10 of the best CGI characters of all-time

By 06.27.11  •  2 Comments

JarJar Binks may have left an indelible bad taste in the mouths of many when it comes to the topic of CGI characters in movies. However, the truth is there have been plenty of great computer-animated characters to grace the big screen over the years. Below are 10 of the best and most important CGI characters of all time.

Photo credit: YouTube/Disney/Pixar

10 T-1000 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day

While the T-1000 was not a completely computer-generated character, the special effects used to enhance the character are easily the most memorable part of Robert Patrick’s performance. Who can forget the liquidification of his entire body, or the bullet hole ripping through his metallic flesh?

9 Optimus Prime – Transformers

Really, the visual effects of the Autobots are the only reason worth seeing the Transformers films. While the quality of the plot and on-stage performances of the real-life actors may be put into question, there’s no doubt that the shape-shifting Robots in Disguise were pretty freaking bad ass. At the top of the heap, of course, is Mr. Optimus Prime himself.

8 Casper – Casper the Friendly Ghost

Yeah, you may laugh off the Casper film, but the truth of the matter is Casper was the first lead character in a movie to be completely CGI. And unlike other early CGI characters in live-action films, the animators easily integrated him without making him seem out of place. Add in the subtle realism and simplicity of the classic Casper persona, and this is definitely an important moment in CGI history.

7 Neytiri – Avatar

Avatar was the first film to use fully computer-generated 3D graphics to create a photo-realistic world. Whether or not you think the plot is a rip off of FernGully, the realistic portrayal of Neytiri and the rest of the Na’vi is reason enough to see this film.

6 Davy Jones – Pirates of the Caribbean

Thanks to the evolution of computer technology, you’d never know that Bill Nighy is the man behind the tentacles. As one of the more recent examples of the amazing abilities of motion capture, Davy Jones’ claw hand and hideous face look every bit as real as the dreadlocks on Captain Jack Sparrow’s head. Of course, the fact that the character himself boasts all the characteristics of a classic Disney villain, and you’ve got yourself a near-perfect CGI character.


It’s amazing how much emotion the Pixar animators are capable of pulling out of this sad bucket of bolts. While any number of Pixar characters could make this list, WALL-E is among the most loveable and well-rounded of them all. Add in the fact that WALL-E has absolutely zero dialogue, and this is truly a triumph of computer character creation.

4 Yoda – Star Wars Episode II and III

Watching the wise and elderly Yoda flip and zip around the room with lightsaber in hand as he kicks Count Dooku’s ass is perhaps the greatest highlight of Star Wars Episode II. While George Lucas previously made do with puppet technology to grant Yoda his realism, the advancements in technology since the original trilogy freed up the character to be much more agile and awesome.

3 The Toy Story Cast

Pixar has made a name for itself by creating incredibly stunning CG movies. This all started in 1995, when the company released their first film – Toy Story. This was the first film ever released that was created completely from CGI. Despite the lack of a precedent, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the characters hit a home run right out of the gate. The film is still considered one of the best animated films of all time.

2 T-Rex – Jurassic Park

Way back in 1993, the special effects of Jurassic Park were heralded as a breakthrough in cinema. As the first film to integrate photorealistic CG characters, you’d be hard-pressed to make a more realistic-looking dino with today’s technology. While the entire cast of dino characters was amazing, that hulking, scary-as-hell Tyrannosaurus Rex earns top marks with us here at Guyism.

1 Gollum – Lord of the Rings

Following the failure of JarJar Binks, Gollum single-handedly proved that CGI characters could believably be inserted into live-action films. To create the character Peter Jackson hired then-unknown Andy Serkis for motion capture purposes on set. Then, the visage of Gollum was digitally rendered in post-production. Serkis’ performance was so good, and the animation so great, that the character almost received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

TAGSArbitrary RankingsAvatarfeaturedJurassic ParkListsLord of the RingsMoviesPirates of the CaribbeanStar WarsTerminator 2Toy StoryTransformers

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