10 Best Uses of 3D in Movie History, From Hitchcock to 'Hugo'

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A selection of films that use the controversial technology for more than just higher ticket prices

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Most of the time, 3D is 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 of than not ill-used. Below, 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.

This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.

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Jason Bailey is the film editor at Flavorwire, and has also written for Slate, Salon, and the Village Voice.

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