Your Flavorwire has made no secret, over the past couple of years, that we’re not exactly charter members in the 3D Fan Club. Most of the time, we’ve argued, it’s a gimmick—an irritating distraction that muddies up the frame, darkens the image, and gives you a headache, yet allows theaters to charge you a couple more bucks a ticket. And over the past few months, it’s started to seem that audiences agree; revenues from 3D movies dropped 20 percent between 2010 and 2011, and when the Clash of the Titans sequel Wrath of the Titans failed to deliver big box office last weekend (its $35 million opening weekend was far short of its predecessor’s $61 million), many commentators blamed lingering resentment over the original film’s shoddy, retro-fitted 3D presentation. (Of course, this week’s release of Titanic 3D may very well throw all of these arguments into the toilet — nobody gets people to pony up for for the glasses like Mr. Cameron.)
The unfortunate thing, if we may be just a touch contrarian, is that just as audiences are beginning to (slowly) back away from 3D, it’s starting to get into the hands of filmmakers who are actually doing interesting things with it, rather than merely slap in a few “look out!” gags and call it a day. And to clarify the position: it’s not that 3D can never work — just that it’s not a catch-all solution, and is more often than not ill-used. After the jump, we’ve collected ten films (in chronological order) from 3D’s 50-plus year history that were actually good films—and that put the technology to worthwhile use.
House of Wax
This horror classic with Vincent Price got a fair share of attention last year, when Martin Scorsese pinpointed it in countless interviews (while promoting his 3D debut, Hugo) as his first encounter with 3D; he even included it in his list of 85 films “you need to see to know anything about film” earlier this year. André de Toth’s 1953 film was one of the first big 3D hits, marrying the technology with energetic camerawork. According to Scorsese, this was the advantage of 3D over other ’50s theatrical incentives like CinemaScope, “because in the first use of Cinemascope, it was rather static, but the 3D was not for some reason, particularly in House of Wax.”