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Visual Effects Society: The Top 70 VFX Films of All Time Include ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Blade Runner,’ and ‘Citizen Kane’

The Visual Effects Society's list includes "Blade Runner, "Star Wars," and five Steven Spielberg films, but goes all the way back to 1902.

“2001: A Space Odyssey”


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In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Visual Effects Society polled its membership to list the 70 most influential VFX films of all time. James Cameron led the pack with six entries (“The Abyss,” “Aliens,” “Avatar,” “Terminator,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and “Titanic”); Steven Spielberg followed close behind with five (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Jurassic Park”); and Peter Jackson had four Oscar winners (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong”).

“The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling,” said VES board chair Mike Chambers. “We see this as an important opportunity for our members, leading visual effects practitioners worldwide, to pay homage to our heritage and help shape the future of the global visual effects community. In keeping with our mission to recognize and advance outstanding art and innovation in the VFX field, the VES 70 now forms a part of our legacy that we can pass down to future generations of filmmakers as a valuable point of reference.”

From ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Infinity and Beyond

Films included in the VES 70 span from the early 1900s to 2015. The earliest entry on the list is “A Trip to the Moon” (“Le Voyage dans la Lune”), the seminal 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès, whose iconic image exemplifies the VES legacy. The most current entries are from 2015: surprise Oscar winner “Ex Machina” and George Miller’s critically acclaimed “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

VES members voted for the films over the summer, on a ballot limited to features from 2015 and earlier. Since the poll had ties for the final slots, the list actually includes 72 total films.

“Star Wars”As expected, the list includes the usual VFX suspects: “The Lost World,” “Metropolis,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Citizen Kane,” “King Kong,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The War of the Worlds,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Mary Poppins,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Fantastic Voyage,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Planet of the Apes,” the “Star Wars” trilogy, “Alien,” “Tron,” and “Blade Runner.” In addition, the silent “Gertie the Dinosaur,” Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and Pixar’s “Toy Story” represent animation, along with such hybrids as “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and “Babe.”

In terms of more modern movies (dominated by the ground-breaking work of George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Domain, and Jackson’s Weta Digital), the list includes John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” “Ghostbusters,” “Back to the Future,” “Apollo 13,”  “The Fifth Element,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Matrix,”  “Transformers,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Inception,” “Gravity,” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

What’s missing? Any of the illustrious “Harry Potter” films, which put the London Soho VFX studios on the map.

The VES 70: The 70 Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time from Visual Effects Society on Vimeo.

The VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time is presented in alphabetical order:

§ 300 (2007)

§ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

§ 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

§ A Trip to the Moon (1902)

§ The Abyss (1989)

§ Alien (1979)

§ Aliens (1986)

§ An American Werewolf in London (1981)

§ Apollo 13 (1995)

§ Avatar (2009)

§ Babe (1995)

§ Back to the Future (1985)

§ Blade Runner (1982)

§ Citizen Kane (1941)

§ Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

§ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

§ Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1958)

§ The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

§ District 9 (2009)

§ E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982)

§ The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

§ Ex Machina (2015)

§ Fantastic Voyage (1966)

§ The Fifth Element (1997)

§ Forbidden Planet (1956)

§ Forrest Gump (1994)

§ Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)

§ Ghostbusters (1984)

§ Godzilla (1954)

§ Gravity (2013)

§ Inception (2010)

§ Independence Day (1996)

§ Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

§ Jaws (1975)

§ Jurassic Park (1993)

§ King Kong (1933)

§ King Kong (2005)

§ Life of Pi (2012)

§ Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

§ Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

§ Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

§ The Lost World (1925)

§ Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

§ Mary Poppins (1964)

§ The Mask (1994)

§ The Matrix (1999)

§ Metropolis (1927)

§ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

§ Planet of the Apes (1968)

§ Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

§ Return of the Jedi (1983)

§ Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

§ The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

§ Sin City (2005)

§ Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

§ Star Wars (1977)

§ Starship Troopers (1997)

§ Superman: The Movie (1978)

§ The Ten Commandments (1956)

§ The Terminator (1984)

§ Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

§ The Thing (1982)

§ Titanic (1997)

§ Total Recall (1990)

§ Toy Story (1995)

§ Tron (1982)

§ Transformers (2007)

§ Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

§ The War of the Worlds (1953)

§ The Wizard of Oz (1939)

§ What Dreams May Come (1998)

§ Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

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