3D movies first became a fad for a few short years in the 1950s; they were expensive to show and required special equipment that was often not used correctly. A second 3D movie fad began in the early 1980s with the low budget Western Comin' At Ya!; this was when film franchises started releasing their third movies in 3D, and television station would even occasionally show 1950s 3D movies using red/blue glasses.
After trickling out around 1984 or so, 3D movies came around again in the 2000s, creating the third 3D movie fad. Advances in computer technology made it much easier to create 3D movies in general, and especially in computer animation. This is also after IMAX had spread. People have noted modern 3D has worked best with animation with animated feature films being the most highly praised 3D productions to date such as How to Train Your Dragon (98% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Toy Story 3 (99%). However, the increased costs to produce 3D movies, coupled with the recent decline in attendance of 3D movies, has caused some speculators to express concern over the longevity of the format. The failure to get 3D television sets into homes also does not bode well for the format.
3D Movies have their own variation of Shoot the Money where things will jut out towards the audience a lot more frequently than would occur in a 2D movie.
Thanks to the proliferation of 3D movies, studios naturally have jumped at the chance to get more money out of their audiences by converting movies into 3D which were shot "flat" (with only one camera). However, this often turns out imperfectly, due to having to squeeze a lot of intricate post-production work (imagine having to cut out a piece of an image in Photoshop, then adjust it to move twenty-four times a second—now imagine doing it for multiple layers of an image, for the entire length of a feature film) into the short period before a fast approaching release date. Critics such as Roger Ebert, already pretty biased against 3D, are even more venomous towards fake 3D.
It has been noted by several of these critics that, like the other big periods of 3D movies in the 1950s and 1980s, the recent boom of 3D releases comes when Hollywood's profit margins are significantly under threat by an outside force (television in the first case, home recording and VHS in the second, downloading and DVD today) with the consequence that studios are desperately looking for any old gimmick that will get people into movie seats. There has also been some recent concern about 3D movies wreaking havoc with the focus and convergence of people's vision. Another issue has been a few theaters being too lazy to change out the 3D lens of their projectors when they put on a 2D movie instead, leaving those patrons stuck with a very dim image on the screen to watch.
See Three Dimensional Episode for non-3D series with episodes in 3D. (Which can overlap with 3D movies if it's a series of movies.)
Movies Filmed in 3D
- Bwana Devil (1952) kicked off the first 3D movie fad.
- Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)
- House of Wax (1953), itself a remake of a similarly gimmicky 1933 film, was all but built entirely around the fact that it was a 3D movie—the scene with the guy playing with a Paddle Ball is decidedly lackluster when it's airing on TV. It was directed by a man with only one eye, meaning he couldn't see the 3D himself and had to just trust that throwing things at the camera all the time would look good.
- I, the Jury (1953)
- It Came from Outer Space (1953)
- Kiss Me Kate (1953)
- Robot Monster (1953)
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its sequel Revenge of the Creature
- Dial M for Murder was filmed as a 3-D movie, but not released as such when it first came out in 1954, at which point the fad was dead.
- Comin' at Ya! (1981) started the second 3D movie fad.
- Friday the 13 th Part III (1982)
- Amityville 3D (1983)
- Jaws 3D (1983)
- Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)
- Zombi 3 (1984)
- Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin (1985)
- Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) (one scene)
- Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003)
- The Polar Express (2004)
- The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005)
- The Ant Bully (2006)
- Monster House (2006)
- Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)
- Open Season (2006)
- Battle for Terra (2007)
- Beowulf (2007)
- Bolt (2008)
- Fly Me to the Moon (2008)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
- Astro Boy (2009)
- Avatar (2009). James Cameron created a lot of the 3D filming technology used today for this movie and let other film-makers have it in an attempt to revive the 3D film fad so that there will be a 3D film fad when his movie comes out. It was regarded as the movie that really showed how 3D was more than just a gimmick and utilized the depth of it. To the extent that even Roger Ebert praised it.
- A Christmas Carol (2009)
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
- Coraline (2009) is the first stop-motion film made for 3D. Noteworthy because it doesn't take advantage of any cheap 3D tricks—nobody throws anything at the camera or anything. The needle coming right at the viewer's eye in the opening can make one a bit uncomfortable, though.
- The Final Destination (2009)
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
- Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), the highest grossing 3D movie before Avatar. Also the first 3D Dreamworks Animation movie, but definitely not the last. Dreamworks is making every one of their later movies in 3D. Also dealt with the 3D in a very refined way. Now the first Blu-Ray 3D release.
- My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
- Tron: Legacy is an interesting example. While the real-world scenes were shot in 2D, the scenes on The Grid were shot using James Cameron's Fusion Camera System, complete with IMAX-3D format film.
- Up (2009), the first 3D Pixar movie, though it was also released in 2D. During his review Roger Ebert ranted at length about how inferior the 3D version must be and also admitted that he hadn't even seen the 3D version. His arguments through the years about how 3D can negatively affect a film have been pretty persuasive. He mellowed out for Avatar, though, as noted.
- Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus The Best of Both Worlds Concert in Disney Digital 3D.
- Samurai Sentai Shinkenger The Movie: The Fateful War. This was the 1st sentai series to have a movie fully shot in Digital 3D.
- Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.
- Since the mid-1990s, many IMAX documentary shorts (35–50 minutes each) have been shot in this format, particularly space and wildlife documentaries. There have also been entertainment-only shorts: Wings of Courage, Cirque Du Soleil: Journey of Man, The IMAX Nutcracker, etc.
- Disney Theme Parks love 3D shorts, which often enhance the experience with in-theater sights, sounds, and even touch and smell effects:
- Via Follow the Leader, Universal parks brought us T2 3-D: Battle Across Time and Shrek 4-D (which has nothing to do with Shrek Forever After, by the way).
- Averted with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which is reported to have been filmed in revolutionary 2D.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon. We can only hope they don't retitle it to Transformers 3-D.
- Contagion was supposed to be shot in 3-D but the first camera tests (from a new camera being tested for the first time) weren't satisfactory, so it was shot flat. Same with Inception.
- Alpha and Omega (2010)
- Despicable Me (2010)
- How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
- Jackass 3D (2010); including a scene where they shot dildos out of a gun right at the camera.
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
- Megamind (2010)
- Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
- Saw 3D (2010)
- Shrek Forever After (2010)
- Space Chimps 2 (2010)
- Step Up 3D (2010)
- Tangled (2010)
- Toy Story 3 (2010)
- Yogi Bear (2010)
- The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
- Arthur Christmas (2011)
- Cars 2 (2011)
- Dolphin Tale (2011). The reviews have been good but critics didn't really understand why it was shot in 3-D.
- Drive Angry (2011)
- Final Destination 5 (2011)
- Fright Night (2011 film)
- Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (2011)
- Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)
- Happy Feet 2 (2011)
- Horrid Henry (2011)
- Hugo (2011), praised as the best live-action use of 3D since Avatar, if not better. Also contains some scenes that convert 2D George Melies films into 3D, which was possible because Melies shot everything with two separate cameras next to each other, accidentally filming in 3D before 3D projection was even possible.
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
- Mars Needs Moms (2011)
- Piranha 3D (2011)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
- Rio (2011)
- Sanctum (2011), produced by James Cameron and uses the Fusion Camera System.
- The Three Musketeers 2011
- A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011) claims at the start that 3D has Jumped the Shark. The rest of the movie is filled with excessive 3D shots.
- Asterix: The Land of the Gods (2014)
Movies Filmed in 2D and Converted to 3D
- The Nightmare Before Christmas, originally a fully 2D Stop Motion picture from 1993, got a 2006 touch-up as a 3D Movie for its theatrical seasonal re-release for Halloween 2006. It's been re-released in October each year.
- The two Toy Story films also received a 3D touch-up in October 2009 as a lead-up to Toy Story 3. The UK had to wait until January 2010 for Toy Story 2 to be released in 3D. The "fake 3D" effect was averted, thanks to the nature of CG animation: Pixar could simply re-render the whole film from the masters with a split virtual camera. Other such post-3D CGI movies include:
- The first three Shrek movies (on BD only)
- Elephants Dream (and presumably, the other two Blender Foundation shorts will be soon)
- The Disney Animated Canon first got a taste of this with Chicken Little, sent to an outside company to convert with original 3D models provided.
- Meet the Robinsons was done similarly.
- Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).
- The Clash of the Titans remake.
- The Last Airbender.
- Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.
- Piranha 3D.
- My Soul to Take
- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (part 1's conversion was canceled—reportedly due to the time constraints generated by the criticism of the rush job on the 3D in Clash of the Titans)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black.
- Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods was supposed to be converted, but the conversion got cancelled thanks to MGM falling apart
- The Green Hornet.
- Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch was going to be converted, but likely due to Snyder's dissatisfaction with the results, will only be released in 2D.
- The 2012 re-release of Titanic. The irony is particularly thick here, as during the height of Follow the Leader after Avatar, James Cameron stated that 3D conversion was a mistake, and only movies designed for the process should be released that way.
- He was talking about a 2 week Clash of the Titans-esque rush job; he said that a year or so is a decent time to do it properly in.
- The 2012-17 re-releases of the Star Wars series.
- Disney's G-Force acted as a technology showcase; the rotoscoped 3D conversion was almost indistinguishable from reality... except for a transparent glass tank in a pet shop which looked in 3D as if it was opaque.
- The 2010 rerelease of Battle Royale, which will finally hit American shores in 3D in 2011 thanks to the efforts of Anchor Bay Films.
- The latest Beauty and the Beast re-release
- Captain America (comics)
- Conan 3D
- Green Lantern
- The Smurfs
- Garfield's Pet Force
- Unbelievably, The Room.
- The Nutcracker in 3D, which thanks to the dark photography reportedly makes it next to impossible to see.
- Cyberworld 3-D, in which the entire selling point was "Watch clips from Antz and the Homer 3 segment from The Simpsons converted to 3-D".
- The 2012 re-release of Top Gun.
- For IMAX screenings, a portion of Superman Returns was converted into 3D; similar partial conversions were done on Harry Potter and Harry Potter.
- Dawn of the Dead (2009 conversion of the 1979 original)
References to 3D movies in media
- In The A Team, the team is planning to break out Murdock out of a psych ward, so they send one of his friends a 3-D movie, and in the beginning a Humvee drives towards the camera, which then a REAL Humvee drives through the wall.
Murdock You can see these bullets in 3D! It's like we're actually being shot at!
- In Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor uses what look like 3D glasses to see the background radiation of the void (the gap between parallel universes) in "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday".
- Fry and Leela attend a 3D movie in the Futurama episode "Fear of a Bot Planet". The glasses don't work on the one-eyed Leela, however.
- The Muppets Take Manhattan: Scooter works at a theater showing a 3D movie. Advertising for the 2011 film would later make a point of the fact that the film was not in 3D
- The Fifties fad of 3D movies is referenced in Back to The Future. One member of Biff's gang goes around wearing 3D glasses. He's named "3D" in the credits.
- One episode of Star Trek: Voyager had the crew watching a 1950s 3D movie with red/blue glasses on the holodeck, and B'Elanna points out to Tom (who created this holodeck simulation) how absurd it is to use a technology capable of producing solid 3D images to simulate a cinema in which a 2D film uses effects to seem 3D. He dismisses her objection basically on the principle of Rule of Cool.
- Parson in Erfworld acquires a pair of red/blue glasses that enable him to see characters' and creatures' combat and movement stats.
- An episode of Home Improvement's Show Within a Show Tool Time was shot in 3D. When asked how 3D belonged on a legitimate show about construction Tim replied that it didn't, hence why they were doing it on Tool Time.
- This trope was parodied by Sock Tube Presents.
- SCTV's Count Floyd occasionally ran a low-budget "3D" horror flick, notably Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Stewardesses. They did several of these, including Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Slave Chicks (in Smell-A-Rama!), and a few-second-long "peek" at Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Pancakes.
- Pretty Cure Heavy Metal has Sakura Cobain become a member of the 3D Movie Appreciation Club at her school halfway through the first season.
- An episode of the Dennis the Menace cartoon had a movie called The Future in 3-D.
- Homestar Runner:
- Strong Bad planned for his home movie Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective to be in 3D. It wasn't. It was, however, a video game, which is probably way cooler.
- Some of the cutscenes were later put together and turned into an actual (eight-minute) 3D Movie as a bonus feature on the SBCG4AP DVD. The DVD doesn't come with 3D glasses, though.
- You can play the PC version of the game in 3D (if you have the graphics card and drivers in order to do so).
- This [dead link] Garfield comic from the mid eighties.
John: Why did we waste our evening at that movie? And why was the photography so bad?
- One of Brad's friends on Kick Buttowski wears anaglyphic glasses. He works at a movie theater, which uses the same glasses for their 3-D movies.
- On The Looney Tunes Show, Daffy is seen wearing 3-D polarized glasses, claiming that he is seeing everything in 3-D from now on.
Daffy: It's like I can almost touch you!
- On Futurama, the robot planet's anti-human propaganda film is in 3-D. Leela couldn't benefit from the technology.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh: Bonds Beyond Time Abridged movie, this is lampshaded. The original movie had 3D effects, which of course the abridged version lacks. At a certain point there's a short intermission from Little Kuriboh: "We at Yugioh Abridged like to apologize for the lack of 3D content in this movie, however we like to think this is totally justified since 3D is bullsh*t and adds absolutely nothing to the cinema experience. So please, enjoy your 2D movie. Because it's cheaper and much less obnoxious."
Some games include support for stereo rendering of the graphics. Granted, it could just be the developers showing off considering that the theoretical basis for it is pretty simple.
- A number of DOS games supported VR headsets.
- The BUILD editor, used by Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior supports red/blue anaglyph rendering in its 3D editing mode, although the quality is debatable.
- Magic Carpet has this as an option. Another options uses a moving random dot stereogram to display 3D, presumably for people who like getting headaches.
- Descent, likewise.
- Track Mania Nations Forever includes an option for anaglyph rendering.
- The original release of Serious Sam: The Second Encounter supported anaglyph rendering with at least two different colour filter pairings. I don't think it's supported in the Updated Rerelease, though.
- Sly Cooper 3 has the option to play certain missions in red/blue 3D; the characters even sport matching glasses during those sequences.
- The Windows Vista/7 drivers for Nvidia's newer graphics cards include support for rendering Direct X-based 3D games in stereo for several different output devices, including red/cyan anaglyph glasses. Some older games don't work properly (Unreal and Unreal Tournament come to mind), and the anaglyph mode is useless for games which rely on colour distinctions as part of the gameplay, especially if the game also employs Real Is Brown.
- Minecraft has an option for red/cyan anaglyph. You can also download fan-made addons that allow for differently colored glasses, stereoscopy and other 3D options.
- While not technically a game, the DOS fractal calculation program Fractint does support red/blue anaglyph calculations of certain fractals.
- The Nintendo 3DS has 3D effect accomplished without glasses.
- 3D World Runner and Rad Racer, two NES games by Square Soft, included an option for anaglyphic 3D. The Japanese disk versions of these two games were among the few games to support the field sequential Famicom 3D System, along with the Konami shooter Falsion.
- The Sega Master System also used the field-sequential process for its SegaScope 3-D games, of which eight were produced: Blade Eagle 3-D, Line of Fire, Maze Hunter 3-D, Missile Defense 3-D, Out Run 3-D, Poseidon Wars 3-D, Space Harrier 3-D and Zaxxon 3-D.
- Starship Titanic came with anaglyph glasses for a certain puzzle involving a starfield.
- Sega's SubRoc-3D in 1982 was the first 3D Arcade Game, with shutter glasses attached to the cabinet. (It was ported to the ColecoVision, which had no 3D system, as SubRoc.) Relatively few 3D arcade games have been made since, until the 3D-fad revival in the late-2000s. Recent examples include Sega's Let's Go Island 3D and Namco's Maximum Heat racing game.