7 Best CGI Characters In Film

August 16, 2023
8 min read
By George Djaniants
Film History
7 Best CGI Characters In Film

Welcome to the enchanting realm of Computer Generated Imagery, commonly known as CGI, in films. This magical technology can create some of the most unique and unforgettable characters that charm audiences worldwide. From lifelike monsters and squishy aliens to digitally designed humans, CGI uses sophisticated computer software and complex rendering techniques to birth incredibly lifelike and convincing characters that anchor some of our favorite stories. Ready to take a fantastic journey exploring the seven best CGI characters in film? They range from the eerie Gollum from 'Lord of the Rings' and the adorable Dobby from 'Harry Potter', to the mighty Thanos from the 'Avengers'. And there’s more to come! So, buckle up as we dive into this magical CGI world and see why these characters are considered the crème de la crème of cinematic marvels. This exploration is sure to reveal the boundless potential and captivating artistry that underpins CGI characters in film.

1. Gollum from Lord of the Rings

1 gollum from lord of the rings

Gollum, a creation from the famed movie trilogy Lord of the Rings, remains one of the best CGI characters in film. The process of designing this unforgettable character involved intricate work and attention to detail. Audiences were captivated by Gollum’s lifelike movements and expressions, which was revolutionary for the early 2000s when the films were made. He's a perfect example of how technical imagination can birth a character through computer technology, showcasing the limitless potential of CGI in filmmaking.

This iconic character was not just well-received for his depiction but also for his unique personality traits that added layers of depth to the story. CGI was not just used to bring Gollum to visual life but also to make him believable as a sentient being with a complex emotional profile. For instance, Gollum’s split personality, signified by his dialogues with his alter ego, Smeagol, gave life to his internal moral struggle, effectively humanizing this CGI character. This fantastic display of character development solidifies Gollum's spot in the roster of the best CGI characters in film.

2. Dobby from Harry Potter

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Computer-generated imagery brought the lovable character, Dobby, from the Harry Potter series to life on the screen. The filmmakers used advanced CGI technology to craft Dobby's expressive appearance, providing him with a unique and emotionally impactful presence throughout the series. This small elf, with his large, droopy ears and bulging, teardrop-shaped eyes, captivated audiences worldwide, becoming one of the best CGI characters in film. His journey, from an enslaved house-elf to a free and heroic character, was made more believable and touching with the use of these digital techniques.

Dobby's emotional depth is not just due to excellent storytelling and brilliant voice acting, but also because of the state-of-the-art CGI technology used to produce him. Each wrinkle on his face, tear in his eyes, and his entire body language were meticulously generated to bring out his loyalty, bravery, and innocent charm. The fantastic work done by CGI artists enriched Dobby's character, making his sacrifices and deeds more real and unforgettable to the audience. Thus, the tech-savvy wizards behind the scenes shaped Dobby into a character that profoundly resonates with Harry Potter fans and stands as a shining example of the best CGI characters in film.

3. Caesar from Planet of the Apes

3 caesar from planet of the apes

Caesar from the rebooted series "Planet of the Apes" won the hearts of many moviegoers with his intelligent eyes and emotive facial expressions. We watched as Caesar was transformed from an ordinary chimpanzee into the leader of the great ape resistance, a journey made possible through advances in CGI techniques. Outfitted with motion capture technology, actor Andy Serkis personified Caesar, resulting in one of the best CGI characters in film.

Developed from a human actor's performance, Caesar is an impressive example of modern CGI technology's capabilities for creating realistic characters. The CGI effectively captured minute facial expressions, allowing Caesar's personality traits and feelings to convincingly translate on-screen. It was not just about his intelligent always-pondering eyes or the subtleties of his facial movements; the filmmakers also used CGI to demonstrate Caesar’s physical transformation, depicting his transition from a laboratory chimp to a tactical rebel leader.

4. Thanos from Avengers

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Turning our attention to Thanos from the Avengers series, it's impossible to ignore the supreme impact CGI had in creating his lifelike appearance. The level of detail put into his CGI work is nothing short of superb, exhibiting a jaw-dropping level of precision from his rough, rock-like skin texture down to his expressive facial contours.

The brilliance of CGI on Thanos extends beyond just physical appearance, though. His complex character arc, from a feared villain to a pained character weighed down by his actions, was masterfully conveyed on screen through this technology. As one of the best CGI characters in film, every smirk, frown or scowl projected Thanos's power and formidable presence, allowing audiences worldwide to engage with his character meaningfully.

What truly sets Thanos apart, though, is the harmonious interplay between CGI technology and the actor's performance. Much of Thanos's lifelikeness can be attributed to actor Josh Brolin's performance topped with impeccable CGI, bridging the physical and digital worlds brilliantly. This unique combination elevated Thanos, a more or less virtual character, to tangible, believable existence, solidifying his place among the best CGI characters in film.

5. T-1000 from Terminator 2

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The T-1000 character from the iconic film "Terminator 2" is ranked fifth among the best CGI characters in film. The captivating and imposing character of the T-1000 was brought to life using revolutionary Computer Generated Imagery effects, providing the world with a taste of the true capabilities of CGI technology. Not only did it offer an impressively realistic portrayal of a liquid metal robot, but the use of CGI also paved the path for future developments in the industry and set a new standard for digital creation.

The character's liquid metal form showcased the potential of CGI in creating realistic and fluid transformations, setting the T-1000 apart from other cinematic characters of its time. The technique of morphing, which was essentially still in its experimental phase when "Terminator 2" was produced, was refined and used exceptionally well in the depiction of the T-1000, making every scene featuring it a visual spectacle.

The T-1000's groundbreaking CGI design played a crucial part in intensifying the film's thrilling plot. Its ability to alter its physical form to mimic any object or individual added a unique level of suspense and unpredictability to the story. This compelling visualization of its adaptability and resilience made the T-1000 one of the most memorable villains in film history.

Overall, the creation of the T-1000 in "Terminator 2" has had a longstanding impact on the film industry. It not only showcased the enormous potential of CGI in creating unique, realistic characters, but also increased anticipation and expectation for the future developments in the field of computer-generated imagery. Undoubtedly, the T-1000 remains a key milestone in the history of CGI in film and remains one of the best CGI characters in film even today.

6. Avatar from Avatar

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Unleashing a whole new level of Computer Generated Imagery, the movie Avatar features some of the best CGI characters in film history. The movie heavily relies on CGI technology in showcasing the lush, dazzlingly vibrant alien world of Pandora. A planet teeming with intriguing alien life forms, mega-sized trees and mountains that float in the air, the details are immaculate and visually stunning. The CGI magic behind each frame made the audience truly resonate with the sentiment that they were witnessing an entirely different world, unseen and unexplored.

Yet, the CGI usage did not stop at world-building. The inhabitants of Pandora, primarily the Na'vi, boasted an impressive life-like CGI appeal. The towering yet graceful, blue-skinned beings to the smallest bioluminescent creature, showcased the detailed precision of CGI technology. Their intricate features, accented by their fluid motion, contributed to the film's immersive environment - a testament to the state-of-the-art motion-capture technology.

This motion-capture technology, another integral part of CGI, breathed life into the Na’vi characters. Actors' performances were seamlessly motion-captured and transformed into digital characters, making the Na’vi move, converse, and showcase emotions as vividly as any human actor. This implementation not only swelled the boundary for CGI characters but also established a higher standard in film technology.

7. Toy Story's Woody and Buzz

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When we shine a spotlight on the best CGI characters in film, Pixar's groundbreaking Toy Story characters, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, certainly deserve a moment in the limelight. Pixar was instrumental in pushing the boundaries of animation with the introduction of these characters, marking a significant jump in the use of CGI technology. Their engaging personalities and believable interactions are beautifully crafted through meticulous computer-generated rendering.

Creating Woody and Buzz was not some overnight fluke, it required years of digital refining to make them visually appealing and emotionally relatable. Their unique expressions, movements and tiny details - like the scuffs on Woody's boot or the gleam on Buzz's space suit - turned them into living, breathing characters that audiences could get attached to. Their physical traits, characteristics, and intricate details made possible through computer graphics contributed significantly to their ever-lasting charm.

7 toy storys woody and buzz

Furthermore, while other films employed CGI to create non-humanoid characters, Woody and Buzz stand out as humanoid characters entirely brought to life by CGI, a feat that was revolutionary at the time. The brilliance of the programmers and artists at Pixar, who breathed life into these characters, cannot be overstated. They set new standards for character animation and storytelling in computer animated films.

The creation of Woody and Buzz showcased the immense potential of CGI technology in animation. Their popularity among audiences worldwide attests to the significant role CGI plays in developing lifelike and relatable characters in films. Pixar's adventurous space ranger and pull-string cowboy forever transformed the landscape of animated films, pushing the boundaries of what CGI could achieve.

In a nutshell, Woody and Buzz Lightyear bear testament to how CGI has revolutionized film-making. They're not just the products of pioneering CGI work; they embody the soul and spirit of Pixar, and remain true icons in the realm of best CGI characters in film. From their inception, they marked a new era in animation, proving that CGI could create characters who win hearts and stand the test of time.

Published on August 16, 2023 by George Djaniants

George Djaniants

CEO & Co-Founder