Time Out NY's Fifty 'Most Special Effects' of All-Time List of Movies

August 14, 2011
Source: Time Out NY

50 Most Special Effects in Films List

Now this is quite an intriguing list. Time Out NY recently published (via RopeofSilicon) what they dubbed the "50 most special effects of all time," which, I think, just means they've ranked the 50 movies that had the best special effects. Their only description is that it's a ranking of "the most awe-inducing moments of our dreams and nightmares." Okay, bring it on. These include all special effects, not just visual effects, so that means it has everything from King Kong to Them! to 2001: A Space Odyssey to Matrix and everything inbetween. As I said, it's quite a list, so check out the article. We've posted the full list below for discussion.

Here's the "50 most special effects of all time" as organized from top to bottom for discussion purposes. I suggest going through them on Time Out's site, as they have photos and info for each one. Here they are:

50. Them! (1954)
49. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
48. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
47. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
46. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
45. Poltergeist (1982)
44. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
43. The Invisible Man (1933)
42. The Fly (1986)
41. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
40. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
39. The Birds (1963)
38. Planet of the Apes (1968)
37. Anchors Aweigh (1945)
36. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
35. Superman (1978)
34. Once Upon a Time in China (1991)
33. Forrest Gump (1994)
32. The Exorcist (1973)
31. Tron (1982)
30. Bwana Devil (1952)
29. Avatar (2009)
28. The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
27. Vertigo (1982)
26. Babe (1995)
25. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
24. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
23. Jurassic Park (1993)
22. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
21. Dead Ringers (1988)
20. The Thing (1982)
19. The Ten Commandments (1956)
18. Scanners (1981)
17. Godzilla (1954)
16. Star Wars (1977)
15. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
14. The Muppet Movie (1979)
13. The Matrix (1999)
12. Forbidden Planet (1956)
11. Zelig (1983)
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
9. Metropolis (1927)
8. Blade Runner (1982)
7. The Abyss (1989)
6. Jaws (1975)
5. King Kong (1933)
4. Alien (1979)
3. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)

This is a very comprehensive list. As Brad at RopeofSilicon points out, they have a film or two from pretty much every decade since film was around, obviously starting with the #1 pick, A Trip to the Moon (which you can watch on YouTube). I'm surprised to see Two Towers on there (but I get that was because it was the first introduction of Gollum) and also surprised to even see Saving Private Ryan at all, but again, that does make sense in terms of special effects. "It's worth noting that even in one of [Spielberg's] most realistic, historically rooted efforts, the effects were groundbreaking." There's a quick bit of commentary on each film if you run down the entire list over on Time Out NY, so go through that to see what they said for each one.

Are there any key movies or special effects missing? What do you think of this "all time" list?

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Reader Feedback - 33 Comments


The muppet movie?... it's ahead of star wars... fawk this list.

yuck on Aug 14, 2011


It´s a great list... The only movie that comes into my mind right now that is missing from this list is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead´s Man Chest. I think Davy Jones deserves a spot on the list. I don´t know, maybe I´m wrong... but I always thought the pirates franchise was best at special effects/vissual effects.

Anonymous on Aug 14, 2011


Totally agree with you about Davy Jones.  Dead Man's Chest should definitely be on here.

John on Aug 14, 2011


first time i saw that, i thought that was just really good make up, absolutely didn't know that was cg

Dpramroop on Aug 15, 2011


I really believe Inception should be on this list

Day on Aug 14, 2011


Seconding this. The majority of JGL's stunts were mindblowing.

Wagner Pallett on Aug 14, 2011


Inception was 134.

overrated on Aug 15, 2011


No "Frankenstein"(1931)?! It maybe the most iconic monster in cinema history. But I strongly support most of the list. Change out maybe "The Muppet Movie" for "Frankenstein" and I would love it.

Professor Brian O'Blivion on Aug 14, 2011


That movie didn't have many effects, tho. Good makeup and an iconic design, but few special effects.

Anonymous on Aug 14, 2011


Pretty subjective really. Decent list. Lots of no-brainers. I'm glad they didn't infuse it with a lot of the modern effects.

Quanah on Aug 14, 2011


Meh, forget the list, best thing in this article was discovering and all the free moie they have put out on youtube.

David Banner on Aug 14, 2011


free movies* (cordless keyboard)

David Banner on Aug 14, 2011


How is Star Wars only at #16 - it should easily be in the top ten.  Same with Jurassic Park at #23.

John on Aug 14, 2011


I agree...

Misssmith on Aug 16, 2011


I was expecting to see the Dracula remake from 1992, as all the effects were done in camera, which is mind-boggling.

Anonymous on Aug 14, 2011


This is a ridiculous list! Putting Blade Runner above Star Wars is completely wrong. As much as I love Blade Runner it has nowhere near the complexity of effects work that Star Wars had. Blade Runner is essentially Set Decoration and amazing Art Direction (a definite leader in both those categories) Star Wars took a huge leap forward in the craft hands down.

Rossthx on Aug 14, 2011


Oh dear, I just noticed, The Muppet Movie ahead of Avatar!......this really is a joke! Seriously the Muppets were on TV years before their movie hit the big screen. How groundbreaking is that?!!! Yes we can all be cynical and call Avatar a glorified muppet movie yadda,yadda,yadda....but the advances in Mo-Cap, 3D and Compositing make Avatar truly revolutionary.

Rossthx on Aug 14, 2011


I know people hate on Bay, but seriously, whose mouth didnt drop open when they first saw those transformers. How does that not make the top 50?

Blopez5136 on Aug 15, 2011


perfect list, the top 10 is spot on.

happy camper on Aug 15, 2011


Why is it so "spot on" Please elaborate?

Rossthx on Aug 15, 2011


Where's the Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi or the Return of the King, ok this list is bullshit!

John on Aug 15, 2011


Where's King Kong (1995) or Pirates of the the Caribbean 2 and 3? 

Dan on Aug 15, 2011


Where's the Harry Potter movies? 

Vinnie on Aug 15, 2011


Where's the Transformers movies? 

John on Aug 15, 2011


Was thinking the same thing!

Misssmith on Aug 16, 2011


I can totally see why Anchors Aweigh is on this list! It started the whole craze of famous cartoon characters making appearences in live action. It's most famous sequence is that song and dance number with Jerry Mouse.

Jez on Aug 15, 2011


Not even getting into omissions or most placements, but Jurassic Park and Avatar are way too low.

Rashad on Aug 15, 2011


People, this is SPECIAL FX, not VISUAL FX. They are 2 different things. This is 'partical' fx, not CGI. Calm down!

Girlfriend on Aug 15, 2011


No Spiderman?  I thought the first person swinging camera shots were pretty unique.

peloquin on Aug 15, 2011


Great article

Skymazter on Aug 15, 2011


If you actually read the article then you will know why the movies u guys keep talking about arent on the list

Skymazter on Aug 15, 2011


I went in looking for The Thing. And there it was. Now THAT is satisfying. 

Cracky on Aug 16, 2011


pretty decent list just maybe in the wrong order,star wars was the film that changed everything.

Green Goblin on Aug 16, 2011

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