Least favorite (which could also be called worst looking) for me is from Independence Day. The aliens unleash their firepower and destroy things. That was kind of neat. Will Smith’s SO was in a tunnel trying to escape, decides that the best thing to do is go underground so she gets out of the car and hits a stairwell.
The effects move from insipid to outright pathetic when they show the golden retriever jumping in the doorwar just ahead of the no at all realistic fire behind him. Spend tens of millions on a movie, yet leave in a shot that makes it look like a dog is jumping in front of a big screen TV with poor picture quality.
Definitely the Harryhausen skeletons, as ChalkPit says.
Least favourite? That damn Matrix slow-mo effect. It was well-used in that film. It was well-used in a couple of nature documentaries that preceded it. It’s now just plain tired; by all means use it, but it’s just not that impressive now.
Up to this point, I thought you were going to point out the part of that movie that makes me laugh every time. When the aliens are attacking Fort Toro (or whatever it is), they’re going nuts with their laser blaster thingies and, if you pay close attention, failing to hit anything of consequence.
Are we talking floor effects or just visual effects?
One of the biggest surprises for me was finding out that the majority of the liquid metal bullet “splats” in T2 were done with live stage effects. It just goes to show you nobody likes to spend any more money than they have to.
For visuals, you can give me the parade of matte paintings in Gone With the Wind. There are probably 30 matte painting shots in that movie which I never knew were there till I saw a special about it. Go figure…
This is probably more in the realm of film processing or something, and not “special effects”, but Woody Allen’s Zelig does an amazing job of recreating old film footage. The only blindingly bad one is the one where Zelig is waiting on deck when Babe Ruth is taking batting practice.
All the other film shot, was sped up just right, and the editor or cinematographer (I forget who) took the negatives and thrashed them, stepping on them, crumpling them, to give them the aged look.
And the photos where Zelig turns up in odd places are perfect.
Best: The face melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark. At the time, I thought that was simply incredible.
Worst: Anaconda. That stupid Animatronic snake was the most pathetic thing I had ever seen, until they switched to using CGI for the snake, which was even more pathetic. The sea serpent / snake thingy that ate people in the original King Kong was more frightening.
This is an example of alien movies in general. Technology to cross between galaxies, can’t hit the broad-side of a barn.
Favorites: The aformentioned Jason skeletons, almost anything in LOTR, the wonder of the early CGI in The Last Starfighter, the choppy-but-still-full-speed camera effects from the opening scenes of Gladiator. I love the “There’s always a bigger fish” sequence from Phantom Menace, too. The visuals in AI were wonderful despite the “Blue Fairy” ending.
Least favorites: all the circular explosions like the reworked Star Wars Death Star. Why must everthing blow up with with a ring, these days? Robocop II was some amazingly bad stuff - show a scene with Robo standing there, cut away, then cut back to him hanging from wires to fly out of the room (they couldn’t figure how to make him change positions - and you can clearly see the wires). Reused film is annoying - remember the same scenes again and again in Battlestar Galactica? First the Cylon blows up on the left, then we flip the film and it blows up on the right. That film must be public domain because it shows up in B-Grade movies all the time.
Recent fave: Bilbo lunging for the ring in FotR. I nearly peed my pants. I nearly peed my pants again when I saw it on DVD.
Recent unfave: Superhero types leaping, springing, swinging, etc., as seen in X-Men, Spiderman, Daredevil, and, most heinously, Birds of Prey. They just can’t do it right yet. It always screams “Hello, I’m not a person. I’m CGI!” and totally blows my suspension of disbelief.
All-time fave: the animated skeletons in Army of Darkness. Excellent, excellent work. Brilliant homage to Harryhausen, IMHO.
All-time unfave: All though George gets mad props 99.9% of the FX in the original Trilogy, for some reason the scene where Ben Kenobi lops off the werewolf-thing’s arm in the cantina never sold me. Something about that bit just doesn’t quite ring true. I’m sure I can think of examples that are far worse in movies that are for worse, but this sticks out in my mind, probably because the rest of it is so well done.
I’m sorry, but I loved this effect in Jet Li’s The One - the way one character fights as everything else is going in slo-mo around him is superb.
The worst is (ahem) the death of a ‘main character’ in The Deep Blue Sea, you’ll know who I mean if you’ve seen it.
Most favorite would have to be the surreal effects in the final sequence of a little known 80’s movie called Society. The effects were down by a Japanese guy called Screaming Mad George on a limited budget (no CGI) and truly have to be seen to be believed. The entire sequence lasts about 1/2 an hour and is absolutely brilliant (and very, very warped). If you can find it in a video store on DVD, make sure you rent the unrated version as the ‘R’ version has a bunch of this sequence cut out.
Worst would be the CGI in Die Another Day. Crappy movie to begin with made much worse with probably the weakest CGI I’ve ever seen on a big budget movie.