People love movie monsters. They come in all sizes and display all sorts of characteristics dreamt up by creative minds. Some are enormous creatures, possibly mutations, which smash everything in their path and pose a risk to humanity. Others are evil and terrifying, their sole purpose is to kill anyone in their way. Still others, while possibly dangerous, add a level of comedy or social commentary to the movie we are watching. Regardless of type and purpose, movie monsters add a dimension to film which stimulates our imagination. Some creatures are so memorable, or terrible, that they have developed cult followings.
This May is a significant month in terms of movie monsters. First, the latest in a very long line of Godzilla films is being released. A movie and pop culture icon, Godzilla is the Grand-daddy of sci-fi/action monsters. His trademark scream and super-powers will once again grace the big screen as he destroys everything in his path. Second, with the passing of artist H.R. Giger, the film world lost the mastermind and creator of the murderous creature in the Alien franchise. Giger’s creation is truly original and memorable and caused more than one person to have nightmares over the past 35 years.
The following list contains 10 memorable and/or iconic movie monsters. The list provides a blend of monsters ranging from massive and unstoppable to scary to somewhat humorous. There are so many movie monsters that even a top 50 wouldn’t be enough – we tried, but they said no. Not everyone will agree with every monster on this list, given the subjective nature of this topic. That said, there are some monsters listed here that are indisputable. If anything, you may find yourself planning to rent or buy some movies which contain some of these monsters. Just prepare the nightlight and check under your bed and everything will be fine.
11 Honorable Mention – The Abominable Snowman
What? That’s right. This one may catch a few people off guard because, let’s be honest, it’s a monster from a stop-motion children’s holiday classic. This furry creation, however, has been scaring little kids since 1964. In the end, the Abominable Snowman becomes a friend, but there were some moments that had us worried he would be feasting on venison and elf. For the childhood memories this deserves a minimum of an honorable mention. On to the list…
The undead have always fascinated movie-goers and a revival of zombie style films over the past 15 years shows that we can’t get enough of these monsters. George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead was the first of six zombie films which brought the flesh-eating monsters to the mainstream. Visibly decayed, slow walking and relentless in their pursuit of the living, zombies tore their victims apart and devoured them. The sudden appearance of a ghoulish face at a boarded up window or an arm reaching out to grab its victim startled audiences and made us keep going back for more. More modern-interpretations have altered some of Romero’s original zombie characteristics, but this has not changed our love (and fear) of the walking dead.
The monsters of the Tremors series of films, the graboids were large sandworm creatures that hunted prey by vibration. Any vehicles, animals or people moving around in the vicinity of a graboid attracted the monster’s attention. In Tremors, these creatures were shown to dismember or decapitate their prey in a rather graphic manner. They could also disable vehicles making escape very difficult. In addition to their relentless hunting of prey and ability to suddenly appear from nowhere, Graboids also sport long snake-like tentacles which shoot out to grab potential pray, pulling them back into the mouth of the monster.
Never expose it to light, never get it wet and never feed it after midnight. These were the instructions given to Randall Peltzer, a character in the 1984 film Gremlins, when he purchased a Mogwai (called Gizmo) for his son as a Christmas present. As you can imagine, the cute and furry Gizmo is exposed to water which leads to the creation of several new gremlins. They in turn all eat after midnight and change into rather nasty little monsters. Wherever these creatures go, they leave a trail of death and destruction. The blend of comedy and horror makes these creatures very memorable, even if critics thought they brought too much violence and gore to the big screen.
7 Cloverfield Monster
The 2008 film Cloverfield follows a group of friends as they witness the destruction of New York by an enormous monster. The premise of the movie is Godzilla-esque but the Cloverfield monster is different in that it has no known background or associated personality traits. The monster is said to be 25 stories tall and capable of smashing nearly anything in its path. It is also capable of taking numerous hits from military weapons. Where the Cloverfield monster gets most of its on-screen impact from is the fact that for much of the film only brief or partial shots of the creature are seen. This ‘less-is-more’ approach, used so well in Jaws, is effectively used in Cloverfield to create a memorable movie monster.
6 Frankenstein’s Monster
In some form or another, Frankenstein’s monster has been portrayed in over 50 television and movie productions. Created by Dr. Frankenstein, the monster is often incorrectly called or labelled ‘Frankenstein.’ In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s monster is articulate, can dress itself and is capable of reason and emotion. The film world often presents a different creature which can only grunt and groan while walking in a robotic fashion. The iconic Frankenstein monster is the one played by Boris Karloff in the 1930s. On screen, this monster comes somewhat closer to the novelized version, capable of being kind one moment while able to murder the next.
What can make a monster truly memorable and terrifying is when it makes the human the hunted. In 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Predator, the story of a group of special-forces soldiers who were being systematically killed by an intergalactic trophy hunter. The monster has become known as the Predator and is a great movie monster for a number of reasons. First, the Predator can become nearly invisible and hunts its prey like a person hunts a deer. Second, it makes trophies of its kills, often skinning its victims and removing their skulls. Finally, the predator, when we do see it, looks the part with its lizard-like skin and alien face. Subsequent films in this series tended to show Predators more and, thus, reduce the suspense factor so present in the original film.
Like Frankenstein’s monster, this creature is another classic movie monster. 1954 brought us The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its iconic monster, often referred to as Gill-man. Half man and half amphibian, the concept for this creature came from a discussion between filmmakers concerning the myth of a race of fish-humans who lived in the Amazon River. On screen, Gill-man is shown to be very strong and possess a high degree of resilience to wounds which would normally be fatal. It kills anyone who gets in its way and stalks its prey below the surface of the water. While the viewer is supposed to feel some sympathy for the creature, which isn't violent by nature, Gill-man looks the part of a monster and his lurking around doesn't help either.
3 King Kong
Monster or just a giant gorilla? In any event, King Kong is one of the iconic creatures of the big screen. First appearing in 1933, King Kong has been used in several movies, the latest of which was Peter Jackson’s 2005 interpretation. Kong comes from Skull Island, a fictional location where everything is bigger and more dangerous. As a colossal gorilla, Kong smashes anything in his path and doesn't take kindly to be shot at by the military. Over his career he has fought airplanes, dinosaurs, a robotic King Kong and even Godzilla. Depictions of him throughout films vary from a dangerous monster to a character the audience feels some sympathy towards.
“They mostly come at night… mostly.” Arguably the most terrifying monster on this list, H.R. Giger’s creation scared audiences when it killed most of the crew of the spaceship ‘Nostromo’ in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien. Then a whole bunch of them showed up in the 1986 sequel Aliens. What’s so scary? The alien gets implanted in you by a spider-like creature called a ‘facehugger,’ then it bursts out of your chest and begins to systematically hunt down any other people around. The lack of eyes and its double mouth used to kill its victims made the creature all the more impressive. The icing on the cake was that the alien was never fully visible or on screen for any great duration which added to the suspense.
This is the big daddy of them all. Godzilla is a nuclear monster of massive size and strength. First appearing in 1954, Godzilla represented the evils of nuclear weaponry, even possessing related powers like atomic breath. He looks like a dinosaur, but make no mistake, this is no oversized T-Rex – even if some directors try to make him look the part. Whether playing the hero or villain, Godzilla is still a threat to everything and anyone in its path. When you’re hundreds of feet tall and weigh thousands of tons there are going to be a few damaged buildings in the area. Over his career, Godzilla has fought a lot creatures and killed a lot of people. That statistic is going to climb even further when the latest installment is released this weekend.