The Academy Award for Visual Effects is an Academy Award given for the best achievement in visual effects.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first recognized the technical contributions of special effects to movies at its inaugural dinner in 1928, presenting a plaque for "Best Engineering Effects" to the first Best Picture Oscar winner, the World War I flying drama Wings.
Producer David O. Selznick, then production head at RKO Studios, petitioned the Academy Board of Governors to recognize the work of animator Willis O'Brien for his groundbreaking work on 1933's King Kong.
But it was not until 1938 when a film was actually recognized for its effects work, when a "Special Achievement Award for Special Effects" was given to the Paramount film Spawn of the North. The following year, "Best Special Effects" became a recognized category, although on occasion the Academy has chosen to honor a single film outright rather than nominate two or more films. From 1939 to 1963, it was an award for a film's visual effects as well as audio effects, so usually it was given to two persons, although some years only one or the other type of effect was recognised. In 1964, it was given only for visual effects, and the following year the name of the category was changed to "Best Special Visual Effects".
Between 1972 and 1977, there was no specific award for visual effects. As such work was awarded within the umbrella award called Special Achievement Academy Award. In 1977, a specific award category for visual effects was reintroduced with the current name, "Best Visual Effects", although until 1995, visual effects could for some years continue to be given within the Special Achievement Academy Award instead. Which 1990 was the last year there was no official nominations, but instead a special achievement given.
Usually, there are three nominated films. In 1979, there were five films nominated. Sometimes, no award is given. Other times, a single film is given the award outright.
In 2007, it was decided that a list of no more than 15 eligible films would be chosen, from which a maximum of 7 would be chosen for further consideration. A vote would then proceed, with a maximum of three nominees. Since 2010, there are five nominees. No more than four people may be nominated for a single film.
According to the official Academy Award rules, the criteria are:
(a) consideration of the contribution the visual effects make to the overall production and
(b) the artistry, skill and fidelity with which the visual illusions are achieved.