Metropolis in 1927, Fritz Lang made Metropolis and forever redefined the visual aesthetic of film. You will notice that many of the movies on this list are science fiction, and that's because films like Metropolis caused directors to think and create differently.
The Wizard of OzThis movie is from 1939, yet most filmmakers would STILL not be able to make something as visually spectacular as The Wizard of Oz (especially without the aid of computers).
Heck, just look to the "sequel/reboot" to see how shitty a CG Oz is.
2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick made a movie in 1968 that featured special effects that are still stunning by today's standards. Many say that before Gravity, this was THE space movie. Many still think so, actually, and with good reason.
It and its effects seemingly never age, and they continue to impress on each viewing.
Star Wars (Original Series)What George Lucas did with his original budget for Star Wars was nothing short of miraculous (and trend-setting). Too bad he had to ruin it all with those damn prequels.
Apocalypse NowIf you sit down to watch Apocalypse Now, you will get hit with the sad fact that movies will NEVER be this epic in scope again. From the war scenes to the jaw-dropping locations, Apocalypse Now was epic filmmaking back in time when directors risked their lives to make movies this remarkable.
If someone tried to make Apocalypse Now in 2015, it would just be a CG mess.
Close Encounters of the Third KindThough most of this movie is quite slow and minimalist, when the massive spaceship comes into view during the climax, it is still absolutely breathtaking, even by today's standards.
AlienIt was a real toss-up between Blade Runner and Alien for this spot, but the latter takes the cake for the chest burst scene.
Simply put, it's one of the best movie scenes, ever, and is an example of pre-CG effects work at its best.
Day of the DeadThough makeup master Tom Savini did some amazing work in Dawn of the Dead, the above photo is just one of the reasons that Day wins out.
Horror movies nowadays are all pre-programmed bullshit. In Day of the Dead, you could almost FEEL the kills. And unfortunately, you just don't get that anymore with the genre.
Mad Max ThunderdomeLet's talk Mad Max for a second. The Thunderdome in this movie is batshit insane. They actually built a literal Thunderdome for this film and every single thing from the sets to the wardrobes just reeks of hours of work and passion.
Watching it again just makes you extra excited for Mad Max: Fury Road.