The fear of monsters is shared between all cultures all along the world. Sometimes they act as an allegory for a perceived threat in society at the time that they are created. For example, many people believe that vampires are a thinly-veiled construct that discourages women from having sex before marriage (an awkward goal that isn’t really possible) and that zombies are a critique on mainstream society. Other times, they are simply there to get audiences to pay for a ticket to the movie theater. Monsters let us live out our fears in a fun, safe manner and the recent success of the reboot of Godzilla shows that they are here to stay.
Here are the ten best monster films. Go grab some popcorn, a few friends, and watch all of them.
10. Cloverfield (2008)
A found footage film done right. Cloverfield took audiences by storm in 2008 when it was released in theaters. Director Matt Reeves and his crew proved that monster movies can still be entertaining in the modern age by knowing that less is more. We rarely see the monster and barely know what’s going on as civilization collapses around the main characters. The short length of the film also shows that the filmmakers are confident in their story and know that it’s better to leave an audience wanting more than to give them to much and bore them.
9. Trollhunter (2010)
Zombies, vampires, werewolves. These are the horror movie tropes that have been bankable since the early days of cinema. So it’s nice to watch a great monster movie that doesn’t have any of those monsters in it. Trollhunter has well..trolls in it. The Norweigan film is able to be both comedic and horrifying at the same time as we watch a group of students follow a mysterious troll hunter after a group of bears are killed in mysterious ways. The CGI renders the trolls perfectly and the Norwegian scenery will take your breath away every single time. Trollhunter is another found footage film done right.
8. The Fly (1986)
The Fly is a horrifying film that is held together by a tragic love story. A brilliant scientist tries to invent a way to teleport human beings through telepods but keeps failing in every attempt to do so. Finally, the scientist (played by Jeff Goldblum) thinks that he has ironed out all of the kinks and decides to try his machine out for himself. Unfortunately a fly enters the machine with him and he starts to transform into a human-fly hybrid. The special effects and the character interactions will give you a few sleepless nights after watching it. This is one of the best David Cronenberg films of all time.
7. Them! (1954)
The special effects are extremely dated and the acting is a little over the top for modern tastes, but don’t let these things stop you from enjoying this look into American Cold War hysteria when early atomic tests in New Mexico cause giant ants to threaten civilization as we know it. Them! is also a fantastic study in genre since it starts as a murder mystery and then turns into the science fiction classic that we still praise today. Let’s also give some credit to the actors who had to shoot their scenes in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Frankenstein (1931)
This would not be much of a list if we didn’t include a monster movie starring Boris Karloff. Frankenstein is a crowning achievement for Universal as it examines the tragic story of one of the most infamous monsters in existence. The make up applied to Karloff as he plays Frankenstein is still incredible today. Although this incredible detail for the craft did come at a cost since it would take hours for it to be applied and the makeup would also frequently melt into Karloff’s eyes due to the heat coming from the set. That can’t be healthy.
5. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
This classic horror film starts out like a lot of other great horror films. Scientists find the remains of an ancient creature and decide to explore the black lagoon to recover more of the remains. Obviously the creature is still alive and things get worse from there. While this film also suffers from outdated effects, the scenes where the creature falls in love with Kay, the lead female role, are timeless. If you want to seem smart, mention this movie whenever someone says that 3-D films are a new phenomenon. This is because this film is one of the first to be shown in 3-D at the theater.
4. Gojira/Godzilla (1954)
The movie that started it all. Gojira took audiences by storm when it was released in Japan and was then partially re-shot for American audiences. While the American version is good, watch the Japanese version if you can. It’s a great monster flick that successfully slips in an anti-nuclear weapon message from a group of filmmakers who recently had two cities in Japan bombed with nuclear weapons. The suit is also a technological feat for the time and really gave the monster a sense of heft. That’s probably because it weighed over two-hundred pounds and frequently caught on fire. Oh, the things we do for the art of cinema.
3. The Thing (1982)
The monster in The Thing is literally made of the nightmares that haunt my dreams. It can change into any organic creature that it wants. In fact, it’s go good at it that it’s impossible to tell the difference between the creature or person that it is imitating versus the real thing. What’s even scarier is the way that it affects the characters in the story. Paranoia and desperation run high as everyone realizes that they are up against a monster that they can’t see until it’s too late. The special effects are still great but it’s the acting of Kurt Russell and the rest of the cast that makes this movie a timeless classic.
2. Alien (1979)
Alien involves Ripley, one of the greatest female protagonists of all time, and the crew of the Nostromo as they investigate a distress call. This investigation leads to the discovery of alien eggs. One of them hatches, attaches itself to one of the crew and gives birth to the alien that the film is named after. The subversion of sexual imagery in the design of the alien frightens us on a subconscious level and became the benchmark of all monster designs in the future. The cast is great, the effects are great, and the story will have you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end no matter how many times you have watched it.
1. Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu is one of the first monster films ever made and its success solidified the monster movie genre. Max Schrek’s performance is so far ahead of everyone else in the film that it is unbelievable. His portrayal of Count Orlok, another name for Dracula since they didn’t have the rights to the book, is better than most modern actors while everyone else falls into the old acting tropes of silent films. Nosferatu also introduced the concept of sunlight being fatal to vampires. This is a trope that is used in most films today even though it wasn’t mentioned in the book that it was based on.