10 best practical effects in 1950s movies, ranked
The 1950s were a particularly innovative and important decade for cinema. The lengths of what could be achieved on screen were extended, at least in part thanks to the work of Ray Harryhausen. His stop-motion special effects pushed the boundaries of what was possible to tell.
It didn’t stop with just one filmmaker; the 1950s left audiences with a surplus of films that advanced the medium both in terms of storytelling and visual effects. Even with new advancements in technology, there is something extremely endearing about the practical effects. Fortunately, most of the time, they also stand up to modern scrutiny.
ten The Cyclops – Sinbad’s 7th Voyage (1958)
Sinbad’s 7th Voyage was the first of three Sinbad films featuring the effects work of Ray Harryhausen, and the film’s most impressive of practical effects achievements has to be The Cyclops. With a goat’s horn and legs, the memorable design went against the standard depiction of the mythical creature. More impressive still is how Harryhausen would go on top of his job with the sword-wielding skeletons in one of the best movie adaptations of Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts (1963).
Sinbad the Sailor must return to Colossa Monster Island to recover a lost lamp. To get back to the love of his life, he must escape a Cyclops or two as well as a dragon.
9 Robby the Robot – Forbidden Planet (1956)
One of the most recognizable creations on the list, Robby the Robot comes from the 1956 film Forbidden planet. He has continued to see himself referenced in many pop culture classics over the years, such as Gremlins (1984). While Robby looks a bit silly by today’s standards, he has a real personality and even contributes to the narrative. It is only one aspect of Forbidden planet it was ahead of its time.
Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew arrive on Altair IV to find a medic and his daughter. Over time, they solve the mystery of what happened on the planet.
8 Ymir – 20 Million Miles to Land (1957)
All of special effects guru Ray Harryhausen’s work in the 1950s was impressive, but Ymir was the star. With fluid movement and a malicious appearance, this stop-motion creation was perfect for the 20 million miles to Earth (1957) theater poster.
When a manned flight crashes to Earth from Venus, mysterious reptilian eggs, a find from the journey, are lost. One of the eggs transforms into a horrible monster that only a privileged few know how to stop.
7 The Martians – War of the Worlds (1953)
Before some of cinema’s deadliest Martian invaders made a big impression in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film War of the Worlds, they took a similar form in this 1953 classic. No aspect of Martian strength is better than the others. Although the creature itself is not revealed until late in the film, it is unique and shocking.
When a strange glowing meteorite arrives on earth, the townspeople are amazed. Soon, flying saucers emerge from the meteor and begin to wipe out the city. If Dr. Clayton Forrester can’t stop them, the aliens could wipe out the world.
6 Destruction – When Worlds Collide (1951)
When the worlds collide seen its special effects given their due to 24th Academy Awards. Although the effects do not always last, they are sometimes surprising. As the destruction of the world approaches, a series of natural disasters begin to unfold in unison. The film’s depiction of the various earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is formidable even in modern times.
An intergalactic star sets off on a collision course with Earth, causing global chaos. Humanity must make one last desperate attempt to build an ark capable of traveling through space.
5 Gort – The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Gort, the robot from 1951 The day the earth stood still has become a pop culture icon in its own right. While Gort’s appearance is intimidating, the robot is used to subvert gender tropes. Gort does not fire a laser beam from his head. Rather, he is a benevolent source of healing.
A humanoid alien arrives on earth to warn of humanity’s use of atomic energy. To help in his post, he brought an imposing eight foot tall robot named Gort.
4 The Squid – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
This adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel has been widely praised for its special effects and artistic direction. The main one of the special effects focused sequences was Captain Nemo’s climactic battle with the giant squid. Even today, it looks as good as any comparable CGI beast. The plot follows Harpooner Ned Land as he and the mysterious Captain Nemo track down a vicious beast in a futuristic submarine called the Nautilus.
3 The Gill-Man – Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
1954 gave the world three very impressive cinematic monsters, and the Gill-man stands in the middle of the pack. The last of the original Universal Monsters, the detailed costume works in Creature from the black lagoon made the titular creature iconic. The wet and scaly design is made much easier by the black and white cinematography as well as the alluring underwater shots. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t show the Gill Man in its entirety, and the wait makes it even better.
An expedition to the Amazon leads to the discovery of a mysterious fossil. When scientists are brought in to analyze the area, they discover that not only was the fossil from an unknown species, but that it is still alive.
2 Godzilla – Gojira (1954)
Before Godzilla was the subject of memes and fights against King Kong, he was an allegory. Japan’s cinematic reaction to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the monster’s initial appearance in Gojira is still one of his most visually impressive. The design of Godzilla has changed a lot over the years, but there’s an argument to be made that Toho got it right the first time around.
When fishing boats start to disappear off the coast of Tokyo, a team of scientists investigate what appears to be the point of origin: Odo Island. There, they find a huge nuclear monster determined to destroy Tokyo and all of Japan.
1 The Parting of the Red Sea – The Ten Commandments (1956)
An epic in every sense of the word, this Technicolor classic Charlton Heston was famous for many reasons. The Bible adaptation received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
At the end, The ten Commandments won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. While the film as a whole is stunning, The Parting of the Red Sea was the visual star of the film.
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