)

PG-13 | 140 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

62 Metascore

A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and faces danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester

Votes: 176,856 | Gross: $54.46M

41. Back to the Future Part II (1989)

PG | 108 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

After visiting 2015, Marty McFly must repeat his visit to 1955 to prevent disastrous changes to 1985...without interfering with his first trip.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Tom Wilson

Votes: 525,080 | Gross: $118.50M

42. Back to the Future Part III (1990)

PG | 118 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

55 Metascore

Stranded in 1955, Marty McFly learns about the death of Doc Brown in 1885 and must travel back in time to save him. With no fuel readily available for the DeLorean, the two must figure how to escape the Old West before Emmett is murdered.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Tom Wilson