Monsters are the things that nightmares are made of. They are the things that go bump in the night. They are the reason why small children (and perhaps some adults) sleep with the lights on. I know many of us grew up watching these classic monster movies. I am sure most of them are some of the first horror movies you remember seeing when you were a kid. Remember those days? Staying up past your bedtime on a Saturday night to catch the late show? Maybe you even had a local horror host introduce it? Anyway, here is my list of 25 Monster Movies that are absolute must sees for any Horror fan. What better way to spend a lazy afternoon than watching a good old fashioned creature feature?
25. Them! (1954)
During the 50s the threat of the cold war and nuclear war created an entirely new sub-genre of monster movies. Big Monster movies were very popular in the 50s. A few examples include The Black Scorpion, Tarantula, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Them! was one of the most popular of the big bug movies. The story is about a colony of Ants that get irradiated during some early nuclear tests and grow to an enormous size. Yes, the giant rubber Ants seem pretty cheesy now, but Them! is still a really fun film to watch.
24. Humanoids From the Deep (1980)
Roger Corman’s Humanoids From the Deep has a lot going for it… plenty of violence, nudity, gore, and monsters. The creatures are a result of some military experiments that involved blending Salmon and Humans together. The Humanoids escape and try to kill all the local men and rape the women in order to get them pregnant with fish babies! The final scene with the Humanoids attacking and killing or raping everyone at the Salmon Festival is really something.
23. Trollhunter (2010)
I guarantee you will never look at natural rock formations in the same way after seeing Trollhunter. This found-footage movie shows giant Trolls living in the Norway countryside. A film crew follows a Troll Hunter as he tracks and kills as many Trolls as he can. He finds them under bridges, living in caves, and hiding in forests. Trollhunter is hilarious and the CGI Trolls are amazingly life-like and well done. However the real star of the film is the beautiful Norwegian scenery in every shot.
22. Slither (2006)
Slither is something straight out of an H. P. Lovecraft story. A meteorite crashes into a small town and tons of space worms invade the locals. The first person (played by Michael Rooker) that is infected slowly turns into this giant tentacled monster. But all he wants is to get his wife back. Slither is full of some really great special effects including a balloon like woman that explodes into thousands of space slugs! EWWWww!
21. Monster Squad (1987)
Monster Squad is like watching The Goonies with the Universal Monsters mixed in. The kids have to battle the Monsters, led by Count Dracula, in order to stop them from taking control over the world. The monsters have an updated 80s look thanks to Stan Winston. The Gill-Man (Creature From the Black Lagoon) gets a whole new scary look. What makes Monster Squad really special are all the funny one-liners including “Wolfman’s got Nards!” and the nostalgic look back at what it was like to be a kid in the 80s.
20. Nightbreed (1990)
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is about a group of mutants that hide away in an underground city called Midian. The mutants are monsters that must hide from the Humans that want to destroy them and their home. Nightbreed is actually one of my favourite movies based on Barker’s work along with Hellraiser and Candyman. Nightbreed is based on Novella called Cabal by Barker. Clive Barker has talked about a television series that is in the works for Nightbreed, saying that it will be made for cable TV so it has a chance to be as sexy or as graphic in terms of violence as it needs to be.
19. Q the Winged Serpent (1982)
Q the Winged Serpent is directed by Larry Cohen, the same guy who gave us God Told Me To, Maniac Cop, The Stuff, and It’s Alive. The Q stands for Quetzalcoatl, an ancient Aztec deity that is brought back to life by an evil cult in New York City. Michael Moriarty plays a thief that stumbles upon Q while running from the cops after a robbery. Q is in fact a girl and has set up her nest in the Chrysler building by laying a giant egg. The monster resembles a Harryhausen style of rubber stop motion monster. It might be slightly on the cheesy side of the FX scale, but the performances by Moriarty and David Carradine more than make up for it.
18. Super 8 (2011)
Super 8 tells the story of 5 friends that are filming a Zombie infection movie on a Super 8 camera. While filming, they witness a spectacular train derailment, and soon realize that someone was trying to stop that train on purpose. After the train accident, people all over town start disappearing, all the dogs run away, and soon the military marches into town. Super 8 feels like an old time movie. You would swear it was from the early 80′s instead of the 2000′s. JJ Abrams has been compared to Spielberg a few times in his career and much like Spielberg before him, Abrams tells a charming coming of age story. The best part of Super 8 is the movie that the kids made at the end. Apparently Romero chemical was to blame for everything!
17. Nosferatu (1922)
One of the first Monster movies ever made was Nosferatu. Even to this day Max Shreck’s portrayal of the famous Vampire is one of the most chilling to watch. Rumors are that Max Shreck was actually a real Vampire and that is why the film is so haunting. In reality though he was a well known Theatre actor and went on to do many more films after Nosferatu. For an interesting and very entertaining movie about the “real” Max Shreck check out The Shadow of the Vampire starring William Dafoe.
16. The Host (2006)
The Host is a bit of a throwback to some of the classic monster movies also on this list. The Host is a giant mutant killer amphibian that wreaks havoc on a South Korean beach. However the Monster isn’t the real story in The Host. The movie centers on a dysfunctional family that is trying to survive the Monster mayhem around them. A small girl is kidnapped by the monster and the rest of her family has to organize themselves enough to rescue her. Sometimes oddly comical and sometimes heart breaking, The Host has some strong messages to tell about politics and family.
15. Gremlins (1984)
All Randall wanted to do was bring home a cute little Mogwai named Gizmo for his son for Christmas. Gizmo was the perfect present, all he had to do was follow three simple rules… Do not get him wet, do not expose him to bright lights, and whatever you do, do not feed him after midnight Unfortunately Mogwais have a way of getting into trouble and when they go bad, they really go bad! They are not that hard to control when there are only one or two of them, but any more than that can quickly get out of control. Gremlins is one of my favourite Christmas movies, but it is fun to watch any time of year.
14. Cloverfield (2008)
There are only a couple of found-footage movies on this list. I have to admit I am not really a big fan of the genre, but I know a good one when I see it. Cloverfield is a modern version of the 50′s B-Monster Movie. It tells the story of a group of people on the run from the monsters. They really don’t know what is going on and only get fleeting glances of the giant monster that is attacking their city. Of course they have to get to the other side of the city in order to rescue a friend, and run into all sorts of trouble doing so. Cloverfield is a great example of when the found-footage style of movie is done right.
13. The Mummy (1932)
A group of archaeologists accidentally revive an ancient Egyptian Priest when they read aloud a life giving spell. The Mummy comes alive and searches for a way to bring back his lost lady love. The Mummy was the second monster movie for Universal, after the huge success of Frankenstein. Once again Boris Karloff plays the lead role. Unlike the Universal Monsters, The Mummy didn’t have a sequel. However, it has had a few remakes… The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy by Hammer Studios, and The Mummy (1999)
12. The Mist (2007)
Who better to write an amazing Monster movie than Stephen King? The Mist takes place in a small town, where a group of people get trapped in a grocery store because a mysterious mist has rolled in. Anyone who attempts to go into the mist is quickly killed in a violent way. Giant Bugs and other miscellaneous Nasties show up making life hard for the people left in the Grocery store. The Mist definitely has some Lovecraftian overtones to it. Ancient tentacled monsters invade earth through a porthole to another dimension. Like most Stephen King movies, the story focuses on the characters and how they deal with each other and the impending apocalypse.
11. Jurassic Park (1992)
Who doesn’t find a giant T-Rex or a Velociraptor chasing you scary? If you are one of those people who don’t consider Jurassic Park a horror movie, I suggest you watch the scene with the two Velociraptors in the kitchen again. I love the idea of an amusement park filled with all sorts of dinosaurs. As a child, I was fascinated and at the same time terrified by dinosaurs. Maybe that’s why I loved Jurassic Park so much, it was one of my favourite movies of the 90s.
10. The Fly (1986)
Brundle is a brilliant and eccentric scientist that is working on teleporting humans through Telepods that he invented. After several failed attempts at trying to transport animals, he thinks he has ironed out all the kinks. Brundle decides to transport himself, but unbeknownst to him a fly is in the Telepod with him. David Cronenberg’s The Fly is truly horrific to watch. I loved the original The Fly starring Vincent Price, but this version is one of the best remakes ever made. The special effects are incredibly gory and is one of the best body horrors by Cronenberg. You truly feel bad for Brundle and his girlfriend and what eventually happens to them. At the very core of the film is a very tragic love story.
9. King Kong (2005)
There’s no denying the original King Kong from 1933 was great. Fay Wray screams her head off as the stop motion monster King Kong comes after her. Peter Jackson remade King Kong in 2005. The remake is much more scary and of course the special effects have come along way since the original. But the touching love story between King King and his lady love was still there. I loved the remake! Why can’t all remakes be as good as this one?
8. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Some scientists discover a skeletal hand with web fingers and decide to go further into the Black Lagoon in order to find more evidence of the ancient creature. They soon discover that the creature is still very much alive. The creature becomes infatuated with Kay and abducts her and brings her back to his underwater cavern. The best scenes in The Creature From the Black lagoon are the underwater scenes of the creature stalking and mimicking Kay while she swims. It is very apparent, even without any dialogue, that the Gill-Man is falling in love with her. Originally the film was released in 3D as one of the first Horror films of the 50s to use the gimmick. The Gill-Man was played by Ricou Browning in the underwater scenes and Ben Chapman on land. The latex suit was extremely difficult to swim in for Browning even though he was a very skilled diver.
7. Godzilla AKA Gojira (1954)
Godzilla was one of those movies I remember watching as a kid. I loved the big monster when he stomped his way through Tokyo, taking out half the city. And let’s face it, half the charm of Godzilla is the incredibly bad dubbing and the rubber suited monster shooting out flames. And when you think of the great movie monsters of the past, Godzilla should be one of the first ones to pop into your head. Godzilla went on to fight many monsters… King Kong, Mothra, and Ghidorah just to name a few in the sequels that followed.
6. The Blob (1988)
A blob from Outer Space invades a small town and devours everything it comes in contact with. The Blob continues to grow as it consumes and even the military can not stop it! Here we have another remake of an earlier classic horror movie. The original Blob from 1958 starred Steve McQueen and although the original was great the remake has much better effects. Kevin Dillon may not be Steve Mcqueen, but he still does a good performance as the Rebel that none of the adults believe.
5. The Wolfman (1941)
The Wolfman stars LonChaney Jr. as the tortured and guilt ridden Wolfman. I love all the Gothic scenery when they are running through the trees with all the fog rolling about. Such a classic horror movie! The Wolfman is not the first Werewolf movie, Werewolf of London was actually the first one. However most everything we know about werewolves comes from The Wolfman including that he can be killed with a silver bullet, he changes form during a full moon, and that he was infected from a bite of another Werewolf. Jack Pierce created the make up for The Wolfman and all the Universal monsters. It took 6 hours to make up Chaney and 3 hours to take it all back off again.
4. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the scariest monsters on this list. The Thing is able to take on the exact form and shape of any organic creature. It can easily hide in plain sight by seamlessly blending in and only attacking when the moment is right. Anyone around you could be the Monster and you would not even know it until the moment the monster was attacking you. The Thing is a great character drama and shows how quickly people can change under unusual and frightening circumstances.
3. Alien (1979)
While returning to Earth, the spaceship Nostromo and its crew detect a distress call. They stop to investigate the signal and find a very large corpse that appears to have been killed by something inside it. Eventually they find a nest of Alien eggs. One of the eggs hatches and a creature attaches itself to one of the crew’s face. Against their better judgement they bring him back to the Nostromo with the facehugger still attached. The chest bursting scene in Alien is by far one of the most famous scenes in Horror movie history. Alien is full of suspense and incredible characters that hold your interest. I never get tired of watching it over and over again. Alien also has one the best female protagonists of all time. Ripley kicks Alien butt in the first Alien and all the sequels too!
2. Jaws (1975)
I am sure most of you can remember the first time you saw Jaws. Did you seriously consider never swimming again afterwards? Even in a lake or a pool? Jaws is one of the best thrillers ever made. The plot is actually quite simple though. A small seaside town is being terrorized by a giant shark. The local police chief is a shark expert and tries very hard to get the mayor to issue a warning. Of course no one believes him until it is too late and the shark has had several good meals. My favourite part of Jaws is on the boat when Brody gets a good look at the shark, slowly stumbles backwards, and utters the now famous line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
1. Frankenstein (1931)
What Monster movie list would be complete without Frankenstein’s Monster? The most famous of all the monsters listed here. Frankenstein’s monster was sewn together from corpses and then reanimated by Dr. Frankenstein. Even though my favourite version of Frankenstein is actually the Hammer version, The Curse of Frankenstein, I still really love the Universal film starring Boris Karloff. Unlike the Hammer version, the Universal movie is more focused on the Monster rather than the doctor. The iconic make up by Jack Pierce is by far the most famous version of the monster that we know and love. Unfortunately for Karloff, the make up took up to 4 Hours to apply everyday and was quite painful to wear. The makeup would melt into his eyes by the end of the day and he has said that some days he didn’t think he would make it to the end of the shoot.