Computer generated imagery, or CGI, has come a long way since the 1950s when Ray Harryhausen introduced movie audiences to the wonders of stop-motion animation.
Some of the films have created iconic characters. Some have left fans wanting more.
In honor of this week’s release of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” featuring two fully-digital main characters, here’s a list of five of the best films that showcase the technology:
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011): Light years away from the prosthetic makeup worn by Roddy McDowell in the original movie series, this film rests on beautifully rendered motion-capture and computer generated effects to create the apes and the emotional performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar.
“Avatar” (2009): The highest-grossing movie in history is also one of the most visually stunning. Writer-director James Cameron created not only an entire digital world, Pandora, but also a new race of extraterrestrials, the Na’vi, with their own language and culture.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001): The first of six films based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring introduced Middle-Earth and the iconic Gollum, the first motion-capture performance to truly show what technology was capable of.
“Jurassic Park” (1993): Based on a book by Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg’s film made audiences believe they were watching real, live dinosaurs on screen.
“Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (2001): While not a critical or commercial blockbuster, this film, based on a popular role-playing game, teased the limits of computer animation by creating an entirely digital cast.