“Monster movies” as a definable term can be rather widespread. Generally, a film of this ilk revolves around some kind of disaster perpetrated by some kind of large creature. Conventions revolve around everyday protagonists getting caught up in a full on assault between military personnel and the invading monstrosity as medical services struggle to stay alive and innocent civilians run for safety. There can also be smaller scale claustrophobic movies where heroes struggle to confine this creature where it can’t attack the general population. The monster movie, or creature feature, spans multiple genres, including horror, sci-fi, comedy, and action. And to celebrate the release of Kong: Skull Island, here are my personal top ten monster movies of all time.
10. The Blob (1958)
A blend of B-movie sci-fi and damaged youth drama, The Blob starred a young Steve McQueen as a rebellious teen who tries to save as many of his fellow residents as he can from a gigantic monster from outer-space that is absorbing and eviscerating humans. The effects for this time period are astonishing, the social commentary depicts the fears of its time period, and the suspense is simply outstanding.
9. Tremors (1990)
An absolute blast from start to finish, this film helped make Kevin Bacon a bona fide star. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love this movie, and if you do, it’s wise to unfriend them. Tremors certainly pays homage to the creature films of the 1950s, but it makes it completely its own thing by setting the events in a small desert community, and by adding a ton of humour in with the action. “Can you fly?”
8. Gremlins (1984)
1. Keep him out of bright lights; 2. Don’t feed him after midnight; 3. Don’t get him wet. Because as cute as Gizmo is, he will unleash all hell on you if you break one of those three rules. Steven Spielberg produced this Chris Columbus written Christmas horror comedy that was directed by none other than the great Joe Dante (The Howling). The result is one of the most violent movies ever marketed to children (unless you count Robocop and Terminator 2).
7. King Kong (1933)
The effects might be dated, but the story and characters in this granddaddy for a monster movie hold up better than any later version of the character (including Peter Jackson’s amazing and criminally underrated remake). Fay Wray gives a masterful performance as Ann Darrow, the woman who Kong holds a great amount of affection for. A beautiful film that touches upon many social issues including race and gender, King Kong laid the groundwork for the blockbuster to start taking hold.
6. Godzilla (1954)
Gareth Edwards made a splendid 2014 update, but nothing can match the original Japanese Gojira. Reflecting so much of the fear and paranoia of Japan in the wake of nuclear war, this film embodies much of that anxiety in its now iconic monster. Buildings will collapse, Godzilla will roar, and people will run while pointing up, Gojira is that rare film that sympathizes with the monster, who is as much a victim as the people left in the wake of its destruction. Make sure you seek out the Criterion Collection’s release of the film, since it preserves the original Japanese version as it was intended to be seen.
5. The Host (2006)
Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) is one of contemporary cinema’s greatest masters. His homage to Godzilla is arguably the greatest creature feature made by a non-Hollywood studio since, well, the original Godzilla. Balancing humour with incredible characters, touching dramatic moments, jaw-dropping action scenes, and one of the best introductions to a monster ever filmed, The Host is the monster movie in its purest and best form.
4. The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s remake is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. The story of Seth Brundle who’s DNA is unexpectedly mixed with that of a fly in a science experiment gone horribly wrong is the ultimate in body horror. The physical transformation Brundle goes through is unsettling, but the psychological transformation is even worse. Featuring state of the art effects that are still amazing by today’s standards, The Fly is a work of dedication and pure genius.
3. Predator (1987)
Lean. Mean. Sleek. Scary. And full of iconic, intense action. Director John McTiernan proved his talent as a director before Die Hard with this 1980s classic that is populated with some of the biggest action heroes of the time. One by one, we watch as none of them are a match for the extraterrestrial hunter from outer space. In addition, you will learn where Arnold Schwarzenegger says some of his most iconic lines like, “Stick around,” “Come on! Kill me! I’m right here!” and “Get to the choppa!”
2. The Thing (1982)
One of the most iconic films of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing is still being regarded as one of the greatest uses of practical effects ever in a film. When you watch the film yourself, you will no doubt agree. Kurt Russell leads an amazing cast of researchers stuck in Antartica. The body snatching abilities of this creature slowly turns these characters against each other. The secluded location heightens the tension as there is nowhere to run, hide, or be rescued. And the execution of the narrative and characters makes all the effects that much better.
1. Alien (1979)
H.R. Giger’s design work is arguably the most iconic production design in all of sci-fi. It extends right to the phallic structure of the Xenomorph. Using a lot of disturbing rape imagery, as well as some of the most intense uses of camera work ever utilized for a horror film, Alien is essentially a perfect movie. You never know what’s lurking around the corners, and this film never once makes you feel safe while watching it. As Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)’s crew is dispatched one by one, we realize the truth behind the film’s truly unsettling tagline, that in space, no one can hear you scream….
What movies would you have added to the list? I know we missed a ton, like Little Shop of Horrors, Them!, and virtually all the Universal Monster Classics, so let us know in the Comments!