Top 10 Motion Capture Performances

Written by George Cimurt They look so real for a reason! Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 motion capture performances in film. For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on the most memorable performances that were first recorded live and then recreated 3-dimensionally on the silver screen. Special thanks to our users Jordan Albers, MrKlatez, Norris Vaughn, Startrekpug, Aaryaman Nambiar, Lionel Gilmore, Caridad Chang, kkonklin1, AprilDeSanta and Hossam Tork for submitting the idea through our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest

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Written by George Cimurt

Top 10 Motion Capture Performances

They look so real for a reason! Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 motion capture performances in film.

For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on the most memorable performances that were first recorded live and then recreated 3-dimensionally on the silver screen.

#10: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)

Referred to by critics as cinema’s greatest dragon incarnation, this is one reptile you wouldn’t want to mess with. The long-headed, yellow-eyed beast is one of the main antagonists as well as one of the titular characters in “The Hobbit” sequel, and Benedict Cumberbatch reportedly had no easy time voicing and animating the enormous creature. Visiting the London Zoo and watching the reptiles in their habitat inspired his reptilian movements though - and who can forget Cumberbatch’s interpretation of the legendary dragon’s rumbling, rasping voice?

#9: Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006)

He is the fearsome captain of the Flying Dutchman, a cursed human/sea monster that roams the seas looking for souls to join him as slaves on his ship. Bill Nighy was chosen to take on the challenging role, and to get more into character, he was recorded while on set instead of during post-production. Preferring a Scottish accent to the originally-decided on Dutch inflection, Nighy brings the tentacle-faced character to life, and technical work on Jones’ appearance was rewarded with an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2006.

#8: Andy Serkis as King Kong
“King Kong” (2005)

And now we introduce the king of motion capture playing the king of all apes! Hailed for his recorded performance as the 25-foot mountain gorilla, Andy Serkis reportedly travelled all the way to Rwanda to watch the powerful creatures in the wild so that he could better mimic their actual movements. The resulting performance was admired the world over as critics went ape over Kong, and it was no surprise when the movie won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Serkis himself won several film critic awards.

#7: Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge
“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” (2009)

Although this entire 3D movie was made through motion capture, Jim Carrey definitely stands out as the stingy, unfeeling, and miserable man who undergoes a change of heart. While he also played the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, his voice and persona as Scrooge stands out among the multitude of Scrooge characters that have already been brought to the screen. Carrey brings warmth and enthusiasm to the role, and he won the 2010 Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie.

#6: Toby Jones as Dobby
“Harry Potter” franchise (2002-10)

One of the most beloved characters in the “Harry Potter” series, this house elf originally owned by the Malfoy family ended up becoming one of the boy wizard’s most dedicated companions. Becoming the eccentric, emotional character, Toby Jones found that creating Dobby’s voice was one of his more difficult tasks, and to this day, he claims to still have a difficult time replicating his high-pitched speech. Although translating characters from books onto the screen has proved to be many an actor’s demise, Jones translates the little elf exactly as we pictured him from the novel.

#5: Alan Tudyk as Sonny
“I, Robot” (2004)

Although Will Smith is stellar as the technophobic police detective in this 2004 sci-fi flick, it is really Alan Tudyk’s criminally underrated performance as Sonny, the robot with a heart, that drives the whole film. Tudyk’s brilliant interpretation of an android trying to be human can be felt in his looks and his movements throughout the entire movie. Like, come on, when does a robot ever make us emotional the way Sonny does when he is ordered destroyed and waits for his impending doom?

#4: Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock
“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)

Serkis is back on our list, and this time, it’s for playing the gregarious and perpetually drunk Captain Haddock, who also happens to be one of Tintin’s best friends and partners in adventure. Donning a Scottish accent that he felt would give the character a primitive, more Celtic vibe, Serkis read the comics and studied information about seamen extensively for his role. Chosen by director Steven Spielberg because of his funny style and impressive resume, Serkis added the seafaring captain to his list of great performances with a role that still has us chuckling.

#3: Zoe Saldana as Neytiri
“Avatar” (2009)

Impressive because she is the only female thespian on our list, Zoe Saldana certainly holds her own as the strong and fiercely independent love interest of human protagonist Jake Sully. Playing the daughter of the leader of a Na’vi tribe, Saldana modeled her role after Katherina in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” who is torn between love and a desire for freedom. Saldana communicates this inner struggle well, and it gives the 10-foot female character some depth in this James Cameron epic.

#2: Andy Serkis as Caesar
“Planet of the Apes” reboot franchise (2011-)

Serkis obviously enjoys playing animals, because he’s back doing what he does best as the chimp leader of the ape rebellion against humankind in this reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” series. In a mostly silent role that required almost exclusive use of gestures, eye movements, and other body language, Serkis is incredible in the way that he helps us see exactly what is going on in Caesar’s mind. Widely applauded for his performance in the 2011 film and nominated for several awards, Serkis returned to stun us in the 2014 sequel as well.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Seth MacFarlane as Ted
“Ted” franchise (2012-)
- Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk
“The Avengers” franchise (2012-)
- Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep
“The Mummy” franchise (1999-2001)
- Doug Jones as Norrin Radd / Silver Surfer
“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007)

#1: Andy Serkis as Gollum
“The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-03); “The Hobbit” (2012)

Come on, who didn’t see this one coming? Arguably the most colorful character in one of the most popular film franchises of all time, Gollum is known for three things: his hideous appearance, his repulsive voice, and his endless search for the most “precious” object in his world, The Ring. The whole character was built around Serkis’ look, the way he speaks and the way he acts. Even the famous throat noise was inspired by his cat choking on hairballs. With the role that made him famous, Serkis without a doubt changed the motion capture world forever.

Do you agree with our list? What motion capture performances had you filled with amazement? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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