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Minatures can be used to replace large buildings and made man objects in backgrounds, often combined with a matte background. They can also be used to simulate the explosion of large (and thus expensive) objects like planes and bridges.
Before CGI, spaceships were just miniatures on a black screen with christmas lights, after CGI... well for sometime they remained miniatures but on a blue screen.
- The Lord of the Rings films made much use of miniature for the cities and towers. However, when you're dealing with a 1/100 scale model of a tower that's supposed to be 3,000 feet tall, you still end up with a 9-meter structure - hence the crew's nickname for the models, "bigatures."
- Alfred Hitchcock would use aerial shots in places and making movements that were at the time impossible, such as for going between signs and buildings. He would often use miniatures then to make the shots possible. An example can be seen in the beginning of The Lady Vanishes even with little models cars being pushed along.
- The spaceships in Star Wars were models, as a joke the crew would sneak things in. During the final battle in the Return of the Jedi a tennis shoe was in the dogfight and a potato made do as an asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back.
- It's also how they shot the Hot Fuzz scene in which George Merchant's mansion explodes.
- Parodied in the fight scene in the model village.
- James Cameron likes breaking big toys so for things like the bridge destruction in True Lies, the tanker explosion in The Terminator and the ship Titanic in the film... you know what, guess.
- Ever seen an airplane crashing onto the runway in a film, knocking down telephone poles? Only a million times? Miniatures, all of them.
- Every Kaiju film, ever. Come on, you didn't think they actually filmed a 200-ft lizard stomping through a real countryside, did ya?
- "It's only a model."
- Mocked in Team America: World Police, which doesn't disguise its "Supercrappymation" effects for Rule of Funny. The fact that the Monumental Damage is being inflicted on models is made completely obvious, and a scene where the marionette protagonists are attacked by Kim Jong Il's trained panthers features two housecats with roars dubbed over them.
- V for Vendetta. You didn't think they blew up the actual Parliament, did you?
- A good deal of the special effects in Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan was adamant about not using CGI unless absolutely necessary.
- The iconic "Death Ray" scene of Independence Day was done by blowing up a styrofoam model of a skyscraper and using a platform to throw some Hot Wheels into the air.
- For the first six Harry Potter movies, Hogwarts was an intricate 1/24th scale model filmed in front of a green screen. In Deathly Hallows, Part 2, they switched to a CGI version of Hogwarts.
- The 1953 version of The War of the Worlds might well have pioneered the use of "bigatures" in motion pictures--the Fighting-Machines alone were somewhere in the ballpark of five feet long.
- Every starship in Star Trek until the last two seasons of Deep Space Nine - Enterprise was the first to not use models at all.
- Lampshaded on Galaxy Quest. "That ship was (hand gestures) that big."
- Due to the...minute budget the BBC gave Red Dwarf most of the effects were miniatures, even well into the mid-1990's.
- Most notably, the model for the Red Dwarf ship itself was 8 feet long, as the ship is supposed to be miles long.
- Staple of tokusatsu shows like Super Sentai and by extension Power Rangers.
- Whenever the TARDIS flies through space in classic Doctor Who, it's a miniature. Special, ahem, props go to the Dalek Emperor in The Evil of the Daleks and "The Parting of the Ways" and to the Time Lord space-station in The Trial of a Time Lord.
- The set pieces in Back To The Future The Ride were done via stop-motion animation through miniature sets. Everything riders see, from the destruction of the Texaco sign to the icy waterfall, is a miniature.