Ultimate SFX Watch List - Part Two!
Here it is! Our much awaited Part Two of the Ultimate SFX Watch List! So by now you've had enough time to watch all of the ones we suggested in Part One, and you loved them right? RIGHT? We knew you would!
It's only when we had the final list put together, that we realised how many films and shows we think are critical for understanding the way our industry was built. So many of these films are the bread and butter of the SFX community, they're the lifeblood in what makes us tick, what gets us excited and passionate to continue working in our corner of the film and tv industry. These films are more than just pieces of work that we throw on when we're bored. They're what give is inspiration, what drives us to get back into the studio time and time again to make our mark on cinema and society.
In no particular order
The Fifth Element
[Rik] THIS. IS. A. PERFECT. MOVIE. Another top 3 contender for me. The practical effects in this movie are so well crafted and so over the top and flamboyant that it's hard not to love it. Jean Paul Gaultier has a costume design credit if you need any further convincing of it's intent. Creature and character work by another of our mates, Nick Dudman. Check it out on IMDB!
Lord of The Rings
[Rik says] Without LoTR, we would not have the fantasy genre we know and love today. I love this movie series for its world-building and attention to detail. HUGE miniature sets and incredible armor work all done in-house at WETA. Watch the extended cut... If you are prepared to sit for 4 days.
[Kate] Return of the King is possibly one of the greatest films of all time, and that's a hill I'm prepared to die on!
[Jack says] I'm not a fan of LoTR, it’s just a really long walk to drop a ring in a hole… it certainly doesn't deserve to have an extended cut! Having said that though, my love for all things WETA was certainly worth watching the 10+ hour film(s). Check out the franchise on IMDB!
The Universal Horror Collection
[Rik] Frank, Drac and a Mummy walk into a bar... These really are classics. I love to watch these old school flicks with an eye on how difficult it would be to achieve the effects with NOTHING having gone before. No silicone or specialist materials, just ingenuity and a can-do attitude.
[Kate] These films really are a testament to how practical effects can work without fancy materials or equipment! Over the years, I've heard a lot of people criticise them, but they're classics! Without them, horror as we know it wouldn't exist.
[Jack] A huge portion of these films would not be possible without the work and ingenuity of one man, a man who could arguably be the godfather of special effects in my opinion, an actor who persevered through his own special effects make-up for the sake of making a fantastical creature believable, a man who…. Nope, im building this up way too much now, just go and study Jack Pierce, I mean that's why you’re reading this right? There's too many IMDB links to post for this one, but go check them all out!
[Rik] Certainly one of the best Christmas movies ever made. AMAZING puppets and animatronic work and such good fun.
[Kate] Me and Rik obviously have very different ideas on what makes a good Christmas film (don't get us started on the Die Hard debate). But he's on the money about the puppets and animatronics!
[Jack] I'm afraid you’re outnumbered here Kate… Yes, Gremlins is a Christmas movie, just like Die Hard & Lethal Weapon. You absolutely HAVE to watch this film, even if it’s just as a preface to the plethora of behind-the-scenes documentaries on their animatronics and creature design. Go check it out on IMDB! And also...let us know if you think it's a Christmas film or not!
Back to the Future Trilogy
[Rik] I don't really think this should be here.
[Kate] Back to the Future isn't a ground breaking SFX/creature effects trilogy, but god it's a classic 80s sci-fi franchise that you've gotta watch at least one. They did some awesome miniature work on these too, so it's worth checking out some behind the scenes footage if that's your gig.
[Jack] I will fight anyone who says this should not be on the list *cue tension background music as Jack glares at Rik*... Quite frankly, I'm disappointed this is not higher up the order of an albeit ‘no particular order’ list. In my opinion, this is one of the best well rounded story arcs of time travel, especially considering there wasn't even going to be sequels until the huge success of the original. This movie is THE REASON I got into special effects. As I write this, I’m starting to realise a lot of my favourite films include some kind of (crazy) inventor/tinkerer; TMNT, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Gremlins… wait, this is starting to make a lot of sense now... Check it out on IMDB!
Harry Potter Franchise
[Rik says] Or this.
[Kate] This definitely deserves a place on the list, don't listen to Rik! The HP franchise saw some amazing innovation happen in our industry. Silicone prosthetics had been around for years before Harry Potter was made, but HP really kicked started the silicone craze for big productions in Film and TV. The films also managed to get an amazing blend of digital and practical effects, with the two departments working closely together to create the most realistic assets possible. It's a must watch just for the creatures alone! If you're not into the story, check out the behind the scenes and bonus features instead. We've also had Nick Dudman (Makeup Effects/Creature Effects Designer) attend our Industry Week a few times, which is always a firm favourite! Check it out on IMDB!
The Terminator Franchise
[Rik] Honestly, The Terminator this is a good movie but T2 is where it's at. Watch them both... Then STOP... No more Terminator for you. Just those two.
[Kate] For some reason, I've never gotten into any of The Terminator films. I've definitely watched a few of them (years and years ago mind you). But what I do know is that the level of work that went into them was the exact level of perfection you'd expect from Stan Winston and his crew! There's some create behind the scenes info on the Stan Winston website for anyone who wants to take a closer look at it!
[Jack] I love these films... The first film was pretty seminal for me growing up... I remember walking into the living room of my cousins house when I was about 7 or 8, turned to look at the TV and there was Arnie, staring at himself in a mirror, the next 30 secs has burned an image in my brain that will not go away. I won't go into details but that scene sparked an interest in how special effects are done in film, naturally as a child I didn't know that was even a thing.
The Dark Crystal (and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance)
[Rik says] Puppets you believe are real people! We all watch movies and part of that deal is that we get on board with the suspension of dis-belief. These shows don't make you work that hard. Wonderful, whimsical fun.
[Kate] I've never heard someone watch this film (or the new Netflix show) and hate it! Honestly, when the new show came out, I was worried it would ruin it. But it saw a huge rise in people discovering the wonder of the film for the first time. You believe every little part of it, and the beauty of the work makes it a great watch.
[Gwyn] The show is a great revamp of the franchise, there's a real chance to see just how clever the puppet, prop, and costume makers really are - which is why I like it EVEN MORE!
BONUS CONTENT: The Crystal Calls Making the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)
[Gwynn says] I've always liked to see those behind-the-scenes types of documentaries and I've watched and rewatched how they made the Dark Crystal. Seeing all of the artwork of Brian Froud come into fruition in puppet form, is truly amazing from the tiny Podling puppets to the huge Skeksis characters, operated by three puppeteers. Understanding how this amazing production was concepted, fabricated and filmed, really shows the complexity of the whole process and the skill of the puppeteers and makers alike. Check this out on IMDB!
[Rik says] Henry Cavill looking all beautiful and grumpy. This is the state of TV right now. Ambitious, glorious and visceral... With lovely huge pecs.
[Gwynn says] Haha - well I wasn't looking at the pecs, no really! but I couldn't take my eyes off the costumes and armour - I thought the wig needed some work though!
Fantastic Beasts Franchise
[Gwynn] I'm attracted to films that are aesthetically pleasing or that have great costume silhouettes and details, like the Fantastic Beast films, if you are a costume aficionado, you can't forget the beautifully tailored costumes worn by the characters in these films, and of course, there are the great variety of different creatures and beasts too!
[Kate] This is really along the same lines as HP for me, for obvious reasons of course. Production value wise, it hits all the big marks, albeit lacking in the story line a little. They definitely jumped on the 'Lets-CG-everything-we-can' trend more than HP did, but the care and attention they put into the costumes, the art direction and of course the creatures is so obvious. Check out the first Fantastic Beasts film on IMDB.
[Gwynn] I seem to like a LOT of films focused on the subject of witchcraft. The first film, The Witch (2015), is full of suspense, I must have watched it at least three times, and I almost NEVER do that. The costumes were made to truly replicate the 17th-century costumes of that period, based upon extensive research - they were even entirely handstitched, as that would have been the method of costume making at that time!
[Kate] I've gotta admit, I've not seen this yet! It's been on my list for awhile so maybe now's the right time for me to check it out!
Can you believe that we're still not finished?! Part 3 will be coming very soon, with some big names in SFX history making an appearance! For notifications on our latest posts, remember to join out mailing list to get email updates.