The top 100 TV and movie monsters
Covering the gamut of TV and cinema from the past to the present, here's Rob's rundown of the 100 finest screen monsters...
Love monsters? If you’re like us, then sure you do. But which is the best one ever? Well, that’s what our epic 100 countdown tries to work out. So come along and delve into a vast bestiary of iconic monstrosities, filled with all manner of Pinheads and Predators and Things, plus plenty of lesser visual effects nightmares…
Note: to save on load times, we’ve split this over four pages. We’re not trying to get you to click lots of times to read the material on the site, but it seemed logical for a list this long.
100. Hungry Beast Alien – TerrorVision (1986)
When the Puttermans, a middle-American family (who may possibly be swingers) buy a new satellite system, things go insane when the dish accidentally beams down a huge gelatinous blob brimming with teeth and dubiously shaped eyes on stalks. The thing is voiced by Megatron himself, Frank Welker.
When the Hungry Beast Alien starts ransacking the local neighbourhood and chomping its way through the family, it’s (as always) up to the teenagers to try and kill off this lump of latex, with the help of an insane grandparent and an Elvira-like late night horror hostess. Sheer 80s madness, the film is full of weird colours and strange sets, and honestly, what sort of ordinary American family has a large mist-filled swimming pool in the middle of their house?
99. Cellar Dweller – Cellar Dweller (1988)
A creature created from the pages of a comic book, this minotaur-like creation is the result of what happens when teens get their hands on ancient magical texts, party too hard and have a little too much imagination. Combining comics and horror as it does, you might have thought this film would have been a little more popular, but seeing it again recently, I can see why it wasn’t a major cult hit. There are, however, some good kills, and the monster itself is actually quite impressive, even if it does have a rather rubbery look to it.
98. Ghoulies – Ghoulies (1985)
These gremlin-like monsters are just one of several miniature creatures to star in sci-fi and fantasy films of the 80s. And while the more alien Critters or lamentable Munchies could have made the list it, has to be the Ghoulies that get the credit, just for the fact that one of them comes out of a toilet on the front of the video box, and that FX guru Stan Winston also did the effects.
While not particularly menacing, these demons are summoned by a would-be warlock to show his acolytes the full strength of his black magic power (and to impress the ladies). Although laughable as a horror flick, Ghoulies is great fun, and its special effects, which comprise a mixture of puppets and stop motion, give each mischievous creature a unique look and personality.
97. Sam the Alien – Xtro (1982)
A very early 1980s sci-fi horror film in the same vein as Alien, this is an obscure and very British film, from the full-sized Action Man to the plethora of late 1970s cars. Xtro may be showing its age, but for some reason, it’s still surprisingly creepy. This could be because of the slow pace; there’s hardly any running, screaming or panicking, even when villagers are being killed by the pus-leaking bad-guy.
Directed as quite a serious sci-fi movie by Harry Bromley Davenport, Xtro missed the horror highs of the late 1970s, but still has that arty quality to it, even though for a time it ended up on the banned video nasty list. Creature-wise, when Sam the main protagonist is finally revealed, the directors and special effects guys try as hard as they can to make an alien that doesn’t look like Giger’s Alien. The result is a commendable if not completely original piece of prosthetic creature work.
96. Torok the Troll – Troll (1986)
A weird fantasy film that is a little too silly for adults and a little too horrific for kids, Troll is known for three things. Firstly, that the main character is called Harry Potter. Secondly, the inclusion of Rat-Burgers. And finally, for having possibly the worst film ever made as its sequel.
While Troll is really a bit of a mess, that’s not to say the effects are all terrible. Putting aside the table full of puppets and the weird mushroom thing for a minute, the actual Troll creature is actually a superb mix of puppetry and animatronics, and looks like Hoggle from Labyrinth‘s angry older brother. A forgotten gem, Troll‘s creature work and effects show you just how much work and passion went into what was essentially a straight-to-video movie.
95. Alien parasites – Slither (2006)
Taking David Cronenberg’s Shivers to the next level and well, hillbilly-ing it up, this horror comedy stars everyone’s favourite browncoat Nathan Fillion as he tries to tidy up his town as it’s exposed to alien parasites. While the initial monsters are little more than super-fast slugs, when they start latching onto their human hosts, they start mutating. And much to the discomfort of Michael Rooker, start turning into tentacle-based horrors which hark back to the very best oozing horrors and practical effects of the 1980s. A great, silly B-movie throwback, Slither is a fantastic homage to video nasties, and director James Gunn plays the whole thing for fun – even when people are being bloated up to obscene proportions ready to explore with evil alien slugs.
94. Sardo Numspa – The Golden Child (1986)
Another forgotten gem, this film came out when Eddie Murphy was still popular enough not to have to rely on a CG donkey to get a laugh. Based around the kidnap of a Tibetan child who possesses the power of light and goodness, the film has Murphy as a social worker who becomes wrapped up in supernatural battle between good and evil where he has to fight chain-wielding mutants and Charles Dance, who plays the demon.
While for the majority of the film Murphy continually mocks and belittles Dance, his motor-mouth antics finally cease when Numspa is revealed to actually be an impressive-looking winged demon. A great mix of model work, faced-paced editing and a car chase make for an unexpected climax in this forgotten classic.
93 – Tar Man – The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)
The first (but not last) zombie on our list, the Tar-man monster isn’t from Romero’s classic trilogy, but rather from Dan O’Bannon’s more light-hearted but still gross-out Return Of The Living Dead. Stuck in a biohazard airtight container, Tar-man is a government experiment gone wrong, and sits there like the undead equivalent of a tin-of sardines until his container is cracked. Once again, this oily monster can chew his way through as many 1980s nubile teens he can get his hands on. Cleverer than your average zombie, and surprisingly fast for a dead thing, this slick dripping mess of a monster is one of the most impressive undead creations ever seen on screen.
92. Talos – Jason And The Argonauts (1963)
How do you give a 100 foot metal statue personality? Well, in Jason And The Argonauts Ray Harryhausen, did just that. When Hercules ‘borrows’ a piece of treasure from the horde of the gods (against the advice of Hylas), he inadvertently activates the treasure trove’s guardian, the immense titan, Talos. Based on the Colossus of Rhodes, Talos is probably the most immense creature Harryhausen ever animated, a vast automation who rips apart Jason’s ship as well as squashing a crew member or two.
It’s not just the fluid animation that is spectacular, but also the sound that make the scenes featuring Talos so memorable – from the first screech of metal as he slowly twists his head towards the fleeing Hercules, to the metallic gurgle he gives out when Jason finds its literal Achilles heel, the setting, effects and scale of this beach-located set piece is just perfect.
91. Russell Edgington – True Blood (2008-)
Our first bloodsucker of the list, this monster may well be a surprising choice, but of all villains from the five seasons of True Blood we’ve seen so far, only Russell (Denis O’Hare) really stands out. A charming, even jovial vampire, the king Mississippi revels in being a vampire, loving every minute of his blood-filled 500 year old existence.
Russell oozes charisma, but is so very dangerous for that fact, with the ability to swap from being the perfect dinner host to a savage, vicious killer in a split second. His monstrousness lies not so much in his being a vampire, as the fact that when ripping you to pieces, he’ll be enjoying every single second of it.
90. Hector – Saturn 3 (1980)
From what could have been another ponderous sci-fi movie from the 70s to rival Solaris and Silent Running, Saturn 3 instead goes the Alien route by having the placid homely world of Saturn 3 turned upside down by the arrival of the insane Harvey Keitel. As an evil genius, Keitel’s Captain Benson takes his rival’s place to go to Saturn 3, where a naked Farrah Fawcett and Kurt Douglas live in a space utopia.
Why Benson wants to go there isn’t really explained, nor is it clear why he constructs for a super-heavyweight killing machine with no head for a companion. While the whole plot and 1970s futuristic utopia is all rather dated, the menacing Hector, who’s a demi-god robot designed to replace the crew, has dated pretty well. So well in fact, that he was to a point parodied in Red Dwarf when Kryten’s replacement comes aboard but is defeated when he cannot compute the fact of there being no silicon heaven. Whether Hector knew where all the calculators go is unknown, but this cybernetic bruiser would still give the Terminator a run for his money.
89. Rawhead Rex – Rawhead Rex (1986)
A primal ancient god of chaos, Rex is an ancient unstoppable engine of destruction that came courtesy of Clive Barker’s warped imagination. While not as impressive visually as it could have been (Barker once described the cinematic Rex as a nine-foot phallus with teeth), Rex is a pagan blood god who rampages through Ireland, killing off villagers and holiday makers, and is only really stopped by the limiting budget of this mid-1980s horror film. While the execution of the creature does not live up to its literary counterpart, this hulking beastie is still quite impressive, being as it is a huge slavering creation whose sole purpose is to destroy and possibly mate with things.
88. Dr Pretorius – From Beyond (1986)
Changing, expanding and updating the HP Lovecraft short story, director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna lead the film into more adult themes of sex and stimulation rather than the quite dry mathematical and scientific theories put across in the original tale.
So with sex and slime being the focus, From Beyond is a sort of mix of Japanese tentacle porn and a low-budget David Cronenberg body horror movie with more prosthetics, goo and transformations that make The Thing look pretty mild in transformative comparison. And while the movie is never going to win any awards for its acting, it’s still a benchmark in prosthetics, with some of the creature effects still holding up well today, and the continually shifting nightmare creature that comes From Beyond making for a formidable shape-shifting bad guy.
87. The Bishop of Bath and Wells – Black Adder II (1986)
Okay, he’s technically not a monster, but anyone whose full title is The Baby Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells should, by his own confession, be on a list of the top 100 monsters. Added to his toddler nibbling habits, the Bishop (played by Ronald Lacey) is a colossal pervert who would do anything to anything, whether animal vegetable or mineral. When Edmund Blackadder has to repay the debt he unwisely took from the Bishop, it isn’t long before the repugnant clergyman comes calling, red hot poker in hand and wanting his money back – plus interest.
It is only by using a cunning plan, and conning Percy to perform numerous unspeakable acts with a drug-addled Bishop, that Blackadder manages to blackmail the monster into forgetting his debt. So impressed is the Bishop with Blackadder’s guile, underhanded tactics and creative use of blackmailing debauchery, that the bested Bishop admits defeat, wiping the slate clean and even goes so far as to offer Blackadder membership to the clergy…
86. Belial – Basket Case (1982)
Originally not seen until the very end of the movie, Belial is the ‘evil twin’ concept taken to its extreme, and was a suggestion hidden away in an basket rather than an out-and-out monster. But with more of a budget, the sequels saw this monstrous creation fully realised on the screen. Essentially a head with a deformed arm, hand and tentacles, Belial has a certain amount of control over his brother Duane, who he uses to set up his victims so he can extract revenge. While initially a dark horror film with a message, the sequels were a whole lot less serious, silly and over the top, taking things to extremes with early-90s, latex-filled gore and splatter of Basket Case 3: The Progeny.
85. The Gorgon –The Gorgon (1964)
While made on a micro budget by the great British studio Hammer, this gothic horror starring Peter Cushing makes up for its lack of finance by being a tense and tightly-produced film. Not really deserving of its X rating, the teases and petrifying glances of its mystical Greek monster nevertheless lead up to a hideous reveal. Why an ancient mythical Greek titan would take up residence in the crumbling remains of a desolate German castle is anyone’s guess, but all the Hammer trademarks are here: busty maidens, terrified, torch-wielding villagers and, of course, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing adding acting authority to the proceedings.
84. Nanatoo – The Mighty Boosh series 2 (2005)
The first evil grandma ever to appear in a top 100 monsters list, this demon is brought up from the depths of Hell by Vince and Howard as they try to impress some Goth girls by stealing Naboo’s book of black magic. The bringer of Nanageddon, Nanatoo is evil incarnate, using her powers over knitting, bingo and summoning other possessed grannies to bring about the end of the world.
Even with the combined help of the board of Shamans, Saboo and Tony Harrison, Nanatoo nearly wins the day, wrapping up our heroes in some satanic scarves, before Naboo eventually saves them and gets the girls.
83. The Unnamable – The Unnamable (1988) and The Unnamable 2 (1993)
Based on a short story by HP Lovecraft, this part fairy, part demon creature appeared in two films in the 80s and 90s. Hidden away in a haunted house, the creature is released by Lovecraft creation Randolph Carter, who finds that the monster is Alyda Winthrop, the daughter of 18th century Lord Joshua, whose family is cursed for dabbling in black magic.
While both films are straight-to-video affairs, the effects and make-up for Alyda are superb, and with the second movie dipping more into the fantasy elements, with the demonic Alyda ensnared by magic and wrapped up in the roots of a tree, these forgotten Lovecraft treats are well worth tracking down.
82. Mahars – At The Earth’s Core (1976)
The only Doug McClure production on the list, this mild monster movie from Hammer has our hero teaming up with Peter Cushing to explore a psychedelic jungle filled with, for the most part, lumbering men in unconvincing dinosaur suits, and buxom cave girls. Weirdly colourful, hot and sub-tropical, this completely in-set interpretation of the Earth’s core looks pretty impressive, especially when McClure and Cushing come across the overlords of the world, the vicious part bird, part dinosaur Mahars.
These carnivorous budgies have bat-like wings, snapping beaks and, most impressively, the ability to hypnotize people into becoming their lunch. While the movie was never going to break box-office records, this colourful Saturday afternoon affair is fun, entertaining and everything you can expect from McClure at his very best. And with the added bonus of the Mahars being pretty good monsters, this is one monster movie worth rediscovering.
81. Armus – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Skin Of Evil (1988)
Not so much a monster as an angry oil slick, the incarnation of evil that was Armus was a futuristic muck monster you would not want to mess with. So why does a somewhat inarticulate blob of black goo make the list of top 100 monsters? Well, the reason is that Armus is such a total bad-ass, and for all his inability to move or pop down the shops, he can certainly dish out the pain and evil.
While not the best Star Trek episode ever, Skin Of Evil is remembered for one thing: the fact that Armus quite calmly kills off security chief Tasha Yar, swatting her aside casually, and then spends the rest of the episode gloating about it. He’s not as terrifying as some other creatures on the list, but Armus’ attitude, and the sheer amount of time he spends mocking Deanna Troi about what he did (and that she can’t do anything about it) surely justifies his place the list. A bad attitude and the willingness to casually kill unlikeable Star Trek characters is reason enough.
80. Creeper – Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Why would a winged monster would find it necessary to drive a truck – and for that matter, how would he get a driver’s licence? Once you get over the silliness of this and down to the actual creature design, the Creeper is a winged nightmare with a tendency to pick you apart. Just don’t let him near your eyes.
79. Zelda – Terrahawks (1983-1986)
Part puppet, part nightmare granny from hell, the bane of Doctor “Tiger” Ninestein and his Terrahawk crew was an insane cackling presence on Saturday mornings. While not physically imposing, this android from the planet Guk is an insane scheming harridan who sends wave after wave of monsters to try to conquer the Earth. While her plans are the not the most ingenious, and her Earth-conquering aspirations are always thwarted, this evil OAP is one of Gerry Anderson’s most memorably villainous creations.
78. Aquatic alien – The Faculty (1998)
This forgotten mid-90s monster movie is notable for a few things, such as Elijah Wood’s portrayal of a high school geek and a cameo from Harry Knowles, but also its updated take on Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. This homage is obvious, and even noted in the film, which see a high school slowly infected by an alien presence, prompting a game of Guess Who to find out who has been ‘taken’ and who hasn’t.
With some superb twists, this all slowly comes to a climax with a fantastic showdown in a school swimming pool where the monster, in its aquatic element, taunts and teases our would-be Hobbit, but the quick-thinking Wood literally brings the house down on the slimy menace.
77. Angel of Death – Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
With Hellboy’s life hanging in the balance, Liz and the rest of the BPRD plough their way through the bowls of Ireland trying to stop the rise of the Golden Army. There, they encounter this hideous creature, who will repair the damage inflicted on Big Red by Prince Nuada – but at a price. And while that price is never revealed, we are shown evidence that one day Hellboy will take a stand against humanity, and that with Liz saving him there and then, she may well have doomed everyone.
Like most of Guillermo del Toro’s creatures, the Angel of Death is brought to life by a mixture of expert performance (courtesy of Doug Jones) and some stunning prosthetic effects. The results are both hideous and beautiful.
76. Peloquin – Nightbreed (1990)
One of the nightmare creatures that inhabit the labyrinthine passageways of the mythical city of Midian, Peloquin (Oliver Parker) is part vampire, part wise-cracking Rastafarian. More a guard-dog who loves to fight than some of the more exotic and mysterious citizens of Clive Barker’s flawed but creature-filled 90s horror movie, Peloquin is a warrior creature etched in ancient symbols and runes. While not on screen as much as he should be, he’s one of the most iconic and memorable monsters in the movie, and a stand out from the menagerie of creatures highlighted elsewhere.
Here’s part two of our countdown…
75. Demons – Demons (1985)
In this bizarre American/Italian horror movie, the creature effects are the star of the show, as prosthetics and eye-watering contact lenses transform innocent cinemagoers into horrific possessed creatures. This is the reason why you should never agree to turn up to a free screening of a horror movie (called Demons) when you are invited there by a metallic-masked wearing stranger, only to then sit in the world’s strangest cinema next to a pimp and various other bizarre 80s clichés. Is the masked man a demon, an angel or a cyborg from the future? It doesn’t matter, as the monsters in this film are superb: masterpieces of practical effects and over the top excess.
74. Homunculus – The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse (2005)
Created as part of The King’s Evil, a film within a film by the League of Gentlemen, the Homunculus is a homage to Terry Gilliam and Ray Harryhausen – a giant stop motion nightmare that can only be killed by people pointing sticks and spears in its general direction. Created by the malevolent Dr Pea (the fantastically evil David Warner) from the body parts of his co-stars, the gigantic creature is eventually bought down by the cannibalistic butcher Hilary Briss.
This fantastic monster was completely unexpected, and seeing a giant, three-headed monstrosity with the faces of Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton destroying the fictional town of Royston Vasey had some poetic justice to it. It also proved that the three gentlemen know their genre, and have a love of giant monsters and mindless destruction.
73. Dark god and minions – The Gate (1987)
The screen debut of Stephen Dorff, this teen horror movie has every cliché in the book packed into its under 90 minute duration. From the geeky friend to playing a record backwards to a séance, they’re all here, but really, it’s the claymation creatures and fantastic stop motion demons looking for two human sacrifices that make The Gate stand out. A fantastic mix of creature design and teen horror, the initial terrors that come out of the gate are impressively sturdy-looking lizard men.
It’s a shame, then, that these initial adversaries are all about six inches tall, and for all their growling and posing, you still feel a bit sorry for them in the height department, especially when they turn to clay-worms when squashed. However, their diminutive stature doesn’t stop them as they over-compensate their height issues with some superb under-the-bed grabbing techniques. Joining them is also one of the best stop-motion creatures this side of Ray Harryhausen, as these monster’s boss – a huge, Lovecraftian dark god – pops up from hell, only to be stopped by a very well placed rocket.
72. The Wyrm – The Lair Of The White Worm (1988)
Admittedly, the inclusion of this film has a lot to do with Amanda Donahoe, but this mid-80s gothic horror from the pen of Bram Stoker was bought to the screen gloriously by Ken Russell. While toned down in comparison to some of his more indulgent films, there is still a lot of flesh on show, as Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant are seduced by the enigmatic lady Sylvia Marsh (Donahoe) who happens to be an immortal priestess to the snake god Dionin holed up in rural Derbyshire (well, the weather’s nice). A mix of erotic vampire fiction, ancient gods and 80s indulgence, this movie looks like a luxurious mix of Dynasty and Dennis Wheatley. It’s all a very British affair.
71. Dark Overlord – Howard The Duck (1986)
George Lucas’ vanity project (apart from the most recent Star Wars films), Howard’s only film outing is derided by many, but has a cult following – and if you go back and watch it again, it’s not a bad Saturday afternoon film at all. One of the best aspects is its surprisingly good effects, courtesy of ILM. Admittedly, the Howard puppet left a lot to be desired, but it was the inclusion of Jeffrey Jones as the Dark Overlord-possessed Dr Jennings that steals the show, and when the Overlord eventually appears, this huge, scorpion-like creature is a fantastic piece of creature design, and shows you what ILM can do when given the time and resources (see The Mummy Returns for what happens when they’re not).
70. Ymir – 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)
Some people have mentioned that the shape-changing Ymir has an uncanny resemblance to Ray Harryhausen’s other reptilian creation, the Kraken. And while the massive aquatic monster is probably much more well-known and iconic, Ymir is much more fun, and appeared on our screens nearly 25 years before the soggy titan destroyed its first Greek city. The sulphur-stuffing creature grows due to the oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere, and coming from Venus, this is a completely new thing for the tiny Ymir.
Slowly growing to human size, he eventually ends up the size of a dinosaur. In the interim, he into scrapes with irate farmers and a unruly circus animals, and eventually meeting his doom via an artillery barrage in Rome’s Colosseum. Through every stage of its growth, the creature’s animation is fantastic, from the tiny creature slowly unfurling from its ship to its impressive battle with the army, all the classic poses and twitchy movements of Harryhausen’s creatures are here in this epic B-movie monster showcase.
69. The Beast – Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
While not as iconic or creepy as the original, Poltergeist II still has a lot going for it, and the addition of the ancient Indian burial ground aspect and Kane the preacher provide a little more depth to the overall mythology. We had already seen the Beast briefly as a massive flaming head in the original, but in this movie, we get a more visceral version of the creature, who initially appears as worm, is ingested and later vomited out by Steve. The creature is defeated this time thanks to Steve’s shaman training, but returns later on in a final form when the entire family travel to the other side to confront it and rescue Carol-Anne for good.
Another use of stop-motion and puppets, the Beast really didn’t need to have a physical form, as the idea of a malevolent spirit was a good one, but the inclusion of the hugely sinister Kane (Julian Beck) as his representative on Earth, and then finally making an appearance himself, resulted in some great monster moments.
68. The Groke – Moomins (1948 onwards)
A creature that embodied the Nordic winter of Tove Jansson’s tales of forest-dwelling creatures, the Groak was an insatiable force of nature. A representation of the long deep winters in Scandinavian countries, the Groke freezes and kills everything it touches. In the Moomin books, the Groke is a nightmare creature told in story form to Moomintroll, Little My and Sniff as a way of getting them to stay in at nights or when it gets cold. But as with a lot of the Moomins stories (and Northern European fairy tales in general for that matter), the Groke is a real threat that lurks in forests. Even scarier is the creature’s representation in the 1980s stop motion version adaptation of the books.
67. Deadites – The Evil Dead (1981)
While not technically one monster, the possessed creatures exposed to the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis all had the same look: one of boggle-eyes, twisted visages and wiggly fingers. They also, for the most part, want to eat souls and lay the smack down on Ash. From the initial nightmare creations of the first Evil Dead, with its veiny, possessed housemates, to the more WWE-style back-flipping witches from the third installment, Army Of Darkness, these undead creations brought both terror and hilarity to Sam Raimi’s trilogy of evil. Groovy.
66. Anaconda – Anaconda (1997)
A great trashy creature feature, with some over-the-top performances from John Voight (with the infamous sneer) and a preposterous giant snake, this really is a B-movie done well. While there is a lot to be desired about the film, the main attraction is the anacondas themselves, which for the most part do look CG, but the sheer scale and menace the snakes provoke is pretty impressive, especially the overhead shots of people wading through the water as the outline of the snakes can be seen sneaking up on them. A Jaws rip-off with elements of Moby Dick, this is a fun movie despite its critical panning, and while its sequels are not that great (more snakes, bigger snakes and repeat), the original movie is well worth seeing.
65. Prawns – District 9 (2009)
The derogatory name given to the asylum-seeking aliens in this superb sci-fi film, the Prawns are scavengers who live in the worst conditions possible, moving from imprisonment to the slums of South Africa.
It’s obvious that Neill Blomkamp is using the Prawns as a device to explore issues of apartheid and segregation, and while they are all CG (and the film does go for the standard action-based shooting finale) these critters are so realistic and so well blended into their environment that sometimes it’s hard to tell that they are all produced in a computer.
64. Terror Dogs – Ghostbusters (1984)
The avatars of Gozer, these terror gogs are the final form taken by the possessed Dana Barrett and Louis Tully who (and let’s not be coy) make love as the Keymaster and Gatekeeper to bring about the summoning of the great Sumerian demigod.
A combination of animatronic work and stop motion, these cougar-like monsters are drooling beasts who start life as gargoyles at the top of 55 Central Park West, and have a tendency to chase and eviscerate people across the city’s park, much to the annoyance of the upper class diners enjoying supper in a fancy restaurant.
63. Tooth Fairies – Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
In a film jam-packed with monsters, goblins, trolls and elves, it’s tricky to pick the best creature from Guillermo del Toro’s comic book sequel, but when it comes down to it, it’s the flock of ravenous Tooth Fairies that really win out as the most impressive monsters in the movie.
While the CG hordes of flittering angry sprites crawling through the walls is unnerving, it’s the chattering, oversized bite and relentless gnawing that makes the sheer number of these critters dangerous. It is, however, the one sole fairy at the end of the attack that is revived from the dead by Johann Kraus that should win an Oscar for the most over-egged death of a CG character, as the little bugger milks his screen time for all it’s worth.
62. Clovie – Cloverfield (2008)
While we don’t get a very good look at it at the beginning of the film, the Godzilla-sized behemoth makes its presence felt throughout this shaky cam monster movie. The tantalising glimpse of the creature design by Neville Page and Tippett Studios provides enough monster action until the final reveal at the end when the skeletal, skyscraper-sized ‘Clovie’ is shown in its entirety. An elongated albino lizard creature, the monster’s impressive design is a modern, westernised take on the classic Kaiju monsters of Japan. And while the creature’s background, history or motivation are never explored, there are continual rumours of sequels and additional films taking the monster further, and that, for all its destruction, the creature seen in the 2008 movie was only a baby, and in subsequent films, we may well actually get to see its mother…
61. Trolls – Troll Hunter (2010)
No, not the pink-haired pencil topping creations, but rather the lumbering giants from this low-budget Nordic fantasy. These stop-motion Nordic monsters work because they’re so unexpected. Troll Hunter, the sleeper hit from 2010, took the whole shaky-cam genre to the next level, adding the concept that the fictional monsters the team were looking for were actually real. There is no ambiguous Blair Witch-ness to the whole affair – Trolls exist, they’re mean, and they look like they’ve come from a Ray Harryhausen film. Chunky and grim, these purposely down and dirty creations are so well put together that, when the fearful hunters shout “Troll!” and the woods rip apart to reveal a stone-faced monster, you actually believe they are there.
60. Reapers – Blade II (2002)
A super-strain of vampire, the Reapers are led by Jared Nomak (played fantastically well by Luke Goss). While Blade is more used to killing off vampires, he has to reluctantly team up with his prey to take down the far more volatile Reapers, who threaten to take down both humanity and the vampire nation if they’re not stopped. Hard to kill, vicious and bloodthirsty, the Reapers make for visually fantastic monsters, due to the fact that half their face opens to reveal hoards of twisted spiky teeth, making it far easier and quicker for them to feed. With even vampires being scared of them, the Reapers are a great villain, and make Del Toro’s take on Marvel’s vampire hunter that little bit more icky.
59. Rhedosaurus – The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
A resuscitated ‘Rhedosaurus’, the beast is an ancient dinosaur awakened from is millennia of sleep by nuclear bomb tests in the Arctic Circle. While sharing the same origins as his Japanese cousin Godzilla (who came a year later) this oversized dinosaur, designed by Ray Harryhausen, walked on all fours and lacked the added advantage of atomic breath. However, even without the ability to pick up and fling around railways and skyscrapers, this menace is one of the more impressive creations from the 1950s B-movie obsession with atomic power and huge animals running riot.
58. Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Why so far down the list, you ask? Well originally, Freddie was an unkillable dream demon come back to the grave to exact revenge on the friends and family of Elm Street. But as the series of films continued, the enigma of this partially-seen, knife-gloved monster lost its horror charm, as Freddie was reduced to a cliché spouting parody of his former self. A comedy character with a relentless reservoir of wisecracks and convoluted back story, the entire thing fell apart when Freddie ‘starred’ in a rap with Run DMC. Day-glo silliness, too much splatter and the over-use of fully lit scenes of prosthetics and rubber took away the enigma and initial fear of the character, and every overuse dropped him further down the list of classic monsters.
57. Mimic – Mimic (1997)
Human-sized cockroaches haunting the subways of Manhattan disguised as homeless people: it’s the premise for this superb del Toro movie – his first foray into Hollywood. Spoilt by the insistent use of CG to show the queen roach, the Mimic creatures themselves, shaded by large cloak-like wings, are a sublime design bought to life by enhanced full-body practical effects. Staying away in the muted green and brown shadows on dimly lit-subways, the idea that there are things lurking underfoot in the shadows are a continual fear for anyone using the underground for any period of time.
56. Gremlin – The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
So we have the Gremlins we all know and love from Joe Dante’s fantastic films, but the concept goes back to World War II, where these invisible creatures were blamed for failure in aircrafts, electrical equipment and vehicles. This notion is taken to its extreme in both the original episode and its update in the Twilight Zone film section entitled Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, where both William Shatner and John Lithgow are tormented by something outside a passenger jet that could well be in their imagination. Could they be slowly losing their mind on a long haul flight after suffering a previous breakdown? Whether or not there is “Something on the wing of the plane” is secondary to the protagonist’s breakdown – especially John Lithgow, who’s carried off in ambulance at the end of the film by Dan Akroyd, who asks if he wants to see something “really scary”…
55. Monster – Monsters (2010)
Gareth Edwards’ minimal monster movie was one of the sleeper hits from the past few years. With no real need to show its monsters (until the very end), their gigantic presence is felt throughout the film with evacuation signs, tilting boats, terrified locals and continual rolling 24 hour news footage.
While not really telling us exactly what they are and where they come from, the general idea that they are some sort of space-based, living fungus/jellyfish with a bit of a temper seems to tell you enough to put the whole invasion idea into context. Ploughing through South America with glimpses of tentacles and the results of their devastation everywhere, this film shows you how the whole shaky cam genre should be done. Fun, clever, and giving you the big monster reveal in the end, this is a great micro-budget monster flick.
54. Scorpius – Farscape (1999-2003)
The nemesis of John Crichton and the rest of the Farscape crew, the part-Sebacean, part-Scarran is the main villain of the series, brought to the screen by the sneering Wayne Pygram whose portrayal of the Wormhole obsessed Peacekeeper is introduced in the second series.
A television equivalent of Darth Vader, this duo-tone nightmare looks like Skeletor took a visit to the torture garden, but unlike his animated counterpart, actually seems competent in his evil planning. With the drive to do absolutely anything to achieve his goal, his drive and sheer force of will has seen him switch allegiances, stab people in the back (and front) and is happy to kill and torture people (in his Aurora chair) to get what he wants. Plus, he has no brain in his head, with the majority of his cranium taken up by a super-cooling device to keep his over-heating and fluctuating body temperature stable. Kudos to the guys who created the part-model, part-CG work done to achieve this unnerving effect.
53. Kraken – Clash Of The Titans (1981)
This sea-dwelling monstrosity was the last work of famous stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen before his retirement. Purportedly the most physically powerful of the legendary Greek Titans, the Kraken was actually a giant squid of Norse myth. In the masterful hands of Harryhausen, it became a multi-armed amphibian giant who was partial to the odd virgin sacrifice or two (the logistics of which are lost on me – see King Kong).
While the remakes Kraken was a laughable affair of CG and over-design, this stop-motion version has so much more character thanks to its fishy features and usual Harryhausen twitches and ticks. The Kraken has become a internet meme, with ‘Release the Kraken’ being used on numerous websites, posters and parodies.
52. Dren – Splice (2009)
Starring the French actress Delphine Chaneac, this weird and wonderful tale of science gone mad has two scientists pushing the boundaries of genetic splicing and DNA work to create a visually stunning monster. While Dren starts as a freak of genetics and a bundle of animal and human hybrid cells, she slowly evolves and becomes a buck-legged creature who falls for her creator. The whole splicing DNA element is rather daft, but this weird sci-fi horror movie works well, and the Dren creature is a superb mix of acting, CG work and special effect make-up, especially when the wings and teeth start to show up.
51. The Host – The Host (2006)
A giant intelligent tadpole, this fantastic creation from Bong Joon-ho is a modern day take on the water monster myths and legends of Korea. A huge hit globally, thanks in part to the fantastic creature design, The Host is one of the biggest films ever to come out of Korea. From its initial broad daylight attack on the banks of the Han river where the creature goes berserk, throwing around cars and people alike, to the far more sinister, Alien-like subterranean drain sequences, the whole movie is a fantastic creature feature. WETA’s work tips its hat to the classic monsters of the 1950s, while the film as a whole provides dire warnings of pollution and a disregard for nature.
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50. Calibos – Clash Of The Titans (1981)
The most ‘human’ of all Harryhausen’s creations, Calibos is the king of the swamps of Joppa , a man-beast thrown out of society by Zeus who curses him into deformity for killing off his paddock of flying horses. In love with Andromeda, Calibos is the son of the water goddess Thetis and the arch rival of Perseus. While actor Neil McCarthy played the tortured Satyr for the close-ups, for all the long shots – such as when he’s fighting Perseus – Harryhausen once again employed his stop motion skills to bring the demon to life. Calibos is all strange posture and flicking tail, and always ready to use his forked hand to finish off any unsuspecting Greek guard on duty.
49. Daleks – Doctor Who (1963-)
Again, why so far down the list? Well, when you think about it, the Daleks aren’t all that scary. While iconic to British television audiences, the actual design of the armored Daleks is not that sinister – but when you add the metallic voice, determination and sheer obsession with extermination, then the ante of malevolence is upped no end. Added to this the machinations of Davros, who really is truly terrifying, then the Dalek’s role as the universe’s most terrifying creation is cemented.
48. Metaluna Monster – This Island Earth (1955)
This bulbous headed creation is one of the most iconic 1950s aliens ever to be seen on screen, and inspired numerous other monster designs (such as Futurama‘s news presenter Morbo). However, the Metaluna monster’s lumbering form may well have been the only favorable thing about this ponderous 1950s movie about humanity’s place in the cosmos. A little too highbrow, the monster fortunately adds a bit of creature-based spice to proceedings, especially when it was rumored that the iconic curvy head of the monster was based on the svelte curves of 1930s actress, Mae West.
47. Gmork/The Nothing – The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The Nothing aims to consume the entire kingdom of Fantasia in Wolfgang Petersen’s 80s adventure movie. The ultimate fantasy based nihilist, The Nothing has the sinister, wolf-like Gmork stalk his prey through the land, taking with him his dreams of nothing, of the peace of nonexistence. A creature that is both scary for his outlook and his appearance, the relentless pursuit of his goal makes Gmork one of the most terrifying creations from the 80s fantasy era.
46. Dark Gods – In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)
While fans wait endlessly for Guillermo del Toro’s take on HP Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness, we’ll instead have to suffice with this overlooked gem from John Carpenter, who has his Lovecraft-like writer Sutter Kane terrorised by unknown terrors from another universe.
These Dark Gods can enter our realm due to the magic and madness wrapped up in Kane’s writing, which is slowly opening the door for them to enter our realm. Sam Neil’s insurance advisor gets caught up in the proceedings, and descends into insanity.
A melange of spines, spikes, teeth and claws, these nameless creatures don’t get much screen time but when they’re scaling up the dimensional walls, this is the closest we’ve come so far to seeing Lovecraft’s ancient gods and unnameable evils on screen.
45. Martian Mastermind – Invaders From Mars (1953)
An intriguing mixture of bizarre alien lifeform and kitsch 50s paperweight, the Martian Mastermind of William Cameron Menzies’ classic of low-budget sci-fi was all the more unnerving for his lack of speech and movement. Consisting of little more than a human head and tentacles in a jar, the design of the Mastermind clearly influenced the salivating Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons, and like so much of the film as a whole, he’s the surreal stuff of nightmares.
44. Dracula – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
This opulent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s iconic creation has its flaws (such as the casting of Keanu Reeves) but having Gary Oldman portray the count in all his forms is just genius. From his initial appearance as a ruined, lecherous old man, to his more monstrous wolf/bat state, to his ‘man about town’ dandy, each version oozes charm, character and a sinister edge. Whether encased in blood red armour pillaging medieval villages, howling for lost loves and rejecting god and all things holy or being the ultimate sexual predator, each incarnation is a memorable monster in its own right.
43. Hydra – Jason And The Argonauts (1963)
While Jason is best known for its jaw-dropping and fantastically choreographed grand finale with a skeleton army, Ray Harryhausen also bought us the multi-headed, fork-tailed serpentine Hydra – the guardian of the Golden Fleece. How the animator managed to keep track of the movement of every head without losing his sanity is beyond me, but thanks to his artistry and infinite patience, we get to see one of the most impressive creatures ever to appear on film. It’s only slightly let down by the close-up shots, where Jason is wrapped up in the creature’s tail (which look too rubbery), but the scene is still shot and put together almost perfectly.
42. Ludo – Labyrinth (1986)
Everyone remembers Labyrinth for the figure hugging tights and japery of David Bowie as the Goblin King. But the world created by Terry Jones and Brian Froud is a cornucopia of creatures from some very special imaginations. With headless fox-monsters, irate goblins, dog-riding knights, articulate hands and chatty worms to choose from, it’s very hard to pick a monster from the movie to add into the list, but one of the most impressive looking is, of course, the benevolent hulk that was Ludo.
A big, loyal dog with the appearance of a dowdy minotaur, Ludo may well not be the strongest, fastest or aggressive monster on the list, the lovable creature is such a great piece of design and puppetry that it seemed a shame not to give him a mention.
41. Crawlers – The Descent (2005)
Neil Marshall manages to hit all the right primal buttons in this 2005 subterranean horror. With the most effective horror movies being those where the environment is as much a threat as the monster chasing you (see The Thing, Predator and Aliens) this survival horror has the members of the team already trapped hundreds of feet underground with their own neuroses. Then pushing the terror up a notch by introducing the Crawlers is just fantastic. They can see in the dark, are ultra-fast and can use the environment to their own advantage. Our protagonists never have a chance, as these super-fast killers make short work of everyone. Nerves and minds are shredded as fast as the flesh and bones of their victims…
40. Dracula – Dracula (1931)
Without the iconic portrayal of Dracula, horror and monster movies would not be in the place they are now – every character actor who’s portrayed a creature of some kind will compare their work to Bela Lugosi. He is the quintessential bloodsucker – the vampire all others aspire to be. Whether it’s the charm, the hypnotic eyes or the accent, Lugosi is the definitive Dracula.
39. Djinn – Wishmaster (1997)
While not in the ranks of Pinhead, Freddy or Jason as far as iconic monsters are concerned, Andrew Divoff’s thin-lipped, vowel hissing Persian nightmare is a creature that should be recognised as one of the most effective creations producer Wes Craven and his special effects team ever produced. With runes tattooed over his head and two constantly moving tentacles wrapped around his neck, the Wishmaster is a superb mix of latex and puppetry bought to life by the actor beneath it. While the sequels got progressively worse, the intense stare and gravelled voice asking, “What are your wishes?” makes this a creature to remember.
38. Gwangi – Valley Of The Gwangi (1969)
On paper, this could be the best premise for a film of all time – cowboys versus dinosaurs. Admittedly, the execution isn’t as great as the idea (but not nearly as bad as Cowboys Vs Aliens), but there’s no mistake that this big prehistoric bruiser is one of the most impressive dinosaurs ever seen on screen. Again, courtesy of Ray Harryhausen, this grumpy tail swinging Allosaurus is the king of the hidden valley in Mexico, ruler of a secret dinosaur kingdom – until, that is, a set of cowboys do a King Kong and capture him for display in a touring circus. With a fantastic climax set in the flaming remains of a church, Gwangi is a hidden 60s classic.
37. Balrog – The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
An evil thing of smoke and fire, the Balrog is an ancient creature from the depths of the earth, composed of lava and hate. While its sheer size and aggressive, bull-like stance should bring even the staunchest ranger cowering to his knees, the Balrog’s fury can be summed up in one shot – a close-up of the creature roaring, its breath creating a heat haze. The artists at WETA managed to create something tangible from the descriptions in Tolkien’s text, and the results are truly fearsome.
36. Gill-man – Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
Another of Universal’s iconic monsters, the Gill-man is still a fantastic piece of design – an aquatic throwback discovered during an archaeological expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon. It might well resemble a man in a rubber suit these days, but the sleek design and webbed hands and feet were, for the time, superb and worked even better in black and white (the initial design, of course, was green). A sequel or remake has yet to be made, but the Gillman himself has been seen in numerous sequels, parodies and homages, with special mentions going to The Munsters and The Monster Squad as two great examples.
35. Cyclops – The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958)
Harryhausen’s first outing to the realms of Persian myth and fantasy, the 7th Voyage is the first of the Sinbad trilogy (with Golden Voyage and Eye Of The Tiger coming much later), and gives us a whole array of monsters. From a slave girl turned into a serpent-like creature to a misplaced Welsh-looking dragon, a Roc and a warrior skeleton, there are loads of superb creatures in this movie to marvel at. However, the most impressive and iconic is the Cyclops that inhabits the cursed island of Colossa. The bane of evil sorcerer Sokurah, the Cyclops are the natural alpha predators of the island, and these massive one-eyed nightmares have a tendency to horde shiny treasures and have an appetite for human flesh.
34. The Griffin – Jim Henson’s The Storyteller (1988)
Maybe the biggest puppet effect ever shown on television, this superb half-eagle, half-lion has a penchant for eating people, but would equally be happy with a back rub and a huge pot of goulash. Making its impressive appearance in the episode called The Luck Child, this moody monster was the bane of an evil king, and possessed a golden feather that was the prize to win a princess’s hand. Not that the Griffin was happy to give it up, of course, unless he got a story and a tickle behind the ear before bed.
Our lookback at The Storyteller can be found here.
33. The Silence – Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut (2011)
A relatively new creature, these suit-wearing monstrosities seem to be the older, uglier and more menacing versions of the iconic grey aliens we have all come to know and love. Not only are these hissing creatures terrifying to look at, but they also have the tendency to vaporize their victims, and possess the ability to make people forget all about them – allowing them to hatch and plot their evil machinations in plain sight.
As with a lot of the more recent Doctor Who baddies, the Silence are the stuff of nightmares, the things under your bed and the swift unsettling movement out of the corner of your eye – an unknown evil and menace that you cannot quite shake.
32. Jabba the Hutt – Return Of The Jedi (1983)
The Don Corleone of the Star Wars universe, Jabba has come a long way since his initial appearance as a chunky bloke in a big sheepskin coat. With his original appearance in his ‘true’ form (well the way he was envisaged by George Lucas) coming in the third installment of the classic trilogy, this bulbous slug-monster was a fantastic piece of creature design work. Whether he was leering at Princess Leia or gorging on frogs, this corpulent kingpin of crime stole the show at the beginning of Jedi; even his unbecoming, gurgling death was fantastically done, all lashing tail and engorged tongue. Still, he deserved it for trapping Han Solo in Carbonite…
31. Pennywise – Stephen King’s It (1990)
Okay, so the final spider-creature defeated by an asthma inhaler was a bit of a let-down, but throughout Stephen King’s first class mini-series, Pennywise the Clown was the epitome of childhood nightmares. Tim Curry’s portrayal of the mocking monster that entices children to their doom is probably his best role, and the actor takes the idea of a sinister clown-monster to the extreme. As far as monsters go, this evil being is both a monster in looks as well as deeds, and he may well be one of the most evil and sinister creatures on this list.
30. Monster Zero – Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
The more recent Godzilla movies may well have left some of their 1960s charm behind, and the chances of seeing the Big G do any WWE-style flying leg drops are slim to none. However, what the new versions lack in fun, they more than make up for in budget, special effects and pure violence. The Godzilla of the new Japanese movies is mean, angry and shoots firsts and asks questions later, so when he slowly ploughs through monster after monster in Final Wars without stopping for breath, you would think he’s unstoppable. That is, until he reaches the film’s final boss monster – an alien creature dubbed Monster Zero.
An armoured, three headed creature covered in spikes and alien armour, Monster Zero is an impressive monstrosity, but as well as his fantastic design, he also has an ace up his sleeve… In all its forms Monster Zero, looks impressive, especially for a man in a suit, and with a little more budget than your average monster flick, and solid work both by the puppeteers, actors and special effects artists, this really is a monster to remember.
29. The Id Monster – Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet is a superb piece of 1950s sci-fi, a precursor to Star Trek, and its story is quite similar to the one James Cameron used for Aliens (rescue mission to desolate planet to find survivors). But where Aliens had the team armed to the teeth, Forbidden Planet is far more measured.
With the most famous ‘creature’ in the movie being the iconic Robbie the Robot, people could easily forget that there’s also a monster in the movie, an at first invisible creature – a monster made up from the ‘Id’ of mad scientist Doctor Morbius. Once revealed, the Id is a fantastic piece of animation (courtesy of Disney animator Joshua Meador), a huge, lion-headed savage beast bathed in 1950s lasers. Mixed with on-screen special effects, this neon nightmare superbly interacts with the crew, who are tossed around and brutally slaughtered by this invisible enemy.
28. The Gorn – Star Trek: The Original Series – Arena (1967)
We’ve seen the scene at the famous Vasquez Rocks played out a thousand times with Bill and Ted, Jay and Silent Bob and more recently in Paul all taking a nod from this classic confrontation between Kirk and the Gorn in the classic Star Trek episode, Arena. While Gorn was for the most part as comical as it was iconic, these over-sized lizards did prove more of a menace more recently, when the Next Generation crew encountered them in comic book form. Here, the actual creature could be realised correctly, without the limitations of 1960s television budgets. The Gorn also made a cameo appearance in Star Trek: Enterprise episode, In A Mirror, Darkly Part II.
27. Quetzalcoatl – Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
This 1950s-style B-movie is a true oddity – why would a filmmaker create a creature-feature in a post-Jaws 80s, with a huge stop motion ancient Aztec god as the antagonist? It just doesn’t make sense, and for that very reason Q is a fantastic movie, backed up with a brilliant piece of creature design that revels in the fact that it is so out of place. Nesting quite obviously in the Chrysler building, this juxtaposition of modern architecture and ancient creature just seems to work – having Q dodge between skyscrapers to hunt down its unsuspecting prey on the pavements of Manhattan is the kind of sight we don’t see in movies anymore. A cult classic, Q came to the UK thanks to Alex Cox’s sorely missed Moviedrome (a show we celebrated in more depth here), and for that I will always be grateful, as this film is so much fun.
26. Lionel’s mother – Braindead (1992)
Bitten by the rare and very dangerous Sumatran Rat-Monkey, this domineering harridan, who while alive made Peter Jackson’s put-upon hero Lionel’s life a misery in this superb early-90s splatterfest, gradually turns into a zombie over the course of the film. When not babysitting the zombie baby Selwyn, the mother from hell eventually becomes the end-of-film boss – mutated beyond belief to a huge bloated nightmare who tries to swallow Lionel whole. Freudian overtones abound.
And here are the final 25…
25. Tooms – The X-Files: Tooms (1994)
While some say that, by adding Tooms, The X-Files jumped the shark, adding this malleable monster to the show’s mythology brought one of the most terrifying television creatures to the screen. A genetic mutation, Tooms required livers to live, and after sating himself, would once again return to his sticky hibernation. However, unlike his last few ventures into the big wide world, Mulder and Scully were on his tracks, trying to stop his spate of mutilations and murder. A creature of nightmares, with his grabbing hands and his lunatic need to feed, no other TV monster came close to its unnerving quality.
24. The Mummy – The Mummy (1932)
It wouldn’t be a list of monsters without adding at least one or two iconic characters from Universal’s array of creatures. While the 1999 version was all flash computer graphics, scarabs and a poor man’s Indiana Jones action, this shuffling, methodical creation courtesy of Boris Karloff holds more terror in its slow cumbersome hand than the recent trilogy in its entirety. It’s the under-acting and slow, unstoppable pace that makes the Karloff creation so scary – it’s a relentless force of nature.
23. Graboids – Tremors (1990)
Who doesn’t like films with giant carnivorous sandworms in them? This 1990 oddity starring Kevin Bacon is a superb modern monster movie. Surprisingly light-hearted fun for a horror movie, Tremors shows how truck drivers, cowboys and military fanatics in a quiet desert town deal with huge killer worms. While not all that clever, these superb monsters put Doctor Who’s attempt at mutant worms and maggots to shame.
22. The Gentlemen – Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Hush (1999)
While Buffy boasted a vast array of creature and monster designs, from the lackadaisical Lorne to the sinister Major, the show boasted vampires, werewolves, demons, gods and monsters a plenty. However, the most sinister creatures ever to appear in the show were the floating Gentlemen, a set of nightmares that came straight out of the worst fairy tale ever. At first taking the voice away from their victims so they couldn’t scream, the sinister Gentlemen would happily perform open dissections, all the time smiling their deathly grin as they chopped, hacked and eviscerated.
One of the scariest episodes of the show ever, there were also some fantastic elements from geek god Joss Whedon in this episode, with Buffy’s mime of stabbing the Gentlemen to death with her stake quickly coming to mind. Providing some of the most fantastic television of the past 20 years, Buffy was a superb show, and thanks to the Gentlemen, Hush is definitely among the top five best episodes of all time.
21. Stripe – Gremlins (1984)
Like eating too much and watching the Queen’s speech, Gremlins has become a festive tradition, and thanks to Joe Dante, this classic horror comedy will remain one of the most bizarre Christmas treats for years to come. While the other Gremlins in both the original and the sequel are mostly anarchic troublemakers, Stripe is just plain, downright evil – more intelligent than his brothers and sisters, he’s manipulative, cunning and vindictive, and looking to spawn as many Gremlins as possible. With a voice that sounds like nails down a blackboard, Stripe really ups the ante in terms of scares.
20. Werewolf – An American Werewolf In London (1981)
American Werewolf is still seen as an iconic monster movie, and the classic line of “Keep off the moors” has never rung more true, as John Landis’ film features one of the best werewolves ever to appear on screen. While the rampage through Piccadilly Circus is well planned, gritty and gory to the extreme, the wolf, seen in quick shots is not all that impressive. Where the film excels, of course, is in David’s transformation into a werewolf, and now, more than 30 years after its release, it’s a landmark in monster effects and make-up. With bones twisting and turning, flesh ripping and sinew stretched, Rick Baker’s groundbreaking work is still horrifying to watch.
19. Rancor – Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Another Phil Tippett-created monster that took go-motion to another level. Living in the cellars beneath Jabba the Hutt’s palace, this hulking creature was always just a trap-door away from its next meal, be it a serving girl or Gamorrean guard. It’s not until a run-in with a wayward Jedi and a heavy door that this drooling beastie gets its comeuppance, much to the distress of his pot-bellied keeper, who breaks down and cries as his monstrous pet breathes its last. You would think that this dying sigh would be the last we would see of this gargantuan creation, but it would seem the Rancor has recently had a new lease of life thanks to the new Star Wars game on the Kinect, where you can take control of a Rancor and happily spend hours using him to destroy Mos Eisley. Well, it is a hive of scum and villainy.
18. Spinosaurus – Jurassic Park III (2001)
While seeing the T-Rex for the first time in Jurassic Park was breathtaking, and the subsequent sequence in the rain is one of the most tightly wrought pieces of action cinema in recent times, the dinosaur from the third installment of Spieberg’s classic trilogy makes it onto the list ahead of his cousin for the reason that, well, he’s just plain mean. While the T-Rex of the first two films seemed to be a force of nature – he was just doing what dinosaurs do (eating stuff) – the Spinosaurus in the third movie seems to relish in the destruction it causes, and while it has no actual personality, seems to be relentlessly aggressive, stalking the team on the island and even having time to take on a T-Rex and beating it hands down…
17. Brundlefly – The Fly (1986)
In the 1958 original, Dr Andre Delambre inadvertently swaps heads and an arm with an ordinary housefly and ends his ill-advised transformation trapped in a spider’s web screaming, “Help me…” Although this is disturbing enough, David Cronenberg ups the ante of suffering, as Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle goes through a metamorphosis from human to superhuman to horrific Brundlefly, a horrific mutation that has a tendency to use its toxic eating habits to melt away appendages. Cronenberg’s body horror and mutation fixation makes The Fly such a fantastic film, and Goldblum’s portrayal of Brundle and his decent into monsterhood makes this mid-80s body-horror remake a classic.
Our full lookback at The Fly is here.
16. The Skeksis – Dark Crystal (1982)
These vulture-like creatures are another Jim Henson creation, which mixed parts of birds and reptiles together to create one of the creepiest movie monsters of all time. Supposedly based on the seven deadly sins, the Skeksis’ creepy appearance was even more emphasised when the snivelling Chamberlain is stripped down and exiled, and we find that under all the opulence they are just skeletal bits of bones covered in weed and saggy skin. Creepy and deadly, these are more than just monsters under the bed, as kids everywhere could only imagine what nasty things these sharply intelligent nastiest could do to them…
15. The Cenobites – Hellraiser (1987)
When summoned from the mythical puzzle box, these ‘explorers of the extreme’ have become horror icons, with Pinhead the poster-child for the new breed of horror that appeared at the end of the 1980s. Dressed head to toe in fetish gear, and with a set of piercings that would be a nightmare for metal detectors, the Cenobites are the ultimate body modifiers, taking their art to the extreme while at the same time chasing down souls wanting to partake in the ultimate experiences of pleasure and pain.
“Demons to some, angels to others”, after 25 years, these iconic black and white monstrosities, with their leather and bleached out skin, may well have lost their initial visual impact, but seeing the eloquent pinhead through the smoke and backlit portal to hell in Kirsty Cotton’s house is still one of the best monster entrances ever.
14. Davy Jones – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Okay, so technically Davey Jones was a CGI creation bought to life in pixel form by some very talented artists, but as far as monsters are concerned, his design has had a huge impact on modern films. Davy Jones is an amalgamation of Bill Nighy’s performance, deep sea creatures and the squid-headed monsters that haunt HP Lovecraft’s work. With a ship brimming with cannon and equally unsavoury mutated aquatic monster crew members, Davy Jones’ presence upped the ante for CG characters, and added a layer of the fantastic to Disney’s pirate franchise. Better sequels wouldn’t have hurt, though.
13. Vermithrax Pejorative – Dragonslayer (1981)
Dragonslayer is probably one of the best fantasy films of the time, and it’s certainly noted by fans as having the best dragon: the 400-year-old, lava spewing Vermithrax, an angry flying ball of hate brought to the screen by Phil Tippett. His ‘go-motion’ animation technique made Vermithrax look extremely fluid and realistic, without the aid of computers, and over 25 year later, puts more recent dragons like Eragon and the numerous fire-breathers of Harry Potter to shame. A dark, brooding adult fantasy tale, Dragonslayer is filled with virgin sacrifices, people burned alive, cross dressing and a dirty, gritty realm in which the malevolent dragon Vermithrax rules supreme.
12. The Weeping Angels – Doctor Who: Blink (2007)
Another recent creation courtesy of Doctor Who’s Stephen Moffat, these statues are just terrifying. They move when you’re not looking, getting closer and closer until they take your ‘time-energy’ and throw you into the past. Initially appearing in the classic episode Blink, the Weeping Angels seemed at first to not be all that intelligent, but as later appearances show, these creepy creations are all too happy to play tricks, lay traps and use visual and audio technology to get closer to their victims. With only a handful of iconic monsters coming out of the more recent series of Doctor Who, the Angels should be used sparingly to retain their mystique, as at the moment they still have uniqueness to them. There’s a chilling sense that they are always somewhere, lurking in the corner when nobody is watching.
11. Molasar – The Keep (1983)
Although the book on which this film is based is just one of a lengthy series of adult fantasy tales, the film version of this ancient monster is visually fantastic, and shows all the flare expected of director Michael Mann’s eye for detail. Thanks to Mann and a stellar cast, including Jurgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne and Ian McKellen (not to mention a haunting soundtrack by Tangerine Dream), this oddity exceeded all expectations, and has become something of a cult classic, with Molasar himself being one of the reasons why the film works so well. From his initial release from another dimension into the Keep (though a superb mix of special effects photography, model work and animation) to his initial manifestation as a creature of smoke and lights to his final form as a muscle-toned behemoth, the creature effects, much like the rest of the film, are first rate.
10. Bruce the shark – Jaws (1975)
How can a ‘natural’ creature be seen in the top ten monsters of all time? Well, even though there are bigger (Alligator), more extreme (Megashark) and more Jon Voight eating (Anaconda) natural monstrosities out there, Spielberg’s perfect horror movie made a plastic and rubber mechanism called Bruce into something that still makes people fearful of the sea. A shark is a shark, but thanks to Peter Benchley’s introduction, and the director’s uncanny ability to make said rubber shark look convincing, the effect on the public’s consciousness of a few sound effects, tense music and implied horror has, even to this day, made anyone visiting the seaside just a little wary of dabbling their feet in the sea.
9. The Borg – Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989-)
The main antagonists for the later series of Star Trek TNG and of course Voyager, the Borg are a cybernetic hive mind, first introduced when Q throws the Enterprise half way across the universe to show just how unprepared Picard and the rest of the Federation are to the horrors of space. Unrelenting and (Seven of Nine and Hugh aside) emotionless, the Borg are the zombies of Romero, toting high tech weaponry. And there, right at the back of the millions and millions of disposable drones, is the Queen – ever present to force her slaves to continue to consume, digest and adapt everything in their path. The Borg have had a lasting legacy on all things Trek, and have yet to be topped as far as Trek antagonists are concerned.
8. The Darkness – Legend (1985)
A lot of people snigger at Ridley Scott’s attempt at a fairy tale, especially the fact the film has Tom Cruise in green tights doing his best Peter Pan impression, but no matter how flawed the film is, there’s no mistake that Tim Curry’s portrayal of the Darkness is the most disturbing vision of the Devil ever to be seen on film. Huge, muscled and snarling under piles of latex, Curry was, up until this point, most famous for donning fishnets and doing the Time Warp, but in this film he’s the epitome of evil – the very best at being bad, a brooding creature from the pit. Whether it’s striking down unicorns or attempting to corrupt Mia Sarah (and making her all hot and Goth-like in the process), the Darkness is an unforgettable reservoir of seductive evil.
7. The Pale Man – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro’s numerous placings on this list are proof of his stature as a modern day teller of fairy tales, myths and legends – a director with an eye for the macabre who’s brought some of the most iconic creatures in recent memory to screen. However, there is one recent creation that takes a place in the top ten – The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth is the stuff of nightmares, bought to the screen by Doug Jones, whose portrayal of this sinister creation is becoming as iconic as some of the monsters of Universal Studios. Frightening and just bizarre, monster with the eyes in his hands is a monstrous icon that will forever haunt the cinema screen.
6. Medusa – Clash Of The Titans (1981)
Harryhausen’s Medusa scene in Clash Of The Titans is perfect cinema. It looks beautiful, full of shadows, fire, mirrors reflections, petrified warriors and a scare around every corner. The slow build-up is perfect, the sense of horror and impending doom is done brilliantly, and the actual Medusa creature is the stuff of pure nightmare – half woman and half snake, you can see every aspect of workmanship and craft used to create the monster. From the rattling tail to the look of anger in Medusa’s face, right down to the last flick of her tail as she finally falls victim to Perseus’ blade, this scene is pure fantasy perfection.
5. King Kong – King Kong (1933)
Whether it’s the RKO Willis O’Brien masterpiece or the excellent, if flawed, remake by Peter Jackson (yes, I am purposely ignoring the appalling 1976 version), the giant king of Skull Island has been a major part of western cinema for nearly 100 years. He’s an iconic beast with an aggressive dinosaur-tendency, but with a tender side, too. In reality, King Kong was made from metal, foam and carefully-brushed fur, and inspired a generation of filmgoers to get into the movie industry – not least the great Ray Harryhausen. From twisting a fallen tree, sending the sailors to their doom, to swatting away planes on top of the Empire State Building, Kong’s character made him more than just a monster, and instead, made him an iconic screen presence from the golden age of cinema.
4. The Predator – Predator (1987)
Whether it’s fighting Arnie to a standstill, or taking a dive for Danny Glover, the Predator is the supreme hunter, a monster with both intelligence, cunning and a whole array of awesome weapons at his disposal. An intergalactic big game hunter, this warrior makes the original movie a cut above the other testosterone fuelled action movies of the 1980s – and to think it could have all gone so very wrong, with the initial Predator design having Jean Claude Van Damme dressed up in stilts and wobbly arms. The rethink and redesign was a stroke of genius by Stan Winston, who came up with a monster unlike anything we had seen on screen before.
3. The Thing – The Thing (1982)
The continually-evolving prosthetic nightmare from arguably John Carpenter’s best film takes the number three spot. While the recent remake/prequel made a good attempt at bringing the Thing back to a modern audience, it failed to capture the sheer ingenuity of the 1982 horror classic. It’s not so much that one part of the monster’s form wins out its top three place, but rather, the fact that every tentacle, tooth and disjointed appendage all work together to bring a fantastic menagerie of monsters to the screen. Who is real, who has been taken, and who’s going to have his head drop off, sprout crab legs and scuttle along the floor? Atmospheric, intelligent and creepy, The Thing is a textbook survival horror movie that set the standard for any and all monster movies to follow.
2. Godzilla – Godzilla (1954)
Truly the King of Monsters, Godzilla in all his incarnations has held the world in awe since his first appearance in 1954, and richly deserves his number two spot on the list. Giving him his proper name Gojira , this atomic powered dinosaur has wreaked havoc on Tokyo nearly once a year for the past 50 years, taking on not only the army in all its forms, but also aliens, monsters, giant robots and evil versions of himself.
From the dark and brooding original, an allegory for the misuse of atomic power, and a nation’s understanding of what the power of the atom can actually do, via the more jovial adventures in the 1960s and 70s, to the more futuristic and visually innovative appearances in recent times, Gojira has become an iconic monster – a symbol forever associated with Japan.
1. Xenomorph – Alien (1979)
It really had to be didn’t it? The most shockingly brilliant creature to ever grace the silver screen came courtesy of Ridley Scott and HR Giger. A mix of organic and industrial beauty, this monster, with its shark-like colouring, slick design and row upon row of teeth (get back in there, little mouth) is the ultimate predator, and truly was one of the first man-shaped creatures to actually look alien.
With a body of intertwining tubes and sleek ebony curves, the alien-ness of the Xenomorph has been parodied, copied and reworked since its original inception, but the unique style Giger gave to this monster still hasn’t been surpassed as far as creature creations are concerned. While the Thing is all tentacles, and the Predator is 1980s body-building poses, the sleek, shadowy is waiting in our nightmares.
As Ash says, “I admire its purity. A survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” It’s the ultimate monster, and stands the test of time.
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