10 CGI Characters That Hurt Their Movies (And 10 That Saved Them)

Computer generated imagery — more commonly known by its acronym — is both a blessing and a curse in the world of filmmaking.

On one hand, it allows filmmakers to execute intricate, fantastical elements the likes of which couldn’t be replicated via practical effects. On the other hand, if rushed or poorly developed, CGI can destroy audience immersion and turn a movie into little more than a laughing stock.

We’ve seen tons of breathtaking CGI over the years, and it has changed the very fabric of filmmaking culture. The silver screen has played host to imagery so sensational it would have, in the early days of the medium, looked like magic.

That said, some directors have taken a resolute stance against computer generated elements in their movies, instead opting to uphold the dying art of practical effects. A heavy reliance on puppetry and papier-mâché can also, if carried out carelessly, make a movie totally unwatchable.

Sure, Marvel’s Infinity War may have been a cinematic masterpiece, but it hardly makes up for the ugly CGI abominations they regularly released ten-odd years ago. Anyone remember the first two CGI Hulk movies?

From lovingly-rendered little green space swordsmen to lazily put together talking CGI cats and dogs, its safe to say that computer-generated imagery has been a mixed bag.

It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, though, and, as we slowly transition into an era in which entire movies rely on nothing but this controversial computing method, we count the 10 CGI Characters That Hurt Their Movies (And 10 That Saved Them).

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Live Action Scooby Doo Movie
Start Now

20 Hurt: Scooby Doo - Scooby Doo / Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Live Action Scooby Doo Movie

Scooby Doo, Where Are You! is a time-honored Hanna Barbera animation classic that still exists in one form or another on air today.

While the long-running series, which got its start all the way back in 1969, has waned in popularity in recent years, plenty still hold fond memories of Saturday mornings spent glued to the tube watching Mystery Inc. unravel some strange goings-on.

Unfortunately, the early 2000s were a rough period for old Scoob, who had been totally mangled by his terrible CGI portrayal in a series of live action movies.

They may be charming for those who grew up with them, but those early CG-laiden Scooby Doo pictures are totally cringe-worthy now.

19 Saved: Caesar - Planet of the Apes Reboot Trilogy

Planet of the Apes Caesar

Though an interesting interaction on the beloved 1968 original, the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy leaves something to be desired in that, though it sought to tell the tale of how humanity fell to their primate aggressors, it failed to capture much of the heart and intrigue of the original late '60s early '70s movies.

Nevertheless, the CGI present in these pictures was pretty breathtaking overall, especially in regards to Caesar and his maligned monkey mates.

It should come as no surprise that Andy Serkis — the motion capture expert now famous for his portrayal of Mowgli in The Jungle Book and Snoke in Star Wars: the Force Awakens — was behind this one.

18 Hurt: The Max Rebo Band - Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Max Reebo Band Return of the Jedi

Many Star Wars fans have harbored a vendetta against George Lucas ever since he released his series of original trilogy remasterings that, in the minds of many, totally besmirched the brand and tarnished the quality of these classic sci-fi movies.

While everyone has their nitpicks regarding these special editions, the unequivocal worst aspect has to be the far-beyond-awful Max Rebo Band whose awful CG visages pander directly to the camera and annoy everyone who once loved the beginning of Jedi.

This group of singing, dancing aliens is nothing short of abhorrent, and it totally ruins the otherwise awesome scene in Jabba’s palace.

The Force really isn't too strong with these guys, that's for sure.

17 Saved: Smaug - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

While Peter Jackson’s epic turn-of-the-century Lord of the Rings trilogy was as fantastic and well-developed as any Tolkien fans could possibly have hoped for, the recent trilogy focusing on The Hobbit — a precursor to the events which transpire in the aforementioned series — was perhaps a bit less enthralling and totally lacking in Elijah Wood appearances.

Despite focusing on the previously alluded-to adventures of Frodo Baggins’ adoptive uncle Bilbo, 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a bit lackluster.

It was made up for by the grand, awesome spectacle of its sequel due in no small part to the excellent antagonist Smaug.

As a fully-realized CGI dragon, Smaug was massive, scary, and way cooler than that dumb white orc from the first movie.

16 Hurt: Garfield - Garfield: The Movie

Garfield The Movie

The year 2004’s Bill Murray-led children’s movie Garfield: The Movie was universally panned and was famously labeled as Murray’s only real regret in 2009’s hilarious zombified comedy Zombieland.

He may work as a character in the Sunday funny pages, but, as a Hollywood store, he's more than forgettable.

Unfunny, meandering, and garish, it was a pain to see this once-beloved orange comic strip star butchered so thoroughly on the silver screen.

The worst aspect of the movie was how surprisingly poor the all CG main character looked when compared to his live action counterparts.

It was totally jarring to see a cartoon cat paired with a real-life dog, and it’s not the kind of thing audiences will ever again be all that eager to see.

15 Saved: Durotan - Warcraft

Warcraft Movie Durotan

“Saved” is as strong word in this instance. Durotan, ex-Chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and one of the main characters in the Warcraft movie, is one of the few reasons to sit through this film at all.

Just about everyone found this movie to be flat out dull when it hit theaters back in 2016, and public opinion isn’t likely to change any time soon.

In fact, even hardcore fans of the game were hard pressed to pick out anything redeeming.

Based on the largely player-driven world of Azeroth, the realm featured in Blizzard’s notorious World of Warcraft MMO, this picture relied too heavily on CG to bring to life the land’s local fauna.

That said, Durotan was, at the very least, believable, and his demise was the only meaningful story beat present in the entire flick.

14 Hurt: Anaconda - Anaconda 3: Offspring

Anaconda Movie Villains

While the first movie in the much-maligned Anaconda horror film trilogy has found a place in movie history as a campy cult classic, Anaconda 3: Offspring is just terrible.

It was filmed on less than a shoestring budget and likely edited on someone’s old IBM Model 5100.

The story in this movie is, as one may well expect, verbose and horrible, but the real kicker is the computer-generated snake.

In fact, the snake is poorly rendered that it’s difficult to believe it's in the scene at all, as it makes the actors' already painful fake fear all the more cringe-worthy.

This thing wouldn’t look out of place in a PS1 game — that’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact. Sure, 1997's Anaconda wasn't great, but this is really in a league of its own.

13 Saved: King Kong - King Kong (2005 Remake)

King Kong 2005

In keeping with the trilogy that brought him fame, Peter Jackson once again delivered an epic, long-winded, fantastical movie, this time centered around the Hollywood Golden-era classic King Kong from 1933.

The script could certainly have been trimmed down a bit, and Jack Black’s role probably could have been re-cast, but little could tarnish the absolute spectacle of the titular gargantuan gorilla himself.

Audiences must have been blown away at the Empire State Building scene in the original movie, and viewers may have been similarly awed by the 2005 remake.

Kong is, if nothing, a visual marvel, especially in an era in which CG was still a relatively fledgling prospect.

It's important to note that no actual gorillas were harmed during the production of this movie, though a few overworked animators may have lost their minds in the process.

12 Hurt: Blarp - Lost in Space

Blarp Alien Lost in Space

To be perfectly honest, the 1998 cinematic take on a live-action sci-fi show from the '60s failed primarily due to some extraordinarily bad acting courtesy of Matt LeBlanc, but we’ll also lay blame at the feet of this Jim Henson-inspired CGI nightmare.

Blarp, some kind of simian alien monstrosity, seriously looks like he belongs in a PS1 FMV cutscene, and watching LeBlanc struggle with this obviously-fake being on screen is just nothing short of awful, and he does nothing to compensate for the dime-store CG on display.

There’s a scene in which the ex-Friends star is supposed to be holding the little creature, but it’s so obvious that he actually isn’t holding anything.

Lost in Space is a tragic example of how CGI can bring an already bad movie even lower, and we can only hope that Netflix's Lost in Space series helped fans to forget this late '90s foul-up.

11 Saved: Grand Moff Tarkin - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One seemingly set itself up for disaster by daring to directly proceed a movie that was released over forty years ago whose actors have long since past.

Peter Cushing, a British actor famous for portraying Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars movies, passed away over twenty years prior to Rogue One’s release, and it was surprising to see that he got so much posthumous screen time.

The CGI present in this sci-fi flick was so well done that some casual audience members weren’t even aware that Cushing was no longer around to play the role.

Of course, he does spend most the movie cooped up in a darkened Star Destroyer, which plays the the film’s advantage.

Some fans believe that Carrie Fisher will be getting the same treatment in the upcoming Episode IX, though the director has repeatedly denied these speculations.

10 Hurt: The Thing - The Thing (2011 Remake)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in The Thing (2011)

John Carpenter’s 1982 body horror masterwork The Thing has been praised so relentlessly over the years that there is hardly any need to keep gushing over it.

The 2011 remake, however, wasn’t nearly as well received due in no small part to its gross (literal and figurative) use of CGI.

The original movie was a triumph in terms of practical effect usage, but the remake, while expanding upon the frightening, grotesque monster design, looked just a little too digital.

The worst offender, however, comes from the final scene, which takes place in an alien spacecraft. Here, the Thing appears as an awful amalgamation of flesh with a human face awkwardly stitched to it, and it just doesn’t look all that great. 

The Thing will still give you nightmares, though they'll probably have more to do with bad horror movie rehashings than anything else.

9 Saved: Godzilla - Godzilla (2014 Remake)

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla has been a long running monster movie franchise since its Cold War-inspired Japanese ancestor first hit the scene in the 1950s.

While the 2014 remake was perhaps a bit more Cloverfield than it was a Godzilla movie due to the fact that it prioritizes human characters over the monster itself, it was nonetheless saved by the dazzling, larger-than-life computer generated effects that sold the towering reptilian as a truly scary sight to behold.

The original movies may have been great in their day, but a modern audience may find it difficult to look past the movie's use of rubber suits and cardboard buildings.

The year 2014’s Godzilla is, at the very least, believable.

We possibly could have done with a bit more of Brian Cranston and a bit less of everybody else.

8 Hurt: Jabba the Hutt - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo, A New Hope

While not quite as egregious as the aforementioned atrocity on display in the special edition of Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt’s appearance in A New Hope is still pretty horrific for all the wrong reasons.

The scene was originally shot alongside the rest of the 1977 scenes, but it was scrapped and only re-introduced when CGI technology eliminated the need for a giant Jabba the Hutt puppet.

Jabba was actually human in the original scene, but was given a CGI overhaul to keep up with Star Wars canon.

Unfortunately, the giant slug monster looks wholly unrealistic standing next to Harrison Ford, and it takes away from the movie's famous Cantina scene.

At least Jabba didn't also shoot first — we have no idea what that might have looked like, but it surely wouldn't have been pretty.

7 Saved: Beast - Beauty and the Beast (2017 Remake)

Beauty and the Beast Live Action 2017

Beauty and the Beast is a beloved Disney animated classic that tells the tale of an unlikely romance while conveying the notion that beauty is much more than skin deep.

A heartfelt triumph in every regard, fans were dubious about the 2017 live action remake starring Emma Watson. Had the CG in this movie been even slightly off, the movie would have suffered greatly.

That, fortunately, wasn’t the case, and the Beast is nearly every bit as believable as Watson herself.

While not a movie for everyone — as few romance-centric flicks are — this modern, live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast really is something to behold.

While they were at it, they could have outfitted Gaston with a set of CG biceps to keep him more in line with his animated counterpart.

6 Hurt: Werewolves - Twilight Saga

Now that the hype surrounding The Twilight Saga had long since faded, it may be appropriate to point out that none of these movies were all that great.

They may have been entertaining during the height of the teen vampire romance craze, but they haven’t aged well and are almost certainly doomed to be forgotten to the annals of pop culture history.

Though the cardboard acting didn’t do the series any favors, the real let-down was the CG weverwolves, which looked anything but believable.

The last movie's final battle scene is perhaps most at fault, and it was tough to watch a group of background actors awkwardly pretend to be mauled by a pack of werewolves.

Wolves don't sparkle, though, so that is one point in their favor at least.

5 Saved: Gollum - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

As previously mentioned, Peter Jackson’s follow-up to his Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t quite as powerful as its predecessor and left some fans longing for the glory days of Christopher Lee and Elijah Wood.

However, one saving grace was the admittedly fan-serving inclusion of Gollum, that creepy little ring-obsessed cretin from the original series.

As another creation of CGI master Andy Serkis, Gollum and his riddles were easily the highlight of the recent trilogy’s first outing.

However, the movie instead opted to place an emphasis on orcs instead.

Plenty of audience members must have hurt their throats doing Gollum impressions while leaving the theater.

4 Hurt: The Scorpion King - The Mummy Returns

The Mummy Returns Terrible Special Effects

The year 2001’s The Mummy Returns would have been a decent action flick had it not been plagued with a series of downright awful special effects.

While the originals were B-reel horror greats, this new adaptation serves as little more than a mockery of the classic Boris Karloff movies.

The absolute worst offender — and perhaps one of the worst instance of computer generated imagery of all time — is the appearance of the titular Scorpion King.

Half scorpion, half Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sculpted from wax and plastic, the fight scene with this thing is nothing short of hilariously terrible.

It may have been ambitious for its time, but conceptual possibilities don’t always work out.

The Rock stars in so many schlocky actions flicks these days that this has essentially faded to little more than career white noise by now.

3 Saved: Dobby - Harry Potter Series

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise is perhaps one of the most triumphant, detailed, and well-executed works of fiction we are liable to get in the next couple of decades.

Never before has a story intended for children gone on two spend upwards of eight feature movies, video games, plays, and even entire amusement parks.

That said, the film series may have been damaged early on had Dobby’s CG stand-in been underwhelming in The Chamber of Secrets.

Fortunately, the house elf was a series highlight, and his unfortunate demise in the seventh movie was nothing short of heartbreaking despite his incorporeal, all-CG role.

No, we're not crying... we just spilled something on our face.

2 Hurt: Jar Jar Binks - Star Wars Prequel Trilogy

Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars The Phantom Menace

Hardly anyone will be willing to defend George Lucas’ extreme-overuse of digital effects in his oft-hated Star Wars prequel trilogy.

An incredible amount of these three movies felt overly-fake and almost cartoony, which stood in gross contrast to the very real, practical effect-laden original trilogy.

The crown jewel of computer animated misery, however, has unquestionably been awarded to the hapless, annoying Gungan Jar Jar Binks.

Stupid, grating, and overall terrible, Jar Jar’s inclusion in the movie was a total mistake, and his caricatured movements only made the already off putting Phantom Menace even harder to take seriously.

Subsequent movies have downplayed his role as much as possible, and he has yet to even be mentioned in the newer movies, which is all for the better as far as most fans are concerned.

1 Saved: Yoda - Star Wars Prequel Trilogy

Star Wars Yoda CGI Frank OZ

Jar Jar Binks may have been nothing short of a digital abomination, but he was counteracted nicely by Jedi Master Yoda.

Though he appeared in puppet form in Phantom Menace, he was introduced as a fully-CGI character beginning with Attack of the Clones.

Many hardcore Star Wars fans weren’t pleased about this change at the time, but Yoda’s battle with Count Dooku in Clones and subsequent duel with Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith made this shift all the more palatable.

He may not have seemed quite the same, but getting to see Yoda and the Emperor duke it out was a treat few fans of the franchise saw coming.

He was actually returned to puppet form for his cameo in The Last Jedi, which seems to have been a bit of fan service to appease practical-effect hungry original trilogy fans.


What do you think? Are there any other CGI characters that hurt or saved their movies? Sound off in the comment section!

More in Lists