Greatest Visual and
Special Effects (F/X) -
Milestones in Film


Film Milestones in Visual and Special Effects
Film Title/Year and Description of Visual-Special Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010)

Although nominated for the Best Visual Effects Academy Awards Oscar, the film lost to Inception (2010) (see below).

Many now common-place features of the Harry Potter films are actually special effects magic, often unnoticed or blending in seamlessly with the story, e.g.

  • the opening corroding Warner Bros. logo
  • Death-Eaters trails
  • apparations and disapparations
  • the Patronus charms
  • the floating snitch
  • the moving photographs in The Daily Prophet newspaper
  • Voldemort's snake-like nose

In this particular film, notable action scenes were the flight to the Burrow on thestrals and brooms (and Hagrid's harrowing motorbike encounter with traffic, and tunnel, and Death-Eater attacks), and the two wand shoot-outs (in the coffee-house and in Malfoy Manor).

Extremely advanced special effects techniques were used in the early scene in which 6 doppelganger Harry Potters were created, by having six of Harry's friends (George, Fred, Ron, Hermione, Fleur and Mundungus) drink Polyjuice Potion at Privet Drive. The multiple Harrys were designed to thwart the coming attack of Voldemort and his Death-Eaters.

Multiple Harry Potters

The CGI characters of house-elves Kreacher (pictured) and Dobby were animated visual effects, as was python-like Nagini's early appearance, followed by its emergence from Bathilda Bagshot and subsequent attack against Harry.

The illusionary vision Ron experienced while threatening to destroy the locket-horcrux with the Sword of Griffindor was a startling image of Harry and Hermione kissing topless, as well as a large dark monstrosity and spiders.

Exceptional animation was evidenced in The Tale of the Three Brothers, homage to the hand-cut paper silhouettes in one of the earliest animations in cinematic history by Lotte Reiniger.

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan's mind-bending suspense thriller about invading people's dreams won four technical Oscar awards, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, and Best Cinematography. A dream manipulator named Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team entered the multi-leveled psyche of an energy tycoon (Cillian Murphy) to implant an idea about how he wouldn't follow in his father's footsteps.

Some of the most astonishing, surreal and ground-breaking special effects were seen in the various dreamscapes where the laws of logic and gravity didn't hold.

  • the Parisian bistro scene (a dream itself) when slow-motion fire-less explosions (created with high-pressure nitrogen) popped all around Ariadne (Ellen Page) and Cobb; then as they strolled down the street, an entire block in the city (with people, cars, etc.) folded in upon itself above them, and they walked from one plane to another
  • a zero-gravity fight scene, set inside a 100 foot by 30 foot long revolving hotel corridor; also other scenes of being suspended or floating down shifting or spinning hallways and rooms
  • the image of a Ford van falling ever so slowly off a bridge, with the actors suspended in the van
  • the scene of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) taking five bodies, stacking them and wrapping a cord around them, and floating them down a hallway into an elevator
  • various city-scape transformations, and the vast expanses of buildings and architecture in Limbo City crumbling into the sea like icebergs
  • the fiery explosion/destruction of the massive concrete hospital fortress (a miniature) on the edge of a snow-covered mountain

Film Milestones in Visual/Special Effects (F/X)
(chronological order by film title)
Introduction | 1880s-1890s | 1900-1905 | 1906-1920 | 1921-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-1959
1960-1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1979 | 1980-1982 | 1983-1985 | 1986-1988 | 1989-1991 | 1992-1994
1995-1996 | 1997-1998 | 1999-2000 | 2001-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008-2009 | 2010-Present

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