Unlike many other forms of entertainment, films are a truly collaborative effort that often involve hundreds of cast and crew working together in order to create a finished product. This distinguishes them from the likes of albums and novels, which can often be the work of a few people or even a single person. This co-operative effort between so many people is necessary, simply because of the amount of effort that needs to go into creating a coherent and enjoyable movie. After all, almost every single detail in a film has to be looked after, whether it is the exact location of props, the position, and performance of the actor or even the lighting in a particular scene.
These fine details are all important aspects of making a good film and the best examples will often have directors who are obsessed with attention to detail. These are the people who go to extreme lengths to ensure that everything in their film is exactly the way they want it to be. Whether this means that they have to take extra care to make sure that everything in a shot is in the exact position they are supposed to be in, or guaranteeing that a scene is authentic by inserting realistic material, the best films all contain examples of wonderful dedication.
Sometimes though, directors can even go so far as putting a huge amount of time and energy into something that viewers won’t even be able to notice. In these instances, you will wonder why they even went to the trouble they did, considering how little their efforts are shown on screen.
15 2001: A Space Odyssey
When Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were developing the idea of 2001: A Space Odyssey, each of them did everything they could to ensure that the science fiction film would be as authentic as possible, in direct contrast to other sci-fi movies of the time. This meant that they consulted professors on what alien life might look like and how certain objects and systems would work accurately in space.
Eventually, Kubrick went so far as to have all the equipment shown in the Moon sequence to be built so that it would actually work if it was on the moon, disregarding the fact that almost every viewer would be ignorant of whether the equipment would actually be functional.
The director went even further at one point. In the scene that shows one of the characters in the toilet section of the spacecraft, an instruction panel can briefly be seen on the wall. Although it wasn’t visible in real time, the instructions were completely genuine and actually contained 700 words detailing how the zero gravity toilet had to be operated.
14 Monsters Inc.
Everyone is aware of the hard work and monumental effort that goes into every single movie created by Pixar. Over the past two decades, they have become the premier animation studios and produced some of the greatest animated movies of all time, including the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. While every movie they have produced contains examples of incredible attention to detail, it is in that last movie where they went to the very extreme.
Although most people won’t ever notice due to the fact that only a few strands of hair are ever visible at a time, Sully’s fur is actually made up of more than 2 million individual hairs. The animators did this so that the hair would appear to move realistically and have a more pleasing look, though it is difficult to even notice for most viewers. This incredible effort meant that a single frame of animation featuring Sully would take up to 12 hours to render.
13 Red Beard
The 1965 film Red Beard, is one of the most acclaimed works by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Based on a number of short stories and the novel Humiliated and Insulted, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, it tells the story of a young doctor who has to spend his medical internship at a hospital run by the famous but autocratic Dr. Kyojo Niide.
Kurosawa went to extreme lengths to ensure that everything was historically accurate in the film. This included having wood from that time period sourced and then used to build the sets, as well as having tea cups go through a process of aging that involved people pouring thousands of liters of tea into them so they looked old and used.
Arguably the strangest behavior came in the hospital set. The director had every single drawer, cupboard and storage space within the hospital set, stocked with genuine medical supplies throughout shooting, regardless of the fact they were never shown on screen or even discussed by the characters at any point.
Coraline is a stop-motion animated fantasy horror film that originally released in 2009. Like any other stop-motion movie, it features plenty of attention to detail throughout its entire run. However, Coraline stood out from the rest because of the extravagant and incredible clothing worn by the various characters. Extraordinarily, every single costume was created by hand over the course of production.
What makes this even more impressive is the fact that one person was responsible for creating every single piece of clothing. Using knitting needles that were only as thick as a human hair, Althea Crome managed to craft hundreds of different costumes for the different characters, including underwear and socks that couldn’t even be seen as they were underneath other clothes.
11 Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars has always been known for its special effects. Even the very first film in the series contained a huge number of effects that required all kinds of expertise to pull off - in addition to a great deal of money. The more modern installments were also filled with CGI that was not only expensive, but took a lot of time and effort to get just right.
One part of The Phantom Menace that many people will be surprised to learn wasn’t actually a computer generated image is the podracing arena that Anakin speeds through in his race. While it would have been easy just to copy and paste some basic models to make it seem as if there was a full crowd, model maker Michael Lynch went in a different direction. This involved carving and shaping 450,000 Q-Tips that were then painted to simulate different clothing. A fan then made them move in the wind so that the crowd appeared to be realistic.
10 Rear Window
Like many other famous directors, Alfred Hitchcock is well known for his incredible attention to detail in all of his films. Nowhere was this more evident than in his 1954 release Rear Window. It involved a huge set that was the biggest that Paramount Pictures had ever built at the time, measuring almost 100 feet wide and 200 feet long. It contained 31 apartments, eight of which were fully furnished for the purposes of filming.
Obviously, those that acted as locations for shooting would need to be as realistic as possible, but Hitchcock had the 50 men responsible for building the set install utilities in every single one of the 31 apartments. This meant that they all had fully working electricity lines and running water, despite never being seen in the movie.
Amongst the many plaudits that Platoon received after it was released, was the fact that it seemed to be incredibly authentic. The director and producers were widely acclaimed for their efforts to ensure that the film was as realistic as possible. The accuracy was taken to extremes in almost all parts of the production, though one particular aspect took a huge effort to pull off, yet only had a minor role in the finished cut.
This involved Johnny Depp and his role as a Vietnam soldier. Despite only having a few lines to speak in Vietnamese, Depp actually spent several months learning the entire language so that he could speak it almost fluently. This was done in preparation for a larger role that was cut down significantly in the final edit, meaning that Depp went through all the effort for just a few moments of spoken dialogue.
Seven, which is sometimes stylized as Se7en, features a title sequence that is considered one of the greatest in the history of Hollywood. The rather long opening segment features a man going through a collection of diaries, clippings, fragments and articles, that are littered with furious writing and pictures of murder victims who have been subjected to horrific injuries. The entire sequence is meant to show you exactly what the mind of a serial killer is like, and give you a glimpse of how they see the world.
The various pieces were all created by John Sabel and Clive Piercy. They were created entirely by hand, with the text being entirely hand-written and making sense. The various images of dismembered bodies were researched over the course of months and put together using special techniques to make them seem old and worn. This was all done even though it was almost impossible to make out any real detail.
7 The Matrix
Like many other directors in this article, the Wachowskis are known to be very exacting when it comes to making their movies. For The Matrix, many of the cast members had to go through months of training in martial arts in order to pull off the fight scenes convincingly, while a huge moving set was creating for the freeway scene in the sequel. This just shows how seriously they took their role as director and how prepared they were to put the work into making the films the best they could be.
The craziest instance of this attention to detail came in the moment when Neo is training in a computer simulation developed by the character mouse. Neo gets distracted by a woman in the red dress and is then attacked by an agent. What he and the viewer didn’t notice though, was the fact that every single person shown in the scene has an identical twin who is also present. The Wachowski's actually went to Australia to find as many identical twins as possible to include them, as a way of showing how Mouse was a lazy programmer and had just copy and pasted the models.
6 The Shining
As shown in the previous 2001: A Space Odyssey entry above, Stanley Kubrick often went to extreme lengths in order to include as much detail in his films as possible. If this meant spending an extraordinary amount of time on a tiny element of the movie that would hardly even be noticeable to those watching, the director was completely prepared to do so. This behavior carried on into one of his most famous movies – The Shining.
In one of the defining scenes of the film, where Shelley Duvall goes through the novel that Jack Nicholson’s character has apparently been writing, the pages are actually just filled with the quote "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” This moment is supposed to show how the character has gone insane by simply writing out the same phrase over and over. While most directors would simply have had a few pages printed off to give the right effect, Kubrick had his secretary type out those words on thousands of pages over the course of several months.
5 The Bonfire of the Vanities
While the 1990 movie The Bonfire of the Vanities may not have been a commercial or critical success, it does have a small number of impressive scenes that have proved to be iconic and long-lasting. One of these is a notable scene that saw one of the characters arrive in New York on an Air France Concorde with a backdrop of the sun setting directly behind the runway. While the scene itself only lasts around 10 seconds, it took a tremendous amount of time and effort to get right.
This is because second unit director Eric Schwab, had to spend months of work studying the rotation of the earth and calculating exactly how the sun moved through the sky. He was eventually able to deduce a 30 second time period to get the perfect shot of the sun behind the Concorde aircraft and managed to capture the moment on film.
4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Harry Potter series is arguably the biggest fictional phenomenon of the past 20 years. The franchise has spawned spin-off books, stage shows, video games, and highly successful movies. Although the films weren’t to everyone’s liking, the people behind them certainly went to great lengths to make each installment as good as it could possibly be.
This culminated in the filmmakers actually creating hundreds of pamphlets, books, leaflets, and posters about the Quidditch World Cup for The Goblet of Fire. This, in combination with the sheer volume of merchandise produced, took hundreds of hours of work to complete, as the material included stats and profiles of every single player and team competing in the fictional tournament. Unfortunately for those who spent time creating these pieces, only one program is ever shown in the movie when it is held by a background character for a few seconds.
3 Throne of Blood
The 1957 movie Throne of Blood is one of the most well-known films from the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. The story was essentially a Macbeth-like experience set in feudal Japan and saw Toshiro Mifune in the title role. One of the most important sequences in the movie sees the main character being accosted by archers who are firing waves of arrows at him as he attempts to escape.
While it was completely unknown to viewers and most of those involved in filming, Kurosawa actually had expert archers come onto the set and fire real arrows at Mifune. This was allegedly done so that the terrified reaction of the actor would be genuine, giving a more realistic performance. The change to real arrows was completely unnoticeable to anyone watching however, meaning that only a few people knew how much danger Mifune was in.
2 Finding Nemo
As previously discussed, Pixar is not exactly known for making movies that are half-baked. They tend to go all out to ensure that they make the best possible product and this often involves members of the team doing extensive research into the subject matter so that they can portray it properly.
In the case of Finding Nemo, studying the movements of fish wasn’t enough for the team. Instead, they hired professors and lecturers from university to teach the animators graduate level classes on marine biology and the exact physics behind the propulsion of fish through the water. This meant that they were able to be excruciatingly accurate when it came to animating the various marine life in the ocean, even though the vast majority of people would never know if a movement was accurate or not.
1 The Lord of the Rings
Although many fantasy films now use computer generated imagery (CGI) for much of their special effects and costuming needs, Peter Jackson has become known for trying to be as authentic as possible. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an ideal example of this. The costume and effects teams produced tens of thousands of pieces, including weapons, armor, accessories, and even masks for actors to wear.
What is most remarkable about this is that most of these creations were incredibly unlikely to even be noticed by viewers. The chain mail alone took two years to create as the filmmakers created some six miles of the material to be worn under the armor of actors and stuntmen. The creators even personalized many of the pieces to fit in with the unique culture and characteristics of each race and group, despite the fact that they would only be seen on screen in brief glimpses.