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My Top Ten Movie Monsters

Everyone knows that I do love my lists. Therefore, along with the usual reviews and banter that I post, I will also be featuring the occasional list, either of an individual facet of films, the best work by a filmmaker, the best performances, films by genre, or whatever else I think up. It should be a pretty good time.

So I thought hard about what my first of these additions would be, and I figured it fitting that with the upcoming release of Gareth Edwards’ extremely low-budget flick, the aptly titled “Monsters,” I shall make a list of the greatest monsters that I’ve ever seen displayed on the big screen. Obviously, as with any list that I might compose, I have not seen all of the potential candidates for ranking. Yet, hopefully, I will be able to put together a competent showing.

Some guidelines for this list. Animals, unless outrageously oversized, are not counted as monsters by me. I can’t stand it when people refer to the birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” or the shark in Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” as monsters. It’s just the reality that those creatures are not monsters, but rather normal animals, that add to the terror that those films present. Also, there shall be no metaphorical monsters. Neither global warming rearing its head in “An Inconvenient Truth” or the evil, psychotic forces driving Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” will make the cut.

Also, no vampires, no ghosts and no zombies. Mostly because I consider them to still be human, living or dead, and portraying humans as monsters kind of negates the point.

Before we get to the finalists, here are the five runners-up after the jump:


15. Godzilla from “Gojira” (1954)

(This is really more of an honorary position. I personally kind of think Godzilla is just too silly to be taken seriously, but his legacy deserves it’s place on the list)


14. The Gremlins from “Gremlins” (1984)


13. The Gill Man from “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)


12. The Tripods from “War of the Worlds” (2005)

(I know they’re technically machines and not monsters, but they’re just too damn terrifying and monster-like to leave out)


11. The Frankenstein Monster from “Frankenstein” (1931)


And now for the Top Ten Movie Monsters of all time. These monsters were selected on a basis of appearance, scariness and their impact on their audience and the world of cinema.


10. The Rancor from “Return of the Jedi” (1983)


Probably one of the coolest aspects of Richard Marquand’s lesser sequel “Return of the Jedi.” As a standard monster, the Rancor is quite a package. It stands around 30 feet tall, claws, teeth, and a truly monstrous-looking face. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers kind of monstrous, but still maintains an original flair with its nostrils, eerily above its eyes, sort of like an extra set. Definitely the most menacing creature in the entire Star Wars anthology.


9. Brundlefly – “The Fly” (1986)


I’m not sure to thank Jeff Goldblum’s daring performance, David Cronenberg’s fine directing or Chris Walas’ out of control make-up effects for this beast, but the answer is probably all three. “The Fly” still stands as one of the absolute best horror remakes ever made and is probably one of Cronenberg’s most impacting films. Brundlefly can climb on walls and ceilings, is strong enough to tear a person apart and vomits up searing acid-like bile. I know that I would try to keep “message monsters” out of this, but one of the best and scariest aspects of this creature is its metaphorical relationship to AIDS and the deterioration of the human form. Be afraid, be very afraid.


8. The Pale Man – “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)


While this monster hasn’t had a lot of time to have a lasting impact on the cinematic world, it is one of the most brilliant creations ever to come out of the twisted mind of Guillermo del Toro. The long, flabby skin, ghostly pale appearance and long black claws already give this creature a startling look. However, the added touch of its eye sockets being in its palms and its blood-curdling scream, on top of the insanely suspenseful scene in which its used, make this one of the most disturbing monsters on this list.


7. The Monster – “Cloverfield” (2008)


Once again, I know I said no metaphorical monsters, but being that this is, in essence, a bonafide monster, I take no shame. This is a very original and well-concieved creature that lacks a lot of other giant monster cliches, for instance just making it look like a big dinosaur. However, it’s the underlying nature of the “Cloverfield” creature that make it so amazing. Whether or not it’s stated outright, this monster is almost a direct metaphor to the 9/11 attacks. Just as “Godzilla” was to the Japanese a cinematic atomic bomb, this animal is the equivalent of Al Qaeda wreaking havoc on New York City. The similarities are evident in the handheld photography, the dust filled streets and the starkly realistic tone. This monster is a true landmark for the times that produced it.


6. The Thing – “The Thing” (1982)


Whatever form that the creature from John Carpenter’s sci fi/horror flick takes on, be it a dog from hell, a spidery demon, or an ordinary person, it inflicts sheer terror on its audience. The fact that it could completely resemble and possess one’s best friend right under their nose is all the more terrifying. However, what puts this creature a step above it’s competition is, quite literally, it’s twistedness. One would be hard-pressed to find a more grotesque or appalling specimen. That thing could drive even the most avid horror buff into a state of pure squeamishness.


5. The Graboid – “Tremors” (1990)


I don’t think there’s anyone, dead or alive, who doesn’t think that taking a phenomenally crafted monster such as this and putting it underground was anything less than a stroke of pure genius. The Graboid puts a whole new spin on the idea instituted by “Jaws” of never being able to see the creature until it’s already too late, making it not only incredibly sneaky, but nearly impossible to kill. All of these facets make this cult movie and its monster one of the most innovative and entertaining on the list.


4. The Predator – “Predator” (1987)


The standard perception of a classic movie monster is generally of a primitive, animalistic creature, not a technologically advanced, biological killing machine. The Predator is just that, and it makes him a pure classic in the monster genre. Aside from looking like he takes more steroids than the American League, the Predator comes equipped with a high-powered laser cannon, infared vision and a razor-sharp wristblade. Plus, it makes taking on U.S. Special Forces look as easy as eating pancakes for breakfast. And as if his demonic mask wasn’t menacing enough, wait till he takes it off. Worth it’s entire franchise of films, no matter how badly they portray him in following decades.


3. The Arachnid – “Starship Troopers” (1997)


Of all the monsters on this list, this is the one that evolution has definitely been the greatest friend to. The arachnid is somewhere between a praying mantis, a dinosaur and a set of steak knives. While all of the bugs of the cult classic “Starship Troopers” are pretty cool, the arachnid goes into infamy. It has elongated, sharpened legs, a powerful, bone-crushing jaw, and two razor-sharp  daggers….come to think of it, there’s really not much of this creature’s anatomy that doesn’t have the ability to kill a person. You could practically just touch it and somehow get injured. And if that wasn’t enough, they swarm in groups of a couple thousand. When you watch the film, it’s not hard to miss the landscape of dismembered victims that they leave in their wake. Kudos to sci fi guru Paul Verehoven for this entry in the list.


2. Kong – “King Kong” (’33, ’76, ’05)


I guess it’s fair to say that this ape needs no introduction. Probably the most infamous of all movie monsters. Hell, his name recognition alone has trickled down through the progressive world of cinema for nearly a century. He’s been the subject of three feature films, not to mention the many other sequels and spinoffs. He battles with dinosaurs, giant snakes, tanks and planes. He’s feared by nearly every person who’s ever come across him, and yet, all the while, he’s really a misunderstood giant. For that reason, Kong is more than just a menacing beast, but a heroic character, as well. The audience tends to root for him more than they do the humans who wish to kill or capture him. As far as movie monsters go, you simply cannot find a more iconic image to stand behind than King Kong.


1. The Alien – Alien (1979)


Alas, in my opinion, the premier position on this list is, indisputably, the greatest movie monster ever created. It is the most menacing, the most original and, without a doubt, the most frightening creature to be put in front of a camera. What makes it even more elaborate of a creature is the different stages of it’s development. First, the face-hugger plants a seed inside of a person, which later bursts out of the host’s chest. That concept alone is enough to scare a good portion of people out of the theater. The creature soon turns into what’s featured above, an 8 foot-tall alien with sharp claws, a whip-like tail, and a set of double jaws that blast out of its mouth and into someone’s flesh. It can crawl on walls, run at high speeds and jump across the room. Finally, it bleeds acid, for God’s sake. As if running from it wasn’t scary enough, try attempting to kill it.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of this creature is its effect on you after experiencing it. This monster, more than any other, has the ability to haunt the dreams, of not only the characters it faces, but the viewers of the film, itself. The images of it’s terrifying form and the memories of the alarming things it does live long in one’s memory. This monster is sure to remain on the silver screen and embedded in the nightmares of those who experience them.

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  1. December 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm

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