Force strongest with VES


"Star Wars," released 30 years ago this month, tops the Visual Effects Society's rankings of the 50 most-influential visual effects films of all time. The list was released today.

The seminal film from George Lucas helped inspire many of today's visual effects industry professionals to pursue the craft. "It revitalized the entire visual effects industry and created a new industry," said Jeff Okun, a visual effects supervisor and chairman of VES.

Said visual effects veteran Richard Edlund, who won Oscars for his work on all three films in the original Lucas trilogy: " 'Star Wars' woke up a sleeping giant. The audience enjoyed booing the villains and cheering the heroes. Since 'Star Wars,' its audience salivates for new effects movies."

He added that the production also introduced the use of new visual effects techniques, including motion control.

"Blade Runner" captured the No. 2 spot on the VES list, "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Matrix" tied for third, and "Jurassic Park" came in at No. 5. The top 10 is rounded out by "Tron," "King Kong" (1933 version), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Alien" and "The Abyss."

"A Trip to the Moon," the 1902 Georges Melies classic that features the iconic image of a spaceship landing in the eye of the "man in the moon," which is captured on the VES Awards trophy, is ranked No. 13.

The VES selection criteria required that a film had "a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral, artistic element of cinematic expression and the storytelling process." Okun said that a mission of the society is to play a bigger role in preserving the visual effects industry's history.

"We don't want our history to disappear," he said. "Doing the list ties in with education and honoring our past."

Okun said a VES committee compiled a list of about 400 notable effects films. The list was sent to all members of the society who were invited to vote for as many as 50 films. These votes were used to tabulate the final rankings. (VES declined to report the number of members who submitted final votes.)

Okun and VES executive director Eric Roth acknowledged that the list will prompt discussion and debate. "We expect there to be controversy," Okun said. Roth agreed, saying: "We fully expect it. That's the cool thing. It shows in our diversity. It's a strength. ... It's a chance for everyone to see what everyone else thinks."

The "VES 50" will be the subject of a screening and panel discussion at the VES Festival of Visual Effects, set for June 7-10 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Scheduled speakers are Academy Award winners Edlund, Dennis Muren, Doug Trumbull and John Dykstra, with Academy Award winner John Knoll moderating.