Software & Apps Design The Top 3D Movies of All Time The greatest stereoscopic 3D films of the modern era By Justin Slick Writer Former Lifewire writer Justin Slick has been creating 3D computer graphics for more than 10 years, specializing in character and environment creation. our editorial process Justin Slick Updated March 19, 2020 Rebecca Nelson / Getty Images Design 3D Design Animation & Video Graphic Design Tweet Share Email If you asked a sizable sample of casual movie fans what their favorite 3D movie of all time is, a lot of people would probably answer Avatar. It's one of the highest-grossing films of all time, so on that criterion alone, it's going to garner a lot of votes. Avatar isn't my personal number one, but it's near the top. In this article, I go through my picks for the top ten 3D films of all time and try to justify my choices. For this list, I tried to judge based on the strength of the 3D in addition to the film itself. For example, my favorite movie on the list is probably Toy Story 3, which as far as I'm concerned is pretty much a perfect film. However, I didn't put it at number one because I think there are other films that use 3D technology to greater effect. 01 of 05 How to Train Your Dragon DreamWorks I remember walking out of the theater after How to Train Your Dragon and thinking, "This is it. This is the future." The flight scenes in this film are so unbelievably exhilarating in 3D I'm pretty sure they're still the best thing that's been done in the format to date. Yes, the best scenes in this film are better than the best scenes in Avatar. Throw in a wonderful, heartfelt, unpredictable story, and you've got yourself one of the best 3D films of all time. 02 of 05 Hugo Paramount Studios I've seen a lot of movies set in and around Paris, and I don't think any of them looked this good. (OK, maybe Amelie, but you get what I'm saying.) The world of Hugo is teeming with the glorious visual cacophony of everyday life in a Paris train station, and director Martin Scorcese's vision literally jumps off the screen and draws you into the film's universe. Hugo is packed with steam and clockwork and an exaggerated aesthetic that makes Gare Montparnasse one of the most distinctive and immersive film settings I've ever spent time in. The film might've been a bit too saccharine for some critics' tastes, but I thought it was a masterpiece. 03 of 05 Avatar 20th Century Fox Avatar is the last film I saw twice at the cinema, and you better believe I paid the 3D ticket premium both times. Like How to Train Your Dragon, the Avatar experience simply cannot be replicated in the home theater. I think Dragon and Hugo are both better films, but you can't deny that Cameron's mega-blockbuster has the visual trump card. Pandora is one of the most fully realized movie settings ever to grace the silver screen. Not since The Lord of the Rings have we seen a director go to such incredible lengths to ensure everything about his film's backdrop was pitch-perfect, from the geology to the lush bio-luminescent forests, to the unforgettable array of creatures, characters, vehicles, and set-pieces. After all that, Cameron's groundbreaking use of stereoscopic 3D was simply the icing on the cake. It took something exceptional, elevated it, and made it legendary. 04 of 05 Tangled Disney Tangled languished in development for so long that by the time it was released, no one knew what to expect. We knew the concept art was stunning, the film had cost Disney an arm and a leg to produce, and the marketing machine had forced an eleventh-hour name change based on the fear that young boys wouldn't be interested in a film called Rapunzel. And we dared to dream this was the film that would bring animation studios like Walt Disney Animation back to relevance in the CG age. But I don't think anyone expected a modern classic. Years after its release, I don't think any animation studio, not even Pixar, has released a film that matches the level of technical polish and visual sophistication that Disney gave us in Tangled. And the lanterns ... oh the lanterns! 05 of 05 Up Pixar A lot of people consider Up to be the pinnacle of artistic expression in the vaunted Pixar canon. While it's not my favorite film to come out of Emeryville, it's (in my opinion) the studio's best use of the 3D format to date. While Toy Story 3 and Brave both used 3D competently as a depth of field mechanism, the lofty panoramas in Up lent themselves to the format exceptionally well. The scene atop the airship at the film's climax is a showstopper. I'm fairly sure this was my first stereoscopic 3D experience (aside from theme park rides), and it certainly didn't disappoint.