Worth 3D? 'Gravity' and 10 More Movies That Benefit From the Upgrade

Did Alfonso Cuaron's space drama make you think twice about 3D? If so, here are more movies worth seeing in the format.

Alfonso Cuaron chose to use depth to create the feeling of being in outerspace. But looking ahead, can this weekend’s $55.6 million opening of Gravity—largely driven by 3D ticket sales—help to invigorate the 3D market? Some think so.

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While there have been some high profile failures (think Clash of the Titans), there are numerous filmmakers that have explored and applied 3D to great effect to forward their story and the audience's experience. Looking back, here’s 10 of the previously-released movies worth seeing in 3D.

Avatar (2009)

James Cameron’s epic fantasy introduced many moviegoers to 3D for the first time, and the director used the format to immerse viewers in the world of Pandora. It went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time with nearly $2.8 billion at the worldwide box office. Need we say more?

Coraline (2009)

Henry Selick’s Coraline from LAIKA was the first feature length 3D stop motion film. The story, which incorporated an alternative universe, used a nearly flat image for Coraline’s real world, to create the feeling that she feels constricted by her life; and lots of depth as she entered the more exciting alternate world. Selick likened his use of 3D to the way in which color was used in The Wizard of Oz.

Dial M for Murder (1954)

While it's not widely known as a 3D film, Alfred Hitchock’s classic was filmed with depth in mind. The most often-cited shot was the one during which Grace Kelly extends her hand into the audience as she reaches for a pair of scissors as she is being attacked. But it was also the way that the director used space to tell the story—taken from a stage play that occurs mostly in a one-bedroom apartment—that adds to the suspense.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

DreamWorks Animation maintains a high standard for 3D and multiple DWA titles would be appropriate for a list such as this. But its Oscar-nominated How To Train Your Dragon is still considered to be the studio’s masterpiece in 3D circles. Among the favorite scenes is the one during which Hiccup and Toothless meet for the first time. Depth is used to increase feelings of vulnerability, fear, and conflicted emotions.

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Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo helped to convince many that 3D can be used to tell a dramatic story and it was not just for action films. Among the signature 3D shots in one in which Sacha Baron Cohen's station inspector leans over Hugo in a threatening way—and he comes out of the screen and into the audience, invading our personal space and added to the discomfort.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Luhrmann's bravura adaptation of this classic American novel contained layer upon layer of weather, landscape, people and party atmosphere to create a captivating world for his doomed romantic hero. But Luhrmann also explored new territory as he choreographed his actors and used meticulously planned close-ups to bring added emotion and drama to the performances.

The Hobbit (2012)

While reviews were mixed, Peter Jackson's experimental use of high frame rates (at 48 frames per second) to make this film trilogy demonstrated how motion blur issues associated with stereoscopic camera movement could be eliminated. The entertainment technology community is continuing to explore how varying frame rates can impact storytelling—and James Cameron has this in his plans for his Avatar sequels.

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Life of Pi (2012)

Ang Lee took a deliberately conservative approach, telling this story with little coming in front of the screen. It connected with audiences, and went on to becomes one of the year’s most admired films, winning Oscars for direction, cinematography, music and visual effects.

Pina (2011)

Wim Wenders was looking for a way to bring the work of dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch to the screen. He found the answer by shooting in 3D and using depth. The film went on to earn an Oscar nomination in the documentary competition.

The Polar Express (2004)

Released in 3D Imax only (prior to the installation of the first 3D system in a digital cinema theater), this film is significant in that it demonstrated the potential of 3D at a time when it was largely used for documentaries. Among those that it convinced of 3D’s potential: DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com

Twitter: @CGinLA