- Great films can still have bad special effects moments that don’t ruin the overall experience but stand out and distract from the perfection.
- The fault lies with the higher-ups who didn’t provide enough time or resources for the visual effects, not the VFX companies.
- These films have one or two missteps in their visual effects, tarnishing an otherwise well-crafted legacy.
When it comes to bad movies, audiences are quick to point out shotty VFX, but sometimes great movies can also have terrible special effects that momentarily take the viewer out of the experience but aren’t enough to ruin the film as a whole. These aren’t films like Cats or Green Lantern, where the constant presence of inexcusably bad special effects hurts the entire movie, but rather productions that were a little overambitious with one or two shots. These off-putting moments aren’t enough to kill the otherwise great film, but they often stand out like a sore thumb and hinder what would otherwise be a perfect experience.
As is the case with most bad special effects, the fault is not on the VFX companies who worked long hours to complete the task, but rather on the higher-ups who did not provide the time or resources needed to complete the vision. These are otherwise well-crafted films that just made one or two missteps when it came to their visual effects. Whether it was due to a lack of time, or an over-reliance on a technology that was not ready, these movies have at least one bad special effect that tarnishes their otherwise great legacy.
10 Air Force One (1997) – The Plane Crash
For a simple ’90s thriller, Air Force One holds up shockingly well. Director Wolfgang Petersen knew how to build tension, and Harrison Ford’s President Marshall is one of the best fictional presidents, so it is a shame that in the climactic moments, the movie looks like a PlayStation 1 video game. When the plane crashes into the ocean at the end, the 100 percent CGI shot does not look good at all. Questionable at the time, Air Force One‘s CGI has only gotten worse over the years, which is a shame as it is one of the few parts of the film that is dated.
9 Alien 3 (1992) – Bad Composting For The Alien Puppet
Despite its nightmare production and the fact that director David Fincher has disowned it, Alien 3 is a surprisingly good and dark entry in the franchise. While not perfect, the film has a great sense of atmosphere and doom that is hard to find in most Hollywood blockbusters. It also has some incredible model work and breathtaking visual effects. In close-up, the titular alien has never looked better. However, for wide shots, especially in one of the alien running, a puppet was composed into the film. The puppet itself looks fine, but the composite is always distracting and takes away from the monster’s menace.
8 Spider-Man 2 (2004) Fully CGI Mary Jane & Doc Ock
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 still stands as one of the best superhero movies of all time, and for a movie that is nearly 20 years old, the effects mostly hold up. Raimi knows how to shoot effects and make them look believable, yet for a few shots he may have been a little overconfident in the technology. A stand-out moment is when a fully CGI Doc Ock grabs a fully CGI MJ and carries her down the street. It is an image straight out of a Steve Ditko Spider-Man comic, but CGI people were not in a place in 2004 to perfectly achieve this effect.
7 The Matrix Reloaded (2003) – Army Of CGI Agent Smiths
The original Matrix revolutionized how CGI was incorporated into blockbuster filmmaking, so the sequels had a lot to live up to, and in many respects they did. The Matrix Reloaded is filled with incredible CGI and practical effects, to the point it is hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. However, in a sequence where Neo fights a hundred Agent Smiths, the CGI becomes overbearing and distracting. As with Raimi on Spider-Man 2, the Wachowskis overestimated how good a completely digital person looked, and the result slipped into the uncanny valley. The scene is still inventive and exciting, but as it goes on the effects just get worse.
6 Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989) – The Background Of The Air Fight
Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker who is always pushing the boundaries of what can be done with effects. He also knows how to incorporate effects into his frames in ways that hold up. His Jurassic Park features CGI that still looks incredible 30 years later, so it is shocking that in the third Indiana Jones movie the airplane fight looks so dodgy. While most of the film looks great, this action sequence has some terrible blue screen that looks like it came out of a movie from the ’50s. Thanks to some great comedy, and Spielberg’s eye for blocking, the sequence works, but it still stands out amid the rest of the film.
5 Black Panther (2018) – Rubbery Final Battle
As the years go on, it becomes more and more clear that Black Panther isn’t just one of the best movies in the MCU’s Infinity Saga, but one of the best movies to come from its genre. Ryan Coogler’s first Black Panther is a lightning-in-a-bottle movie that uses its comic book origins to craft an exciting new world and a story with ideas on its mind. This makes the final fight between Black Panther and Killmonger all the more disappointing. Having the hero fight someone with a similar power set is already a repetitive and boring way to end this story, but the CGI is subpar for MCU standards.
4 Return Of The Jedi (1983) – The Millennium Falcon Being A Matte Painting, Not A Set
For the first two Star Wars films, the Millennium Falcon was a practical set that the actors could interact with. Sadly, between the filming of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the Falcon set burned down, and instead of rebuilding it, the filmmakers decided to use a matte painting for the few shots of actors in front of the ship. Considering audiences were used to the Falcon looking so real, these moments stand out, and it doesn’t help that the lighting on Lando as he walks away is completely off. Thankfully, for the sequel trilogy, another physical Falcon set was built.
3 TRON: Legacy (2010) – CGI Jeff Bridges
In some respects, the uncanny nature of Clu in TRON: Legacy fits the movie. He is the digital version of Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn, so his digitally de-aged face matches the story while also giving the villain of the film an extra unsettling nature. However, that was probably not the filmmaker’s intention, and the film opens with the real Flynn with a similarly bad CGI face as he says goodbye to his son. Digital de-aging has come a long way since 2010, but it still isn’t fully convincing, and in TRON: Legacy it is often distracting.
2 Robocop (1987) – Dick Jones’ Weird Arms When He Falls At The End
Robocop has some of the greatest special effects, not just of the ’80s, but of all time. From the blood squibs to the matte paintings, to the stop-motion, it uses almost every trick in the book to build a tangible sci-fi world, and one that still looks good today. That is until the film’s final moments when CEO Dick Jones is thrown out the window and falls to his death. Not only is the composite weirdly done, but Jones’s arms become twice as long as they should be, making the image laughable.
1 The Irishman (2019) – Uncanny De-aging
Martin Scorsese is a master filmmaker, and The Irishman is one of his strongest works. It is an emotional tale that reflects not only on masculinity and power but also on Scorsese’s entire career. It is a triumph of filmmaking, so it is able to get over some iffy digital de-aging. To the film’s credit, it would be almost impossible to convey the passing of time in the way the film requires without this effect, but it still takes a couple of minutes to fully get used to how these characters look.