Best Visual Effects – 1983

My Nominations: Brainstorm. Christine. The Keep. Krull. Return Of The Jedi. Videodrome.

An interesting selection this year, where innovation threatens to take the award away from the blockbuster. Brainstorm was the film which broke Douglas Trumball. Natalie Wood’s death, the production problems, financial disputes, Trumball’s original plans for his visuals being cast aside all led to him giving up on directing. While some of the effects are hokey now, other parts still hold up well and remain inventive and exciting. The Keep was always a style over substance exercise for me which never works as a coherent whole and whose parts offer little more than mild interest. Yet, it looks striking in places and some of the effects work is decent for the time, even if the technology was not quite ready for the intent.

Krull is one of the better Star Wars clones of the era and had decent visual effects for the time, but those have not held up as well as some of my other nominees. Christine has some neat effects showing the crushing and re-assembling of the titular killer car, while Videodrome expands on its visceral make-up work with some stellar trickery. But in terms of sheer size and quality, I think we can agree that Return Of The Jedi is the winner this year. You could argue that it doesn’t do much differently from the previous two movies of the series, but there’s a clear improvement in the dogfights and landscapes before we even talk about the scope.

My Winner: Return Of The Jedi

Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi |

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Best Visual Effects – 1981

Official Nominations: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Dragonslayer.

Just the two nominees this year, and a clear win for Raiders. It’s not so much the fact that Raiders was innovative, moreso that it does so much. Similar to Star Wars, it was a stepping stone towards the big budget special effects bonanzas to come, but crucially it uses its effects as a tool to serve the story, world, and characters. The closing moments of the Ark being opened and the Nazis being melted down to creamy goo, was one of the defining movie moments in my young life and one which encouraged me to seek out further gore effects while also gaining an appreciation for the craft. Dragonslayer meanwhile reunited much of the Star Wars team – the ILM guys using the film to show off their talents outside of the Lucasfilm world. Featuring more than the admittedly wonderful dragon effects, it’s the more innovative movie from an Effects perspective, and is deserving of the win too. In terms of its influence on me, and wider pop culture though, I have to go with Raiders.

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Watch 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Face Melt Scene in ULTRA Slow Motion - Bloody Disgusting

My Nominations: Dragonslayer. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. American Pop. An American Werewolf In London. Clash Of The Titans. Escape From New York. The Evil Dead. The Howling. Possession. Scanners. Time Bandits. Wolfen.

Baski continues his innovative techniques and desire to push the boundaries of what anAnimated Feature could be with American Pop, investing in both the emerging computer graphics techniques but also most noticeably in Rotoscoping to give the film its unique look. We all know American Werewolf In London is the winner for Make-up this year, and arguably it should not be nominated here. The film is a feast for the eyes, and it’s not simply the Make-up effects which make that possible, but the practical Visual Effects which make the action and chase scenes so impactful, not to mention the all time classic transformation scene. It’s one of the most influential movies of all time in terms of changing the mainstream’s perception of practical effects empowering storytelling.

Clash Of The Titans is one of the most important movies in my personal movie journey, opening my eyes to the ability of artists to bring impossible things to life and translating stories from dusty tomes into mass-market big screen thrills. Your average viewer now will likely view it all as hokey, but the effects were a revelation to me as a kid, before Jurassic Park came along, and they’re still incredibly impressive based on the tools available at the time. Escape From New York would set out the template for Blade Runner (which would improve in every feasible way), crafting a dank and neon drenched futurescape, while The Evil Dead is a barmy, off the wall masterpiece of visual creativity from the gore effects, to the colour palette, lighting, and the way the camera behaves. It’s another startling triumph in a year in which everyone seemed to take several giant leaps forward.

The Howling is the second big Werewolf movie of the year  and is the more serious horror movie while also having some stellar effects. Just not as strong in most respects that An American Werewolf In London. Wolfen distances itself from Horror and instead plays like a cop drama which just happens to feature a furry shapeshifter. Underseen compared with the other two, it’s worth a look if only for its cast and the thermo/heat tracking technique used to show the predatory stalking of the wolf. Possession is notorious for its stressful production, its manic tone, and its exciting effects – an interesting film but one which will ultimately frustrate. Time Bandits is another treat for the eyes, using a dizzying array of expertise to bring a visually difficult script to screen, while Scanners will forever be known for one thing – arguably the greatest head explosion put on screen. It’s wonderful – the film is so much more than one effect and that one scene, but that’s what it’ll be remembered for.

My Winner: An American Werewolf In London.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Visual Effects – 1980

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. Altered States. Flash Gordon. The Fog. Superman II.

This year there was no official category, but Empire won a Special Achievement award. If there had been a category, Empire likely would have been the winner. There’s the argument that it doesn’t do too much over and above what was set up in A New Hope but when you consider the scale of Hoth and Bespin as well as all of the space battle stuff the foundations laid out three years earlier have been built upon tenfold. Altered States is a movie which takes a theoretical scientific approach into other states of consciousness as prompted by drugs, sensory overload and depravation etc, and as such the need to accurately convey these states on screen is vital for the film’s success. The effects are as dated as anything else from this time, but powerfully aid the film’s nightmarish quality. I’m loath to include effects as dated as those seen in Flash Gordon, but I guess a lot of kids would have been enchanted by them back in the day. With The Fog, less is more and the ever spreading fog and flashes of what lies within lead to a gripping atmosphere and plenty of suspense. Superman II doesn’t up the ante from 2 years earlier, but more of the same is good enough for a year like this.

Strawberry Dragon Project: Film Review: The Empire Strikes Back

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

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Best Visual Effects – 1979

Official Nominations: Alien. 1941. The Black Hole. Moonraker. Star Trek.

The reason Star Trek didn’t win this award, apart from Alien being the obvious winner, is simply because Star Wars had raised the game so much and Star Trek doesn’t make that next leap. With the pedigree involved – Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra et al, it is an effects bonanza, but alongside the revelations of Alien it seems meek. Steven Spielberg movies were beginning to get shoehorned into categories such as this rather than admitting their overall quality. In truth the film isn’t one of his best, and the Visual Effects are notable. Also notable is Disney’s first attempt at stealing Star Wars – The Black Hole has plenty of good effects which look great when you’re a kid, while Moonraker gets a nod for it’s floating and laser shooting. Alien has to be the winner – its effect and setting by and large aiming for realism rather than the fantastical, and among all of the Star Wars copycats it goes for something completely different, and succeeds.

My Winner: Alien

fx alien miniature 1979 special effects Science Fiction Movies practical effects Richard J Anobile martinlkennedy •

My Nominations: Alien. 1941. The Black Hole. Moonraker. Star Trek. Phantasm.

Although obviously low budget and ropey in places, the effects in Phantasm are so fresh and imaginative that they overshadow more expert and money-laden ones in bigger movies. It’s the only other film I nominate this year, but it hasn’t a hope against Alien. 

My Winner: Alien

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Best Visual Effects -1978

My Nominations: Superman. The Fury. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Jaws 2.

It’s pretty clear what the winner in this category will be this year. Superman made you believe a man could fly, and was another knock on the head of the Oscar’s board to make an official Visual Effects category, especially after A New Hope from the previous year. Sure it looks hokey now, but for the time, and throughout my childhood, it was the go to film for making flying look realistic. On top of that, there are plenty of great effects showpieces – most notably the entire Hoover Dam/car burial/fly around the world sequence. The Fury is an example of the world crying out for more Stephen King, without having anything to do with Stephen King. Like Carrie, it introduces an adolescent girl who discovers an array of psychic powers, like Carrie it builds to an explosive finale, like Carrie it features Amy Irving, and like Firestarter there is a shady Government Agency exploiting the powers of these kids. Aside from the typical scenes of violence, the glowing eye effect is quite cool.

The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers benefits from technological advances since the 1950s version. Having a more visceral approach and tone leads to such crawling treats as the spores seeming more sentient, and of course the infamous dog/human later in the film. Finally, Jaws 2 builds upon the visual effects of the original, showing more of the shark but also having the shark become more of a Slasher villain than an instinctual animal.

My Winner: Superman

Superman (1978) | Anti-Film School

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Best Visual Effects – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

The Academy had persisted through the middle of the 70s with Special Achievement Awards, but by the time 1977 rolled around it became clear that more and more films were pushing the bar where Visual Effects were concerned and a dedicated category was needed like any other category. Having said that, it would still be a while before The Academy fully relented and gave a complete batch of nominees. Here, we have two of the seminal effects movies of the decade vying for the win. Both are great, but the win has to go to Star Wars. It just blew open the door for everything which came after and pioneered so much that it’s one of the most obvious wins of all time.

My Winner: Star Wars

My Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. A Bridge Too Far. Hausu. Pete’s Dragon. Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger. The Spy Who Loved Me.

I tryto spice things up by adding a few other notable entries – Pete’s Dragon is not a movie I enjoy but it did do some pioneering work in the merging of animation with live action. A Bridge Too Far is a war epic coming a few years too late, but still manages to bring plenty of effects to the table to extend the realism of the piece. The Spy Who Loved Me has all manner of amusing visual gags, while Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger continues Harryhausen’s amazing run with Cavemen, a Saber-Toothed Tiger, baboons, monsters, and plenty of nifty transformations.

My Winner: Star Wars

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Best Visual Effects – 1976

Official Nominations: King Kong. Logan’s Run.

We didn’t quite get official nominations this year, but we did get two separate special achievement awards for the films mentioned above. King Kong isn’t exactly the leap forward in effects that the original was and of course it has dated, as has Logan’s Run. The animatronics give Kong emotive expressions and character while Logan’s Run has lots of anti gravity, flashing lights, and holograms.

My Winner: King Kong


My Nominations: King Kong. Logan’s Run. Carrie. The Omen.

Next year is the biggie, the start of modern effects as we know them, or at least it is the major turning point. There aren’t too many films which rely on visual effects or have something new or unique aside from the official winners this year. Carrie mixes visual effects with De Palma’s editing and directing to make for a powerful ending. The Omen has some of the all time great movie deaths, thanks to some sterling effects work – set-pieces which still retain their power and shock value today.

My Winner: The Omen

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Best Visual Effects – 1975

No official award this year, but another tiny step towards making an official category as Albert Whitlock and Glen Robinson were given a Special Achievement award for The Hindenburg. 

My Nominations: The Hindenburg. Barry Lyndon. Jaws. The Land That Time Forgot.

The Hindenburg obviously makes the list, though it does look fairly dated now, as you would expect. The Land That Time Forgot contains a variety of honed Harryhausen delights – again dated but I love the stop motion appeal. Jaws would be the most obvious winner here, with practical shark work as well as blood fountains and boat destruction. The pioneer though would be Barry Lyndon – you won’t notice that there are visual effects at work here, but the amount of technical progress to behind the scenes to make the film possible trumps anything else this year.

My Winner: The Land That Time Forgot


Lyndon is the real winner, but I love me some McClure and Harryhausen. Let us know in the comments which film you pick!

Best Visual Effects – 1974

My Nominations: Earthquake. The Towering Inferno. The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. The Man With The Golden Gun.

Although the team of Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock, and Fred Brendel won a special achievement award for Earthquake, we still had no official category this year. That’s a shame, as we have some interesting films which deserved a nomination. Earthquake obviously gets a vote along with The Towering Inferno – two of the major disaster movies of the era. The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad is another Harryhausen treasure-trove, featuring a griffin, a dwarf, a wooden siren coming to life, a wizard who gains invisibility, a centaur, and a six armed, sword wielding Kali. The Man With The Golden Gun is the requisite Bond nomination, but it’s not overly effects heavy. If you wanted, you could add Zardoz here too….

My Winner: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

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Best Visual Effects – 1973

My Nominations: Westworld. The Exorcist.

It’s somewhat surprising that after the Visual effects bonanza and disaster epics of the previous year that this year sees such a downturn. Perhaps it took that extra year for the industry to catch up – hence the onslaught which will be featured in this category next year. Westworld toys with robotics and sci-fi action, but our real winner is The Exorcist – using effects not merely to wow us, but to shock us with their realism and accompanying the plot and character. It’s almost safe to say The Exorcist is an effects driven film such is the power of the head spinning, stomach carving, spider walking, bed raising antics. But it’s more accurate to say that the effects are there to facilitate the descent of Regan and make us feel helpless and horrified.

My Winner: The Exorcist

Let us know your pick in the comments!