It used to be everywhere. It seems as if every film that came out was available with 3D glasses. This of course had a lot to do with money. Ever since James Cameron’s groundbreaking “Avatar” came out & stormed the Box Office, the studios wanted to take advantage of the 3D medium by releasing every mediocre effort with an extra pair of $3 glasses included with your ticket. When conceived, most of these movies were not meant for 3D viewing, compared to James Cameron’s film which was born and bred as a 3D experience. Don’t waste your money watching 99% of movies in 3D, it is not essential & the film does not benefit in any way shape or form from it.
I can count in a single hand the amount of movies that have come out since “Avatar” that actually benefited from the 3D treatment. 3D is otherwise a major studio scam that hasn’t materialized as planned in terms of artistry, that’s why, supposedly, Cameron is trying to find another way to attract people for his “Avatar” sequels. In October he teased that the films might be in 3D without even having to wear the glasses
Here’s an edited list I wrote up for WatchMojo back in 2014 of the top 10 best 3D movies. Surprisingly choosing a list of the best movies that were entirely released in or at least relied heavily upon 3D effects was fairly easy because there aren’t many films out there that still decide to shoot in 3D. It was a fad, one in which we got these ten gems, but the rest of the time had films making us churn that extra three dollars for those goofy-looking glasses, feel more like money-grabs. Five years after its publication, I added two new titles to my original list.
#10: “Tron: Legacy” (2010)
A young man goes looking for his long-missing father but gets more than he bargained for when he gets trapped inside a digital world built by dear-old-dad. This 2010 sequel to 1982’s cult classic is all about the visuals, which include light-enhanced action sequences that were shot in 3D and a boldly created 3-dimensional world – all set to a pounding Daft Punk soundtrack. With treats for the ears and the eyes, this one is just as revolutionary as its predecessor and worth the extra cost of a ticket.
#9: “Up” (2009)
A grumpy old man, a chubby kid and a house hoisted by helium balloons – but there’s so much more to this modern classic creation by Pixar. Using the 3D experience to enhance the colorful images and visually stunning computer-animated characters, this story amazes the eyes and tugs at the heartstrings. Becoming the first animated movie, as well as the first 3D film, to open the Cannes Film Festival, “Up” is an emotional and beautiful journey that lets its audience know that adventure is out there.
#8: “Toy Story 3” (2010)
It’s difficult for the third movie in any franchise to succeed like its predecessors, but “Toy Story 3” and its effective use of 3D took us back to “infinity and beyond.” In glorious 3D, Woody, Buzz and the gang is back, this time trying to evade the evil bear Lotso and to find a way to move on. We expected to be entertained, but we didn’t predict we’d be moved to tears – and the movie’s 3D doesn’t distract from those quieter moments; it only adds more layers.
#7: “Dredd” (2011)
“Dredd” was a reboot of “Judge Dredd,” a terrible 90s action movie starring -yikes- Sylvester Stallone. What we got instead with 2012’s “Dredd” was a genuinely visionary film. Director Pete Travis made something quite beautiful out of the savagery he depicted onscreen. Paul Leonard’s exalting techno soundtrack also gave the film an avant-garde edginess that fit perfectly with the film’s atmosphere. The 3D was also second to none. Travis, using color and the best use of slo-mo I could recall in ages, made a film that was wholly auteur-ed and singular in its vision. Let us not forget that the screenplay was written by Alex Garland, a man who burst to the directorial scene last year with his brilliant “Ex-Machina.” His lean, mean scenario had none of the superfluous tropes that would hamper down most of the action movies we see today. I can’t fail to mention Karl Urban (“Star Trek Beyond) who played a great, nasty hero as the titular character himself.
#6: “How to Train Your Dragon” (2010)
Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois changed 3D animation with this one. Tying with James Cameron’s “Avatar” as the Most Creative 3D Film of 2009 at the Venice Film Festival, “How to Train Your Dragon” used its 3D to boost the already imaginative and artistic film to the next level. Both funny and moving, this story of a young dragon-hunting Viking who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the enemy was a surprise success, that featured rousing action, incredible visuals and – last but not least – plenty of dragons!
#5: “The Walk” (2015)
You can easily nitpick the flaws of Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk – and there are plenty – but once all the phony French accents and abysmally lengthy setups have been dealt with, what we are left with is an extraordinary, unhurried 17-minute scene that uses 3D to its fullest potential, making you feel like you’re right there walking the tightrope with Phillipe Petit. That is the only thing the film does better than the great 2008 documentary Man On Wire, for which this movie is based on. It is the best possible recreation of a stunt so absurdly dangerous that it crosses every line in the book and becomes a beautiful work of performance art. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Petit walks on the one-inch steel braided cable with the elegance of a dancer high on his abilities to perform. An audience gathers around the front entrance of the World Trade Center, amazed, and in awe. The movie audience is right there with him every step of the way. Peeking down at the 110 stories that separates the rope and the ground, one can easily get the feeling of queasiness or nausea, and in fact some screening reports have mentioned people getting physically sick during the film. The rest of us sat there amazed and the sight and touched by the extraordinary things a human being can achieve.
#4: “Life of Pi” (2012)
Director Ang Lee deservedly won a Best Director Oscar for his part-live-action, part-CGI, all-3D adaptation of Yann Martel’s apparently unfilmable novel. After a furious accident at sea, a boy is stranded in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a fierce tiger for company. Renowned for its visual beauty and impressive 3D sequences that literally jump out at you, Lee’s movie is a feast for the eyes that never lets up. A voyage filled with adventure and emotion, “Life of Pi” is 3D eye candy.
#3: “Hugo” (2011)
Though he’s usually known for his ultra-violent gangster films, Martin Scorsese tried his hand at both family-friendly fare and 3D with this film, about a boy who calls a Paris train station home. Though that doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, it was: “Hugo” is a love letter to cinema done in the most fantastic way possible. Scorsese claimed the 3D allowed the actors to explore their emotions even further than in traditional productions, and the result is a movie that won five Oscars.
#2: “Gravity” (2013)
This film was destined to be both limited by and unrestricted by its setting, with its two astronauts stranded in the worst possible place – outer space. With an opening sequence that is dizzying, brilliant and unsuitable for claustrophobes, “Gravity” was not only praised for its performances, direction and screenplay, but also for its 3D. A tale of science and survival, this Alfonso Cuarón sci-fi masterpiece is a notch above the rest because it makes you believe that you are stuck in space along with them.
#1: “Avatar” (2009)
The movie that redefined 3D and sent filmmakers into the studio to see how the technology could work for them, “Avatar” is a piece of visual brilliance that has yet to be equaled. Released not only in 3D, but also in 4D in South Korea, this futuristic film about a lush, far-away planet was so highly anticipated, theaters installed extra 3D facilities just to show it. With visually arresting moments and mind-blowing, drool-worthy images, “Avatar” is an unforgettable 3D experience full of aliens, nature and all the wonders Pandora has to offer.