The 20 biggest 3D movies of 2016

2016 looks like being a great year for 3D movies. Here are the ones you really need to see.

When the history of cinema in the 2010s comes to be written, 3D movies are certain to form an important chapter. Once dismissed as a gimmick, stereoscopic 3D has now firmly entered the mainstream.

Remind yourself what the best 3D movies were in 2015

It's becoming the norm for cinema tickets to come with a pair of polarized glasses, and more and more homes now have 3D-ready flatscreen TVs and projectors. Increasingly, special versions of films are being made in IMAX 3D too, not to mention incredible 360-degree versions for the new virtual reality technologies such as Occulus Rift.

But while the technology's advancing apace, which 3D movies are actually worth watching?

Check out our selection of this year's biggest 3D movies (listed in release-date order) and let us know in the comments which ones you're excited about, and why...

01. Kung Fu Panda 3

Dreamworks' martial-arts comedy franchise seems all but unstoppable, and is a shining symbol of the growing importance of China in the CG animation industry.

This third installment will be the first time a major American animated feature has been co-produced with a Chinese company. There's even a Chinese version where the characters' lips are synced with the native dialogue.

More importantly for audiences everywhere, it looks like being a ton of rompish fun. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the threequel will see our hero take on a supernatural villain and feature the voice talents of (deep breath...) Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross and Kate Hudson.

02. Zootopia

Amidst a decade of sequels, prequels, reboots and reimaginings, it's great when Disney take a chance on a new, original story. They pulled it off last year with superlative tear-jerker Inside Out; can Zootopia equal that critical and commercial success?

Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, the 55th animated feature from Disney will be an "action-buddy comedy neo-noir adventure" that follows a rabbit cop pursuing the case of a missing otter.

At the very least, we expect a few good animal puns in there.

03. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It's the ultimate playground argument: who'd win in a fight between Batman and Superman? And now we get to actually see it, in glorious stereo 3D.

Director Zack Snyder brings back Henry Cavill as Superman, with Ben Affleck donning the Bat-cape. Amy Adams also appears as Wonder Woman, along with some other, more obscure superheroes you might remember being mentioned in The Big Bang Theory.

With some scenes filmed with IMAX cameras, what's likely to be the year's most spectacular blockbuster will be released in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D. And a quick glance at the explosively epic trailer suggests that you'll probably want to see this one on the biggest screen possible.

Certainly, with companies like Double Negative, MPC, Scanline, Shade VFX, Teamworks Digital and Weta on board, the special effects alone should be worth the price of the cinema ticket.

04. The Jungle Book (2016)

We all love the swinging 1960s cartoon version of Rudyard Kipling's tale of a boy raised by wild animals. But this new live-action, non-singing version, directed by Jon Favreau, gets a bit closer to the 1894 source material.

The special effects used to craft the various animal characters are a combination of motion capture techniques and computer animation done from scratch – Favreau said he wanted to avoid overusing mocap to prevent an 'uncanny valley' effect.

With a voice cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken, this looks like it could be the family film of the year.

05. Captain America: Civil War

We're not sure why this third Captain America film wasn't called "Iron Man vs Captain America", because that's exactly what it is.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the 13th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees the Avengers split into two factions, one led by the good Cap and another by billionaire metal man Tony Stark.

With VFX duties being shared between ILM, Method, Rise FX, Trixter, Double Negative, Luma Pictures, Lola VFX, Cantina, Creative, Animal Logic and The Third Floor, be prepared for mammoth helpings of CG shock and awe from start to finish.

According to Joe Russo, around 15 minutes of the film, including one sequence "with some incredible scale to it", has been shot with IMAX cameras, and the movie will be released in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D.

06. The Angry Birds Movie

Who says the Disney/Dreamworks duopoly of animated kids movies can't be broken?

Finnish games company Rovio is going to have a good crack at it with this $80 million CG movie version of their irritatingly addictive mobile phone game.

Directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, it looks from the trailer like it's actually going to be pretty funny.

07. Alice Through the Looking Glass

This sequel to Tim Burton's 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland sees Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp return as Alice, the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter respectively.

The trailer also shows off some spectacular and surreal VFX, courtesy of Double Negative and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

We weren't big fans of the first one, to be honest, but here's hoping that more of the Lewis Carroll magic will rub off on Burton & co for this second outing.

08. X-Men: Apocalypse

The ninth installment in the X-Men series, this new episode continues the adventures of the younger versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.

This one is set a decade after the events of Days of Future Past. We see the first and most powerful mutant, Apocalypse, awaken after thousands of years and, disillusioned with what he finds, recruits a team of mutants to "cleanse" humanity and create a new world order.

MPC and Digital Domain are among the companies sprinkling it all with lots of computer-generated destruction.

09. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

As your momma always said, you can't keep a good pizza-loving, genetically mutated amphibian down. And this sequel to 2014's unexpectedly successful reboot of the franchise sees the turtle-y awesome heroes return to take on Shredder once more.

Expect to see more of the same ludicrously over-the-top, kid-friendly action-packed fun as last time. VFX will be led by ILM, under the supervision of Pablo Helman & Robert Weaver.

10. Warcraft

Released in some territories as Warcraft: The Beginning, this will be the first movie based on wildly popular online game World of Warcraft.

The film portrays the origin story of the initial encounters between the humans and orcs, from both sides of the conflict, and will take place in a variety of locations established in the game.

Moon director Duncan Jones, along with VFX studios ILM, Hybride and Rodeo FX, should bring a touch of class to proceedings.

11. Finding Dory

If ever a sidekick stole a picture, it was the amnesia-suffering, Pacific regal blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo.

Now, six months after those events, Dory suddenly gets back her childhood memories and sets out to find her family, accompanied by Nemo and Marlin. All together now... "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...".

It's unusual for Disney to release two major animated films in the one year. But with Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton in the director's chair, this is sure to be one very big hit indeed.

12. Independence Day: Resurgence

Has the world been waiting for an Independent Day sequel? We're not convinced, but here it is anyway – with Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman, but no Will Smith in sight.

Still, with Roland Emmerich returning as director, and modern CG techniques promising to bring the devastation like nothing before, this could worth watching just for the spectacle.

With VFX from MPC, Scanline, Image Engine and Luxx, the film will take place 20 years after the original, when reinforcements of the original alien race arrive at Earth after finally receiving a distress call.

13. The BFG

It's taken a fair while for Roald Dahl's much-loved children's book The Big Friendly Giant to reach the silver screen.

Producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy began development for a big budget adaptation way back 1991, and Robin Williams was talked about for the lead role in 1998.

But it's director Steven Spielberg who's finally got the oversized one into cinemas for 2016. With some CG magic courtesy of Weta Digital, this looks likely to enrapture a new generation of kids the world over.

14. The Legend of Tarzan

Skipping the origin story, this new adventure of the man raised by apes takes place years after he left the jungle.

Tarzan is now invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he's a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge.

Alexander Skarsgård takes the lead role, with Samuel L. Jackson and Margot Robbie adding a touch of class to the cast. The visual effects come courtesy of Framestore, Lola, Method Studios, MPC, Rising Sun and Rodeo FX.

15. Ghostbusters 3

Yes, the Ghostbusters are back, but - shock, horror - there's no Bill Murray or Dan Akykroyd this time.

Instead, this action-packed comedy movie's a complete reboot of the 1984 original, with a bunch of female academics antogonising the spirit world this time around.

Still, with supreme comedy talent like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig taking part, we're expecting this to be a corker, which brings a whole new generation of kids into the weird world of the Ghostbusters.

16. Ice Age: Collision Course

Who'd have thought the Ice Age franchise would stretch to five movies? Although to be fair, the concept behind the global cooling comedy has been pretty stretched too.

Directed by Mike Thurmeier and Galen T. Chu, this latest episode sees Scratt (wait for it...) go on an adventure in outer space. Hmmm.

So we're moving way, way beyond any sense of prehistorical realism. But the kids are still probably going to love this new chapter in the Ice Age story. Best to just go with it, really.

17. Star Trek Beyond

The third in the rebooted Star Trek series, this latest film will be released in July to celebrate the 50th birthday of the long-running franchise.

Producer JJ Abrams didn't direct this time, due to Star Wars: The Force Awakens commitments – that role went to Justin Lin. All the main cast are back, though, while VFX are provided by Double Negative and Atomic Fiction.

This time around, we see the crew attacked by a powerful unstoppable wave of unknown aliens, who destroy the Enterprise and leave them stranded on a new planet.

18. Pete's Dragon

The logo for the new film - we're still waiting for the trailer

The original 1977 live action/cel animation hybrid Pete's Dragon isn't exactly everyone's favourite Disney film. But maybe that's the point of this remake.

There won't be any songs in this new version, but there will be a brand new, CGI dragon and Robert Redford as the storyteller. And who knows, it might even be, you know, good...

19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' was a 2001 mock textbook written by British author J. K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Newt Scamander) about the magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe.

It was originally penned to raise money for Comic Relief. But now it's serving as the inspiration for a brand new movie trilogy set in the Harry Potter universe, with VFX courtesy of Cinesite, Double Negative, Framestore, MPC and Rodeo FX.

The story revolves around Newt Scamander's (Eddie Redmayne) arrival at the Magical Congress of the United States of America, which unwittingly results in the escape of a number of dangerous creatures. This sends the U.S. wizarding authorities after Newt, and threatens the state of magical and non-magical relations. Oh, those muggles!

20. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The first still to be released from the next Star Wars film

A few years back, Disney gave George Lucas an awful lot of loot for the right to make Star Wars films. And now they're starting to cash in on their investment by releasing a new Star Wars film a year, no less.

We won't get the sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Christmas, though: that'll come in 2017. But we will get this new, standalone film, which takes place in the years before the 1977 original.

Directed by Gareth Edwards of Monsters and Godzilla fame, Rogue One will see a group of resistance fighters attempting to steal plans for the Death Star. A Star Wars prequel? What could possibly go wrong there...?

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.