10 Special Effects Movie Milestones That Came After Star Wars

10. Superman: The Movie (1978)

Directed by: Richard Donner Superman: The Movie actually went into production before the release of Star Wars in May 1977, but generally is considered to be directly influenced by George Lucas and Co. due to a December 1978 release. Not so. If you ask anyone involved with the special effects of Superman, they'll tell you that their movie was right there along with Star Wars and Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the forefront of cutting-edge cinematic effects, blazing a path for thousands of movies to follow. I mean, sure... anyone will say stuff like that about their own movie, but the Superman people might actually be telling the truth. No man had flown in the movies quite like Christopher Reeve managed here, a convincing effect made possible by large-scale blue screens and wire riggings. Considering that this was 1977-78 and computerized mechanics were still a thing of the future, the wire-rigged flying stunts were quite amazing. Reeve himself (stuntmen were used infrequently) was suspended as high as 50 feet, with only a counterweight and pulley to balance his weight. The real effects sparks flew in the shots of Reeve flying toward or away from the camera, as well as in the tracking shots (flying across the camera). Front projection effect - a trick where the background is projected over the actors/props to create an otherwise impossible shot, used years prior in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - was combined with zoom lenses. This would allow the camera to zoom in on Reeve but zoom away from the backdrop, causing Superman to accelerate and the background to recede, providing the illusion of rapid flight. And in a stroke of brilliance, the effects team used a "special device" to make Superman's cape flap in the wind - today, we call this device "a fan." Influenced: Most of today's superhero movies, as well as Flash Gordon, E.T., The Boy Who Could Fly, that scene in The Big Lebowski where Jeff Bridges flies along the bowling lane under all of those open legs, and the flying dog in Half Baked.

Matt is a writer and musician living in Boston. Read his film reviews at http://motionstatereview.wordpress.com.