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Iconic Motion Capture Performances in Film History

Motion capture performances are a staple in blockbuster films. Everything from James Cameron‘s Avatar to Rise of the Plant of the Apes has made use of this impressive technology. Despite naysayers arguing that this does not count as acting, the hard work and craft dedicated to motion capture is not something that can be easily overlooked.

So today, Explore Talent is counting down motion capture performances that really broke ground. Find out if your favorite actor made it to the list below.

5 Brilliant Motion Capture Performances

5. Andy Serkis as Kong in King Kong (2005)

King Kong

Andy Serkis is a name synonymous to motion capture. He teamed up with frequent collaborator Peter Jackson for the epic movie King Kong. Although he didn’t need to deliver any lines, Serkis was excellent in his role and was applauded by critics upon the movie’s release. The actor actually needed to work with real gorillas just so he could gain a better understanding of their expressions. Talk about dedication!

4. Bill Nighy as Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Pirates of the Caribbean

Jack Sparrow may have been a driving force for Pirates of the Caribbean, but Bill Nighy really stole the show in the second installment in the blockbuster franchise. It really does help that the animators made him this really unique octopus-human hybrid, and Nighy’s dramatic motion capture performance only made the character of Davy Jones even more iconic. Speaking of the said performance, Industrial Light & Magic had gone on to say that Nighy’s acting was an animator’s dream. He added a bit of wit, charm, comedy, and terrifying villainy goodness to the role.

3. Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit franchise may not have been as good as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the cast delivered an outstanding performance nonetheless. Aside from Martin Freeman, his Sherlock co-star was also excellent in his given role. Benedict Cumberbatch played the dragon Smaug in the movie.

The British actor brought to life the mythical creature in one of the most stunning motion capture performances in history. According to reports, Cumberbatch actually went to the studio in all fours and while the process may not have looked pretty during filming, the outcome was absolutely jaw-dropping.

2. Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in Avatar (2009)


This James Cameron sci-fi epic was groundbreaking on so many levels, and Zoe Saldana was definitely one of the film’s biggest highlights. As the alien Neytiri, Saldana brought a range of emotions in her motion capture performance. She remained committed and completely lost herself to the role. Judging from the raw footage during filming, it is safe to say that Saldana remained 100 percent determined to bring justice to the character she was tasked to give life to.

1. Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings

The franchise Lord of the Rings was already a visual fest on its own. Using Peter Jackson’s love for all things visually stunning, the production team really kicked it up a notch with the second installment. The Two Towers introduced audiences to Gollum, a hobbit that was corrupted by the ring.

It is no surprise for Andy Serkis to appear twice on this list, yet alone have him take the number one spot. His performance as Gollum even went on to garner several nominations from various award-giving bodies. It just calls to show how dedicated Serkis is to his craft.

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