Computer generated images are like the foam sets of the present era: 20 years from now, people are going to laugh their asses off at the fact that this stuff looked even remotely real to us.
That's why, as we've mentioned before, there are still filmmakers doing special effects the old-fashioned way -- even if the results are so impressive that you'd never know it's not CGI.
#6. Inception -- The Dream Collapsing
Inception is one of those movies that could have easily gotten away with doing every single special effect in CGI, because it's full of so many insane moments that we assume half the things in it are computer generated anyway (for example, there's no evidence that Ken Watanabe is a real person). Like in the scene where water comes rushing in through the windows of the Japanese dream castle while DiCaprio watches:
Water: Leonardo DiCaprio's Natural Enemy Since 1997.
They had huge water cannons hiding outside the windows, firing somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons into the set as DiCaprio stood there, soaking wet.
"Finally, I can pee in public and no one will know!"
Don't think DiCaprio got to have all the fun, though -- if there's one scene that screams "CGI," that would be the iconic hallway fight scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt climbs up walls and runs through the ceiling as if gravity had taken a break:
Meanwhile, four exceptionally heavy sleepers rest inside a flying van.
But nope, that's all real, too. Doing the scene with wires and erasing them digitally would have been too easy, apparently, so Christopher Nolan actually built a 100-foot-long rotating hallway and locked down the camera to rotate with it, effectively making it look like the actors were defying gravity.
Christopher Nolan is what happens when a child goes his whole life without learning the word "reasonable."
So what about when DiCaprio and Ellen Page are sitting in a cafe in Paris and he reveals that she's actually dreaming, and then everything explodes around them?
"You didn't have Mexican food before going to sleep by any chance, did you?"
You'd think from how cool the actors seem in that scene that they were actually sitting comfortably in front of a green screen, but that explosion is real -- the filmmakers put air cannons inside the cafe and in the stands across the street, then blew everything to shit around DiCaprio and Page. You can see their "Oh shit" faces here:
"Honestly, the whole production was just an expensive excuse to shoot garbage at Leo. He spilled something on me one time."
#5. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol -- Climbing the Highest Man-Made Structure in the World
Tom Cruise has a reputation for being insane (even by Scientology standards), but oddly enough, that has rarely translated into accusations that he's hard to work with. In fact, the "making of" featurettes for his Mission: Impossible movies are often as much if not more entertaining than the movies themselves, precisely because he's insane. Case in point:
Please, hold your "giant dildo" jokes.
That's a real photo of Cruise on top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest man-made structure in the world, during the production of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. If you've seen the film, you know that Cruise climbs the building -- what you might not be aware of is that he literally climbed the damned building.
When the production team saw that the script called for Cruise's character to perform some stunts outside the Burj Khalifa, they immediately started working on re-creating part of the building inside a soundstage, which they could then digitally combine with the real thing, because they just assumed that no one would be crazy enough to actually want to climb it. It took a single meeting with Cruise to prove them wrong -- turns out he'd had his eye on the building for some time and wanted to make it his bitch.
"See? That whole thing on Oprah looks perfectly sane now."
As usual, Cruise insisted on doing this without any stunt doubles, even though shooting the scene required being strapped into a painful harness and hung like a freaking pinata against glass that became so hot that it was impossible to shoot under direct sunlight. The film crew set up camp in the unfinished 123rd floor of the tower and had to remove a bunch of windows so they could stick out all the necessary equipment to film Cruise's stunts and, you know, keep him alive and stuff.
That's Cruise in black, hanging upside down.
One stunt even involved running down the face of the building in order to stealthily break into one of the floors ... because nothing says stealth mission like hanging off a building in the middle of the day.
The visual representation of Tom Cruise's grip on reality.
#4. Alien: Resurrection -- Ripley Makes a Perfect Shot
Alien: Resurrection got a lot of crap for its use of (bad) CGI aliens, when in fact most of the movie was done with good old-fashioned puppets and model spaceships. For example, the gruesome scene where the human/ alien hybrid is sucked into space through a tiny hole in the spaceship ...
And yet Ron Perlman is still the ugliest thing in this movie.
... was done entirely on set by creating plastic replicas of the creature and then literally pulling them through a hole.
However, the coolest moment in the movie needed no puppets or effects at all. In one scene, Sigourney Weaver is playing basketball in the ship's gym when Ron Perlman and his posse show up and start giving her shit. Weaver proceeds to kick their asses and walks away -- but not before performing an impossible over-the-head blind shot resulting in nothing but net.
Wasn't this exact scene in Teen Wolf?
That's the real thing there. Originally, the director wanted to fake the shot using CGI or having someone else drop the ball from above, since he wasn't looking forward to doing 200 takes until they got one right, but Weaver insisted on doing it herself. The crew went along with it, the whole time assuming that they'd have to eventually CG a ball in during postproduction. But then, to everyone's surprise, Weaver got it on her sixth try.
In fact, in the unedited footage, you can see that Perlman almost blew the entire shot by breaking character and going "Oh my God" after the ball goes through. That's why the movie cuts away to a different reaction shot so quickly after that part.
They could have just left the original and dubbed his voice saying, "Well, that sucked."