Academy Award for Best Visual Effects

Academy Award for Best Visual Effects
Country United States
Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
First awarded 1929
Currently held by Mark Williams Ardington
Sara Bennett
Paul Norris
Andrew Whitehurst
Ex Machina (2015)
Official website

The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects is an Academy Award given for the best achievement in visual effects.

History of the award

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first recognized the technical contributions of special effects to movies at its inaugural dinner in 1928, presenting a plaque for "Best Engineering Effects" to the first Best Picture Oscar winner, the World War I flying drama Wings.

Producer David O. Selznick, then production head at RKO Studios, petitioned the Academy Board of Governors to recognize the work of animator Willis O'Brien for his groundbreaking work on 1933's King Kong.

But it was not until 1938 when a film was actually recognized for its effects work, when a "Special Achievement Award for Special Effects" was given to the Paramount film Spawn of the North. The following year, "Best Special Effects" became a recognized category, although on occasion the Academy has chosen to honor a single film outright rather than nominate two or more films. From 1939 to 1963, it was an award for a film's visual effects as well as audio effects, so usually it was given to two persons, although some years only one or the other type of effect was recognised. In 1964, it was given only for visual effects, and the following year the name of the category was changed to "Best Special Visual Effects".

Between 1972 and 1977, there was no specific award for visual effects. As such work was awarded within the umbrella award called Special Achievement Academy Award. In 1977, a specific award category for visual effects was reintroduced with the current name, "Best Visual Effects", although until 1995, visual effects could for some years continue to be given within the Special Achievement Academy Award instead. 1990 was the last year there was no official nominations, but instead a special achievement given.


Usually, there are three nominated films. In 1979, there were five films nominated. Sometimes, no award is given. Other times, a single film is given the award outright.

In 2007, it was decided that a list of no more than 15 eligible films would be chosen, from which a maximum of 7 would be chosen for further consideration. A vote would then proceed, with a maximum of three nominees. Since 2010, there are five nominees. No more than four people may be nominated for a single film.[1]

According to the official Academy Award rules, the criteria are:

(a) consideration of the contribution the visual effects make to the overall production and
(b) the artistry, skill and fidelity with which the visual illusions are achieved.


A number of filmmakers have had their movies honored for their achievements in visual effects; i.e., five films produced by George Pal, five by director/producer George Lucas, five by director James Cameron (who began his career in Hollywood as an effects technician), four by directors Richard Fleischer, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and three by director Robert Zemeckis.

Stanley Kubrick's only Oscar win was in this category, for 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film's credits list four effects contributors, including Douglas Trumbull. However, according to the rules of the Academy in effect at the time, only three persons could be nominated for their work on a single film, which would have resulted in the omission of either Trumbull, Tom Howard, Con Pederson or Wally Veevers. Ultimately, it was Kubrick's name that was submitted as a nominee in this category, resulting in his winning the award, which many consider a slight to the four men whose work contributed to the film's success.

Early Awards for Special Effects

Engineering Effects

Special Awards
"For outstanding achievement in creating special photographic and sound effects"

Special Effects (Note: From 1939 to 1962, Visual Effects nominations were shared with Sound Effects nominations as a combined Special Effects category).

Visual Effects Awards

The tables below display the Oscar nominees for Best Visual Effects including the recipients of the Special Achievement Awards.

  indicates the winner


Year Film Visual effects artist(s)
Cleopatra Emil Kosa, Jr.
The Birds Ub Iwerks
Mary Poppins Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett and Hamilton Luske
7 Faces of Dr. Lao Jim Danforth
Thunderball John Stears
The Greatest Story Ever Told J. McMillan Johnson
Fantastic Voyage Art Cruickshank
Hawaii Linwood G. Dunn
Doctor Dolittle L.B. Abbott
Tobruk Howard A. Johnson, Jr. and Albert Whitlock
2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick
Ice Station Zebra Hal Millar and J. McMillan Johnson
Marooned Robbie Robertson
Krakatoa, East of Java Eugène Lourié and Alex Weldon


Year Film Visual effects artist(s)
Tora! Tora! Tora! A.D. Flowers and L.B. Abbott
Patton Alex Weldon
Bedknobs and Broomsticks Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett and Danny Lee
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth Jim Danforth and Roger Dicken
The Poseidon Adventure L. B. Abbott and A. D. Flowers
No award given
Earthquake Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson and Albert Whitlock
The Hindenburg Albert Whitlock and Glen Robinson
King Kong Carlo Rambaldi, Glen Robinson, and Frank Van der Veer
Logan's Run L. B. Abbott, Glen Robinson, and Matthew Yuricich
Star Wars John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, and Robert Blalack
Close Encounters of the Third Kind Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, and Richard Yuricich
Superman Les Bowie, Colin Chilvers, Denys Coop, Roy Field, Derek Meddings, and Zoran Perisic
Alien H. R. Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Dennis Ayling
The Black Hole Peter Ellenshaw, Art Cruickshank, Eustace Lycett, Danny Lee, Harrison Ellenshaw, and Joe Hale
Moonraker Derek Meddings, Paul Wilson, and John Evans
1941 William A. Fraker, A.D. Flowers, and Gregory Jein
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Robert Swarthe, David K. Stewart, and Grant McCune


Year Film Visual effects artists
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson
Raiders of the Lost Ark Richard Edlund, Kit West, Bruce Nicholson, and Joe Johnston
Dragonslayer Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Ken Ralston, and Brian Johnson
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Carlo Rambaldi, Dennis Muren, and Kenneth F. Smith
Blade Runner Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer
Poltergeist Richard Edlund, Michael Wood, and Bruce Nicholson
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Phil Tippett
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Dennis Muren, Michael J. McAlister, Lorne Peterson, and George Gibbs
Ghostbusters Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Mark Vargo, and Chuck Gaspar
2010 Richard Edlund, Neil Krepela, George Jenson, and Mark Stetson
Cocoon Ken Ralston, Ralph McQuarrie, Scott Farrar, and David Berry
Return to Oz Will Vinton, Ian Wingrove, Zoran Perisic, and Michael Lloyd
Young Sherlock Holmes Dennis Muren, Kit West, John Ellis, and David W. Allen
Aliens Robert Skotak, Stan Winston, John Richardson, and Suzanne Benson
Little Shop of Horrors Lyle Conway, Bran Ferren, and Martin Gutterridge
Poltergeist II: The Other Side Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Garry Waller, and William Neil
Innerspace Dennis Muren, William George, Harley Jessup, and Kenneth F. Smith
Predator Joel Hynek, Robert M. Greenberg, Richard Greenberg, and Stan Winston
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Ken Ralston, Richard Williams, Edward Jones, and George Gibbs
Die Hard Richard Edlund, Al DiSarro, Brent Boates, and Thaine Morris
Willow Dennis Muren, Michael McAlister, Phil Tippett, and Chris Evans
The Abyss John Bruno, Dennis Muren, Hoyt Yeatman, and Dennis Skotak
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Richard Conway and Kent Houston
Back to the Future Part II Ken Ralston, Michael Lantieri, John Bell, and Steve Gawley


Year Film Visual effects artists
Total Recall Eric Brevig, Rob Bottin, Tim McGovern, and Alex Funke
Terminator 2: Judgment Day Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Gene Warren, Jr., and Robert Skotak
Backdraft Mikael Salomon, Allen Hall, Clay Pinney, and Scott Farrar
Hook Eric Brevig, Harley Jessup, Mark Sullivan, and Michael Lantieri
Death Becomes Her Ken Ralston, Doug Chiang, Doug Smythe, and Tom Woodruff, Jr.
Alien 3 Richard Edlund, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr., and George Gibbs
Batman Returns Michael Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, and Dennis Skotak
Jurassic Park Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri
Cliffhanger Neil Krepela, John Richardson, John Bruno, and Pamela Easley
The Nightmare Before Christmas Pete Kozachik, Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco Shaw and Gordon Baker
Forrest Gump Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum, and Allen Hall
The Mask Scott Squires, Steve 'Spaz' Williams, Tom Bertino, and Jon Farhat
True Lies John Bruno, Thomas L. Fisher, Jacques Stroweis and Patrick McClung
Babe Scott E. Anderson, Charles Gibson, Neal Scanlan, and John Cox
Apollo 13 Robert Legato, Michael Kanfer, Leslie Ekker, and Matt Sweeney
Independence Day Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney, and Joseph Viskocil
Dragonheart Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West
Twister Stefen Fangmeier, John Frazier, Habib Zargarpour, and Henry La Bounta
Titanic Robert Legato, Mark Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, and Michael Kanfer
The Lost World: Jurassic Park Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Randal M. Dutra, and Michael Lantieri
Starship Troopers Phil Tippett, Scott E. Anderson, Alec Gillis, and John Richardson
What Dreams May Come Joel Hynek, Nicholas Brooks, Stuart Robertson, and Kevin Mack
Armageddon Richard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung and John Frazier
Mighty Joe Young Rick Baker, Hoyt Yeatman, Allen Hall, and Jim Mitchell
The Matrix John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley, and Jon Thum
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, and Rob Coleman
Stuart Little John Dykstra, Jerome Chen, Henry F. Anderson III, and Eric Allard


Year Film Visual effects artists
Gladiator John Nelson, Neil Corbould, Tim Burke, and Rob Harvey
Hollow Man Scott E. Anderson, Craig Hayes, Scott Stokdyk, and Stan Parks
The Perfect Storm Stefen Fangmeier, Habib Zargarpour, John Frazier, and Walt Conti
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor, and Mark Stetson
A.I. Artificial Intelligence Dennis Muren, Scott Farrar, Stan Winston, and Michael Lantieri
Pearl Harbor Eric Brevig, John Frazier, Ed Hirsh, and Ben Snow
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke
Spider-Man John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll, and Ben Snow
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Dan Sudick, Stefen Fangmeier, Nathan McGuinness, and Robert Stromberg
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson, and Terry Frazee
Spider-Man 2 John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Roger Guyett, Tim Burke, John Richardson, and William George
I, Robot John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash, and Joe Letteri
King Kong Joe Letteri, Brian Van't Hul, Christian Rivers, and Richard Taylor
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney, and Scott Farrar
War of the Worlds Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Randal M. Dutra, and Daniel Sudick
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson, and Allen Hall
Poseidon Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chas Jarrett, and John Frazier
Superman Returns Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover, and Jon Thum
The Golden Compass Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, and Trevor Wood
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson, and John Frazier
Transformers Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl, and John Frazier
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, and Craig Barron
The Dark Knight Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber, and Paul Franklin
Iron Man John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick, and Shane Mahan
Avatar Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, and Andrew R. Jones
District 9 Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, and Matt Aitken
Star Trek Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, and Burt Dalton


Year Film Visual effects artists
Inception Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb
Alice in Wonderland Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, and Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski, and Joe Farrell
Iron Man 2 Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, and Daniel Sudick
Hugo Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, and Alex Henning
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, and John Richardson
Real Steel Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, and Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, and Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, and John Frazier
Life of Pi Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer, and Donald R. Elliott
Marvel's The Avengers Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, and Dan Sudick
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and R. Christopher White
Prometheus Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould, and Michael Dawson
Gravity Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3 Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, and Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, and Burt Dalton
Interstellar Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, and Scott R. Fisher
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, and Paul Corbould
X-Men: Days of Future Past Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, and Cameron Waldbauer
Ex Machina Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, and Andrew Whitehurst
Mad Max: Fury Road Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, and Tom Wood
The Martian Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Richard Stammers, and Steven Warner
The Revenant Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, and Neal Scanlan
The award was a Special Achievement Award instead of a competitive award.


For this Academy Award category, the following superlatives emerge:[2]

See also


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