In honor of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” remake (which is to be released on Wednesday), we have put together a list of our personal favorite movie monsters of all time. Most of these are very near and dear to our hearts and all of them have scared the crap out of us at one point or another. The list is compiled of non-human monsters and/or mutated humans only, which basically means no serial killers. And if you can’t tell, we don’t think too much of knife-wielding maniacs either–(Jason and Michael Myers, you’re dead to us. Ha ha.); it’s got to be more creative than that.
Also, as a sidenote, we have not listed “zombies” or “vampires,” because that’s just too general. In order to make the list, one zombie or vampire would have had to jump out in particular above the rest. We understand this kind of defeats the purpose of the strength in numbers mentality of zombies, so there you have it. No zombie entries. We’ll save that for another time. Without further ado, as Alice Cooper once sang in a really terrible, scary-bad song, “Welcome to my Nightmare.” Links to related lists: Top 10 Scariest Movie Themes, Top 10 Overlooked Scary Movies, Top 10 Movie-Inspired Halloween Costumes, Top 10 Slapstick Horror Movies, Top 10 Giant Monster Attacks! Movies
The Invisible Man : Remember that line in “Rocky Horror” when the giant pair of red lips sings about Claude Rains as “The Invisible Man,” and the audience response is supposed to be something along the lines of “Who the fuck is Claude Rains?” Well, he’s only my number one greatest movie monster of all time, that’s who! The 1933 film was directed by James Whale, an outcast who personalized his movies with a sardonic brand of humor– and none more so than “The Invisible Man.” Rains plays the main character as unrestrained id, using his black humor as a defense shield. Living vicariously through his actions as he dispatches both casual and arch-enemies with brutal and hilarious nonchalance, he derails an entire passenger train, chokes a cop unconscious and then raps him on the skull afterwards with a chair just for kicks, and sends his former co-worker to a fiery death down a cliff in his car, laughing “I hope your car is insured, Kemp, because I think there’s going to be a little accident!”
King Kong : Alright, Kong definitely borrowed some of the sympathy earned by Frankenstein’s monster, but mostly I love him because he kills puny humans in spectacular fashion. Forget that awful 70s crapfest with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, and check out the ground-breaking original “King Kong” from 1933. Be wowed like I was at the amazing degree of crazy-ass stop-motion violence from master FX man Willis O’Brien. Watch as Kong smashes natives into the ground! Watch as he viciously chomps on men who get in his way! Watch as he pulls a woman out of a skyscraper window, and then lets her fall to her death when he realizes its not Fay Wray. Hell, it’s not scary, but it sure is weird– watch (in the restored version, out now on DVD) as Kong undresses Wray in the palm of his giant hand and sniffs her clothes! That’s some hot monkey love.
Frankenstein’s Monster : Another classic and unforgettable James Whale monster! Boris Karloff resisted it at first, but when dialogue was added to the monster’s repertoire in the excellent sequel “Bride of Frankenstein,” he somehow invested high camp and even more pathos to an already perfect movie creation. Sewn together from dead body parts, Karloff became the wretched walking example of why man should never try to play God. Besides being convincingly acted and horrifyingly designed, he just happens to be in two of the most satisfying horror movies of all time.
Regan/Satan from The Exorcist : Just the thought of Satan himself here on Earth is pretty scary. So is the thought of watching “The Omen,” and all the other devil-worshipping B-movies that became all the rage in the 70s, post-”Exorcist.” But when Lucifer takes over the body of a teenage girl (Linda Blair) and twists her head around 360 degrees, and makes her talk backwards and jab crucifixes into her crotch, that’s pretty shocking. And it’s real damn creepy. As a side note, this movie introduced me to my new favorite kind of soup ( it’s true!)– split pea.
King Ghidorah (Ghidrah) : Yeah, I understand that Godzilla is THE original Japanese man-in-a-rubber-suit monster, but Ghidorah is from space and has three freakin’ heads!!! I used to sprint my ass home from elementary school extra fast during Channel 5′s Monster Week every time I knew Ghidorah was going to be on. I would grab three Oreo cookies, pour me some milk in my Burger King “Empire Strikes Back” glass, and stare at the TV in awe of the monster who fired laser beams from all three heads. And that piercing, high-pitched noise that accompanied him? Forget about it. Unlike wrestlers like Hulk Hogan who start out a good guy, turn bad for a while, and then sell out and become good again, Ghidorah was always evil. Even though he almost always ended up getting his ass kicked, Ghidorah will always be King.
The Fly : Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle. David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of “The Fly” is more than a cautionary tale for mad scientists. It’s a romantic, tragic, and darkly funny movie, and Goldblum’s best performance ever. As he mutates into a human-fly hybrid, he begins to lose the human body parts he had once taken for granted, stowing the fallen pieces away behind the bathroom mirror. He is a smarty-pants for sure, realizing that he himself is a new species, and knowing this new species needs a name. So is born the Brundlefly. You know that when people start referring to themselves in the third person, all bets are off.
Undead boy at window in Salem’s Lot : I still can’t shake this image from my mind. After seeing this TV movie in 1979, I was forever doomed to see this vampire kid tapping away outside my window when I close my eyes. I don’t remember anything else about this movie. I think it might even suck pretty bad, but I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t seen it since it was on TV when I was a kid. Another kid I knew from school died a horrible death, and I used to think that maybe he would show up floating outside my window one night. The thought absolutely terrified me, and kept me up countless nights.
Medusa : Despite the best efforts of Burgess Meredith, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Harry Hamlin(!),”Clash of the Titans” kinda sucked, but Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion monsters still kick ass. I’m going with Medusa over the Kraken and Cerebrus because of the clever way her character is introduced. Like Harry Lime in “The Third Man,” there is much talk of Medusa. Then we see her victims. When we finally do see her, she slithers in and out of the shadows, and you could catch just a glimpse of her snaky hair. The moment I finally saw her eyes; those wild, evil eyes!; I felt like I too, was in danger of being turned to stone!
Eraserhead mutant baby : David Lynch’s 1977 film inspired The Pixies to cover its theme song, and illustrates why I will never babysit again. Does anyone know how this thing was created?
Poltergeist : Like the Invisible Man, these ghosts go mostly unseen (until some outlandishly over the top effects at the end). But moments like little Heather O’Rourke talking to TV static, chairs all of a sudden mysteriously stacked behind JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson gnawing on maggots, and a goddamn evil toy clown attacking the little brother all add up to one collective scary monster.
Bruce The Shark : This terror of the deep is certainly my vote for the best all-time movie monster. Peter Benchley, who wrote “Jaws,” has spent a great deal of time since, trying to convince the people he and Steven Speilberg scared out swimming pools and bath tubs to not have it in for sharks. Thankfully, the mechanical shark was broken or malfunctioning for most of the filming, had we seen the thing as much as Speilberg planned we might not have had such a masterpiece.
T-Rex : The scene in “Jurassic Park” with the T-Rex and the kids in the Jeep, holy crap! The first time I saw that I nearly choked. Complete with dilating eye and the spittle from the nostrils this was the moment in film history when anything a filmmaker could dream up was officially a possibility. After believable dinosaurs the lid was blown off and the bar set ridiculously high for anyone making a creature film post “Jurassic Park.”
The Ringwraiths : There are many memorable monster creations in Peter Jackson’s masterwork “Lord of the Rings Trilogy.” Gollum was as much a step forward for computer animation as the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” had been. There were dozens of incredibly realized creatures throughout the three films that captured the essence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s much loved novels. The one entourage of baddies that standout for me though are the “Ringwraiths.” Black riders on black horses who are so evil that the insects in the ground come squirming up and run from their very presence. Horse hoofs covered in blood from protruding shoe spikes and a unforgettable horrifying shriek that sends chills down the spine (Piercing screams voiced by Fran Walsh for all you LOTR fanboys and girls out there.) The wraiths take the cake in the ensemble of great movie monsters from the mind of the gore-loving Jackson.
The Dragons from “Reign of Fire” : That’s right people I said it. “Reign of Fire” is awesome, not “Color Purple” or “American Beauty” awesome, but holy crap did you see the size of that dragon awesome. The dragons in “Reign of Fire” drool gasoline and eat the carbon leftovers from their fiery destruction, are you freaking kidding me. Recipe for night of pure movie magic. One 12 pack of beer (Not too good, not Keystone LIght), one surround sound stereo system, one marginally large screened television, and at least 1 other person as game as you are, and one copy of silly, stuff blowing up, dragon movie. That’s all you need. Sit back and watch “the sexiest man alive” do battle with evil winged things in 5.1. Did I mention the dragons? Dragons people… look into my eyes and tell me you don’t love dragons.
Dracula : Yeah, I know that Francis Ford Coppola should have done a wee-bit better on this one, there’s no denying it. He could have started by not casting high school drama department rejects Winona Rider and Keanu Reeves to compete in a contest for worst accent since Costner’s Robin Hood. Sad thing is Cary Elwes actually wins this one and he’s British. Say what you will about this deeply troubled guilty pleasure, Gary Oldman turns in a performance and a half. If the rest of the movie had been as good as Oldman, we would have had “Raging Bull” of horror movies classics, instead…not so much.
Predator : From the director of “Die Hard” and “The Hunt for Red October comes 1987′s original “Predator.” Even though it spends much of the movie completely invisible, Apollo Creed and the future governors of both Minnesota and California battle to the death an unspecified alien frog thing with badass weapons and heat vision. What else do you want, man?
The Alien : John Hurt lays lifeless on the table. Then “alien” baby comes rocketing out of his stomach leaving gooey slime all over Tom Skeritt and Yaphet Kotto. In the hands of Ridley Scott, illustrator H.R. Geiger’s ultimate creation is movie monster genius, in the first of a few too many “Alien” movies. By the end of that saga I am certain I was more afraid of Sigourney Weaver than the alien.
The Crocodile : 1999′s “Lake Placid” wasn’t a great movie either, but of the tongue-in-cheek creature-features of late “Lake Placid” had the best sense of humor. Oliver Platt is fantastic as usual and a giant crocodile ate Betty White’s husband, sounds good enough to me.
Underground Worm Things from “Tremors” : This B-movie classic is a buddy flick, wrapped inside a monster movie, with a side of “just out of the 80′s” kitsch. Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon are two knuckle heads in the desert trying to out run giant carnivorous worms. Give Reba McEntire a gun and hilarity ensues.
The Devil-looking guy who hates the pretty unicorns : Tom Cruise has never looked weirder than he did in Ridley Scott’s “Legend.” Tim Curry, on the other hand, has never been more frightening, except maybe his clown in the made for T.V. “IT.”. His devil character in this one is creepy as hell, and his voice sounds like the backmasking from your favorite Ozzy and Judas Priest records. I have Curry’s horned beast burned into my mind, when I think of “the Devil” that’s what I see.