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Finding Great VFX in Christmas Movies: Ho Ho Woah!

Finding Great VFX in Christmas Movies: Ho Ho Woah!

It’s the Holiday season once again! The wonderful time of year when many of us get to experience all the Christmas movies that we have collected over the years or the ones running on repeat on TV. When it comes to the warm and fuzzy Christmas movies, good effects are not normally the first thing you think of. 

This is largely due to the fact that Christmas movies often have smaller budgets because of limited audiences or at least limited time periods of relevance. Combine that with the fact that Christmas movies as a genre have created the sentiment in our minds that we don’t actually care how cheesy or ridiculous the movie is; we still watch it because it’s what we do at Christmas.

However, there are some exceptionally well-made Christmas movies with VFX that are worth watching, so I have created a list of the top 6 Christmas movies with the best visual effects. I realize that I am speaking very generally, and this list is completely opinion, so feel free to disagree with me, and I won’t call you a Grinch.

1. Fred Claus (2007)

Comedies aren’t known for great VFX much less Christmas comedies, but the effects by MPC In Fred Clause are impressive enough to be mentioned. The look of the film has a very stylized Christmas feel and the CGI holds up as a strong supporting factor for the story. No, it’s not Planet of the Apes, but definitely an enjoyable Christmas movie that looks great and is full of fun.

2. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

While I realize that this is technically an animated film, I believe it definitely fits the list because of the significant achievements in Motion Capture that went into making this film. Almost every character in the movie was brought to life through the amazing technology of Mo-Cap, and the final movie is full of breathtaking visuals. Always an adventure to watch, this movie holds up as one of the best renditions of the classic Dickens novel.

3. The Nativity Story (2006)

Often some of the most overlooked visual effects are the unseen ones such as scene extensions and matte paintings. This elegant telling of the birth of Christ is full of such work. While you won’t notice many impressive effects jumping out at you, the work Digital Domain did to extend scenes and create the biblical look of this film is truly impressive. The Nativity Story is an exceptionally well-made movie that brings the first Christmas alive in a beautiful way.

4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

The Grinch has become a popular Christmas classic with some wonderfully quotable moments. While Jim Carrey in the awesome makeup and costume is the true star of this movie, look closely and you will some very well put together effects that make up Whoville. Digital Domain kept the cartoony and highly stylistic sets, and extended them with CGI to create an immersive fantasy land that is a joy to watch.

5. Die Hard (1988)

I added this to the list because I know that battle will continue of whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but let’s be honest, we all want to watch it at Christmas time, right? Even though it isn’t the most holly jolly of movies, the miniatures by Boss Films blended significantly well with the clever practical and visual effects made for the film. The look of the film is iconic and the action scenes are jam packed with effects, making this a great movie to watch whilst sipping egg-nog. Plus, it’s the Green Arrow’s favorite Christmas movie, so hey, there’s something.

6. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Yes, this counts as a Christmas movie, and yes, it probably destroys every other movie on this list, but come on. You get a company like Weta Digital doing the VFX, and you will end up with one of the most explosively awesome Christmas movies of all time.

I realize that Christmas is a sub theme of the movie, but seeing the impressive compositing, animation, and simulation work that went into this movie, coupled with the elements of the season sprinkled in, it is easily one of my favorite movies to watch this time of year with effects that look awesome.

So, that’s my list. Not all Christmas movies are cheesy or poorly made. There are plenty of great movies with exceptional effects to keep any VFX lover happy. So pour the hot chocolate, build a fire, and enjoy all the visual goodness this season has to offer.

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