Geekery: The Evolution of SFX at the Oscars

Oscars movies

Rogue One and Doctor Strange are both up for visual effects Oscars this year.

Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and comic book movies don’t get Oscar nods for writing and directing – but they sweep best visual effects on a regular basis. The visual effects category wasn’t created until 1963 – before that exceptional work was given a Best Special Effects award that combined visual and sound design. This compilation shows them all starting with Wings from 1927…

And a bonus…


  • SonoftheMountain

    2 things I noticed:
    1. That shot from Star Wars is from the Special Edition, not the ’77 original
    2. Fully animated movies have their own category and shouldn’t be in the VFX one (Kubo)

  • Lord of Deeds

    It reminds me of just how much of a huge accomplishment 2001 A Space Odessy Was. We really didn’t see VFX quite up to par with it unntil 1980 Empire Strikes Back IMHO, and it still holds it own even by today’s standards.

    Some of those earlier flims though were still amazing given what they had to work with at the time.

    Also agree that animated films should not be in the VFX category, so not sure by what criteria Kubo qualifies. They could have left it of the category and the category would still be well represented by the remaining films.

  • Dan

    I’m not sure entirely as I never got around to seeing it but Kubo was fully stop motion but that shot looked like it heavily utilized particle and fluid sims so you’re looking at:

    real time photography of real objects + CG as a VFX submission vs non-real time photography of real objects + CG as a VFX submission. There’s little practical difference there, it’s not like it had an unfair advantage or anything. Far from it everything would’ve been muuuuuuch harder to do.

    Likewise one of the interesting trends factoring into that is around the late 90’s you see art direction starting to become the most important aspect of deciding the winner for VFX. And it is hard to deny that Kubo wasn’t stunning even just from those couple of shots.

    Also animated features get their own category because the skill, craftsmanship, and expense required are worth giving praise- animation in and of itself is an artform and is no-where else represented in the Academy Awards. Saying animated films shouldn’t compete for Best VFX is quite short sighted. One is a measure of how technically and artistically developed an animated work is, the other is of the visual design and technical execution of an effect or suite of effects. They are by no means the same or even connected.

    Take this from someone who’s worked both on some of those nominees and at animation studios.

  • Dlatrex

    Just as a quick “defense” of Kubo, there is certainly precedent for giving an “animated” feature annoy for best special effects if it uses unusual techniques. As example at the 66th AAs Jurassic Park won the award over Cliffhanger, and The Nightmare Before Christmas