We are so used to the digital special effects which define action or sci-fi movies that we forget that there are still directors who make masterpieces without a CGI in sight!
Their movies are just as impressive, but what's really interesting is the work that goes into these "real" scenes. So how do directors get it right, without resorting to the famous "green screen"?
1. Tom Cruise really did climb the biggest tower in the world for Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise is known to be a perfectionist, but it still takes more than a lot of courage to do a stunt when you're at the top of the world's tallest skyscraper - almost 3,000ft above the ground! Personally, we would have prefereed to shoot that scene in a studio, but this A-lister prefers his audience to experience some real thrills.
Unfortunaely, as Gregg Smrz, the movie's stunt manager, says, "people think it's done with special effects, when it's not!"
2. The Casino Royale car crash set a new record.
Daniel Craig is no stranger to new records when it comes to his role as James Bond. Since he was cast in the 2000s, the movies' stunts just get better and better. The biggest explosion in a movie was in the latest Bond movie, but it all got off to a bang in Casino Royale, when stuntman Adam Kirley let off 7 tonnes of explosives in one incredible scene. The latest one is has been made official with its inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records .
3 . Tobey Maguire's "tray scene" in Spider Man required 156 takes.
We may not think of special effects when it comes to shooting a cafeteria scene, but Spider Man breaks the mould! Maguire is sitting at a table when the girl of his dreams walks by, slips and sends his tray into the air. Spider Man manages to catch up with the girl as well as save his tray and lunch!
No special effects were used - just a lot of practice and some glue to keep the tray on the actor's hand. It did, however require 156 takes for the superhero to provide with the final scene!
4. Inception's "Parisian cafe scene": technically advanced, but not a CGI scene
Director Christopher Nolan prefers old-fashioned techniques wherever possible. And Inception is the proof.
The movie contains a scene that takes place on the terrace of a Parisian café, in which a series of slow motion explosions occur. Instead of using a green screen, he opted for air guns and special cameras to shoot at 1,500 frames per second. A true cinematic artist!
5. The Jurassic Park dinosaurs were real.
OK, not living, but certainly not CGI. Despite being shot many years ago, Jurassic Park still serves as an exemplary special effects movie. The dinosaurs were animatronics or actors in costumes, all of whom performed under the genius eye of Stan Winston, who won an Oscar for his special effects.
6. Not a trace of CGI in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
In this movie, Jim Carrey wants to erase all memories of his ex-girlfriend, before realizing that he still loves her. This required a cracking performance for the actor, who is famous for enjoying slightly more crazy scenes! The director decided to use simple special effects to differentiate from what really happened vs Joel's memories. In one scene he even asked Carrey to run from one set to another to play both roles at the same time!
7. The "truck flip" scene in The Dark Knight really took place
Another sensational CGI-free Christopher Nolan movie, where the director used a set with miniature vehicles. He used a small Batmobile to shoot the scene where it crashes into a garbage truck, and a full-sized truck for the "flip" scene - a scene that was shot on a street in Chicago. A stuntman drove a truck that was mounted on a kind of piston capable of catapulting it upwards so that it would flip just like a pancake. And guess what? This scene only took one rehearsal and one take!
8. The Lord of the Rings’ orcs were actors
In The Hobbit Peter Jackson went all out for CGI thinking it would please the audience, but he went down a simpler route for Lord of the Rings. Obviously this blockbuster was littered with digital effects, but the orcs and other creatures were actors in incredible make-up.
9. The scene where the arc reactor is removed from Iron Man does not use CGI
Of course with Iron Man and Marvel Studios in general, we know that we'll see a lot of CGI, but one of the most dramatic scenes in a Marvel movie uses only accessories and make-up. When Pepper Pots removes the arc reactor from the chest of Tony Stark, they are in a real lab and Tony's chest is a prop - something later confirmed by behind-the-scenes footage.