Well, the fine experts at screenjunkies.com are at it again with yet another Top 10 IMAX list. And whether prostrating to James Cameron, using a science center film festival list, or listing a bunch of non-IMAX films as IMAX, the consensus of my IMAX colleagues is that the three lists are, well, generic and bland. So I’ve gotten together with some of my friends, long-term professionals in the giant screen industry, to give a top 10 list of some of the finer IMAX films the Screen Junkies have most likely never even heard of. These are listed in no particular order.
- Chronos (1985) – A Jeff Kirsch joint, directed by the legendary Ron Fricke (Baraka), Chronos tells the history of Western civilization through spectacular 1570 stop-motion photography and no narration, only the ethereal score of Michael Stearns.
- Beavers (1988) – Legend has it that filmmaker Stephen Low persuaded a nuclear power plant that they wanted a film about beavers for their visitor center. They’re cute, they’re furry, they make squeaky sounds, and they seem to continue to sell out in Seattle even to this day.
- Silent Sky (1977) – Forget the mess that is T-Rex, this short is nothing more than gliding in a sailplane above California. Tranquil, mesmerizing, and majestic all at once.
- We Are Born of Stars (1985) – A movie so powerful that it was intended to counterbalance a dropped film about intelligent design, this short film is now at the center of a lawsuit against the California Science Center. We Are Born of Stars was created for the Tskuba, Japan World Expo and was the first 3D film designed for the IMAX dome.
- Snow Job (1974) – What a concept. Actors in a non-educational comedy on the IMAX screen. We wouldn’t see that again until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or as some of us prefer to think, until The IMAX Nutcracker.
- Race the Wind (1989) – Before The Living Sea, surfer/filmmaker Greg MacGillivray got back in the water with this homage to sailing. Serene at times and action packed at others, the film includes IMAX footage of the 1987 and 1988 America’s Cup races.
- The Magic Egg (1984) – Before CyberWorld, before The Polar Express, before full dome digital, the Science Museum of Minnesota put state-of-the-art (for the mid-’80’s) computer animation on the enveloping Omnimax screen.
- Fires of Kuwait (1992) – Greg MacGillivray and his co-directors have had great success being in the right place at the right time when disaster hit Everest and New Orleans. But it was David Douglas who truly captured a moment of history on film as it happened as he and his crew documented the international team fighting to end the worst ecological disaster of our time – the destruction of the Kuwaiti oil fields by departing Iraqi forces.
- Paint Misbehavin’ (1997) – Again, forget T-Rex. It was the 3D short that preceded it that got our attention, the first film to use IMAX’s revolutionary SANDDE animation system. Not familiar with SANDDE? Go see Ultimate Wave Tahiti or Legends of Flight, now in IMAX theaters, to see how remarkable it is.
- Special Effects (1996) – A NOVA documentary made for the IMAX screen, this film was directed by Star Wars sound guru Ben Burtt (who also directed the IMAX space films Blue Planet and Destiny in Space). The kicker: a recreation of the opening scene of the original Star Wars shot with IMAX cameras.
Special thanks to my colleagues PC, CR, and BK for their input, and especially to ZB for reminding me just how bad T-REX is.