Ray Harryhausen Remembered: His 6 Most Important Movies

Joal Ryan
Movie Talk

Ray Harryhausen, the revered special-effects guru who died Tuesday at age 92, left a legacy more vast than the fault lines in "One Million Years B.C."'

His influence -- and his dinosaurs' footprints--are seen everywhere from "Star Wars" to the "Spy Kids" movies.

A primer on classic Harryhausen:

"Mighty Joe Young"

The 1949 adventure is the link from Hollywood's original stop-motion guru, Willis O'Brien, to Harryhausen. O'Brien, the mastermind behind the great-ape moves of the original "King Kong," hired Harryhausen as one of his assistants on "Mighty Joe Young." The film went on to win the Oscar for special effects, spawn a 1998 remake--and launch Harryhausen's career.

"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms"

A year before Godzilla stomped on Tokyo, and decades before T-rexes roamed Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," this 1953 sci-fi classic sent an A-bomb-awakened dinosaur on a walking tour of New York. The film teamed Harryhausen with his childhood fanboy in arms, Ray Bradbury, who wrote the story, and inspired countless giant-monster movies to come--including Harryhausen's own "It Came From Beneath the Sea" (1955), which itself was found homage-worthy by Pixar's "Monsters Inc."

"Earth vs. Flying Saucers"

In this 1956 favorite, which would see its DNA live on in the likes of Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!," Harryhausen sicced an alien spacecraft on the poor, defenseless Washington Monument. No great American landmark has been safe on film since.

"Jason and the Argonauts"

Harryhausen's Sinbad movies not only have their fans, they prompted the teenaged Peter Jackson to recreate a stop-motion sequence from "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958). But from this era, Harryhausen's work from "Jason and the Argonauts" stands above all because of two little words: Skeleton. Fight.

"One Million Years B.C."

If all this 1966 movie had was Raquel Welch in a cave-bikini, then it would've had enough for some audiences. But it also had Harryhausen dinosaurs--a lot of Harryhausen dinosaurs.

"Clash of the Titans"

The advent of "Star Wars" in 1977 raised the bar for special effects, and seemingly spelled the end for Harryhausen. But the master proved there was no stopping stop-motion with this 1981 favorite, remade in 2010.