Saw this survey via BBC and it does not surprise me…the favourite special effect shot in films os the 1977 opening Star Wars shot of the Imperial Star Destroyer coming into view. This was followed by the 1933 King Kong climax. Six out of the top 10 are older than 20 years old. So, its not the money or the slickness of the effect that has proven to be a winner. To me, it’s the memorability – doing something that has not been done, that makes people stop and just go ‘oooooohhh’ (or whatever words you want to say here!)
So good effects enhance the storytelling and add something new – they are not just effects for their own sake, as you can see quite often in modern films.