The mechanic of 3D is loved by some and hated by others. Some 3D movies are basically a gimmick to get those premium prices, but some actually deserve praise. Some 3D movies are built for the experience and deserve a chance. Below is the list of the best 3D movies of all time.
#30 U2 3D
The only concert movie on our list of best 3d movies is U2 3D. U2 is one of the largest bands in the world. They have had some monster hits like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “With Or Without You.” It only makes sense that they would be the candidates who could deliver on this large scale bigger than reality format. They deliver, this entry in 3D makes you feel like you are part of a giant experience.
#29 Transformers: Age of Extinction
Transformers is the marquee franchise for that guilty pleasure CGI explosion we all love. It is 2 hours of just dumb spectacle to melt into. So when it comes to 3D, this franchise is a natural fit. The crazy elaborate robot battles get even wilder and in your face in this reality-bending format.
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Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) pioneered the world of live-action motion capture. It has been a pretty big disappointment given the tremendous cost and the box office misses, but there have been some bright spots. One of them is Beowulf, based on the old epic poem of the same name. This creepy tale of taking on an unknown monster terrorizing a small town dazzles the imagination and immerses you into this fantasy world thanks to the format.
#27 Monsters vs Aliens
A litter known animation title is Monsters vs Aliens. This makes the list of best 3d movies because what it lacks in Disney characters and storytelling, it makes up for in technical achievement. There are so many animation movies out there that do just a few things to technically qualify, but this movie is built for it. This was made by Dreamworks and was the first movie they actually created in 3D versus converting later. It certainly shows.
#26 The Nightmare Before Christmas
This film is a claymation animated film from the great but slightly weird Tim Burton. It follows Jack who goes from Halloween town to Christmas town in search of finding cheer to bring back. The visuals have been critically praised for being so unique and revolutionary. The built on this by bringing some of the interesting aspects into the experience and the rest was cinematic history.
#25 The Lego Movie
No one knew the Lego movie was going to be as good as it was. It really should have won an Oscar, but was robbed. They brought a unique look to animation that was never done before and then they did the same thing with the 3D. You really enter the lego world through some of the innovative effects and transitions.
#24 My Bloody Valentine
3D had its early phase, but in it’s second more computer-generated phase, every horror film out there tried to jump on the bandwagon. It made perfect sense, it is a tense moment and boom something jumps out at you. Many failed though and most movies were just gimmicky with nothing key to the story. My Bloody Valentine did it right though. That movie was an experience built for the format. Even though it was made in 2009, it still holds up today.
#23 Journey To The Center Of The Earth
The beloved children’s book inspiring generations of wonder was turned into quite the film franchise. Its tremendous box office success was in part to the amazing CGI world that was created. With a brand new world and movement into the earth versus down a straight path, the 3d effects really make this one. There are crazy plants, animals and natural phenomena that allow for something new every time to keep you entertained.
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#22 Toy Story 3
Pixar has proven time and time again to be the master of computer-generated animation. Since that process is so close to the 3D process, it only makes sense that it would lend itself well to the format. Toy Story 3, one of their later films, really delivers on this. In the Toy Story franchise, you are shrunk down to see through the eyes of toys that present the world and new exciting ways. This being in 3d adds to that and it does it with award-winning precision.
Hugo is a beloved children’s story brought to the big screen by one of the greatest directors of all time, Martin Scorsese. The story follows a young boy in Paris 1931 who had a father big into automation. The setting paired with the amazing filmmakers made for a truly unique and stylish film. The classic time mixed with the futuristic robotics created some interesting situations that were made exponentially better with the 3D experience.
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Prometheus was Ridley Scott’s vision for a prequel to the hit Aliens franchise. A daring endeavor, he set out to make something as groundbreaking as the original series. The film came out in 2012, the height of 3D popularity, so it was a natural fit. The spooky and thrilling aspects of the film took the best elements of horror 3d and action 3d and made for a suspenseful tone. The film is well done and very unique. The great 3d experience matches that.
#19 Final Destination 5
Another horror movie on the list was a rebooting of the monster hit horror franchise Final Destination. The original film about people dying when they are supposed to die was a breakout hit and many sequels with the same themes followed. Sure this film is super cheesy and the performances are not the best, but they put a lot into it. They knew 3d was their gimmick so they really put a lot of money and time into making the experience cool. So while the movie is not great, if you are looking for a super cool 3d experience, you can certainly get it here.
#18 Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
The revival of the Planet of the Apes franchise was executed absolutely flawlessly and it doesn’t tend to get the credit it deserves. The storytelling and style are top-notch, but what it really did well was how they incorporated the motion-captured CGI apes. The film blends many filming styles and blends them seamlessly. Unsurprising, with every detail perfectly attended to, this is done in the 3D experience as well. The war scenes alone in this epic finally are worthwhile to watch over and over.
#17 Doctor Strange
All the Marvel movies are fantastic spectacles so you are always in good hands, but there are some standouts. The first one on our list of best 3d movies goes to the mind and world bending Doctor Strange. For a film about questioning what are the limitations of reality, 3d is an absolutely perfect choice. As worlds bend and spells fly, nothing compares to some of the amazing visuals and transitions you experience.
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There really isn’t too much thought on this one. It is just about the giant lizard creature we all know and love and it is well done. As you would expect, Godzilla crashes through cities destroying everything in his wake. These giant, very expensive, VFXs come through strong and make for an incredibly satisfying ride.
Coraline was a 2009 film well ahead of its time. It was a critical darling and was nominated for every animation award in existence. It was the first film from 3d stop motion animation study Laika. They would go on to produce ParNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link, all to critical acclaim. It doesn’t just make a movie and convert it to 3D, it is actually built for it, and built for it well.
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#14 Thor: Ragnarok
The second Marvel movie on our list of best 3D movies goes to the most fun entry in the cinematic universe. Thor: Ragnarok is pretty stand-alone compared to its other superhero siblings but that doesn’t take anything away. On its own, this film is great. Its got humor, its got action and most importantly it has style. Director Taika Waititi ticks all the right boxes on this one.
#13 Jaws 3-D
3D has had two phases so far. The first is the old school red plate and blue plate overlay, where you were the glasses with blue and red lenses to watch and it creates extra depth. The second phase is the more computer-generated option that started coming up in the late 2000s which gives lots more freedom and the better experience. Jaws 3D is a 1983 movie that belongs to the first phase. While it might not be as great of an experience, this film earns a spot on the list of best 3d movies out of respect. No one made quite an event out of 3D as the classic shark attack franchise did.
#12 Mad Max Fury Road
This one must be obvious. The whole Mad Max reboot takes place on moving vehicles. The strange apocalyptic creations make for some sensational fight sequences. And it is all done against the amazing backdrop of a desolate desert wasteland. It won the 2016 best production design Oscar (and many others) for a reason. This film was revolutionary and the way it plays with depth and movement makes for some amazing 3d surprises.
#11 Pacific Rim
Similar to transformers, you can’t go wrong with giant fighting robots. What this film had that Transformers didn’t, was master filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy). This was his attempt at the major tentpole blockbuster and it shows. The 3D doesn’t feel like a CGI mess, it feels like a purposeful part of the storytelling.
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#10 Alita: Battle Angel
This film is from director Robert Rodriguez, writer/producer James Cameron and was years in the making. James Cameron has proven to be the master of 3d and this is basically his follow up to Avatar. It is years in the future and Alita is a cyborg who remembers nothing of her past and must set out to find answers. You are thrown into this incredible world and the 3d is incredibly masterful and purposely done. There are not many cinematic experiences like this one.
#09 The Great Gatsby
With no action or horror, you might think that The Great Gatsby is a horrible choice for #9 on the list of best 3d movies. You would be wrong. The incredible production design and visuals that look like candy are a perfect fit to extend outside of the screen. The Great Gatsby is all about opulence and living, what better option could there be for this.
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#08 Guardians Of The Galaxy
The third Marvel movie on our list of best 3D movies goes to one of the best. The Chris Pratt led space pirate story has all sorts of worlds and interesting experiences. See this motley crew barrel through space fight after space fight in tremendous style. This one may not have any one specific thing that sets it apart, but it is just that consistently good from start to finish.
Up is helped because it is such a fantastic movie, but it doesn’t take away from its 3d achievements. The colors are bright and beautiful and the adventure is steadfast. For a movie with and adventure that is constantly moving forward and always going “up”, this in your face format makes perfect sense. Up is a tremendously emotional movie and this format helps bring you deep into the struggle of the characters, helping you relate.
#06 The Martian
The Martian is an incredibly smart film about an astronaut (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars trying to get home. You may not think this would be a good fit, but anytime your preconceptions of reality are skewed it seems to work out. It helps that the cinematography is incredibly beautiful. It is large and epic at times and it is incredibly close and personal at others. The experience helps you identify with Damon’s character.
#05 Tron: Legacy
This one was a slam dunk. When you have a movie that takes place entirely in a never before seen digital world, it makes sense to do it in 3D. It was the sequel to the 1982 film that was so ahead of its time. Because of that, they needed to do something truly innovative and they achieved it. It also helped that we got to see some of those iconic key pieces like the light cycle races and identity discs updated for the new age.
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#04 Life of Pi
At the script stage, people probably were hesitant to endorse Life of Pi. It is a movie about a child dealing with an internal struggle that manifests as him sharing a boat with a tiger for the entire film. Well, cinematic master Ang Lee, didn’t think so and he would go on the create one of the greatest movies of all time. Almost the entire movie, including the tiger, is all CGI but it all seems so real and life like. Ang really proved to be one of the great masters of the trade with this entry.
#03 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Post Disney acquisition, the Star Wars franchise came back with a bang with this episode 7. It would go on to make $2 billion dollars at the WW box office and become the 3rd highest-grossing film of all time. Directing great JJ Abrams knew he had to bring something larger than life so he built an experience made for 3D. Laser beams flying, barreling through space, elaborate lightsaber battles, it all is perfect for the format.
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Gravity wins for being the absolute best premise to actually be in 3D. The execution is pretty good as well. Our mind has preconceptions of plains, “that’s the sky, that’s the ground, that’s the horizon.” In space, these things don’t exist. Sandra Bullock is constantly rotating and you never know what is up and what is down. The film’s 3D experience really makes you feel like you are tumbling through space with her. It is also an amazing movie brought to you by the great Alfonso Cuarón.
There have not been any film achievements that have come close to what James Cameron was able to achieve in the 2009 Avatar. It is still to this day the highest-grossing film of all time at $2.7 billion dollars. Take that in for a second, in the thousands of movies that have been released since the beginning of time, this is the absolute top one. Cameron created a world unlike anything anyone has ever seen and you become deeply emerged in it thanks to an experience that was built for it.