25 greatest CGI movie moments of all time

10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

  • Director: Michael Bay
  • VFX: ILM

Why watch it?

Okay, okay we know the third film in the Transformers franchise isn't going to win any Oscars for plot or acting abilities but there's no way that you can ignore the hugely impressive special effects that grace the screen for much of the running time. ILM were already responsible for the previous two films but the character of The Driller was going to test their abilities.

The robot was almost three times as big as the Transformers and it's well known among special effects teams that tentacles are one of the harder aspects to get right. Seeing as Driller was a tentacle with tentacles (with 70,051 parts!) , this was a big ask. It took a staggering 288 hours per frame to render the Driller along with the photoreal CG building that includes all those reflections in its glass. ILM calculates that that added up to more than 200,000 rendering hours per day – or the equivalent of 22.8 years of render time in a 24-hour period.

Killer sequence...

Driller goes on a rampage through Marina city, causing a fair bit of damage.

09. King Kong (2005)

  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • VFX: Weta

Why watch it?

We're not sure why one, let alone three, V-Rex would be interested in eating Naomi Watts: she'd hardly make a filling meal. Nevertheless, Kong has to stop his new size-8 friend from becoming dinosaur fodder in this thrilling, 10-minute-long, CG-heavy sequence.

Weta doubled its capacity in terms of render farm and disc space, and took on roughly 25 per cent more people to create King Kong. The team used a Maya, RenderMan and Shake pipeline, and created custom software for the ape's fur. Since Ann gets thrown about, Weta also had to use a digital double for Naomi Watts in these scenes. Ultimately, this remake of the 1933 classic proves that good things also come in big packages.

Killer sequence...

The mighty ape takes on three mighty V-Rex in order to protect Ann.

08. The Abyss (1989)

  • Director: James Cameron
  • VFX: Steve Johnson's XFX, Inc, ILM

Why watch it?

This was the very first use of digitally animated water, which means it was a mile stone in CGI movie history. The aquatic aliens were the first creatures on film made entirely from water and back in 1989, this visual effect was jaw-dropping. The 75 second sequence was divided up between seven special effects companies but it was ILM that created the program which would simulate the watery creature with incredible realism.

The combination of live action and CG effects were levelled up, as actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio comes into contact with the creature – although we wouldn't recommend tasting an alien. This was a special effects milestone that helped advance the use of CGI in film for years to come.

Killer sequence...

The civilian diving team come face to face with an alien aquatic species.

07. The Matrix (1999)

  • Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
  • VFX: Manex Visual Effects

Why watch it?

Not only is this film one of the greatest sci-fi creations, this particular scene has become renowned for its use of special effects within the entire film industry. The 'bullet-time' special effect is a time rendered simulation that creates variable speed to show objects such as flying bullets in slow motion.

The method used for creating this effect involved a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which a large number of cameras are placed around an object and triggered nearly simultaneously. When the sequence of shots is viewed, the viewer sees what are in effect two-dimensional 'slices' of a three-dimensional moment. It's no wonder then, that the team went on to win an Academy award for their efforts.

Killer sequence...

Neo (Keanu Reeves) dodges bullets from The Agents.

06. Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (2003)

  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • VFX: Weta

Why watch it?

Widely appreciated as one of the best battle scenes of all time, the battle of Pelannor Fields in the final Lord of the Rings film is jaw-droppingly impressive. Over 1,500 effects shots were used in the third film (more than the first two films combined) with the team at Weta relying on the model team and photography of the landscape to get the battle looking as realistic as possible.

Although the charging Mmakil were initially created using real life elements, Weta decided to compile them entirely digitally due to a last minute request from Peter Jackson. The elephant-like creatures were created entirely from keyframing and the team at Weta went on to win their third Oscar in three years. Not bad at all.

Killer sequence...

The final battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Next page: the final five... What is number 01?