Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has become commonplace in today’s movies, from action and superhero films to sci-fi and fantasy epics. James Cameron’s Avatar was revolutionary for its use of CGI throughout the movie, executed most notably through motion capture, but not everyone is Cameron.
CGI is incredibly difficult and expensive to get right, so it’s not surprising that there are so many movies with poor CGI. Big action scenes and de-aging effects remain the most difficult to pull off. Experts can find flaws in most CGI, but the absolute worst movies have CGI mistakes that even a casual viewer can spot.
Updated by Hannah Grimes on October 31, 2023: CGI is commonly used in movies, but it’s not often executed well, leading to many cases where its CGI is laughably bad or detracts from the experience. We’ve added a few more films that are hindered by their poor use of CGI.
25 Justice League’s Reshot CGI Is Laughable
Release Date: November 17, 2017
The theatrical Justice League featured a recut story from director Joss Whedon after Zack Snyder left the project. The movie included a new, lighter tone that reimagined the characters almost from the ground up. Whedon also cut pivotal Cyborg scenes from Justice League that altered the story. Justice League featured quite a few reshot scenes that included some laughably bad CGI.
While the battle scenes were questionable at times, there were a couple of glaring issues that disappointed even staunch Justice League fans. Superman’s race against The Flash in the final moments was almost too blurry to be visible. The worst offender by far was the attempted removal of Henry Cavill’s mustache in the reshot scenes. The result was a horrifying visage that took viewers straight out of the action.
24 CGI Ruins Skyscraper’s Otherwise Interesting Stunts
Release Date: July 13, 2018
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is no stranger to over-the-top, silly action movies and 2018’s Skyscraper fits that bill perfectly. Audiences have expressed their disdain for the amount of CGI in the movie. Unfortunately, the CGI made otherwise interesting stunts look like they were straight out of a video game.
From climbing up steel girders to abseiling on the outside of the building, Skyscraper might as well be animated. Johnson looked out of place on the obvious green-screen background, making Skyscraper just another forgettable CG-heavy movie that might be fine for a lazy afternoon.
23 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Over Relies on CGI
Release Date: May 22, 2008
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
In 1957, Indiana Jones becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.
- Release Date
- May 22, 2008
- Steven Spielberg
- Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt
- 122 minutes
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure
2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a poor film for many reasons, but it is perhaps most infamous for its use of CGI. The movie was a shock to many fans who thought the franchise had ended back in 1989 with The Last Crusade. In the film, Jones and his companions (including his lover and son) must fight their way through Soviet agents hoping to acquire the titular alien relic.
Not only is the notion of aliens in Indiana Jones ridiculous, but Kingdom of the Crystal Skull relies on heavy CGI. Unfortunately, the use of CGI contributed almost nothing to the movie’s plot. From a nuclear blast (which Jones survives by hiding in a fridge) to Indy’s son swinging through the jungle like Tarzan, the CGI just wasn’t up to the fandom’s standards.
22 Black Adam’s CGI Body Double Is Jarring
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Black Adam stars Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam, AKA Black Adam, a man from Kahndaq imprisoned for five-thousand years, who awakens to a new world with his godly powers gained right before imprisonment. Unfortunately, black Adam’s rage is untethered, and his form of justice is considered too brutal by the modern Justice Society of America, prompting them to assemble to assuage his anger and convince him to see the world with a more optimistic point of view. The reincarnation of his imprisoner leading the JSA makes things complicated and leaves Adam unable to go along with their vision. Despite disagreeing with their points of view, Adam will have to partner with the JSA to stop a threat that exceeds his own. Black Adam seeks to take a darker look at Superheroes, in line with the D.C.s approach. The film is not directly connected to the D.C. Cinematic Universe and will premiere in theaters on October 21 2022.
- Release Date
- October 21, 2022
- Jaume Collet-Serra
- Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Viola Davis, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell
- 125 minutes
- Main Genre
- Action, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
- Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Black Adam follows the titular character as he is freed after 5,000 years and unleashed on the modern world. Dwayne Johnson brings his own brand of brutal justice to the world and faces off with the Justice Society of America. Unfortunately, Black Adam also featured some of the worst CGI of 2022.
The flashback is especially bad. Johnson’s head is superimposed onto a body double, and it is jarring. He is a mountain of a man, and it is clearly disproportionate to the body double. The point was to show Black Adam when he was still a mortal, but it was ultimately distracting for the film.
21 King Kong’s CGI Environments Feel Cheap
Release Date: December 14, 2005
Peter Jackson’s 2005 reboot of King Kong featured wonderful writing and was a great step for motion capture. Unfortunately, CGI still came off unrealistic and often brought audiences out of the film’s atmosphere. The motion capture, performed by industry veteran Andy Serkis, provided Kong with a realistic set of movements.
However, the way Kong interacted with his environment was jarring. Audiences could clearly distinguish between practical effects and CGI. The CGI environments such as the jungle and the city failed to impress. A lot of King Kong‘s environments look like something out of a cheap video game rather than a Hollywood blockbuster.
20 Cats’ CGI Human-Cat Hybrids Are Nightmarish
Release Date: December 20, 2019
2019’s Cats was poorly received by both audiences and critics, becoming notorious for its extremely uncanny and offputting visuals. The live-action adaptation of the hit Broadway show lost quite a bit of credibility by creating the worst CGI human/cat hybrids. Characters were small in comparison to their surroundings, meaning that the scaling was also off for the digital environments the artists created.
Cats was essentially an unfinished movie rushed into theaters. This was demonstrated by the various elements of the characters, including human hands instead of paws. Viewers were quick to point out the poor lighting in many scenes, which makes the characters seem all the more unrealistic and bizarre.
19 Hulk’s Power Isn’t Properly Portrayed With Bad CGI
Release Date: June 17, 2003
Ang Lee directed the first live-action theatrical version of Marvel’s powerhouse in 2003’s Hulk. Critics of She-Hulk‘s CGI would have had quite a few problems with Hulk‘s use of CGI to bring the character to life on the big screen. While Bruce’s transformation was handled well, the actual Hulk model was flawed and didn’t move properly.
Another issue fans had with 2003’s Hulk was the overuse of CGI to create new enemies like the Hulk Dogs. The gamma-infused threats were meant to be menacing but instead looked cartoonish. The Hulk may be one of the strongest movie superheroes, but his power was diminished due to bad CGI.
18 CGI Catwoman Doing Stunts Doesn’t Land
Release Date: July 19, 2004
2004’s Catwoman featured a strange selection of hyper-stylized CGI. Much of it takes place during action or acrobatic sequences, with the director favoring a CGI model of Catwoman doing stunts as opposed to a human stunt person. This was a poor decision, and much of the acrobatic CGI makes the character look stretchy.
Catwoman’s bad CGI is made worse by the filmmakers’ decision to make Catwoman leap dozens of feet into the air to begin walking like a seductive temptress on the prowl. It’s common knowledge that most of the movie’s budget went to paying the stars instead of to the VFX department, and it shows on the screen.
17 The Matrix Reloaded’s CGI Hordes Feel Like an Outdated Video Game
Release Date: May 15, 2003
The second installment in The Matrix trilogy is an entertaining movie that featured great concepts, but Reloaded was far too ambitious for its time. Audiences can forgive larger-than-life action sequences and stunts due to the movie’s simulated reality, but there was one scene that was just too awful for fans to overlook.
Neo’s fight against hundreds of Agent Smith clones wasn’t even up to the standards of a PlayStation 2 game. Neo’s character model was inhuman, and it was obvious where the green screen started and ended. While it’s a very enjoyable scene that has been mimicked in various media, it’s incredibly hard to see past Matrix Reloaded‘s doughy CGI characters.
16 Air Force One’s Ending CGI Takes Viewers Out of the Experience
Release Date: July 25, 1997
Air Force One stars Harrison Ford as President James Marshall whose plane, Air Force One, is attacked by terrorists. What they do not know is that the President himself is a war veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, and he fights back to retake the plane.
Air Force One is a solid thriller and among Ford’s best work, but the CGI near the end is disastrous. When the plane crashes into the ocean, it looks like an un-rendered mess. It appears as though the visual effects team either cut some corners or simply ran out of time, as it takes the viewer out of what is otherwise a stellar film.
15 CGI Suits and Motion Blur Detract From Black Panther
Release Date: February 16, 2018
T’Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country’s past.
- Release Date
- February 16, 2018
- Ryan Coogler
- Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira
- 134 minutes
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero, Fantasy
Black Panther was an excellent film that performed well at the box office due to its great characters and innovative worldbuilding, but like many modern Marvel movies, it suffered from an over-reliance on CGI as opposed to practical effects. Black Panther featured ambitious action sequences, ranging from one-on-one fights to larger battle sequences.
The fact that T’Challa’s suit was entirely CGI was a part of the issue. Like Catwoman, Black Panther’s CGI movement crossed over into uncanny territory. This was made worse by the fact that the editors decided to add motion blur to hide the numerous CGI mistakes.
14 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s Costly CGI Doesn’t Pay Off
Release Date: December 14, 2012
Lord of the Rings fans eagerly awaited the day The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released but were quickly met with disappointment due to its over-reliance on CGI. This isn’t always a bad thing, but not when it’s low-quality overall and takes fans out of the immersive world they’d come to love.
Both the environments and the characters in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey heavily use CGI, leading to an extremely cheap feel. This is made even more heartbreaking when taking into account the budget of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, costing three times more to make than Lord of the Rings but being substantially worse quality-wise.
13 Green Lantern’s All-CGI Suit Is Unnatural
Release Date: June 17, 2011
Green Lantern featured another superhero with an entirely CGI suit. The vividness of the green suit and the way it interacted with Ryan Reynolds’ skin was so unnatural it almost looked as if he had been spray-painted with goo. Moreover, his mask covered his eyes, which then also had to be animated like a video game character rather than an actor in a movie.
Reynolds’ CGI body proportions are so off — tiny waist, skinny arms, big shoulders — that he looked more like a cartoon than a human. Many of the secondary characters were entirely made of CGI, as were the green constructs created by their power rings. Even the villainous Parallax failed to impress fans due to his uninspired and poorly conceived CGI appearance.
12 Sharknado’s Unrealistic and Poor CGI Effects Stand Out
Sharknado, Release Date: July 11, 2013
Sharknado‘s story is essentially non-existent, the action is barely palatable, and the acting is awful. But the worst thing about the movie by far is the CGI, which includes a number of flying great white sharks. There is nothing good about the CGI, not only because it is incredibly unrealistic but also because the shark is biologically incorrect.
The coloring is off throughout the film, which makes anything CGI immediately recognizable. Sharknado is a product of its time, but there is no excuse for the number of mistakes made in this movie. From glue-like blood simulations to the iffy modeling of astronauts, Sharknado is an abomination of CGI that somehow spawned a franchise with equally poor CGI.
11 The Lawnmower Man’s CGI Removes Any Horror Elements
Release Date: March 6, 1992
Directed by Brett Leonard, 1992’s The Lawnmower Man was one of the first movies that really failed at using CGI. The Lawnmower Man was a loose adaptation of the eponymous short story by Stephen King. This short story was never one of Stephen King’s scariest, and the movie adaptation moved even further away from the original.
The plot followed a disabled gardener named Jobe Smith as he became the test subject for a doctor’s experiment with psychoactive drugs and virtual reality. The Lawnmower Man attempted to create an entirely virtual world well before the technology existed to properly do so. The potential drama and horror were completely removed from the film due to the poor examples of early CGI.
10 The Mummy Returns’ Scorpion King Is Failed By Bad CGI
Release Date: May 4, 2001
The Mummy Returns was the 2001 sequel to the fan-favorite reboot of The Mummy. Dwayne Johnson’s Scorpion King has earned a place as one of the worst CGI creations in cinematic history. As Johnson was still a professional wrestler, he wasn’t able to provide enough reference footage for digital artists, who then had to fill in the blanks for the final showdown.
The Scorpion King was a half-man, half-scorpion monster with hideous scarring and pincers for hands. While this sounded like a great concept, the artists couldn’t quite realize it. The lighting was awful, the movement was jittery and rigid, and the facial rigging was so poorly done it might as well have been sculpted out of clay. The Mummy Returns is a product of its time that will continue to haunt audiences.
9 Die Another Day Is Called an Exercise in Bad CGI
Release Date: November 20, 2002
The first James Bond movie, titled Dr. No, existed long before the concept of CGI was even heard of, but more recent entries in the 007 canon have relied heavily on computer-generated sequences. Although the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus claims that “Die Another Day is lavishly crafted,” this doesn’t excuse all the mediocre CGI present in the film.
In fact, critic James Berardinelli called Die Another Day “an exercise in loud explosions and excruciatingly bad special effects.” Fans have compared this movie to a 2002 video game, which was admittedly not an era known for incredible graphics.
8 A Sound of Thunder’s Lackluster CGI Removes Any Suspense
Release Date: September 2, 2005
A Sound of Thunder was a complete box-office flop, only recouping one-eighth of its original budget. The actors did most of their work using a green screen, which would then be almost entirely replaced with CGI backgrounds and creatures.
The original story for A Sound of Thunder was highly received, but its lackluster CGI takes away any suspenseful or horrific elements it might have had. It’s a shame, too, because its premise of a disrupted timestream causing the past to flow into the present is interesting but let down by its execution.
7 Jurassic World Dominion’s Bad CGI Makes It Feel Dated
Release Date: June 10, 2022
Jurassic World Dominion is the third film in the Jurassic World franchise and the sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise overall.
- Release Date
- June 10, 2022
- Colin Trevorrow
- Chris Pratt2, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, BD Wong
- 146 minutes
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure
- Universal Pictures
The Jurassic Park franchise has honestly seen better days. The first movie was widely hailed as a masterpiece, and even won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Jurassic World Dominion, on the other hand, is a below-average attempt to capture the essence of Steven Spielberg’s creation.
Jurassic World might work for viewers looking for popcorn thrillers, but this movie’s CGI leaves a lot to be desired. Fans have complained about how unrealistic the dinosaurs looked, especially when paired with snow-themed backgrounds. Some of the rendering, lighting, and texture effects in Jurassic World Dominion also look weirdly dated, almost as if the film was made twenty years ago.
6 The Polar Express’ CGI Characters Have an Uncanny Valley Feel
Release Date: November 10, 2004
Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express is completely computer-animated, so it stands to reason that there would be at least a few examples of terrible CGI in the movie — especially considering its 2004 release date. The Polar Express contains several remarkable visual effects, but the human characters look more like creepy marionettes than actual people.
One might argue that cartoon characters aren’t supposed to look human, but those in The Polar Express fall “the uncanny valley.” To elaborate, characters have eyes that appear empty and soulless, which is an absolute no-no for any movie that’s supposed to be about Christmas.
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