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The Worst Special Effects in Modern Movies

In the last 20 years, CGI special effects have come a long way. But some of these movies were so bad, they were cringe-worthy even when they hit the theaters.
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Special effects have come a long way since the computer-generated dinosaurs Jurassic Park in 1993. Still, every once in a while, I’ll be watching a movie, and there’s one specific effect that looks so fake compared to everything else. The CGI looks like it was done in the early 1990s. By somebody who had never used a computer before. Or seen a human being. These are the worst offenders from the last twenty years.

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ (2001)

CGI Troll in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Warner Bros. Pictures | Heyday Films | 1492 Pictures

I love Harry Potter, but some of the early special effects just weren’t up to par with the rest of the franchise.

The worst of the effects was the troll from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which looked like they pulled it from the tie-in video game. It didn’t help when they made Harry piggyback the creature. It was just as bad as Voldemort being plastered on the back of Quirrel’s head.

Speaking of Voldemort on Quirrel’s head, did anyone else think he looked like claymation? When I first watched the movie, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Now, after watching it every year as part of my holiday traditions, I can’t help but think they just made a mask and stuck it to the actor’s head.

‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004)

CGI Werewolf in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Warner Bros. Pictures | Heyday Films | 1492 Pictures

Much like the troll in the first movie, Prisoner of Azkaban featured some lacking special effects. However, there was one specific creature that could have been done better. Remus’s werewolf form doesn’t look like anything fans of the book, especially myself, expected.

Werewolves are typically shown as more wolflike, usually covered with thick fur. This werewolf instead looked like a malnourished man with a canine face. He even looks like he’s balding. Fluffy was a much better dog creature in the first movie.

‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ (2012)

CGI Renesmee in Twilight Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Lionsgate | Summit Entertainment | Sunswept Entertainment | Temple Hill Entertainment

While the CGI looked a lot better than the animatronic doll the Breaking Dawn producers were planning on using, the human-vampire hybrid daughter of Bella and Edward still looked off. And I find that strange since they had a pretty substantial budget.

The CGI baby doesn’t look too horrible, just a little too pretty for a newborn. It’s after Renesmee starts rapidly growing up that she doesn’t quite look like a human. It honestly looks like they CGI’d various parts of actress Mackenzie Foy’s face onto a different body.

‘Scooby-Doo’ (2002)

I loved the live-action Scooby-Doo from the early 2000s, but the special effects are lacking. I’m giving it a little credit because the movie was before all the advancements we’ve seen in recent years. So, instead of focusing on the funny-looking, weirdly colored monsters, I’m going to talk about Mary Jane’s “monster face.”

Isla Fisher is a beautiful woman, and the CGI to make her look evil did just what it was supposed to do. It was just a bit laughable because why is her face stretchy? What about the monsters makes people’s faces contort and then snap back to normal? It doesn’t make any sense.

Read More: Every ‘Scooby-Doo’ Movie, Ranked

‘Hulk’ (2003)

The Hulk in Hulk (2003)
Universal Pictures | Marvel Studios | Valhalla Motion Pictures | Good Machine

Ang Lee’s Hulk doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean he looks good. The coloring is spot-on from the comics but the character model looks way too outlandish for the scenery of the 2003 movie. Seriously, why is he so bright green?

Even worse is the portrayal of Bruce Banner’s gamma radiation-filled body. I honestly don’t know what the producers were going for, but the villain just looked like a Nick Nolte cloud. It’s honestly worse than Jamie Foxx’s Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

‘Sharknado’ (2013)

CGI Shark in Sharknado
The Asylum | Syfy Films

I know it’s a cult classic, but the special effects in Sharknado are so, so terrible. I still don’t know if the movie was supposed to look bad or if they just didn’t have the proper budget to make it look good. Either way, the sharks look laughable and extremely fake.

The animatronic shark in Jaws (1975) looked so much more convincing than this. There were literally no shadows or highlights on any of the sharks when they were flying at people. The image above looks like it was photoshopped by a child.

‘Die Another Day’ (2002)

As one of the absolute worst James Bond movies, Die Another Day doesn’t skimp on the bad acting or the special effects.

I’m specifically talking about that iconic glacier surfing scene. What was it about that specific sequence that the producers went, “Yeah, this is a good idea.” The scene was clearly filmed on a green screen while Brosnan sat in a chair and made faces. The whole thing looks fake, from the glacier falling apart to the tidal wave.

‘Ghost Rider’ (2007)

By 2007, special effects had come a long way. So when Nicholas Cage’s Johnny Blaze transformed into Ghost Rider, it was so underwhelming. The flaming skeleton is supposed to look scary, but I couldn’t stop giggling.

The whole transformation looks horrible, especially compared to the 2016 version from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The only good part from that scene was Cage’s screams that sounded believable. I honestly laughed the first time I saw the movie because the skull looked way too small. Is that just me?

‘The Matrix Reloaded’ (2003)

This movie was well ahead of its time, but the special effects weren’t. As was common with early 2000s CG, the “burly brawl” looked straight out of a low-quality video game. Neo looks more like a moving blob than a real person. It’s such a shame this scene hasn’t been fixed by fans in recent years.

Even the multiple copies of the Smiths don’t look like the actor portraying them. I still cringe when watching this movie. The slow-motion and spinning make me extremely dizzy, and the sound effects don’t help. Honestly, the only part of the fight that looked real was the bench being destroyed!

‘Justice League’ (2017)

Henry Cavill's CGI Upper Lip in Justice League (2017)
Warner Bros. Pictures | RatPac-Dune Entertainment | DC Films | Atlas Entertainment | Cruel and Unusual Films

I love Henry Cavill’s Superman, but I can’t help but laugh at what they did to his face in 2017’s Justice League. The cast did reshoots while Cavill was also filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and he’d grown an impressive mustache for the role. He wasn’t allowed to shave it, so the movie’s producers decided to just delete it in post.

That was their mistake. It ended up being one of DC’s worst CGI jobs of the 2010s. They messed up the shape of his lip and destroyed that sharp jawline, and for what? Reshoots that probably didn’t need to happen in the first place. DC, you need to apologize to Cavill.

‘Cats’ (2019)

CGI Judi Dench and Jennifer Hudson in Cats (2019)
Universal Pictures | Working Title Films | Amblin Entertainment | Perfect World Pictures | Monumental Pictures | The Really Useful Group

You knew it was coming. What is wrong with the people who created the Cats movie? They did so well finding an amazing and talented cast and creating breathtaking scenery. But they did the movie dirty with the CGI cat-people.

On Broadway, the cast is transformed into cats with makeup and costuming. The movie looks like they threw that idea out the window and made a cursed human-cat hybrid. Why did they try to fix something that wasn’t broken? The movie was so bad that composer Andrew Lloyd Webber went out and got a dog–seriously!

‘Green Lantern’ (2011)

CGI Corps Suits in Green Lantern (2011)
Warner Bros. Pictures | DC Entertainment | De Line Pictures

I don’t feel bad hating on Green Lantern; heck, even Ryan Reynolds pokes fun at it from time to time. Honestly, this movie was worse than Reynold’s first appearance as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

First off, why did they CGI his mask instead of just gluing it to his face like in most superhero movies? It would have looked so much better and cost less. Also, why did Thall Sinestro (played by Mark Strong) look like a red Megamind? And what’s with the flying?

And, just to add another critique to the movie, what was Parallax supposed to look like in the climactic fight? It looked like a dark sandcastle creation, and I don’t think that’s what they meant to do. Honestly, how did this movie make it to theaters?

‘The Mummy Returns’ (2001)

What the creators of The Mummy Returns did to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was wrong. The Rock has always been an attractive person, but they made him look like he belonged in a low-quality video game. It was so bad, it made me miss the troll from the first Harry Potter film.

I can’t even watch this movie anymore after seeing how far special effects have come. Since the movie came out, several people have tried to fix the CGI of The Rock as the Scorpion King. My favorite by far is by CorridorDigital, which at least preserved his trademark sneer.