Over the years, the methods for creating special effects in movies have drastically changed. From matte paintings and rear projection, to models and prosthetics, and finally CGI, the task has always been the same: make us believe.
Regardless of the techniques, there are movie tricks from every generation that stand the test of time and are still making believers of audiences today. These are just a few fantastic examples.
"An American Werewolf in London"
The standard for werewolf scenes is the work of effects legend Rick Baker, who used a combination of makeup, prosthetics and robotics to make the most believable and gruesome transformation ever captured on film.
Dick Smith, who passed away in June, created the ultimate head explosion by stuffing a latex cranium with rabbit guts and shooting it from behind with a shotgun. Plus, the effect has found renewed relevance thanks to its usefulness as a reaction GIF.
Another shining example from the work of David Cronenberg, the transformation of Jeff Goldblum to the Brundlefly is as detailed as it is disgusting.
It may not seem that old, but 21 years is a few generations ago when it comes to special effects. A team of wizards brilliantly combined animatronics, "go motion," and CGI for dinosaurs that stand the test of time.
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
Stanley Kubrick earned an Oscar for his effects works on the movie, the most famous of which — the star gate sequence — he made through the use of slit-scan photography.
Never have a bunch of spray-painted plastic model parts looked so good. That's how Lucas, and his team at Industrial Light and Magic, created the Death Star trench run.
The oldest film on this list, Fritz Lang's 1927 silent classic created the standard for sci-fi special effects and world building.
"Terminator 2: Judgment Day"
To get an appreciation of how Stan Winston Studios created the T-800 and the liquid-metal T-1000, watch this video and admire the talent and cleverness on display.
"Jason and the Argonauts"
Ray Harryhausen spent four months on the stop-motion skeleton fight above. Think about that as you watch it.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark"
It might look like you're watching a Nazi's face melt, but it's actually just a heat lamp melting gelatin and plaster. Also, it's awesome.
Watching the scenes set in Ridley Scott's version of Los Angeles in 2019, it's easy to take for granted how incredible everything looks.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who worked extensively on "Star Wars," designed the iconic UFO, which was then built by Greg Jein.
The effects team brought H. R. Giger's nightmarish design with the help of car parts, snake bones and a human skull.
Effects wizard Rob Bottin worked seven-day weeks for over a year to create all of the practical monstrosities in this John Carpenter classic. Sure, he was diagnosed with exhaustion immediately after production wrapped, but belly teeth are worth it.
Another example of Bottin's work, the ultra-bizarre world of "Total Recall" remains great for its signature look.
It took six months to create the early CGI pseudo pod in "The Abyss," which hit theaters in 1989. And yet, some CGI today doesn't look as good.
"Death Becomes Her"
The effects team behind Robert Zemeckis' "Death Becomes Her" won Oscars for repeatedly killing Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep.