The 10 Most Visually Stunning Movies of the Last 10 Years


Now that I’m about to be disappointed by every blockbuster coming out in May, I’m looking ahead to the next project that I’m truly excited about.

That would be James Cameron’s Avatar coming in December which promises to completely change the way we view movies. I’m sure the movie is going to be visually unforgettable, and I decided to take a look back at other similarly jaw dropping films of recent memory.

No worries about plot here, this is purely a beauty contest. Let me know what I forgot.

1. Sunshine





Danny Boyle’s sci-fi masterpiece had an endless parade of solar glamor shots.

2. Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Everyone may have hated it, but you can’t honestly say you’d seen anything like it before.

3. The Fall

Way, way out there, but way, way too good looking to not be included here.






4. Sin City

Sin City

Sin City

Sin City

Sin City


More than just black and white, Sin City created a comic bookish visual style all its own.

5. The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix

The Matrix

The Matrix

The Matrix

The Matrix

What? Not the original? No. Though light on story, the sequel was the visually superior of the two, thanks no doubt to a vastly increased budget.

6. What Dreams May Come






Heaven, Hell and everything in between were rendered beautifully in this movie that was way ahead of its time.

7. 300

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it’s gorgeous. And no, I’m not talking about the leatherbound chiseled men aspect of it.






8. Hero

Often overlooked in favor of its more popular predecessor, Crouching Tiger, Hero was actually both the better film and the better looking of the two.






9. Transformers






Say what you want about the absurdity of the toy-based film, it truly took special effect integration in movies to a completely new level.

10. The Fountain

I hated this movie with a passion, but I absolutely could not look away the entire time, and I still listen to the soundtrack to this day. It’s more like an art exhibition than an actual film.





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  1. How about the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy? Those movies were gorgeous, and some of it was just because New Zealand is so beautiful to begin with.

  2. Don’t forget Mirror Mask! I had never heard of this movie until about a month ago. It’s based on a Neil Gaiman graphic novel, and has character design by Jim Henson’s creature shop. It is absolutely STUNNING and I’ve never seen anything else like it.

  3. @ Sub-Zero

    Bravo on this article. No argument here at all. I am yet to see Hero – I really, really want to – but the guy who directed it also did Curse of the Golden Flower and Raise the Red Lantern, two gorgeous films. His name is Zhang Yimou; so far I’ve been very, very impressed with his work. He also directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics this year.

    I guess I should give Speed Racer a shot…

    One last thing” The Fountain is awesome. I think I’m fighting you next time we meet.

  4. Personally, I found House of Flying Daggers prettier than Hero.

    Also, The Cell deserved a special mention, especially when not taking the plot in consideration (also, besides being stylish, J-Lo is what I would call Visually Stunning)

  5. It’s a shame it’s not a list from the past 15 years, then 5th Element could be on this list.

    But kudos from Zhang Yimou’s Hero making it. If you liked that, go pick up Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers and Raise the Red Lantern. All are visually amazing.

  6. The Fall should without a doubt be number one. So much more artistic than the other two and of the top 5 it is the only one that isn’t a CGI-fest which makes it even more impressive.

  7. @Dorkus Malorkus

    The LOTR trilogy were terrible films, not only from the plot POV, but the visual direction was the worst of any big budget film from the last 15 years. It gave me motion sickness just watching the swooping camera angles, and while I agree with you that NZ isa stunningly beautiful country, the CG rendered landscapes were so poorly detailed and of such low quality that it might as well been rendered in low-res using World of Warcraft graphics.

  8. Hi,

    Interesting, the movie you have shown as “The Fall” has the exact scenes (apparently) as a movie called “Baraka” if you haven’t seen Baraka or “Koyaanisqatsi” personally, you have not opened your eyes and lived until you have seen both of these movies.

    I just found the scene I’m talking about on YouTube (below).

    Koyaanisqatsi: (found on Google Video but please watch on DVD!)

    Baraka Trailer:

  9. Difficult list… It seems to be a mix of pretty FX as well as plain ol’good cinematography.
    I’m sorely missing Mann’s ‘The Insider’ as well as ‘Wall-e’ (or even ‘Cars’!).
    Transformers should not be on it – in order for visuals to be stunning you at least gotta have some time to figure out what’s on the screen!

  10. While I agree that Hero was a nice looking film, I don’t feel like it holds a candle to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe you should have put a little more thought into the martial arts portion of your show…

  11. Why isn’t Lord of the Rings Return of the King on this list?

    I think its a toss up for Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower personally. They were all stunning in scope and scale of their cinematography.

  12. If you hated The Fountain than you just didn’t understand it. Powerful film about life and death. One of the prettiest films of all time visually and thematically.

  13. If you hated The Fountain than you just didn’t understand it. Powerful film about life and death. One of the prettiest films of all time visually and thematically.

    Not to mention its way lower budget than Aronofsky intended. Studio intitially shut it down.

  14. Overall I can’t complain, not a bad list. I’m glad LOTR isn’t on there, but I feel like Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” should be on there before Transformers. Fifth Element is a pretty good suggestion as well.

  15. To chime in with Brad, What Dreams May Come is from ’98. If I had to swap that film with another, I would put Children of Men or Pan’s Labyrinth/Hellboy series in its place.

  16. I agree with all of these movies!!!
    The Fall is by far on top for me!
    I’ve never seen Sunshine, but since I’m in agreement that the rest of these movies really do have stunning visual effects, I think I’m going to enjoy it.

  17. Tarsem Singh traveled to 18 countries in 4 years to complete The Fall. Everything about the movie: the locations, costumes and that girl with the thing over her face are beautiful…except the story. It started out so interesting and fantastic but towards the end just kinda fell off (no pun intended). Definitely worth a watch, though, if not for the visuals and some great acting.

  18. I pretty much agree with everything here but Transformers.
    Super awesome/amazing special effects? Yes
    Visually stunning? Not in the least

    It doesn’t belong in a list full of movies where you could take almost any still of any of them frame it, and put it up in a photography/art exhibition.

    (Granted, I feel somewhat the same way about the Matrix film, but it at least had SOME beautiful snapshot moments)

  19. “why are all these lists always so US/Euro centric?”

    erm, what about Tarsem Singh and Zhang Yimou? 2/10 asian directors doesn’t seem too bad for an english language website.

    Personally, I would have all of Yimou’s films from the past decade on the list.

    I would also have replaced Transformers with Renaissance

  20. Viewed Speed Racer at an IMAX and must say it belongs on this list. I really think most of the people who reviewed that film didn’t watch the entire film or never watched the show as a kid. Hoping it did well enough over seas for a sequal.

  21. Since this is purely a visual list, I think “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” should have been on here. It was a terrible movie, but it created an amazing retro-sci-fi landscape like I have never seen.

  22. How could you possibly make a movie about the most ‘visually stunning’ films of the last 10 years, and include Transformers on that list while leaving out Lord of the Rings?

    Isn’t the LOTR trilogy one of the most obvious examples of a gorgeous movie?

  23. I agree with Mirror Mask. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy 2 both made me stop paying attention to plot to watch the prettiness. Also, Casshern!

    Phooey on Transformers and all the LoTR fans.

  24. I agree that The Fall should’ve been higher. And on the case of Hero vs The House of the Flying Daggers and The Curse of the Golden Flower, Hero is by far superior in both the visuals and the story, imo.

    I also thought that Pan’s Labyrinth should have made it on the list.

  25. Great list. Agree with the Fountain. Its one of those movies you’ll either love or hate. And the people that like it tend to be of the artsy fartsy variety (no offense fans.) I’m on the fence about transformers but really the only movie I can think of that really SHOULD have been on the list was WALL E. Great selections though.

  26. I know i’m giong to get murdered for this but Australia was a superbly shot movie… watchmen was very well done as well… mr snyder did a really good job in choosing to do a one camera shoot… transformers did NOT belong… its not a creative piece… i think someone mentioned it was generic and that hits it spot on!

  27. The Cell and the Fall were the two movies, both by director Tarsem Singh, that came to my mind when i saw this headline.

    Did u know that ‘The Fall’ almost did not get made cos of production issues. Tarsem had to pay from his own pocket to get the movie done.

    I would like to suggest The Polar Express, Finding Nemo, Final Fantasy, Sleepy Hollow, Gatacca(not so sure abt this one though), Apocalypto and Beowolf for the next installment of this list.

    I would second Fountain, LOTR, Matrix, 300.

  28. Gattaca is amazing looking and one of the first I thought of, but it is from 1997.

    Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement should easily make this list. Every shot is composed and shot beautifully.

    I would also consider Children of Men and Minority Report.

  29. Few more to add:
    ecks vs sever: ballistics
    Snow falling on the cedars
    Pitch Black
    Golden Compass
    Tomb Raider
    Kung Fu Panda
    Slumdog millionaire
    hot fuzz

  30. House of Flying Daggers surely takes it away from both Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That movie gave me a new appreciation for the color green.

  31. Although somewhat of a slow film, I think “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was visually stunning. Their use of color gave such an amazing sense of weight and emotion to every scene. Also, I thought it was a good movie.

  32. Pan’s Labrinth and Watchmen should be on there, but wow only one knows about Casshern. Like it or not, the sci-fi anime come to life, political fantasy was directed by a famous Japanese music video director. Casshern is on a level above all of these films, if you want to compare them visually. If you want to see it don’t get the “director’s cut.” It’s translation is dumbed down for Americans since most of us are… well, stupid. Get the original from Japan, with English subtitles, to see what I am talking about. Oh yeah, and what about Donnie Darko (2000) or Fight Club (1999)? They deserve at least a mention among the comments.

  33. Great list. I’m really surprised that no one yet has suggested Jeunet/Caro’s “The City of Lost Children”, an absolutely breathtaking visual odyssey, I highly recommend to all reading this list.

    Other notables that I haven’t seen mentioned here that bear consideration, Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece “Brazil”, and of course Alan Parker’s “Pink Floyd – The Wall”.

    Good call on “Hero”, forgot how cool that movie was.

  34. lost in translation, there will be blood, the darjeeling limited, the royal tenenbaums, the life aquatic, american beauty, the pianist. Maybe some of those, i also really like cinematography in Control, but i might be getting a bit indietronic

    inland empire was pretty visually stunning, but maybe in another sense haha.

  35. Cell would’ve definitely made a good addition. What a visually outstanding movie.

    Transformers is def worth being on your list, all these “film buff” wannabe’s can just just eat it.

  36. Very nice.

    2001 ASO also comes to mind.

    Both Bottle Shock and Moving Sideways had wonderful views of vineyards here in CA.

    Under the Tuscan Sun also had some beautiful views of Italy.

  37. Meh, You have to include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Say what you will about the pacing, but it’s incredible visually. The New World and There Will Be Blood should be on here too.

  38. I am glad other people realize that all of the LOTR films were pretty bad in the visuals department. If you have ever been to New Zealand, then you would know that it looks even better in person.

    I think Mann’s Collateral is overlooked too. Also Tigerland is pretty impressive. Sunshine’s DOP also shot a film called Code 46 which is super visual.

  39. ShaidyAidy. You are a moron. and I’m not even a LOTR fanboy.
    Because your tummy goes cuckoo with with the camera swoops.
    It may not have been your cup of tea but “terrible”. No one would call those movies terrible. Reach into your knapsack for a more apt adjective to describe what you did not like about the trilogy. But the blanket statement of terrible and reaching really far to say it was as bad as WOW shows laziness on your part in real discourse.
    Ask anyone who gets paid to shoot and I guarantee no one would call it terrible. They may have differing opinions that span the spectrum, but terrible would not be on their lips.
    Go watch Speed Racer again with your hand lotion and box of kleenex.

  40. Thank you for including Hero. That movie used color to differentiate scenes like no film I have ever seen before, and was a great movie to boot. Too bad the stupid, backwater theater in my hometown didn’t get it, so I had to wait for it on DVD and miss the big screen experience altogether.

  41. THE CONSTANT GARDENER with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz – the only reason I bought the DVD is due to how beautiful looking the film was.

  42. If you care to include anime, I must highly recommend putting 5 Centimeters Per Second in the list since it is an absolute eye-candy.

    And The Fountain – my favorite film of all times, no matter what others say.

  43. Man, lots of arguments back and forth about LotR and Transformers and omissions and inclusions…but hardly anyone seems to question Sunshine coming in at #1. I find this very encouraging.

    Also, good to see Hero and What Dreams May Come getting the props they deserved.

    Great list, thank you.

  44. yeah, i watched speed racer the 1st time on DVD and i have to say, I don’t live my life with much regret but not seeing that movie in IMAX is going to stick with me for some time… sigh.

  45. Jesus some people just can’t read.
    Note: ‘….of the last ten years.’
    Agree with the list, anyone who doubts Transformers, you need to invest in HD. Saw in normal quality and though ‘neh!’.Then saw in in its 1080p glory…..WOW! Crap film, look amazing.

    People, stop trowing out suggestions, they make you look stupid, i mean…sleepy hallow, i love burton and it lloks GOOD, but really visually stunning???
    And Manns Collertal wasn’t stunning, just digital. Thompson Viper get the credit there. Pitch Black
    Golden Compass
    Tomb Raider
    Kung Fu Panda
    Slumdog millionaire
    hot fuzz… are you sure your not just pretending to be into movies are know what your talking about. So if I could be so bold, as to why to do find Kung Fu Panda. Great movie, but as even CGI animation movies go it looks bad. Its like you just picked random movies for no reason. Jesus ….go home.

  46. @fuckyjebus

    Gotta agree with you. Kung Fu Panda was very cool, but wasn’t anything spectacular visually. I though Ratatouille actually had better animation.

  47. Silent Hill.

    incomprehensible, but the most gorgeously horrifying movie I’ve ever seen. (Personally, I even enjoyed the surreal plotlessness.)

  48. Really? all these comments and suggestions and not one mention of “City of God”?? an amazing film with beautiful imagery throughout

    also kudos to pan’s labyrinth and silent hill both excellent suggestions. (pl clearly taking the cake tho)

  49. 1. Sunshine is in no way, shape or form a masterpiece.
    2. Hero is a dull, lifeless movie that doesn’t come even close to Crouching Tiger. (And I don’t even think it is a better looking film).

  50. Agree with all entries, love the presence of ‘Hero’ (and yes, it more stunning than House of flying daggers or Crouching, or Curse of the golden flower, which looked fantastic too, but not better than Hero).

    Have not watched Speed Racer, What dreams may come or The Fountain.

    Movies that could have probably been included – Pan’s Labyrinth, Dark City, Watchmen, The spirit, The brothers Grimm, Gattaca, The Cell, I am Legend, Star Trek, Snow falling on Cedars, Underworld, Terminator 2: Judgment day, The Abyss, Finding Nemo, Up, Wall-E, The road to Perdition, Heavenly Creatures.

    Unsure about The Mothman Prophecies, Saving private Ryan, The thin red line, Letters from Iwo Jima – felt they were pretty strong visually.

    Older movies that were also fantastic visually – Brazil, The fifth element, The good the bad and the ugly, Mckenna’s Gold, Ben Hur, The 10 commandments, The bridge on the river Kwai, Predator (yes! and it should have been shot in cinemascope), Black Rain, Aliens, High Noon (and many more).

  51. The fountain was much more of a film than an art exhibition. You must a) have only watched it once, or b) have horrible horrible horrible taste. I’ll join Madison in fighting you. That film was an epic masterpiece.

  52. Good to see The Fall on the list. It would make this list based on the trailer alone.

    The only choices I really disagree with are Transformers and Speed Racer. They’re both pure CGI, which while pretty, isn’t nearly enough to compare with the other choices on this list.

  53. My list in no particular order not including Avatar

    Transformers – You people that dont think this shouldnt be on the list are tools. Much better visually than Lotr on DVD.
    Star Trek – Amazing costumes, Make up, Animatronics, CGI and Sets.

    ^ I love the way these films are shot, the framing, the cuts, the lighting, the action.

    Matrix Reloaded + Revolutions

    Not seen fully but enough

    Sin City
    Speed Racer
    Pans Labarinth

    I would like to add The Golden Compass and The Chronicles of Narnia are much better visually than the lotr

  54. The Fall is absolutely beautiful, and I agree with Sunshine, if you don’t appreciate the visuals of a very under-appreciated marvel, it’s a shame.
    Other suggestions of movies that no I don’t think were “visually stunning” but are nevertheless beautiful in their own right:
    Recycle, Scanner Darkly, Blood and Chocolate, Gamer, District 9, The Host, Thirst, Animatrix, Midnight Meat Train, Chronos.

  55. Heres a few nobody mentioned.. surprisingly!

    First of all Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s masterpiece (imo):
    Delicatessen (1991)
    Second, By the brilliant maniac that IS.. Terry Gilliam:
    Tideland (2005)
    And probably my favorite film to come out recently:
    Dante 01 (2008)

    & idk if i can leave without mentioning: Hansel & Gretel (2007)
    Directed by Pil-Sung Yim. Story went a little off.. but the visuals kept me glued to the screen.

    Rememer kids: Subs never Dubs! ^_^

    Oh, Great post btw, & thanks a mil to all the commenters, now i’ve got a crap load of films to check out

  56. no Delicatessen ?!!! ….for shameee

    also unmentioned
    Dante 01
    Hansel & Gretel (2007 Korean title)

    ..and thanks commenters for the tips! GREAT POST! <3 it

  57. This is hands down the most visually stimulating movies in my opinion:

    1. The Curse of the Golden Flower
    2. Hero
    3. Hidden Dragon Grouching Tiger
    4. The Cell
    5. Ultraviolet
    6. House of Flying Daggards
    7. Speed Racer
    8. The Matrix
    9. 300

  58. How the hell has “The Lovely Bones”, “Ultraviolet”, and “Silent Hill” NOT make the list and i’m surprised the haven’t been mentioned that much

  59. The Fall wasn’t all that visually stimulating imo. I don’t know if animated movies count, but I thought Animatrix and Appleseed were very visually stimulating. Aeon Flux movie also deserves an honorable mention.

  60. You are all fools! How did nobody mention Metropolis from the 20’s!!! It looks like it was made yesterday.

    School yourselves!

    Other than that, thanks everyone for the suggestions.

  61. nice post:

    I second Casshern (2004 live action Japanese) I see was mentioned – amazingly visually stunning.

    Also Renaissance (animated, black and white, 2006 french) if it was not mentioned already.

    both sci-fi related.

    I also agree with Sky Captain, yes the storyline was a bit lame, but very beautiful retro-sci-fi look to it. It’s like the old sci-fi pulp novel covers come to life.

    There’s another one on the back of my mind but can’t recall it right now.


  62. I agree with a good portion of the list, but I believe it is only a good visually striking film if the film is also very watchable on a plot, dialogue and acting standpoint.

    That being said why is transformers on here. Also the cell sucks as a film even though it has good visuals for those lobbying for it. I’d have to be pretty stoned to sit through either of them.

    I agree with the fact that Jeunet should be on here and if you haven’t seen his films do yourself a favor. Also Kar wai wong films which have also been mentioned are very visually enticing.

    Cat# mentioned Oldboy, this movie is amazing but not for the weak stomached.

    Best visual movie I have seen recently, tree of life, impressive visuals and a well acted movie.

    Thanks for the suggestions as well, there are many good films on the comment board

  63. I think this list is comprised solely on the premise that if you couldn’t hear the dialogue and were just walking by, would you stop and find ‘most’ scenes eye catching visually. If that’s the case then Transformers should definitely be on the list. The robots were so realistic and fluid it was amazing visually. And with that in mind, I’m surprised that no one (who missed the 10 years requirement) has mentioned Jurassic Park. The sight of those dinosaurs were so amazing I still get a chill when I watch it. Cinematography and lighting and composition are all great but I think this list hits on the WOW factor.
    Just my 2 cents… and don’t be haters! 🙂

  64. I love Speed Racer for this reason. Many people ask me why I love that feel so much… I think there’s no other movie with those visual effects and colors.

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