ByMatt Kranis, writer at
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis
Matt Kranis

John Carpenter created an instant cult classic with 1981's Escape From New York, giving us an enduring action badass in the form of Kurt Russell's Snake Plissken. The film — set for a remake in the near future — gave us a perfect '80s-style dystopia, with Plissken sent into a crime-riddled New York City to rescue the president of the United States. And as you surely remember, it spawned the 1996 sequel Escape From L.A., which celebrates its 20th anniversary today!

The follow-up is entertaining for sure, though it doesn't hold up as a classic like the original due in part to some truly terrible CGI and special effects. Carpenter and co. did the best they could with the technology of the time, but this CGI definitely doesn't cut the mustard. Thankfully, it at least leaves us entertained. Look no further than the film's infamous surfing scene to see exactly what we mean.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Escape from L.A., we're taking a look at the best worst CGI moments in movie history. These effects may look like they were slapped together overnight, but in the end they helped make some pretty forgettable movies a lot more enjoyable.

1. The Claw Pop — X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Even Wolvie's baffled by his claws.
Even Wolvie's baffled by his claws.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the bastard child of the X-Men franchise thanks to its crappy CGI, best seen when Wolverine pops out his adamantium claws for the first time. The scene completely subverts any expectation of quality, especially considering Wolverine's claws looked great in the three previous X-Men films. As such, the downgrade is more hilarious than disappointing.

2. Bond Surfs A Tsunami — Die Another Day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan's final outing as James Bond in Die Another Day featured one of the most ridiculous action scenes in the series, proving just how much we needed some new blood in the Bond franchise. This surfing set piece would look more at home in a 007 video game, but we're happy to see this bafflingly bad scene in the final film.

3. The Scorpion King Emerges — The Mummy Returns (2001)

The Mummy Returns is a pretty decent action-adventure romp, but the film almost falls apart when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson appears as the monstrous Scorpion King. We first see the warrior king in human form, and as always The Rock looks like an imposing badass. But the appearance of his scorpion form had us wondering if this was a real Hollywood film. At least it provides the movie's biggest laugh.

4. Samuel L. Jackson's Death — Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Sam Jackson's notorious CGI-driven death scene in Deep Blue Sea is a perfect example of '90s schlock. Jackson gives a huge speech about sticking together in the face of a shark attack, only to get brutally eaten by the predator, who pops out at him Jack-in-the-box style to drag him underwater. This scene would probably still be funny with good special effects — the death is the perfect punchline to Jackson's overwrought speech — but the bad effects make it truly hilarious.

5. The Burly Brawl — The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

The Burly Brawl is the defining action scene in The Matrix Reloaded, but sadly it defines just how poorly the sequel fares compared to its predecessor. The action number boasts some of the worst CGI we've seen in Hollywood, with Neo (Keanu Reeves) transforming between his typical self and a rubbery computer character throughout. That said, the scene still provides some impressive fight choreography and creative camerawork, proving that co-directors the Wachowskis know how to shoot action despite terrible effects.

6. The Gophers — Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)

A computer-generate gopher in its natural habitat.
A computer-generate gopher in its natural habitat.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull angered many fans with its reliance on CGI, a gripe perfectly represented by the movie's notorious CGI gophers. They don't actually look bad, it's just weird that they're in the film to start with. We'll never know why Steven Spielberg didn't just put some real gophers in front of a camera, but we'll let it slide because they're cute as hell.

7. The Robot Battle — Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

We know some of you might think its unfair to throw a kids' movie on this list, but if you've ever seen Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over then you're more than aware of the fact that it deserves this spot. The movie is incredibly dedicated to the 3D theme, with effects popping out of the screen constantly. Those effects look better than the 3D of the '80s, but they're still utterly unconvincing, lending a sense of campy fun to the whole affair.

Do you love special effects and CGI? Check these out for more:

8. Animalities — Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

The animalities in the Mortal Kombat video games allow players to transform into an animal or mythical beast to finish off their opponents. They're fun, but dumb. Thankfully that held true in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation when Liu Kang (Robin Shou) transforms into a giant dragon to kill Shao-Khan (Brian Thompson). Kang's transformation is meant to be truly epic, but is completely undercut by the dragon's dopey design and horrible animation. Fortunately, it's a funny moment that makes the abysmal Annihilation a bit more tolerable.

9. Renesmee's Debut — The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)

Even the sparkly vampires of the Twilight franchise couldn't escape bad CGI, but at least they waited until the the final film in the series to introduce the computerized monstrosity that is baby Renesmee. This falls into the best worst category because of how the characters react to the baby's appearance. They act like she's the most gorgeous thing on the planet, while we can't even believe she exists.

10. The Plane Crash — Air Force One (1997)

We're always down to watch Harrison Ford play the US president, but the end of this movie almost makes the affair unwatchable. The climax to Air Force One finds Ford's commander in chief escaping a hostage situation on the titular plane, with its crash simulated with the best/worst CGI 1997 could provide. The result is more like tossing a wooden glider into a swimming pool than watching a massive jet crash into the ocean, adding a dose of inadvertent comedy to the film's climax.

11. The Car Crash — Along Came A Spider (2001)

Along Came a Spider doesn't really need CGI effects, but that didn't stop filmmakers from assaulting viewers with an over-the-top car crash in the movie's opening. The crashing car physics are absurd, with a red hot rod bouncing across the road like a kickball before careening down a waterfall. We could watch this scene over and over, trying to figure out what exactly is happening (and where it all went wrong).

12. Blarp's Existence — Lost In Space (1998)

This was actually screened in a movie theater.
This was actually screened in a movie theater.

The big-screen adaptation of Lost in Space is a pretty forgettable affair, though there's no way we could forget Blarp — the film's CGI lizard monkey creation. The character was originally going to be brought to life with an animatronic puppet, but filmmakers decided to go with a full CGI character instead. Unfortunately, they didn't have the resources to make Blarp believable, opting to plop what was basically a cartoon character into a live-action film. But we still love this little guy, mostly because we feel bad about his horrible ugliness.

13. Caterpillar Freddy — Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

Freddy Krueger will do whatever it takes to achieve his murderous goals, and as we saw in Freddy vs. Jason that includes turning into a pot-smoking caterpillar. He looks like trash as the bug, colored with gross shades of dark green and red meant to reflect his signature sweater, while his burned-up face looks even more terrible than normal. The scene harkens back to the comedy many complained about in the series, and bad CGI pushes it over the edge from stupid to stupidly funny.

14. The Musical Number — Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of The Jedi Special Edition (1997)

We've all complained about the Star Wars Special Edition releases, but you have to admit that the added musical number at the top of Return of the Jedi is as hilarious as it is terrible. As with all the additions in the revisited versions, the effects aren't actually that bad (for the time), but just unnecessary. And this might be the most insane of them all. It feels like George Lucas just wanted to direct a musical number, so he decided to throw one into the opening of his original classic.

15. The Entire Movie — Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within only reinforces the notion that video game movies are bad. This cinematic entry in the long-running video game franchise saw an original story from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi brought to life with a photorealistic CGI cast. The effects were actually praised at the time, though it makes our list due to how badly it's since aged. People expected Spirits Within to usher in a new age of animated filmmaking, with CGI casts replacing human actors. Of course, that didn't happen, proving how foolish we all were in 2001.

What are some of your favorite uses of terrible CGI? Let us know in the comments below.


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