The evolution of movie special effects

There’s nothing quite as brilliant as movie special effects on a big screen. From the amazing cityscapes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in 1926 to Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeleton army in Jason & The Argonauts in 1963 – and beyond – special effects have always been an essential part of the storytelling business…

These days the seamless integration of technology and imagination leaves us sometimes baffled as to when CGI begins and ends. In homage to the brilliance of movie special effects we kicked back and loaded up our fave films on disc. After a viewing marathon we put together this infographic into how your favourite films come to life with the evolution of special effects. We haven’t been able to include every SFX film we love, but we’re sure you’ll agree the ones we have included show the very best in movie special effects…

evolution of cgi



  1. Ben pearce

    February 20, 2015 at 15:35

    The scene’s in Black Beauty wern’t special effects…. I should know… I was in it!

    Bitterly disappointing to see yet again that movies of an equestrian nature have been overlooked and I call, neigh I BEG upon ebuyer to stop this tyrannical embargo on horse related material.

    Why have the ground-breaking special effects that so realistically depict a horse in Tangled!? What about the 4th gen episodes of MLP!? WILL SOMEONE PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE WAR PONY. THIS IS ANTI-SEMITISM AGAINST SPEILBERG SURELY!?!?!

  2. Paul

    February 24, 2015 at 12:45

    There are horses (Real ones, fair enough) in The Great Train Robbery.
    There is a horse (animated) in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
    There is a horse (CGI) in Toy Story (2).
    There are thousands of the bloody things (Real, but mostly CGI) in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
    Big Horsey Smiles all round.

  3. Chris

    March 9, 2015 at 11:37

    Surprised Terminator 2 was not on the list. This was one of the first films where computer generated graphics blended almost seamlessly with real characters.

  4. John Brown

    March 9, 2015 at 13:45

    Hi there Will,

    Thank you for the Infograph, but I have poor eyesight and can not read the text on the graphic. When you put these up, could you not link it to a large version for people with disabilities, who also would like to be able to read this kind of information. We don’t all have 20/20 vision.

    Kind regards

  5. Anonymous

    March 9, 2015 at 15:06

    “Ctrl” + “+” is your friend John

  6. Anonymous

    March 9, 2015 at 17:58

    Top of my head.
    Where is Jurassic park (1993), where is Matrix, bullet time.

  7. Anonymous

    March 14, 2016 at 11:41

    I am always amused by the meaninglessness of the ebuyer’s blog. I hope it does not cost them too much and keep their prices at lowest 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    March 14, 2016 at 12:35

    Not really what an infographic is for.

    In concept, what we have here is an article that requires images.
    In Reality, we have an image which requires an article.

    Too much image, too little information. The text should be the focal point. I should not have to zoom or lean closer to my screen to read the main content in an article.

    Did you just get a copy of Adobe Illustrator and get sidetracked on aesthetics?

  9. Geo

    March 14, 2016 at 15:15

    I would say they missed King Kong. Linwood Dune was an innovator and did all the composite work..

    “Dunn rose from shooting title cards to creating in-camera optical effects. He was hired as a special effects technician at RKO Radio Pictures, his tenure there lasting from 1929 to 1958. This early experience led to the World War II development of the first practical commercially manufactured optical printer, a device consisting of cameras and projectors allowing for the accurate compositing of multiple images onto a single piece of film.”

  10. Anonymous

    June 17, 2017 at 08:46

    Hello? Tron? Predator? Fire and Ice?

  11. Steve P

    June 17, 2017 at 09:22

    As a practitioner in the field of physical special effects, this list is woefully short and doesn’t even scratch the surface.
    Today, to get the best special effects, no matter what the CGI advocates may preach, it still needs to be a blend of physical and visual SFX, personally I feel that the move towards digital has led to a degradation of quality and lack of field depth within the image,

  12. Anonymous

    June 17, 2017 at 12:16

    You should all really get out more.

  13. Andrew Girvan

    June 24, 2017 at 08:49

    Nerd central lol

  14. Dr Who

    June 26, 2017 at 04:59

    They can’t include every film with effects, how long would the article be? besides King Kong was real (a David Attenborough doc obviously), I’m not sure about Tron….

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