11 Actors That Killed It In Their CGI Roles


Imagine having to play a literal dragon.

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Actor performances of CGI characters often go overlooked. So I compiled a list of actors (whose performances required the help of CGI) who killed their roles, and their acting behind the scenes is true “movie magic”:


Bill Nighy brought the terror (and sass) as Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Davy Jones CGI quality still looks top class today. This isn’t a list of CGI quality, though, and the man behind the character often goes overlooked. Nighy brings a real attitude to this menacing, squid-faced character that can only be described as cheeky.

Just watching his facial expressions is pretty special in the behind-the-scenes footage, how every movement has a purpose and only strengthens the character’s final presentation.

You can check out Nighy transforming into the cursed creature in the video below:

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / YouTube: Special Features / Via youtube.com


Benedict Cumberbatch unleashed fire and death with his intense performance as the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy.


Koba actor Toby Kebbell stole the show with his acting in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

20th Century Fox

In a movie full of primates, it’s hard to stand out, especially with Andy Serkis starring as Cesar, but Kebbell did just that with Koba.

The character served as one of the antagonists of the film, and seeing Kebbell bring the character to life behind the scenes is quite the trip. Kebbell brings a different physical presence from the stern, powerful lead in Serkis. He is as creepy as he is compelling.


Josh Brolin SNAPPED playing Thanos in the Avengers films.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

You can watch Brolin bathe the starways with his tremendous acting in the clip below:

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / YouTube: Viral Fever / Via youtube.com


In a galaxy far, far away, Lupita Nyong’o brought balance to Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


Zoe Saldaña brought out the emotions for Neytiri in Avatar.

20th Century Fox

There was plenty of star power in Avatar, but Saldaña stole the show and never even showed her face throughout the film.

The range her character brings is unlike any other in the film, and she had to rely on the motion capture process to really convey her emotional impact in every line. If you watch behind-the-scenes clips of her, you feel the anger in her voice while, at the same time, her cries sound like an alien. I think it was one of the bigger acting snubs during awards season that year, and it was a film that had plenty of visual nominations.


Ray Winstone brought untamed intensity to Beowulf with a bold performance.


Alan Tudyk played a robot named Sonny that tugged at the audience’s heartstrings in iRobot.


Rosa Salazar brought life to the film Alita: Battle Angel with an extraordinary performance.

20th Century Fox

This entry might seem less impressive compared with others because the final product isn’t that drastically different from Salazar. Keep in mind that she served as the title character in this film, which meant more screentime and a higher demand for her acting range than other characters.

As seen in behind-the-scenes footage, she found her character in all different kinds of environments, making this one of the most physically challenging roles on this list.


Andy Serkis had people calling for him to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Gollum (and Sméagol) in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Ahmed Best introduced the world to Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace and changed cinema.

20th Century Fox

There’s no punchline here. I understand people have a sour opinion about the character, but everyone sleeps on this groundbreaking performance. Seriously, Best is like the Neil Armstrong of motion capture acting. Jar Jar walked (clumsily) so everyone else could run.

The behind-the-scenes documentary The Beginning: The Making of Star Wars: Episode I  — The Phantom Menace is one of my all-time favorites, and it really gives the audience a good look at just how uncharted the “motion capture territory” was for Best and how he really shined in the role when the cameras rolled.

Do any CGI character performances stick out to you? Did I miss one? Comment below!

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