Movie special effects have become so detailed sometimes it’s impossible to tell when something is or isn’t CGI. On-set special effects you didn’t know were practical stem from a combination of craftsmanship and hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of hard work by a dedicated cast and crew. Everything from crazy sets, to fake wounds, to famous movie monsters gets done in the shot for all to see, and many films still adhere to using practical special effects because they're proven to work. For example, Mad Mad: Fury Road managed to weave a massive blockbuster tale without bringing CGI usage to the forefront. The explosions, the cars, and, most importantly, the stunts were real.
But even other CGI-heavy films you’d expect to forgo practical effects work have them in spades. The Star Wars prequels, for example, feature a ton of model work and location shooting in them, but everyone only notices the CGI. While it’s true many films use CGI these days, you’d be surprised how many of them don’t.
"The Fly" Used Some Everyday Household Items Instead Of CGI
David Cronenberg's 1986 remake of The Fly featured some pretty insane makeup and special effects, none of which used CGI. Chris Walas, who also did the makeup effects for Gremlins, noted that the crew made their own vomit and slime (a mix of honey, flour, and food coloring). But the film featured plenty of other more complicated effects, like a melting hand and breaking wrist. Walas said that "a plate was glued to the actor's hand that had a project (the snapping bone) extending a couple of inches down the arm so that when the actor snapped his hand back, the bone came popping out." No CGI needed!
Yes, They Really Blew Up All The Cars In "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Director George Miller said that the crew tried to use computerized effects, but "CG didn't make sense in a movie in which everything is real...so we did it for real." And they did indeed. Mad Max: Fury Road custom-built 150 cars, including the "War Rig." The "War Rig" was built out of a Czechoslovakian Tatra and Chevy Fleetmaster, eventually creating "a six-wheel drive 18-wheeler with two V8s end-to-end."
This Scene From "An American Werewolf In London" Also Transformed Moviemaking
Today, we're used to seeing Taylor Lautner become a wolf seamlessly thanks to CGI (wait, did we just admit that we've seen all the Twilight movies?). But back in the day, filmmakers had to create werewolves the old-fashioned way: with some pretty amazing makeup effects. Rick Baker, who won an Academy Award for his work, successfully created a pretty real--and definitely horrifying--werewolf transformation on screen, "showing every hair follicle, cracked vertebrae and painfully elongated digit."