In the wake of the battle between the Eighth Wonder of the World and the King of the Monsters himself in Warner Brothers’ latest MonsterVerse installment, Godzilla vs Kong, we’re putting together a list of the Best Monster Movies.
With that in mind, we’re trying to throw in a little bit of something for everybody as we gear up for the monster battle of the century. So, grab a weapon and keep your lights on, because our list may frighten (and hopefully excite) you…
1. Jaws (1975)
Our number one monster movie features a real-world monster, because what creature could be more monstrous than a man-eating shark? Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley) is not only an award-winning cultural icon but hands down one of the greatest films ever made.
Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, and with one of the most memorable scores of all time by John Williams, Jaws eats up the competition.
Though the shark is certainly the most thrilling part of the film, what makes Jaws great isn’t just the monster or the threat it poses, but the human beings who have banded together to face the creature head-on. Quint’s drunken monologue about surviving the attack on the U.S.S. Indianapolis is just as intense as any scene with the shark, and Brody working to overcome his own fear juxtaposes nicely with the audience’s own worries of what might happen.
Jaws is one of those movies that you just can’t miss as it helped pave the way for the modern day Hollywood blockbuster, and yes, that includes the numerous bad sequels. One of Spielberg’s greatest, Jaws proves that more often than not, the original is simply the best.
2. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s science fiction horror features one of the scariest monsters to ever creep across the big screen. Sigourney Weaver stars as the iconic Ellen Ripley and easily steals the show from top-billing star Tom Skerritt (Captain Dallas). Alien was met with critical acclaim, box office success, and even started a franchise of films, video games, comic books, and an upcoming television series.
The titular alien (played to perfection by Bolaji Badejo in his only film credit) is probably the most horrifying creature on this list, with no emotions, no mercy, and a bloodlust that rivals even Dracula’s – the alien will stop at nothing to kill again.
Despite its late-70s release, Alien still holds up to this day and is especially scary if you watch it on an old VHS tape. Between the immaculate set pieces, on-the-spot lighting, and hand-crafted alien itself, this film is a must-watch for any monster movie-lover.
3. Dracula (1931)
No monster movie list would be complete without the Prince of Darkness. Dracula, starring Hollywood horror icon Bela Lugosi in the titular role, is a charming adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original Gothic horror novel that has haunted readers for over a hundred years. Lugosi’s depiction of the vampire has become a cultural icon and has since become the definitive take on the character.
Count Dracula himself is a terrifying creature with strange abilities far beyond that of a mortal man. Being undead himself, he only comes out at night, and with a hypnotic stare, he might draw you into the shadows before drawing some blood for himself. The 1931 classic has since inspired each version that’s come since, and thus earns its place here on this list.
Dracula was Universal Pictures’ gateway into the supernatural horror genre, with Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and others being released in the following years. To this day, the character of Dracula is still a house-hold name, and after countless sequels, remakes, and reboots, the Prince of Darkness strikes fear into our hearts.
4. King Kong (2005)
With Godzilla making his way on the list later on, there’s no way we could exclude the Eighth Wonder of the World… Peter Jackson’s Academy Award Winning King Kong, an epic monster adventure film that’s a pure delight. With heavy-hitting stars like Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody, not to mention Lord of the Rings alum Andy Serkis as King Kong himself, this is one of those Hollywood remakes that actually holds its weight when compared to the original.
Between exploring the dinosaur-infested Skull Island to the streets of New York City, Peter Jackson’s remake takes us on a fantastical period adventure that brings the magic back to the film-going experience. Speaking of Skull Island, the parts of the film that take place in the hidden jungle exceed expectations as we see Kong face off against dinosaurs and giant insects. The film’s CGI still rivals that of the most recent film Kong: Skull Island.
King Kong is an epic monster movie experience that makes you believe in the fantastical and otherworldly, yet still, firmly hold onto reality from the comfort of your own home.
5. Godzilla/Gojira (1954)
What would a Best Monster Movie list be if it didn’t include the King of the Monsters himself? Godzilla, known as Gojira in Japan, was released by Toho Studios in 1954 and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, began the longest film franchise in history (take that Marvel!). A heavily re-edited (and Americanized) version of the film, entitled Godzilla, King of the Monsters, was released in the United States two years later, introducing America to Godzilla.
Godzilla does what monsters do best: he destroys, and this film is no different. Though the monster has been portrayed in a more heroic light in more recent outings, the original film shows the King of the Monsters for what he really is: a monster. The battles throughout the film, although dated, stand proud and iconic, with the darkness shrouding the monster, you almost forget it’s a man in a Godzilla suit!
While there are plenty of Godzilla features we could’ve put on this list (including 2014’s MonsterVerse reboot and its sequel), Gojira was where the kaiju phenomenon truly began and continues to amaze audiences, even to this day. Between the ahead-of-their-time special effects and the pulse-pounding score, there’s a lot to love.
6. Super 8 (2011)
Before Stranger Things, J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg played on audience nostalgia with Super 8, a creature feature following a group of young kids as they seek to discover what kind of monster has been taking people in their town. Taking cues from The Goonies, IT, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Super 8 will amaze you.
Between outstanding (and hilarious) performances, an award-winning score, and a mysterious creature, there’s a little something for everyone. The alien creature makes its mark on the film early on, causing a massive train crash that nearly kills our lead characters (while they’re trying to make a monster movie of their own), and only continues to terrorize as the story unfolds.
While this Spielberg-ian tale might not appeal to all monster-goers, Super 8 and its alien creature stand proudly on this list. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things and itching for the newest season to premiere, Super 8 will hold you over in the meantime.
7. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
With all the killer monsters on this list, it’s nice to have at least one monster movie geared towards the younger generation. This Oscar-nominated Disney/Pixar collaboration is best known for John Goodman’s Sulley and Billy Crystal’s Mike Wazowski, who made Disney history with their incredible performances.
Due to the overwhelming love for the film, a prequel (Monsters University) was released in 2013 and a highly anticipated web series (entitled Monsters at Work) is on its way to Disney+ later this year.
Monsters, Inc. is one of Pixar’s most original concepts: “what if the monsters in your closet weren’t actually all-that-scary?” As we follow Mike and Sulley through their monster-ruled world on the other side of the closet, we learn that the monsters aren’t actually that different from us, and they only scare us because they care… err, because they have to in order to fuel their world.
Mike and Sulley’s discovery of a human child (who they aptly name “Boo”) causes them to reconsider their outlook on life in a way they couldn’t have imagined, making them the heroes. Plot aside, Monsters, Inc. is hysterical, heartfelt, and a great way to spend ninety minutes.
8. The Mummy (1999)
The second Stephen Sommers film to make it on this list, The Mummy, starring Brenden Frasher as swashbuckling American adventurer Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as the brilliant Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan, features one of the most memorable monsters on this list: Imhotep, the Egyptian Mummy (brought to life by Arnold Vosloo).
Although Boris Karloff’s portrayal in the original 1932 film of the same name has been held onto as the most iconic, Sommers’ take on the classic tale is beloved by audiences of all ages and is more of an action-adventure film in the same vein as Indiana Jones than a straight-horror.
Sommers’ Mummy, though frightening, is also a sympathetic character. Imhotep’s only goal is to bring back to life his lover Anck-su-namun. His point of view has been described by Arnold Vosloo himself as a “skewed version of Romeo and Juliet.” Love story aside, Imhotep is one of the most powerful monsters on this list and not a monster to be trifled with.
9. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic monster movie in every sense. It has drama, suspense, interesting characters, an alien with an unknown origin, and a fantastic score to keep with the pace. With Kurt Russell and Keith David headlining as MacReady and Childs, this film was originally panned by critics (who were more welcoming to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial due to its more optimistic tone) but found a real audience upon its home release and appearance on television.
Some of the best monster movies out there force us to question the greater good, and The Thing is no stranger to that. The film’s almost nihilistic tone ultimately reinforces this and by the film’s end, we see that there is… well, let’s not spoil it.
The Thing described in the film’s title is one of the most terrifying monsters to hit the big screen. Between its horrifying ability to copy the DNA of other living creatures, to the chilling possibility that if it leaves the icy tundra of Antarctica it will do the same to the whole planet, the Thing is one of the scariest and iconic monsters out there. In fact, people adore the film so much a prequel was made in 2011 (also called The Thing) that dives deeper into the creature’s origins on earth, forcing us to wonder how many worlds it’s conquered before arriving on our planet.
10. Van Helsing (2004)
The controversial Van Helsing is a cult-classic that takes the best (and often over-the-top) parts of Universal’s original monster movies and molds them together into one action-packed thrill ride, complete with Hugh Jackman as famed monster hunter Van Helsing.
What makes Van Helsing so great is its attention to detail when it comes to recreating the magic that initially brought these creatures to life. From the black-and-white opening sequence that feels like it’s ripped out of the original Frankenstein to a thrilling Transylvanian horse chase (featuring both vampires and a werewolf) to the production value director Stephen Sommers and his crew put into Dracula’s castle, Van Helsing kind of does it all.
Sommers pays clear homage to the multi-monster movies of the past (such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula) by including creatures such as Count Dracula, his vampire brides, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Mr. Hyde, and others, thus securing its rightful place on our list.
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