10 Most Incredible Practical Effects In Sci-Fi Movie History

Some special effects are so good, you don't even realise they are a special effect.

Practical Effects Total Recall
TriStar Pictures

At the end of the day, a film is supposed to entertain its audience. But the more we can immerse ourselves into a fictional story, the more we can enjoy it. This can be difficult with science-fiction since it deals with more fantastical concepts like prehistoric creatures, psychics, or extra-terrestrials.

That's where special effects come into play. Animatronics, puppets, and robotics have been used since the dawn of cinema to bring sci-fi to life. Now that computer-generated imagery has a foothold on Hollywood, practical effects seems to be a dying art form. Despite the fact prosthetics and animatronics were crafted for I Am Legend and the 2011 version of The Thing, they were swapped out at the last minute for unconvincing CGI.

Many people would argue in favour of computer effects, believing there are some visuals you can't achieve with practical effects alone. It's a fair point. No one will contest how impressive the CGI is in Terminator 2 or The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But that doesn't mean practical effects should be discounted. No matter how convincing computer-generated imagery is, you can't just beat the real thing.

10. The Crushed Car - The Matrix Reloaded

Practical Effects Total Recall
Warner Bros.

The Matrix is hailed as one of the most revolutionary sci-fil films of all time. The same can't be said about its sequels which were let down by absurd plotholes, dull dialogue, and ropey CGI. However, the freeway chase in The Matrix Reloaded, which resulted in over 300 cars getting totalled, required far less computer effects than you would imagine.

One shot which stands out is when Agent Johnson leaps onto a vehicle with such force, the bonnet is completely crushed. This creates a shockwave which causes multiple cars to fly into the air. Amazingly, the only object that is CGI in this shot is the agent.

The crew designed a self-driving car with a bonnet which collapsed at the press of a button. The automobiles in the background were hurled upwards using hidden ramps and air cannons.

There is no question that some of the visual effects in The Matrix Reloaded don't hold a candle to its predecessor. But props have to be given for the visual effects team since most viewers didn't realise how much was achieved without the aid of a computer.


James Egan has written 80 books including 1000 Facts about Superheroes Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Horror Movies Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about The Greatest Films Ever Made Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Video Games Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about TV Shows Vol. 1-3 Twitter - @jameswzegan85