3D, what’s it all about? A mind-boggling discovery in 2007, it was predicted to save cinema in 2009, and then… well, the hoopla subsided and it fell from the headlines. However, as recent examples like Gravity and The Walk have shown, it’s an important tool for any filmmaker to have. Some filmmakers, like Alfonso Cuarón and James Cameron, have proven how it may enhance the experience of watching a film by using it. We’ve compiled a list of the top 3D films.
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1. Gravity (2013)
If Alfonso Cuarón’s Earth-orbiting disaster movie is any indication, Christopher Nolan may have missed a trick by not using 3D gimmickry in Interstellar, which he presumably would have preferred. By employing a pioneering Light Box, the filmmaker created an immersive 3D experience in which the viewer was sucked into Sandra Bullock’s rapidly deteriorating day. Despite the fact that the Mexican filmmaker isn’t a huge fan of many 3D blockbusters, his Oscar-winning film proves that 3D can be beautiful.
2. Avatar (2009)
Never doubt James Cameron’s commitment to his work. He waited for more than a decade for technology to catch up with his ideas and develop cameras capable of capturing them before he was able to produce two of the greatest films ever made. However, the results were jaw-dropping and earth-shaking. 3D-sploitation isn’t what we’re seeing here; this was 3D as an immersive environment, providing an incredibly believable and enchanting other planet to explore.
3. How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
For the first time, How to Train Your Dragon challenges Pixar on its own soil, combining heart-stopping action with true emotion in an unexpected and enchanting film. The narrative of an outsider youngster who discovers that the dragons his people have been fighting may actually be the secret to their survival is incredibly lovely. As if riding a dragon wasn’t thrilling enough, it’s even better in 3D. Unless, of course, you happen to own a dragon.
4. Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008)
Before becoming a director for this family-friendly film, Eric Brevig worked as a special effects artist. Despite some of the set pieces – like a mine-car chase – being overused, the film is executed with such vigor and zeal that you won’t notice. From the opening T-rex chase, to the character spitting his mouthwash into the 3D camera, the 3D is bound to delight. You can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, yet it’s impossible not to be enthralled by it.
5. Beowulf (2007)
It was Robert Zemeckis, a pioneer and a proponent of performance capture technology, who brought these two worlds together for this medieval epic. For his second picture in the series, director Ridley Scott reimagined Ray Winstone as a wrestler, stripped Angelina Jolie naked, and presented a big-scale action fantasy with 3D trickery, spears protruding from the screen. As much realism as you can get while a naked Ray Winstone is busy killing a dragon-like creature.
6. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Pixar does not participate in 3D gimmicks or ostentatious for the sake of show. An already near-flawless film is made even more immersive by the inclusion of 3D display to their films. While watching Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang’s final journey, you can almost feel yourself sliding into the action – which is both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Another benefit of 3D is that it hides the inevitable tears that will be shed at the film’s conclusion.
7. The Walk (2015)
In 1973, Frenchman Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Director Robert Zemeckis, who has never encountered a breathtaking scene he didn’t want to capture with his camera, is the perfect choice to do so. It’s a Vertigo-like moment of 3D shock and wonder when Zemeckis’ camera swirls over Petit and then sends our eyelines tumbling 1300 feet straight down. It’s a sight to behold, despite the fact that theater employees had to sweep up viewers’ eyes for days afterward.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (2006)
When Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic was first released 13 years ago, it received the 3D treatment from Tim Burton’s story. Though the stop-motion format may be startling, the actors jump off-screen and a few CG flourishes provide a nice touch without detracting from the narrative. One of the nicest conversions I’ve ever seen, with barely a flicker of blurring and characters that appear rounded rather than pop-up book versions. You won’t be able to leave without singing along to the tunes “What’s going on here? What’s going on? “under your stomping foot.
9. Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)
Because this bizarre monster mash-up is chock-full of references to obscure 1950s B movies and science fiction in-jokes, it stands out as a particularly smart example of the genre-bending humor that emerged in the early 2000s. Even more so in 3D, and especially in IMAX, the battles between alien robots and huge, er, grub-like creatures were brought to life.
10. My Bloody Valentine (2009)
With 3D, producers can bring the scares closer to the audience by using knives, severed body parts, and clutching arms that emerge from the screen to threaten moviegoers. This remake of a 1981 schlocker may not reinvent the horror wheel, but its narrative of a crazy miner who is armed with a pickaxe and ready to exact revenge on, well, anyone within stabbing distance, really, is classic B-movie fun that offers plenty of thrills and a few laughs. Maybe not art, but it is surely enjoyable to see.
11. Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
With its sharp angles and protruding features enhanced by 3D, this was a great film released during 3D’s first wave of success in 1950s Hollywood. Although the speech and acting aren’t always spectacular, the creature’s a work of genius, and the underwater sequences are stunning given the period it was filmed. A scaly, be-gilled monster guy perves over a screaming woman in a bathing suit, and who doesn’t want to witness that?
12. Coraline (2009)
In addition to Nightmare Before Christmas and Beowulf, there are two films by Henry Selick on the list. The story of a girl who visits a mirror world that appears to be lot more fun than her own – with the little caveat that she’ll have to allow her elegant Other Mother gouge out her eyes and replace them with buttons if she wants to stay – benefits from the gothic flair and great storytelling of both. It looks like a funnel when viewed in three dimensions. It’s so close you could almost touch it.
13. Dial M For Murder (1954)
Horror directors, futurists and animators aren’t the only ones who’ve dabbled in the third dimension. No, Alfred Hitchcock, the maestro of suspense, tried out the new format in 1954 with his film Dial M for Murder. While 3D was hyped at the time of the film’s release, the enthusiasm for the format had waned, and not enough theaters were willing to show the film in 3D, thus it was released without the extra oomph. Audiences had to wait until 1980 to see it as it was meant to be seen Not the best Hitchcock, but it’s amusing to see him play with his new toy.
14. Ghosts Of The Abyss (2003)
Avatar wasn’t put together by James Cameron in a jiffy. James Cameron and his ole mucker Bill Paxton went down to the Titanic ruin to test the cameras, which had been in development for more than a decade, and came back with some amazing 3D photographs from their time spent two miles below the surface. Fans of either the film or the real-life narrative of Titanic find it spooky and dramatic to watch it rising out of the darkness.
15. Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Filmed in 1953 using the most advanced 3D technology, The Taming Of The Shrew, a light-hearted musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s most misogynistic comedy, was a technological milestone. Before Streetdance or Step Up, this established that 3D can be a great way to witness large movement like dancing right in front of you, and the lines of chorus ladies in this endeavor give it their all. This is one among the best mainstream 3D efforts from the 1950s, thanks to its dazzling Technicolor and electrifying performances.
16. Up (2009)
The first 20 minutes of Up, which follows a young couple from their childhood friendship through their marriage and ultimately to their sad death, are scientifically proved to bring tears to the eyes of even those with no soul. As a prelude to Pixar’s most emotional and thought-provoking picture yet (note how the status of Carl’s floating house mirrors his changing emotions), that’s all there is. The film is about love, loss, healing, and adventure. Everything about him is masterful.
17. Alice In Wonderland (2010)
It’s not a perfect 3D conversion, but Tim Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece is exactly the kind of film we want to watch in that format, so we’ll forgive it for looking occasionally like a pop-up book. Wonderland is so full with curly, cornered characters that even in 2D, Burton’s image of the psychedelic, dizzying, and gloomy world would leap off the screen.
18. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009)
They have thrived the most in this new 3D era because CG animated films have been able to easily adapt to 3D and because they’ve done it so brilliantly. Since no one in the UK had ever heard of the novel on which it was based (a classic in the US), this was a rather under-the-radar effort at the time, but audiences everywhere soon succumbed to its wonderful spell.