CGI characters are becoming more and more common in film. They're taking over the blockbusters most of us see, and they're beginning to look more and more life-like. Whether these characters are based on actual creatures or created for the films they're in, CGI is making movies more immersive experience. The very best CGI characters make us forget they aren't real. Even though they come from fantasy universes like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, they become totally indistinguishable from what we recognize from our world.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the best CGI characters are based on real things. Fantastical creatures can be made to look convincing with enough work and budget. Soon, blockbusters will be defined by how good their CGI is. When they are, these CGI characters will be held up as examples of how to use the technology effectively. These are the 20 greatest characters in CGI history.
New Line Cinema
Gollum was the CGI creation that showed us what the technology was capable of. With Andy Serkis doing the motion-captured performance, it was clear that you could create a creature the likes of which we'd never seen on screen before.
A lot of credit for Gollum justifiably goes to Andy Serkis, but the character only works because he looks as life-like as he does. Even today watching the films, it doesn't seem like's really aged at all. Gollum was the first time that people realized CGI could be used on people to make them look totally different without losing their humanity.
20th Century Fox
James Cameron has never been shy about pushing the boundaries of what was possible with CGI. With Avatar, he created an entire world and convincingly filled it with blue people who were nine feet tall. It was definitive proof of what CGI could do in creating parallel worlds, and it was such an achievement that James is making four sequels to the film.
It's telling, though, that even though everyone basically agreed that Avatar was an enormous technical achievement, it's one that hasn't been perfectly replicated yet. Building an entire world out of CGI is much harder than it looks.
Pikachu is and always has been incredibly cute. the challenge of Detective Pikachu was in ensuring that Pikachu looked cute when he was three-dimensional as well. Although there are some Pokemon purists who don't believe that Pikachu should have fur, most people agreed that Detective Pikachu was incredibly cute.
Not only was he cute, but he was also a faithful rendering of the animated version of the character, brought vividly to life. Only recently has it seemed possible for things like Pokemon to co-exist with live human actors on film thanks to advancements made with CGI characters. In Detective Pikachu, they do that beautifully, and make us believe that we, too, should catch them all.
Young Hank Pym might not be an entirely CGI creation like some of the fully-CGI characters on this list, but that doesn't mean he looks any less remarkable. In Ant-Man, we get flashbacks to Hank Pym's development of his shrinking technology, and in those flashbacks, Michael Douglas looks the way he did 30 years ago. He's been thoroughly and completely de-aged.
This de-aging technology has been employed across a number of Marvel movies on actors like Kurt Russell and Robert Downey Jr.. Young Hank Pym was the first though, and his de-aged look might still be the best of the bunch.
Remaking King Kong in 2005 didn't feel, at least strictly speaking, necessary. The movie's gender politics are a little suspect, and we all know the story. Once people actually saw King Kong, though, they realized that Peter Jackson had chosen the film as his Lord of the Rings follow-up because of what he could do with CGI.
Even today, Kong is still breath-taking to behold. He's a giant monkey like no giant monkey you've ever seen before. Every detail is vivid and real, and he integrates beautifully with the world around him. King Kong is a forgotten gem, and it's definitely worth revisiting.
The T-1000 may seem a little dated by today's standards. The CGI is not seamless, but it's immersive and experimental. The T-1000 can turn into liquid metal and reform, which makes him almost impossible to kill. It also makes him one of the coolest villains to ever show up in a movie.
This is another instance where James Cameron was willing to push the limits of what the technology could do, and the results speak for themselves. He created a sequel that is regarded as one of the best ever made and proved that CGI was a technology that could transform what movies were capable of.
Andy Serkis has always been on the cutting edge of what motion capture technology can do, and Caesar from the new Planet of the Apes trilogy may be his second masterpiece. As Caesar, Serkis is totally alive and expressive, even though he doesn't speak all that much.
What's more, he looks like an actual ape. Makeup can get you a long way, but it can't do what CGI did to create apes who are distinct from one another, but totally alive in every detail. Caesar is a great character in his own right, and he's also a remarkable CG achievement.
Whatever you think about the sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean, and opinions certainly vary, it's hard to deny that Davy Jones is pretty cool looking. The villainous figure doesn't show up until the second Pirates movie, and he's not exactly human in the way that the first movie's villains were.
Davy Jones has a face covered in tentacles. That could look incredibly silly, but instead, it feels disturbing. It's a tentacle beard and a green face, and it's something that wouldn't have been possible a few years before Davy Jones was introduced. He's a scary looking dude, but only thanks to some help from technology.
Among the many remarkable things about Jurassic Park, perhaps the most remarkable is that the movie still looks incredible today. The movie's most remarkable creation is undoubtedly the T-Rex, which gets many of the movie's most impressive images.
Jurassic Park brought this iconic dinosaur to life. It made it seem possible that the creature could interact with humans in a way that it never actually had. Steven Spielberg realized the power of CGI to create entirely new worlds, and that's precisely what he did with Jurassic Park. That was the moment when blockbusters fundamentally changed, and CGI became a much bigger part of them.
Dobby is a free elf, but he's also a remarkably textured creation. It's true, of course, that the Dobby we see in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is very different from the Dobby we see in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, but both are wonderful achievements.
With his massive eyes and floppy ears, Dobby feels very much alive. To his immense credit, Daniel Radcliffe ably performs alongside the CGI creation, even though he wasn't actually there during filming. The world of Harry Potter is filled with vivid creatures, but Dobby the house-elf might be the most vivid of them all.
The moment it became totally clear that the Marvel cinematic universe could do whatever it wanted was the moment it introduced Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. He's a talking tree that can only say "I am Groot," and the world loved him to death. He may be a talking tree, but he's also a deeply beautiful creation of CGI. Groot is hugely expressive, and his ability to impale enemies with his wooden body is a whole lot of fun.
Baby and teen Groots are just as much fun as adult Groot, and they're rendered just as well. Trees don't typically move, but if you were to imagine what a tree person might look like, you might imagine something like Groot.
In a movie where almost every character is an animal, the animal that comes to life most vividly is Shere Khan, the villainous tiger voiced by Idris Elba. It's almost scary how real that tiger is, even though it's a creation of CGI.
As you watch The Jungle Book, you know the tiger can't possibly be real, but the line starts to get blurry. Shere Khan is an example of how good the technology is today. The differences between CG and the real thing are starting to disappear, which only leads to more inventive, imaginative movies that feel more like real life.
Once Mark Ruffalo landed the role of Bruce Banner, it was clear that Marvel had finally figured out what to do with the Hulk. That was also true of the characters' animation. The first time the Hulk looks really great is in The Avengers, where he gets to do plenty of smashing.
Here, the character finally seems like a believable amalgamation of Banner and the angry, Hulky thing living inside him. We can see Mark's face peaking out of the Hulk, and have a keen sense of just how powerful and indestructible Hulk seems to be. That's thanks, at least in part, to CGI.
There have been plenty of great CGI dragons over the course of TV and film history, but Smaug might be the very best. That's at least in part because, although he looks nothing like a dragon, Benedict Cumberbatch did motion capture work for Smaug in addition to providing the character's voice.
Smaug looks and moves like you imagine a dragon might, and he's incredibly impressive because of the details that were put into him. It's clear that Peter Jackson and the rest of his team cared a lot about what Smaug looked like, and they put all that energy into bringing the character to life.
We don't see a ton of the Cloverfield monster in Cloverfield, but what we do see is appropriately terrifying. It's a giant, alien-looking monster that seems to be designed for terror and destruction. The fact that we don't see much of the monster meant that they could put that much more attention into what we saw when we do see the creature.
Part of the joy of Cloverfield is that we know virtually nothing about what's going on to bring about this catastrophe. We just know there's a monster, and our heroes have to run from it. When they do see it, they're justifiably terrified.
The prequels aren't exactly a beloved trilogy of movies, but it's hard to deny that General Grievous is pretty good. The robo-general is well-designed in part because of the details. He's a worn robot, and that's clear in the way he's animated. He's past his prime, but it's also clear that in his prime, he was a fearsome warrior.
It's these kinds of details that make the prequels worth watching. General Grievous is still one of the best CGI creations in the entire Star Wars universe thanks to his details, even if he doesn't exist in one of the series' more beloved installments.
When we first saw Thanos at the very end of The Avengers, there was some understandable concern that the character wouldn't look realistic enough to be an arch-villain. By the time 2018 came around, though, that fear proved to be without merit.
The Thanos we get in Avengers: Infinity War seems like a flesh and blood creature. He's vividly alive, and Josh Brolin gives real weight to his scenes in the film. He seems like the kind of villain that's tough to beat. He's physically imposing but quicker than he seems. He's the perfect ultra-villain to cap off an era of the MCU.
These days, original movies don't often get the massive budgets required to create entirely new CG creations. Thankfully, Bong Joon-ho, the director of Okja, got a chance to use some CGI on his film. He used his budget well, and crated Okja, a genetically engineered animal who also doubles as an adorable pet.
Many of the CGI creations on this list are meant to be at least a little terrifying. In Okja, though, the creature at the film's center is supposed to serve the opposite purpose. He's incredibly cute, even if he's been created with computers. CGI doesn't get to make cute things that much, but Okja is a good example of what it's capable of.
Venom is a deeply silly movie that's okay with being deeply silly. Whether you think it's a good movie or not is almost beside the point, especially considering how committed Tom Hardy to his completely whackadoodle performance.
When Tom's character does become Venom, the monster we get is very vividly brought to life. Visually, Venom has always been one of the scariest villains in all of comic books, but it's not easy to make him look convincing. In Venom, though, they manage to do just that with CGI. The movie itself may be a bit surreal, but Venom the character looks more terrifying than he ever has on screen.
Whatever you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story as a movie, it's hard to deny that L3-37 is a total triumph a CGI. The character is a sarcastic, hilarious droid voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and she might be the most dynamic character in the whole film.
Her death brings a terrible halt to the proceedings, and it's one that the movie never recovers from. While she's alive, though, she really does seem to be living. She's a robot made of ping pong balls, and she totally steals the movie from a bunch of living, breathing actors. That's remarkable in and of itself.