We go to the movies to give our eyes a treat, to see something amazing and dazzling, and to walk away exhaling, "Woah."
At least that's the experience we all hope for when we go see an action or sci-fi film, and if that's what you're craving this weekend, then Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" is right up your alley. The film is packed with mind-blowing visuals that are sure to satisfy any special effects aficionado.
To get ready for "Pacific Rim," we're looking back at the films that left us with our mouths open and eyes wide at the stunning images on screen. From the technological achievements of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" to the jarring special effects in "The Matrix: Reloaded," take a look at the movie visuals we love the most.
Gallery | The 13 Most Drop Jaw-Dropping Visuals in Movie History
- ‘Avatar’ (2009)
James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic blew audiences away with its visual effects, making us all 3D devotees. Normally, a film’s technological achievements aren’t a good enough excuse for its lack of weak storytelling, but it didn’t seem to matter for “Avatar.” Cameron’s dazzling Pandora showed us electric hues of blue we didn’t think our eyes had seen before and used motion-capture to create some of the best CGI characters in cinema history. Watching “Avatar” on the big screen in 3D was an undoubtedly memorable experience for every moviegoer.
- ‘The Fall’ (2006)
Tarsem Singh’s (“Immortals”) “The Fall” may be one of the best visual treasures in movie history. The film follows the fantastical stories of five mythical heroes told by an injured stuntman and seen through the vivid imagination of a young girl. The five heroes travel across glistening islands and gorgeous desserts, fight hordes of soldiers on an Aztec temple, and journey from one beautiful landmark to the next. “The Fall” creates an an exotic imagination so stunning that you’ll never want the story to end.
- 'Hero' (2002)
If you were to ask us what the most beautiful film ever shot was, we’d probably say “Hero” without hesitation. This 2002 Chinese martial arts film starring Jet Li, Tony Leung, and Zhang Ziyi not only showcases some of the genre's most awe-inspiring fight scenes, but does so with incredibly gorgeous photography. The film is themed with various vibrant colors, from the yellows leaves sequence to the green-clothed fighters sailing across cascading waterfalls.
- ‘The Matrix: Reloaded’ (2003)
The first “Matrix” had some unforgettable visuals, but the sequel somehow managed to one-up its predecessor in the effects department. There's the hundred-clone fight against Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), the translucent machine gun-totting Twins, and the freeway semi-truck fight with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Oh, and did you forget Trinity’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) many flips, kicks, and epic falling-from-a-skyscraper-backwards-while-shooting slo-mo stunt? Yeah, your jaw was definitely on the floor during this movie... and probably still is.
- ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic features some of the most astounding special effects achievements in cinema. Audiences had no idea what they were getting into when they first saw “2001” in 1968. The film is filled with crazy colorful space and of course the still-jaw-dropping Star Gate sequence. Even 45 years later, “2001” feels like a futuristic feast for the eyes and mind.
- ‘Sin City’ (2005)
This Robert Rodriguez-Frank Miller movie was one of the most innovative visual films of the early 2000s. The neo-noir is known for its saturated black-and-white conversion with its added bursting color. What's more awesome than watching a graphic novel come to life on screen with comic-book-like visuals? Nothing.
- ‘Baraka’ (1992)
Ron Fricke’s documentary follows no narrative, as it travels across various civilizations and cultures throughout the world. Shot in 70mm, “Baraka” is a compilation of visually arresting imagery capturing the life of differing cultures, from Kenyan tribal ceremonies to the burning oil fields of Kuwait. Through Fricke’s use of time-lapse, slo-mo, and serene tracking shots, we get a close-up look at mostly unknown places and people. “Baraka” is definitely a necessity in any Blu-ray collection.
- ‘The Fountain’ (2006)
Darren Aronofsky’s tale of three paralleled past lives spanning across a thousand years is a feast for the eyes. Between Hugh Jackman’s modern day scientist, 16th century conquistador, and futuristic, monk travelling in a bubble, Aronofsky pulls us through time in “The Fountain” with tranquil, radiant imagery. Every shot of Jackman’s blindingly golden bubble floating through the atmosphere is like a beautiful photograph you’d frame on your wall (or make your desktop wallpaper).
- 'Inception' (2010)
If the plot of Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending “Inception” alone didn’t blow your mind, how about the slo-mo explosions, folding-in-half cities, and zero-gravity fight sequences on spinning sets? “Inception” is one of the few great films where the superb visual effects are just as awesome as the genius script.
- ‘The Tree of Life’ (2011)
“The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick’s meditation on life and spirituality, was discredited by many for one of its best parts. True, there is a 15-minute visual sequence five minutes into the film with no dialogue. While this may bore or make no sense to some (it’s the creation of life guys, come on), it is indisputably one of the most beautiful and creative film sequences ever shot. In it, Malick depicts the creation of life through handmade special effects (he actually worked with the same guy who did sequences from “2001”) and pairs them with a moving score that both jolts and soothes. Even for those too impatient to watch, this is an achievement worthy of appreciation.
- ‘Antichrist’ (2009)
Most people who saw Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, probably went for the stunning visuals shown in the trailer. Little did they know (or maybe they should’ve if they knew von Trier), this movie had some unbelievable surprises in store (we won’t spoil them here). That aside, “Antichrist” is filled with sequences of sheer beauty, including highly contrasted images in slow-mo and glistening moonlight scenes. While it’s undeniably a very, very difficult film to watch, it’s worth it if you can handle the demented mind of von Trier.
- ‘Enter the Void’ (2009)
Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noe takes us on one giant trip (literally) in “Enter the Void." The majority of the film is shot from first-person P.O.V. as we follow the main character taking DMT, a psychedelic drug that is the same compound released in the brain at death. Filled with crazy, swirling, electric colors; blurry, fisheye-lense shots; and some seriously intrusive scenes (see it and you’ll know), “Enter the Void” is the perfect psychedelic eye candy.
- '300' (2006)
Another graphic novel by Frank Miller (“Sin City”) also proved to be a visual feast when adapted to the big screen. “300” was a triumph in the special effects realm for its unique color scheme of tinted, desaturated colors, which made the barren Greece landscapes and half-naked Spartan soldiers look all the more realistic. Its troubled script aside, “300” is still a film that will keep your eyes entertained, especially if you’re into slo-mo, embellished action scenes.