Home STREAMING AND TV GUIDE 12 Movies That Overused CGI (And Suffered for It)

12 Movies That Overused CGI (And Suffered for It)

CGI can either be the sole source of a movie’s imagery or seamlessly integrated into live-action footage. This technique involves rendering special effects using a computer instead of physical means. It allows for the creation of characters that appear both completely real and ordinary or completely surreal, and it can be used to manipulate or enhance existing imagery to build believable environments.

Today, most contemporary films utilize CGI across various genres, including historical, science fiction, and big-budget productions. However, many movies are trending towards an overreliance on CGI, where the effects take priority over the story. When CGI is used excessively, there is a high likelihood of errors that can diminish the quality of scenes meant to drive the plot. Here are ten examples of movies with CGI overload.

Updated on July 31st, 2023 by Evan Lewis: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.

12 Transformers series (2007-2023)

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Paramount Pictures

Transformers is a cinema mainstay and almost never fails to rake in millions; no one will ever deny that. Not even the underperformance of Rise of the Beasts (2023) can change that. With that being said, almost nobody going to see a Transformers film expects anything less than an overwhelming amount of computer-generated visuals.

It is one of the main criticism of the series as a whole and is a creative decision Michael Bay (director of most installments) has doubled down on. It has become a meme in itself; Michael Bay has almost become synonymous with “kaboom”, thanks to his obsession with explosions and convoluted action scenes. There is a loyal, dedicated audience in love with this style clearly, so it probably will not be changing anytime soon.

11 The Flash (2023)

Christopher Reeve cameo in The Flash
Warner Bros. Pictures

Using CGI for a movie about superheroes with nature-defying abilities sort of comes with the territory. So, that goes to say no one expected The Flash to be making use of practicality to showcase the powers of its characters. There comes a point where it is too much, however, even for a Flash film. One aspect where this polarizing romp suffered was the CGI used to put Ezra Miller’s face over the body double while in the Flash suit. Something is off — as if his head is a couple too sizes big for his proportions, and it made for some hilarious screenshots over opening weekend.

The most egregious misstep would have to be the use of computer generation to forge cameos, though. Several of the actors used in the penultimate scene (which detracts from one of the film’s most emotional story beats) were not even there in the studio to actually take part in the shooting. Some physically could not, seeing as they are no longer with us and passed away. Not only did this look straight-from-a-video-game ugly, but it was also in horrific taste.

10 Skyscraper (2018)

Skyscraper Trailer #2 Has Some Serious Die Hard Vibes

Skyscraper is an American action thriller film directed and written by Rawson Marshall Thurber, featuring Dwayne Johnson in the lead role. Despite appearing in over-the-top action films, Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” remains a popular and successful action star. In the movie, Johnson portrays Will Sawyer, a one-legged family man interviewing for a security position at the world’s tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. He becomes the prime suspect in a fire that breaks out in the building and must clear his name while saving his family.

Despite its star power, the film received mixed reviews and a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics and viewers alike expressed disappointment in the excessive use of CGI, making everything appear synthetic and lacking authenticity. The stunt scenes seemed straight out of a video game, with actors appearing pasted onto the screen. Even Johnson looked out of place on the apparent green-screen background, making the film another forgettable CGI-heavy movie.

9 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Paramount Pictures

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series, written by David Koepp and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his companions as they navigate through Soviet KGB agents searching for a telepathic crystal skull and its secret. Despite the high expectations, the film was considered a disappointment, particularly due to its excessive use of CGI.

Before production, Spielberg stated that they would use minimal CGI effects to maintain consistency with the previous films in the series. However, during filming, the number of CGI shots increased to around 450. The use of CGI failed to add value to the film’s plot, with scenes such as a nuclear blast and Jones’s son swinging through the jungle like Tarzan looking artificial. Additionally, the use of CGI to create a virtual non-deforested jungle and the jungle action sequence was more practical and safer but still failed to meet the audience’s expectations.

8 Green Lantern (2011)

Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern
Warner Bros. Pictures

Green Lantern is a superhero film adapted from the DC Comics character of the same name. In the movie, Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, is selected by a dying alien named Abin Sur to become the new guardian of the solar system. Abin Sur gives him a ring that grants him supernatural powers and the responsibility of defeating the evil Parallax, who seeks to destroy the universe. Upon its release in 2011, Green Lantern was met with negative reviews, primarily due to its excessive use of CGI, unimpressive special effects, and inadequate script and tone.

Critics noted that the film relied too heavily on CGI, including the superhero’s suit, which was entirely computer-generated. The green color and unnatural appearance of the suit on Reynolds’ skin failed to impress viewers. The same was true for the CGI mask that covered Reynolds’ eyes, which made him resemble a video game character rather than a movie character. Most of the scenes set on the Lantern’s planet, and many of the secondary characters including the villain Parallax, were created using CGI. Unfortunately, the heavy CGI was poorly executed and didn’t impress fans.

RELATED: Why Practical Effects May Be Better Than CGI

7 Catwoman (2004)

Halle Berry as Catwoman in a scene from Catwoman
Warner Bros. Pictures

Catwoman is a poorly received American superhero film directed by Pitof and loosely based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film revolves around Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), a timid designer who uncovers a workplace conspiracy only to be murdered. She is resurrected by cats, granting her extraordinary powers, and becomes a vigilante.

Catwoman received numerous nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards, including the Worst Picture category, due to its heavy and poorly executed CGI. Being the directorial debut of Pitof, a French CGI and FX specialist, the film featured excessive, stylized CGI elements, such as fake CGI cities, smog, cats, and the titular character. According to viewers, the movie felt like a series of FX scenes and product placements rather than a coherent film.

6 King Kong (2005)

Naomi Watts held by King Kong
Universal Pictures

King Kong is a film directed, co-written, and produced by Peter Jackson that blends adventure and monster genres. The story follows Carl Denham, an ambitious filmmaker played by Jack Black, and his crew as they venture to the mysterious Skull Island and encounter the giant ape King Kong (Andy Serkis). They capture King Kong and bring him to New York, but the situation turns chaotic when the ape breaks free in the city. The film received mostly positive reviews for its well-crafted writing and effects, but it was criticized for its excessive use of CGI.

Despite the two hours of motion capture makeup Andy Serkis underwent daily to bring realism to King Kong’s movements, his interaction with his surroundings was still unrealistic, making it apparent where practical effects ended and CGI began. Furthermore, the CGI environments in the city and jungle failed to leave a lasting impression on audiences. They appeared unnatural, almost like a video game rather than a big-budget movie.

5 Justice League (2017)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Justice League is an American superhero film based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name and directed by Zack Snyder. The film follows the efforts of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as they recruit and assemble the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to defeat Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his Parademons. Despite featuring real actors, the film has been criticized for its heavy use of CGI, deemed unrealistic and disruptive to the film’s atmosphere.

Upon its theatrical release, Justice League received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action sequences and performances but criticized its lackluster CGI, underdeveloped villains, pacing, and thin plot. The movie underwent extensive reshoots after Joss Whedon took over production following Zack Snyder’s departure. Still, these reshoots were criticized for their poor CGI, including the CGI-heavy race between Superman and the Flash and the less-than-perfect change in Steppenwolf’s design.

4 Hulk (2003)

Eric Bana as Hulk 2003
Universal Pictures

Hulk is an American superhero film directed by Ang Lee, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The film follows the story of Bruce Banner, played by Eric Bana, who transforms into the giant, green monster known as the Hulk in response to conflict after exposure to dangerous radiation levels.

Despite a mixed reception upon its release, the film’s heavy use of CGI to bring the Hulk to life has been widely criticized. The transformation was well executed, but the model and movement of the character were flawed, resulting in an unrealistic appearance. Additionally, the use of CGI to create enemies like Hulk dogs was seen as overly cartoonish and detracting from the Hulk’s menacing image. Overall, despite the superhero’s immense popularity, the poor quality of the CGI in this film reduced the impact of the Hulk’s powers and abilities.

RELATED: 10 Great-Looking Movies From Before the Age of CGI

3 The Mummy Returns (2001)

The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns
Universal Pictures

The Mummy Returns is a Hollywood adventure film directed and written by Stephen Sommers. The film follows the mummified body of Imhotep being transported to a museum in London, where it is resurrected by a cult and begins a reign of terror and anger. Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. Some commented that the film neglected its characters and used the storyline to showcase special effects.

The film also faced criticism for its excessive use of CGI, particularly for the character Scorpion King, played by Dwayne Johnson. He was poorly designed, with rigid, jittery movements that did not blend well with his surroundings, earning a place among the worst CGI creations in movie history. The VFX supervisor acknowledged the subpar CGI quality and attributed it to a lack of reference material.

2 Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World Trailer to Debut During Super Bowl 2015

Jurassic World is a science fiction action film directed by Colin Trevorrow. In the movie, a theme park named “Jurassic World,” which features cloned dinosaurs has been successfully operating on an island for years. However, the park descends into chaos when a genetically engineered dinosaur escapes its enclosure and goes on a killing spree. At the same time, a conspiracy arranged by the park’s employees adds to the danger. Despite mixed reactions from critics and audiences, the film was a commercial success, with fans of the franchise turning out in large numbers.

Still, critics and audiences agreed that the film fell short of Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park from 1993, with one of the main concerns being the overuse of bad CGI. Compared to the effects and puppetry used in the original film, the CGI in Jurassic World pales, with over 2,000 instances used throughout the movie.

1 Expendables 3 (2014)


The Expendables 3 is a movie directed by Patrick Hughes and is the third installment of The Expendables franchise. The story revolves around the mercenary group known as The Expendables, as they face a conflict with the ruthless arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who is intent on destroying the team.

The Expendables movie franchise has faced criticism in the past for its overuse of CGI, but The Expendables 3 takes it to a whole new level. The movie is plagued with unconvincing visual effects, from explosions to helicopters that look like they’re from a cheap video game to a poorly executed parachute deployment effect. The film received low ratings and has a 31% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


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