The 25 best 3D movies with hidden depths

It's been seven years since Avatar made 3D the hottest Hollywood trend. I know, right? Still no sequel! But Cameron's procrastination aside, the film revolutionised the 3D medium by using it in a more artful way than ever before. It was no longer just about making the audience jump as weapons fly out of the cinema screen, but a major component in the storytelling process. A tool for adding visual depth and detail, if you will. 

Sure, there have been a few hiccups and misfires along the way (ahem, My Bloody Valentine), and it remains controversial with some, but when it's good? It can be truly thrilling. Here's 25 of the best 3D movies.  

25. Monsters vs Aliens (2009) 

The film: Seth Rogen and Reese Witherspoon head up an all-star voice cast for this funtime creature feature, which rips off the B-movies of the 50s with obvious affection and no little humour. There's plenty of retro references to keep the adults happy, while a cast of cuddly critters are on hand to charm the youngsters.  

3D enhancement: This one opts for depth over audience-baiting tricks, although there are still a few schlocky moments that the original B-movies would have been proud to call their own. 

Most eye-popping scene: The Godzilla-style smackdown between giant insect and giant robot is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Look at them go! 

24. Friday the 13th Part III (1982) 

The film: Okay, so the genuine terror of the original has now been diluted in favour of gimmicky slayings and mind-numbingly irritating characters, but there's still plenty to recommend in this 3D outing, in which Jason's hockey mask makes its big-screen bow. Primarily that watching said characters get their arses handed to them is spectacularly good fun! 

3D enhancement: Blades, harpoons, gore all of it comes hurtling out of the screen in an attempt to get a rise out of the audience. Subtlety is not the name of the game. 

Most eye-popping scene: That will be when Rick gets his head squished by Jason, quite literally sending his eye popping into the audience. Gross. 

23. Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008) 

The film: Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson have a ball in this Amblin-lite adventure about an explorer and his nephew who head off to Iceland in search of an extinct volcano. Light-hearted high-jinks ensue in this solid slice of family entertainment that never takes itself too seriously and milks its 3D gimmick to the full. 

3D enhancement: It feels as though the film was made to service the 3D, rather than the other way around. Fortunately, the 3D is such good fun that thats no bad thing at all. A T-Rex snaps his jaws out of the screen in the films opening gambit, and that pretty much sets the tone for the OTT antics that follow. 

Most eye-popping scene: A chase sequence set in a mine car has the viewer feeling like they've stumbled into the best rollercoaster ride imaginable! Or they've become Indiana Jones. 

22. Tron: Legacy (2010) 

The film: Everyone thought the 2010 sequel to 1982's Tron would have that "late to the party" feel to it. But the three-decades-late sequel manages to add a bit of pep to the tale, following the kid of Jeff Bridges' character from the first movie as he ventures into the tech-noir landscape of the grid.  

3D enhancement: Part of its visual brilliance is down to the way the 3D is actually woven into specific parts of the story. The world of the grid comes to life as the movie bursts into colour and 3D. Less about 'pop-out' moments, and more about subtle nuances here and there. 

Most eye-popping scene: OK, while the light cycle races + Daft Punk + Olivia Wilde stealing the show is the best part of the entire movie, 3D-wise it's the moment the frame scans the vast, sprawling expanse of the Grid. Depth, baby. 

21. Final Destination 5 (2011) 

The film: The fifth and closing chapter of the series follows the similar path as its predecessors. An unlucky person is shown an eerily-gruesome premonition of a mass fatality, manages to avoid it and help others to escape the same grisly fate.... only for death to pick off the survivors one by one. Nicholas D'Agosto is the lucky chap who helps his colleagues off a suspension bridge in the nick of time. 

3D enhancement: Unlike many horrors it was actually shot in 3D. Cameramen used a new form of hybrid camera on set, so there's no slapdash post-production conversion here! Blood squirts! Eyeballs pop! It's oh so stomach-churningly real... 

Most eye-popping scene: One of the first to go, a young girl falls from the bridge and is skewered on top of a sailboat mast. That protrudes into the audience. Nice.

20. The Mask (1961) 

The film: This '60s chiller tells the sinister tale of a young archaeologist gripped by the idea that he has been cursed by a strange mask that transmits murderous urges. As he's such a nice guy, he mails said mask to an esteemed psychologist, who soon realises his correspondent was quite right to be terrified. 

3D enhancement: Sensibly, the film only employs its 3D effects when the influence of the mask is at work. As a result, the hallucinatory sequences are all the more eerie by contrast.

Most eye-popping scene: The dream sequences become steadily more gruesome as the film progresses, and the climactic vision is a real shocker. 

19. Coraline (2009) 

The film: Henry Selick's unsettling story of a young girl who uncovers a parallel version of her boring home life is everything a good fairy story should be--fantastical, involving and more than a little bit terrifying.

3D enhancement: The stop-motion animation already looks enchanting, but layering 3D over the top makes it even easier to see the world through Coraline's eyes. And even more frightening when things start to become sinister.

Most eye-popping scene: Coraline takes flight aboard a flying tractor in a scene that perfectly illustrates the allure of the Other world. 

18. The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (2006) 

The film: Henry Selick and Tim Burton combine their gothic talents for this deliciously dark fairytale, as Pumpkin King Jack Skellington sets out to take Christmas for himself. Full of toe-tapping musical numbers and gorgeous claymation sets, it's a bona fide festive treat.

3D enhancement: The conversion job is nigh-on faultless, with that troublesome cardboard cut-out effect nowhere to be seen. Instead, musical routines like "What's This?" and "This Is Halloween" are more spellbinding than ever. 

Most eye-popping scene: "What's This?" probably takes the prize, as the hustle and bustle of Christmas Town is given a welcome lick of paint from the 3D brush. 

17. House of Wax (1953) 

The film: Andre de Toth created this gimmick-laden horror flick in an attempt to woo television owners back to the cinema, creating a pleasingly grisly tale in the process. The first 3D colour feature from a major American studio, it stars Vincent Price as the curator of a waxwork museum with an unusual approach to sculpting his figures.

3D enhancement: The director restricts himself to using the 3D at the movie's jumpiest moments, adding a few additional scares to its vaudevillian sense of fun.

Most eye-popping scene: Understandably, the 3D scene involving a performance by a troupe of can-can girls was among the film's most popular moments. 

16. The Adventures of Tintin (2011) 

The film: Spielberg brings the world-famous tales by Belgian artist Herge to dazzling life, with Jamie Bell on hand to voice intrepid reporter Tintin who can't keep his nose out of trouble. Before long he's chasing superbly-rendered pirates across the seas. It's the perfect marriage of the filmmaker's childlike sense of wonder and the versatility of the CGI realm. 

3D enhancement: Both motion-capture and 3D factor into the visual design, bringing an enormous sense of the fantastical to the storytelling. You will feel like you're along for the ride with Tintin and his canine pal, Snowy. 

Most eye-popping scene: Watching the prow of a pirate ship cut through the water... and then through the screen.  


Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.


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