Greatest matte paintings - Toolbox Studios


Matte paintings or glass shots as they are also known originated during the early period of the silent era. They gave the production unit the freedom of never having to leave the studio grounds and still creating films that left the audience in awe. For a long time now, many movies have relied on the magic of this art. Matte painting studios across the world have worked tirelessly towards creating the magic. To pick and choose among them is a tough choice to make but a few of them stand out. Below is the list of the best among those.

10 Matte paintings Seen On The Screen

Mary Poppins 1964

Mary Poppins


An academy award winner for the best visual effects, this movie made extensive use of matte paintings. In many shots, the entire background was a full frame of art and the actors were matted into it. Chief artist Peter Ellenshaw was a part of the creative think tank with Walt Disney in many movies but he definitely out did himself with this one!


Ghostbuster 2 1989

ghostbusters II


Mark Sullivan was one of the greatest matte painters that his generation ever saw. Before the art of glass shots gravitated to the computers, he painted this full screen shot of Sigourney Weaver’s apartment and cityscape around it. Only the roadway was left unpainted.


Earthquake 1974



What makes this movie so special? The 22 matte paintings by Albert Whitlock made in 12 weeks! What was even more impressive is the fact that this medium budget movie that was made in great haste minted money in the box office! The effects work did have a few loop holes which was most likely due to the rushed schedule but the paintings are most definitely noteworthy.

The distinguishing point in the shot in focus here is the loose and impressionistic brush that was a tried and tested signature of Albert’s style.


The NeverEnding Story 1984

Never Ending Story


Whether you took a liking to the movie or not, in the middle of all the visual effects you would have most definitely noticed this stunning Jim Danforth matte. He did a brilliant job with capturing the refractive index of the crystalline substances which is all one large frame. This definitely is one of his best mattes ever.


Ben Hur 1959

Ben Hur

The mattes in this movie faced a unique challenge. They all had to be painted squeezed which would then be played for the audience in the right ratio after the making. And the beauty of it is that despite all the difficulties, it is still so hard to spot an error.


Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man 1991

Harley Davidson Marlboro Man


This action flick went mostly unnoticed by the audience. But what we could not ignore is the breath taking matte painting by Rocco Gioffre. While the element of the men against the bill board and the traffic was streamed individually, the rest of the scene entirely depended on this stunning matte!


Raiders Of The Lost Ark 1981

Raiders of the lost Ark


Micheal Pangrazio painted this stunning visual from the Raiders of the Lost Ark that become symbolic of the movie today! This painting is tremendous for the fact that is held in the shot for a fairly long time as compared to any other matte till date. And it is still not an easy feat to tell where the trick lies! Flawless.


Treasure Island 1950

Treasure Island


Another exhibition of Peter Ellenshaw’s unbelievable talent. This matte painting of the harbor in this delightful Disney feature, is one of the few that will forever remain on the lists of the greatest matte paintings ever made.


The Red Shoes 1948

The Red Shoes


A lengthy old movie on ballet dancers is nobody’s first choice. Brave against that and you will definitely find that the visuals in the movie are worth the watch.  The many ground breaking travelling mattes and optical composites are not short of awe inspiring, sometimes supplemented by equally beautifully matte paintings contributed by Joseph Natanson, Ivor Beddoes and Les Bowie.


Superman 1978



Superman was as close to perfection any superhero movie could attain. Les Bowie along with Ray Caple painted this stunning matte of the crystal fortress which is without a doubt one of Caple’s best work ever.


King Kong 1933

King Kong


The Kong movie is packed with a number of matte paintings which have successfully created a mood of mystery, gloom and fear. The chief matte artists Byron Crabbe and Mario Larrinaga gave life to a dark and terrifying jungle in the 1930’s and till date there isn’t one that is said to be more terrifying.


These artists and matte painting studios have given us a whole different to live in for whatever brief period of time.  A salute is what they deserve!


Images are sourced from here.

Toolbox Studio