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28 Movies With Hidden Special Effects Details That Are Fascinating And/Or Hilarious

The creepy title sequence of The Thing (1982) was done using a fish tank and a trash bag.

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1. "In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), all the wide shots of Luke flying across Tatooine in his speeder were achieved by placing a mirror underneath a version of the prop with a motor and wheels."

Luke on his landspeeder in the movie and the mirrors on the side of it in real life
Lucasfilm

2. "In Gravity (2013), as Kowalski flies very close to the camera, astronauts holding a movie camera and boom mic appear to be reflected in his helmet visor. This is an in-joke by the movie's director, Alfonso Cuarón. The 'reflections' were added with CGI to make it look like the scene was actually filmed in space."

kowalski in gravity
Warner Bros.

3. "The self-lacing Nike shoes from Back to the Future Part II (1989) were modified so the laces exited the bottom of the shoe. Michael J. Fox stood on a platform, and a stagehand underneath pulled the laces to make the effect."

Universal Pictures / Via giphy.com

4. This aquarium in the Bond movie Dr. No (1962) was "filled" using magnified stock photos of fish.

5. "The infamous smiling extra from the Dunkirk (2017) teaser was CGI-ed to look serious/scared in the final film."

before and after shot, extra changed to go from smiling to sad
Warner Bros.

6. "The waterfalls on the planet Naboo in Star Wars: Episode I –The Phantom Menace (1999) were created by filming a stream of salt, rather than using water or CGI."

Lucasfilm

7. "For years, I thought that iconic scare in The Ring (2002) was Amber Tamblyn wearing makeup. Turns out, it was actually a body double created by the now-retired effects legend Rick Baker, who photographed Tamblyn from multiple angles to make the figure as convincing as possible."

rick baker and amber tamblyn posing with body double
Dreamworks Pictures

u/harriskeith29

Baker has won seven Academy Awards and has been nominated for an additional five.

Bonus: Here is Baker as an alien in Men in Black 3. (He worked on all three Men in Black movies.)

Rick Baker in full makeup next to Will Smith and Emma Thompson in a scene
Columbia Pictures

8. Wesley Snipes opening his eyes in a morgue scene in Blade: Trinity (2004) was fully CGI for a bonkers reason.

9. To film certain scenes for Apollo 13, cast and crew ended up being weightless for a total of nearly four hours, through 612 flight parabolas. That is more time being weightless than the majority of astronauts do before going into space.

A weightless scene in Apollo 13
(c) Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

The weightless scenes could only be filmed 25 seconds at a time.

10. "Have you ever wondered how the shadow of the ark was made in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)? It makes you laugh how such a simple thing leads to the final climax with some of the best visual effects ever made."

scene from raiders of the lost arc
Paramount Pictures

11. Fred Astaire's famous ceiling dance scene in Royal Wedding (1951) was filmed by rotating the set.

the royal wedding scene
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Here's the full scene.

View this video on YouTube

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

12. The hotel fight scene in Inception (2010) was done with similar camera trickery as the ceiling dance in Royal Wedding (1951).

13. "For the first Star Wars movie, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), our immediately recognizable lightsaber sound was discovered by mistake. While carrying a tape recorder with a broken mic cable where the shielding had come off, the sound was recorded as someone walked by a television. The sound is the electrical feedback from the television's tube."

man with lightsaber fighting darth vader in starwars
Lucasfilm

14. "For the entire final scene in Iron Man 3 (2013), a CGI Robert Downey Jr. was constructed by face-capture and VFX, imposed onto a body double, because Downey Jr. was injured in shooting."

Robert Downey Jr.'s face  imposed on body-double
Marvel Studios

u/gau-tam

According to a statement released by Marvel Studios at the time, "Robert Downey Jr. sustained an ankle injury on the set of Iron Man 3 in Wilmington, North Carolina while performing a stunt. There will be a short delay in the production schedule while he recuperates."

15. There's a moment in Jurassic Park (1993) where you can see an operator grab the raptor's tail.

16. "The Sandcrawler in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) was in fact only 2 feet long, but clever camerawork created the giant scale."

man scrawling
Lucasfilm

17. "In Captain Marvel (2019), when Monica Rambeau is changing the color of Carol Danvers' suit, she first chooses a combination of red and gold, which are the same colors as DC's Shazam, who was previously known as Captain Marvel."

scene from marvel
Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

18. The Hitler Youth clones in Jojo Rabbit (2019) were played by the identical twin brothers of the actor playing the movie's protagonist.

19. "In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), director Stanley Kubrick made a floating pen using a plexiglass in which he taped the pen with a double-face tape. For 1968, it was something impressive to do without any special effect."

floating pen in a space odyssey
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

20. "In Dunkirk (2017), they tried to use as little CGI as possible, so they used forced perspective flats to decorate scenes."

perspective flat from dunkirk
Warner Bros.

21. The title sequence of The Thing (1982) was done using a fish tank and a trash bag.

22. "In Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott and Jordan Cronenweth achieved the famous 'shining eyes' effect by using a technique invented by 'Fritz Lang' known as the 'Schüfftan Process': Light is bounced into the actors' eyes off a piece of half-mirrored glass mounted at a 45-degree angle to the camera."

shining eye effect on woman smoking cigarette
Warner Bros.

23. The sound of the Sacrificial Pit opening in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) is the same sound effect as one used for Darth Vader's lightsaber in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

24. "In Godzilla (1954), the electrical towers that Godzilla melts with his radioactive breath were actually made of wax. The special effects crew melted them by blowing hot air on them, as well as shining hot studio lights on them for the white-hot effect."

godzilla melting radio towers with his breath
Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

25. In the big chase scene in Hot Fuzz, you can see the green screen for a second.

I think it's more fun to think of this as purposeful, and thus another example of Hot Fuzz's hilarity.

26. This one is about a lack of special effects. "In Alien: Resurrection (1997), Sigourney Weaver practiced for two weeks for the basketball scene and made the shot in one take. No camera tricks or CGI were used in the shot."

basketball scene in alien resurrection
Twentieth Century Fox

Here's the full scene.

View this video on YouTube

Twentieth Century Fox

27. Similarly, "In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), the scene where Scott throws a parcel over his shoulder into a bin is real. In a film with so much CGI and SFX, director Edgar Wright wanted the throw to be real for the authenticity. It took him 33 takes."

Woman in doorway in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Universal Pictures

Here's the full scene.

View this video on YouTube

Universal Pictures

28. "In Doctor Strange (2016), Benedict Cumberbatch played the protagonist and also the main antagonist, Dormammu. He provided both the voice and the performance capture for the CGI face of Dormammu."

trippy vision in doctor strange
Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

29. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), Harry, Ron, and Hermione easily beat antagonists they faced during their first three years at Hogwarts.

In the first film and book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in you're not American), the trio has to best a troll. In the second film and book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron battle spiders, giant and normal. In the third film and movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Hermione (plus Ron to an extent) fight a werewolf. Dementors are also introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry fights them valiantly, but they continue to be evil threats from then on out.

30. "For the famous Star Wars opening crawl in the original trilogy, they used a camera moving along a physical model slightly tilted. It was difficult and time-consuming to get a smooth scrolling effect, and they needed one for each language (German, French, Spanish, etc.)."

Star Wars opening crawl scene
Lucasfilm

31. And finally, here's how this moment in Modern Times (1936) was shot.

Note: Quotes were edited for length and/or clarity.

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