15 Major Milestones In Movie Special Effects

15 Major Milestones In Movie Special Effects

Ah, the art of special effects! It is the stuff of dreams and nightmares, of amazement and terror. From the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers have been striving to create new and innovative ways to bring their stories to life. From Alfred Clark’s 1895 substitution shot to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s 2001 attempt at a photorealistic CGI movie, special effects have come a long way. 

This list is a tribute to the pioneers of special effects, the people who have pushed the boundaries of what is possible and made our movie-going experiences all the more enjoyable. From Edwin Porter’s compositing to George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic, these are the people who have revolutionized the world of special effects, and made it possible for us to experience the magic of cinema. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most significant milestones in special effects history – not counting blue cat-people in space.

Alfred Clark: The man who made special effects possible.

THE FIRST SPECIAL EFFECT 1895 CRACKED.COM Alfred Clark of the Edison Kinetoscope Company developed the substitution shot, which allowed for the first special effect in the film The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and this technique became a standard for special effects.


Pioneering film: Edwin Porter’s ‘The Great Train Robbery.’

COMPOSITING 1903 CRACKED.COM Edwin Porter's The Great Train Robbery was a pioneering film that used innovative matte shots to composite two separate images, creating a realistic effect.

PBS / Shutterstock 

Stop motion pioneer: 1912’s “Modelling Extraordinary.”

CLAY ANIMATION 1912 CRACKED.COM Modelling Extraordinary was released in 1912 and was one of the first clay animation movies to use stop motion. It was met with great critical acclaim.

Stop Motion Central 

The audience was unimpressed – but history was made.

MOVIES IN 3D 1922 CRACKED.COM 3D films have been around since 1922, when The Power of Love premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles. Despite receiving good reviews, the audience was not enthusiastic about the movie.

The Vintage News 

Sherlock Holmes meets cutting-edge tech.

CGI CHARACTER 1985 CRACKED.COM In 1985, Young Sherlock Holmes was the first full-length movie to feature a completely computer-generated character, which was achieved through the use of computer graphics by animator John Lasseter.


1995: The year "Toy Story" revolutionized cinema.

FULLY CGI MOVIE 1995 CRACKED.COM In 1995, Toy Story was released in theaters, becoming the first entirely computer-animated feature-length film. It was produced by Pixar with Steve Jobs serving as an executive producer, and was the highest grossing film of 1995, making $192 million in the US and $362 million worldwide.

EDN / Pixar 

“The Matrix” revolutionized slow-motion: bullet-time.

BULLET TIME 1999 CRACKED.COM The term bullet-time was first used in the original script for The Matrix and has since been used in a variety of video games. The effect is achieved with the aid of multiple cameras to capture moments in slow motion that were otherwise unfilmable.

Slash Film / Vulture 

“Antz” revolutionized water effects – scientists at Los Alamos made it possible.

CGI WATER IN A MOVIE 1998 CRACKED.COM Dreamworks' Antz (USA, 1998) was the first movie to use computer software to simulate the properties of water, prior to this, computer-generated fluid effects were drawn, frame by frame, using graphics programs. The detailed studies of fluid dynamics at the time were being carried out by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA.

GWR / Cornell Sun 

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