Top 10 Worst Pre 2000s CGI
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
CGI is an uphill battle! For this list, we'll be looking at the most awful special effects employed in films before the millennium. Our countdown includes scenes from "Timecop", "Spawn", "Jumanji" and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 worst pre-2000s CGI. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most awful special effects employed in films before the millennium. Can you forgive these, or are they just too terrible? Let us know in the comments below!
#10: The Werewolves
“An American Werewolf in Paris” (1997)
Rick Baker’s werewolf work in “An American Werewolf in London” was so extraordinary that it easily nabbed the Academy Award for Best Makeup. To this day, the werewolf, and especially the famous transformation sequence - looks astounding. But the sequel majorly let it down. Instead of Oscar-winning makeup, “An American Werewolf in Paris” gave us bad CGI. The werewolves here were supremely disappointing because not a single one looks believable. And don't get us started on the transformation scenes. If the sequel hadn’t gone for special effects shortcuts, maybe its reviews would’ve been a bit kinder. As it stands, the wolves just don’t measure up.
#9: The McComb Mass
Due to time travel shenanigans, two “copies” of the same person cannot occupy shared physical space in the world of “Timecop”. So, when Senator Aaron McComb is pushed into himself, he turns into what can only be described as a writhing pile of goop. This could have looked like some horrific visual out of “The Thing” if they employed practical effects. But they went with CGI instead. Nothing about this looks good. Not Ron Silver sharing the screen with himself, and certainly not the melding of the two McCombs. This scene has a special place in our hearts thanks to nostalgia. But looking at it objectively, it’s pretty darn awful.
#8: The Virtual Mainframe
“The Lawnmower Man” (1992)
While technically based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name, the movie has virtually nothing in common with the literature. In the climax of the film, both Jobe and Angelo enter a computer mainframe and become digital beings. But 1992 might’ve been a bit too early to depict a scene like this with special effects alone. While we want to give some points to the production for being ambitious, early ‘90s CGI was really not up to the task. The results are just embarrassingly bad. Maybe it makes sense in the context of the movie, but that doesn’t matter. The visuals are just too bad to overlook.
By the mid ‘90s, superhero cinema was stuck between old fashioned practical effects and CGI. “Spawn’s” decision to go all in on special effects was a devilishly bad decision. Throughout the film, the titular character’s cape looks absolutely awful whenever it moves. But things get even worse in the film’s climax. When Spawn and his enemy Cogliostro are sent to Hell, the green screen work is astoundingly bad. Most of the background minions seem to be the victims of a poor copy-paste job. But the worst part of it all is the demon Malebolgia. Despite being hyped up as the ultimate evil, the creation is just laughably bad. The hellish sequence really ruins what could’ve been an otherwise interesting part of the film.
#6: The Plane Crash
“Air Force One” (1997)
Although this film had a budget of $85 million, the climactic sequence still looks like something out of a cheap B-movie. All the memories of the great fight scenes and fantastic acting are temporarily forgotten when the titular plane goes down and crashes into the Caspian Sea. This sends a brilliant plume of white foam into the sky and plane pieces careening towards the camera. But it’s all ruined by unconvincing CGI work. The water spray looks more like digital fog, and the model plane spins around with ridiculous leaps of physics. Even for the time, this was really sloppy, and it left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths.
#5: The Monkeys
Siblings Judy and Peter find the Jumanji board game in the attic of their new house and decide to try it out. They inadvertently summon a swarm of giant mosquitos and rambunctious monkeys. While they’re scary in concept, it’s just a shame that the first creatures that we see come out of the game look so goofy. The CGI monkeys look especially horrible when they’re wreaking havoc in the kitchen. Not only is the lighting completely off, but the monkeys are very poorly composited into the kitchen set. Their little digital faces also look like something out of the first “Toy Story.” Maybe this isn’t surprising, considering they came out in the same year.
“Escape from L.A.” (1996)
While the original “Escape from New York” is a classic, everyone tends to forget about “Escape from L.A.” We’re not saying the shoddy CGI is to blame, but it certainly didn’t help. In one sequence, Snake and his ally Pipeline surf a giant wave to catch a foe who’s speeding away in a car. It…does not look great. Even if we were never meant to take the scene 100 percent seriously, that doesn’t excuse the tremendously poor CGI. Both the digital wave and green screen work are really bad. And it doesn’t help that the scene keeps cutting to real footage of stunt performers actually surfing. Constantly cutting between practical effects and CGI ensured that this scene completely wiped out.
#3: The Langoliers
“The Langoliers” (1995)
Making these titular characters CGI was a really bad idea. Between the small budget of a made-for-TV production and the complexity of the creatures, this sequence was doomed. When the Langoliers arrive to eat the past, viewers are too astounded at the CGI on display to be scared. The monsters have barely any detail, are lit horribly, and float around the environment with no weight or visceral feel to them. We definitely understand that creating the Langoliers described in the books would’ve been incredibly difficult with the tight budget at the time. But the filmmakers would’ve had better luck redesigning them so they could be portrayed practically. Instead, the Laongliers are part of a legendarily bad sequence that has been laughed at for decades.
#2: Exploding Shark
“Jaws 3-D” (1983)
There were multiple times in movie history where every film studio wanted to jump onto the 3-D technology craze. Horror films especially could use it to shock the audience with violence and flying objects headed towards the viewer's heads. So, “Jaws 3-D” was no different. When the shark is blown up by a grenade, his bloody jaw is sent hurtling towards the viewer. Get it? Because “Jaws”! Maybe this scene looked really cool in 1983 with those nifty blue and red glasses, but it doesn’t work in the slightest today. The shark’s CGI remains are heinous looking, and not in a delightfully disgusting way. In a “Yep, this looks like CGI from 1983” kind of way.
“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” (1997)
When it comes to the worst movies ever made, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is certainly a contender. The widely lambasted film has a climax that is the stuff of cinematic history. For the final battle, hero Liu Kang and villain Shao Kahn shapeshift by unleashing their Animalities. They instantly turn into giant beasts. While it’s a pretty cool idea in theory, it completely falls apart in the execution. The transformations look abhorrent. Both monsters are poorly detailed and horribly composited. As soon as they started battling, fans started counting down the minutes until the characters looked human again. But by the time the animalities faded away, audiences had lost all respect for the CGI in this ill-advised action scene.