No matter how many sequels, spinoffs or reboots we get, nothing quite manages to top the original "Godzilla." There's just something about a man in a rubber suit crushing cardboard buildings that delivers where fancy computer effects can't quite manage.
'Jason and the Argonauts' (1963)
This mythological action movie probably wouldn't be as fondly remembered today if not for the amazing special effects work of Ray Harryhausen. Sure, nowadays you could pay a team of artists to render a lifelike army of skeletons on their expensive worksytations, but would the end result have the same impact as Harryhausen's methodical stop-motion work?
Using computers to render a lifelike great white shark in 1975 was completely out of the question. Director Steven Spielberg was elft with two options - traion an actual shark or build a convincing animatronic shark. The fact that the fake shark was so defectvie on the ebst of days wound up working out for the best, as it forced Spielberg and his team to show the shark as sparingly as possible.
'Star Wars' (1977)
'Star Wars' ushered i na true revolution in special effects technology. However, this was still in the era before CG effects, necessitating a lot of miniatures and rubber costumes in lieu of the digital-ehavy approach of the prequels. There's a reason fans prefer the original movies.
'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981)
'Raiders of the Lost Ark' gave us one of the most iconic action scenes of all time when Indy ran for his life from a speeding boulder. As it turns out, director Steve Spielberg actually commissioned a gigantic fiberglass boulder to make the scene more authentic.
'RoboCop' offered a stunning vision of a futuristic Detroit and the cybernetic hero who protects it. Part of what made RoboCop such an effective character is that his look was so convincing. Actor Peter Weller crammed himself into what must have been a painfully uncomfortable but semi-functional suit, resulting in some eerily convincing makeup and costume work.
'Jurassic Park' (1993)
'Jurassic Park' was and still is a showcase for the potential of computer effects. That said, the actual amount of CG in this film is less than many fans might think. Steven Spielberg knew that many scenes would require physical, animatronic dinosaurs his actors could touch and connect with.
'Legend of Drunken Master' (1994)
'Apollo 13' (1995)
Ron Howard had an interesting challenge while filming this disaster biopic. How do you create the sensation of weightlessness? Rather than faking it, Howard literally crammed his actors on a reduced gravity aircraft and filmed key scenes in a true weightless setting.
'Independence Day' (1996)
As over-the-top as "Independence Day" is in many respects, some of the most iconic moments were achieved through practical means. For example, director Roland Emmerich went through the trouble of commissioning a scale model replica of the White House and actually blowing it up.
For a film that takes palce largely in the surreal, impossible world of dreams, "Inception" sure leans on practical effects where possible. Even the iconic hallway fight was done practically, with director Christopher Nolan taking a page from Charlie Chaplin and building an actual, rotatable hallway set.
'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' (2011)
The "Misison: Impossible" movies are full of death--defying stunts that make you wonder just how ridiculously high Tom Cruise's insurance costs must be. The standout so far, though, comes in the fourth movie, as Cruise literally scurries his way up the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world. You have to admire that level of dedication.
'The Raid: Redemption' (2011)
"The Raid" shows that practical effect are still alive and well in the world of martial arts movies. The film delivers a nonstop barrage of grisly fight scenes, all of it achieved with a minimum of wires or cheap camera tricks.
'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012)
Christopher Nolan reiterated his commitment to practical effects in his third and final Batman movie. Nolan and his team probably could have built the amazing plane heist sequence on computers, but why do that when you can just send a bunch of stuntmen several thousand feet up in the air and do it the old fashioned way?
It's important for any James Bond movie to make a strong first impression, and that certainly wasn't a problem for "Skyfall." The opening train sequence was achieved by actually using a crane to destroy a moving train, while Daniel Craig's stunt double actually did make a dangerous 300-foot dive into the water.
'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015)
It's easy to assume from the post-apocalyptic setting and fantasical vehicle designs that a great deal of "Mad Max: Fury Road" is achieved through CG effects. But watching a few making-of videos and you'll see just how much of this film was achieved through practical effects and stunt work. Not many directors could have pulled off such a feat, but that's George Miller for you.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (2015)
'Star Wars" The Force Awakens" hearkened back to the original trilogy in more ways than one, including an emphasis on practical effects. For all the CGI splendor at work in this sequel, there are also plenty of practical alien costumes and physical sets. Case in point - BB-8 is an actual, functional robot and not a digital insertion.