Top 10 Worst Practical Special Effects in Movies

Script written by Matthew Thomas. Practicality is not always better. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for top 10 worst practical special effects in movies. For this list, we’ll be looking at the big screen sequences where practical effects, such as prosthetics, animatronics, puppets, etc. or any other effects achieved without computers, were used with disastrous results. As we’ll be showing big moments from several of the films we’re featuring, there will be SPOILERS so: SPOILER ALERT. Special thanks to our users Manuel Guadarrama Moreno, Frodo Baggins and Pixelmation for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Matthew Thomas.

Top 10 Worst Practical Special Effects in Movies


Practicality is not always better. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 worst practical special effects in movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the big screen sequences where practical effects, such as prosthetics, animatronics, puppets, etc. or any other effects achieved without computers, were used with disastrous results. As we’ll be showing big moments from several of the films we’re featuring, there will be SPOILERS so: SPOILER ALERT.

#10: Window Crasher
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)


A common trope of the horror genre is to incorporate one last scare in the closing seconds of the film. Freddy Krueger’s first foray into the nightmares of the world helped enforce that trend with this terrifying sequence. With Freddy supposedly dispatched, Nancy’s and her mother’s morning should be a bright one – that is, until things get unsettled and her mother is pulled through the window of her front door, presumably to her demise. The fact that the body that flies at such velocity is clearly a doll or mannequin of some kind practically ruins the film’s entire ending.

#9: Headless
“Beetlejuice” (1988)


A film from the heyday of director Tim Burton, “Beetlejuice” combines everything that made him a force in the industry to begin with. Pairing an original, heartfelt story with unique and interesting visuals, the comedy fantasy is filled to the brim with special effects that don’t necessarily strive for realism but instead are chosen for their unique style. That is what makes the clunky, cheap looking effect used to show Alec Baldwin’s headless torso and dismembered head all the more off putting in this scene – don’t believe us? Have a look for yourself.

#8: Not Human
“RoboCop” (1987)


When you’re watching films from the past, it’s only fair that you look at the effects you see in the context of what was possible at the time of its production. You can’t expect a movie to pull off visuals on par with the modern effects you see today, but you should be able to expect some level of competency for the time. Using a model to replace an actor was the norm then, but the fact that the effects team behind “Robocop” didn’t seem to understand the length of a person’s arms in relationship to the rest of a human body is simply egregious.

#7: Effects You Can Flush
“Street Trash” (1987)


Though this comedy horror was written expressly with the intent to “offend every group on the planet,” we have to imagine it still wasn’t also the intention of the filmmakers to insult the intelligence of audiences that saw its awful effects. Centering on bottles of wine that make you melt when you drink them and their sale to the homeless, you’d think the central concern of the men behind the camera would be to perfect the very effects to showcase this before making their film. And this meltdown is the perfect example to prove that the effects team could’ve put a lot more effort into their jobs.

#6: Troll Face
“Troll 2” (1990)


When you make a movie so poorly that it becomes the subject of a documentary called “Best Worst Movie,” it’s a good sign that things didn’t exactly turn out the way you intended. Highlighted by horrible acting and absurd dialogue, the terrible effects featured throughout “Troll 2” sometimes don’t get the discussion they deserve. From the ridiculous dime store-caliber masks on the goblins (no, they’re not even trolls!) to the green slime effect used when they devour their victims, this film’s laughable effects are practically legendary.

#5: Deflating Man
“Spookies” (1986)


A film highlighted by multiple creature effects, some of which were good and others not so much, their inconsistent nature is perfectly encapsulated in this particular “Spookies” sequence. The part in question features a woman turning into a spider using effects that are surprisingly good for its time and budget; but it’s when the spider takes its victim that this indie horror’s place on this list was ensured. For some reason, the attack involves him having everything sucked out of his head, and this allows us to also be treated with a visual akin to a balloon painted with a face being deflated.

#4: Eye Trauma
“The Terminator” (1984)


Perhaps the best regarded and most influential film on this list, “The Terminator”’s place in history was earned by its groundbreaking, unique story in spite of its effects. The story of this sequence, which features the titular cyborg’s self-repairs on its arm and eye, plays to something guttural in the human mind. Seeing a damaged eye is a sensitive subject for nearly all mankind, as we all know how sensitive these organs are. Ignoring this fact though, the moments where you see the Terminator’s face from the front while he makes cuts into his eye look so fake that they are downright laughable.

#3: Arm of Justice
“Samurai Cop” (1991)


This is one of those movies that is so bad that it’s become something of a cinematic legend and continues to perpetuate itself as such as new generations stumble upon it year after year. In this action sequence, the titular cop throws a katana at a man that somehow causes the victim’s arm to be chopped off. The result is absolute hilarity as we cut to a plastic looking arm hitting the ground and a man with his arm in his shirt and a fake stump exposed.

#2: Wheelchair Underwater
“Mac and Me” (1988)


For fans of bad special effects, it is a shame that this film has become known for its shameless product placement, highlighted by a dance sequence inside of a McDonald’s with Ronald joining in. What has somehow managed to fly somewhat under the radar is how truly spectacularly awful the effects are from the beginning of “Mac and Me” to the end. The apex of the awfulness is the sequence where the wheelchair-using protagonist slides down a hill and falls into the water below, only to be saved by the mysterious alien creature.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Garbage Pail Effects
“The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” (1987)
- Damn Dam Jump
“The Fugitive” (1993)
- Superimposed Dinner
“King Kong Lives” (1986)
- Giant Mosquito
“Mosquito” (1995)
- Howard Sucks
“Howard the Duck” (1986)

#1: Shark Attack
“Jaws 3-D” (1983)

Attempting to recreate the magic of the original film with a first time director behind the lens was an undoubtedly unenviable task. The decision to change the focus of the series from story-based to targeting the burgeoning and underwhelming 3-D trend at the time may have been the nail in the coffin for this “Jaws” sequel, though. The film’s worst moment in most people’s opinion is when the shark crashes through glass to attack those on the other side of it. Not blinking or moving in any way other than its slow straight floating towards the glass, this effect is arguably one of the most unforgettably terrible in cinematic history.

Do you agree with our list? What’s the worst practical special effect in movies? For more fun top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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