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Top 10 Visually Striking CGI Filled Films

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Say what you will about CGI, but it’s revolutionized the way movies look. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 visually stunning CGI filled films. For this list, we’ve looked at films that feature CGI in key scenes to create the movies’ atmosphere, look and feel. Which means, as long as they’re beautiful and use computer-generated imagery, they’re eligible for this list. To see your idea become a WatchMojo video, be sure to use our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest

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Written by Tiffany Ezuma

Top 10 Visually Striking Films

Say what you will about CGI, but it’s revolutionized the way movies look. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 visually stunning films.

For this list, we’ve looked at films that feature CGI in key scenes to create the movies’ atmosphere, look and feel. Which means, as long as they’re beautiful and use computer-generated imagery, they’re eligible for this list.

#10: “300” (2007)

Basing their film on a Frank Miller comic book series of the same name, the production team behind this movie set out to make it look as bold and graphic as it appears on paper. They more than accomplished this feat and matched the comic almost panel-by-panel by filming largely in front of a bluescreen and filling in the backgrounds later using CGI. After principal shooting ended, “300” was in post-production for almost a year; but the time and effort definitely paid off.

#9: “The Matrix” (1999)

What would a future where humans are batteries and reality is nothing more than a computer simulation look like? The Wachowskis answered that question in their second feature, the first of this iconic sci-fi franchise: drawing inspiration from anime and martial arts movies, they designed a mind-blowing realm where CGI amplified the action, making it seem at once real and unreal. And, while later Wachowski films like “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” also thrilled with their visuals, there’s no beating the original “Matrix” and its groundbreaking “bullet-time” effects.

#8: “What Dreams May Come” (1998)

The movie may’ve earned mixed reviews; but even naysayers couldn’t deny the excellence of Vincent Ward’s visuals. Following soul mates Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra (Shi-orra) from Earth to the afterlife, “What Dreams May Come” is rich with vibrant colors and picturesque landscapes, with the imagery of Heaven resembling a dream, and Hell serving as a stark contrast. Winning the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, it’s also one of the only movies to be filmed using Fuji Velvia film, which gave it its smooth finish and vivid colors.

#7: “Inception” (2010)

Every dime of its $160-million dollar budget was accounted for in this Christopher Nolan production. When inventing a world where the subconscious can be infiltrated through dreams and entire worlds can be created and altered with the mind, the director consciously limited the use of CGI to avoid overpowering his film’s visuals, instead filming at locations around the world using practical effects. And, his technique worked: by using CGI tastefully, reality really contrasted with the fight and dream sequences, creating a successful movie that earned $826-million at the box-office.

#6: “Jurassic Park” (1993)

Just because they weren’t resurrected using complicated science as they were in the movie doesn’t make the achievement of bringing dinosaurs into today’s world any less spectacular. Beside Stan Winston’s life-like animatronic creatures stand Industrial Light & Magic’s groundbreaking effects that signaled a revolution in filmmaking and still look lifelike decades after the film’s release. Director Steven Spielberg postulated that, without an impressive first reveal, his movie would fail: but the first time we see the dinosaurs, we know we’re in for one wild, magical and visually stunning ride.

#5: “Tron: Legacy” (2010)

Building on the success and beauty of its 1982 predecessor, this sequel’s visuals are futuristic, sleek and sexy. Creating a fictional world inside a computer system that looked and felt real, the movie’s effects took nearly two-years to complete, with ten companies contributing to the effort. To ground the CGI effects in reality, the set design team used real materials like glass, concrete, and steel. But what was perhaps most impressive was that Jeff Bridges was digitally altered to look decades younger, and more similar to his 1982 appearance.

#4: “Life of Pi” (2012)

Based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name, this live-action computer-animated film depended heavily on 3D and CGI to bring to vivid life the various animals the protagonist meets while drifting at sea. Setting out to explore the beauty of nature and natural wonders, it coupled real locations with visual effects to create the gorgeous scenery and somehow make the ocean its own character. “Life of Pi” is thought to be the perfect balance of technology and natural wonders, and it’s highlighted as a poetic force of cinema.

#3: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)

Peter Jackson’s vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world was perfected in the trilogy’s last film, leaving audiences with a lasting impression of Middle Earth. Jackson was conscious in his use of CGI, preferring to use New Zealand’s natural landscape whenever possible. But this film contains the most visual effects of the trilogy, with nearly three times the amount in the first, and twice the amount of the second. And, whether the CGI is bringing us a giant spider, a massive army, or a lasting villain [Gollum], it’s executed with expert precision.

#2: “Avatar” (2009)

This film was director James Cameron’s labor of love since 1994; but he knew that, in order to do the story justice, he would have to wait for the proper technology to be created. Cameron used his estimated $200-300-million budget to use motion-capture photography and cutting-edge CGI techniques to create his nonexistent creatures and the beautiful fictional world of Pandora. His patience paid-off and the film became not only a groundbreaker in terms of effects, but also the highest grossing film ever, beating out “Titanic,” another Cameron film.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Sin City” (2005)
- “Pacific Rim” (2013)
- “Hugo” (2011)
- “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)

#1: “Gravity” (2013)

Director Alfonso Cuarón captured the vastness and beauty of space like no one before him. Combining thrilling effects with an equally thrilling story and performances, he tracks two astronauts as they go about their work far away from Earth. As Sandra Bullock floats through space, the audience is treated to a visual feast as she’s ejected from one spacecraft to another. And credit must be given to Framestore, the UK-based special-effects company that did the majority of the film’s visuals. After all, their work helped win seven Oscars.

Do you agree with our list? Which CGI movie made an impression on you? For more stunning Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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