Whether you are just looking for a good scare or the best monster film out there, numerous monster movies have been created throughout history. Monsters and terrifying supernatural creatures have been plaguing our nightmares in the form of cinema since the early 1920s. They have even moved over to TV shows. Whether the film is predictable, where the monster is the villain, or takes a sharp turn towards making us realize that these deadly creatures might not be what we think they are, there are more amazing movies out there than we can really count. And you know what they say, the best things come in the form of things we aren’t expecting.
So whether you are on the side that is terrified of monsters or the side that thinks that they are horribly misunderstood, there is a movie out there for you. Here is a list of the best movies featuring monsters that have ever been made.
21. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)
It would only be a list of monster movies or creature features if mentioning one that could be considered the original film that started off the monster movie genre. Unfortunately, this silent film won’t be winning any awards for the best horror film. Still, it is definitely the place to start regarding monsters depicting vampires. This original pale man haunts our nightmares. Nosferatu was a bit of a blatant rip-off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by F. W. Murnau, and definitely deserves to be on the list of the best monster movies because this horror classic is possibly the first time that a monster really got to own the limelight on the silver screen, albeit in the silent era.
20. Frankenstein (1931)
Besides Dracula, Frankenstein is one of the most famous movie monsters out there, based on Mary Shelley’s novel of the same name, which introduced the gothic concept of struggling with mortality and morality. James Whale brought the idea to life on the big screen in black and white. Back then, the special effects were limited to makeup and whatever costume designers could cook up, and they did a fantastic job of bringing this character through. Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the creature was the first time that Frankenstein was depicted as more than just the villain of his story.
19. King Kong (1933)
Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s film King Kong was one of the first to depict giant monsters as a massive ape, setting the bar on special effects for monster movies going forward. The concept of the gigantic ape birthed a long line of recreations, more of which are mentioned on this list. It would only be a comprehensive monster movie list with the king of the jungle. Although the movie is old by today’s standards, it was a massive step towards making monster movies fabulous for the future.
19. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Another James Whale movie, Bride of Frankenstein, was a direct sequel to his original and shaped the mythos of Frankenstein and most of the classic monsters of Hollywood. Following on from the original story of Doctor Victor Frankenstein making a mate for Frankenstein’s monster so that he wouldn’t have to spend his miserable existence alone, Boris Karloff again brought sympathy for a creature that the world has long considered a monster, pointing out that the real monster is actually his creator.
18. The Wolf Man (1941)
Made in the same vein as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein but brought to life by the director George Waggner, The Wolf Man attempted to show a more sympathetic take on these creatures that had been feared and vilified throughout literature, an interesting take on werewolf movies at the time. This film told the classic tale of a man cursed with being a werewolf and his journey of trying to figure out a way to cure himself or end his miserable existence. The makeup and FX in this iconic film, especially with the transformation scene, inspired other artists to step up their game and develop the incredible visual effects of makeup we see today.
17. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Created by the director Eugène Lourié, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was the first time that the special effects and practical effects titan Ray Harryhausen really got to display his full potential. This film started the ‘Atomic Era’ of monster movies, directly linking a giant monster to the detonation or radiation from an atomic bomb. Many more movies were created in history that attributed the size of their huge antagonists to radiation. Still, this Rhedosaurus has a great personality and an iconic look, as well as a fully articulated body for stop-motion capture ease.
16. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Yet another sympathetic take on the concept of a misunderstood monster, Jack Arnold’s Creature From the Black Lagoon, told the story of a fish-man in a love triangle with Richard Carlson and the beautiful and brave Julie Adams. This is one of the many occasions where you might find yourself rooting for the monster, and it’s no surprise because a monster is rarely allowed to be as graceful and dignified as the Creature was depicted.
15. Gojira (1954)
This is the film that inspired almost every Godzilla movie that exists to this day. Japanese director Ishiro Honda created the story of a massive monster that fishing villages would make a sacrifice to in the form of a young girl to protect their fishing village for a while. This film was arguably the birth of the Kaiju mythos that we have come to know and love and has been recreated many times. And was also the very first story about a massive monster in Japan and the most expensive movie ever made in the country at the time. After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this film was a way for this Japanese director to show the world what had been done to them, their fear, and the consequences.
Gordon Douglas continued the theme of atomic-era giant monster movies in the USA, bringing these giant bugs to the silver screen for the first time and paving the way for many more classics. Them! is a classic combination of thrills, suspense, paranoia, and the inevitable hope for a brighter future that makes us human, all with the horrific undertone of giant ants who pose a threat to humanity now that humanity has opened the door “to a new world” that may be far more dangerous than we can ever predict.
13. Rodan (1956)
Rodan was the next instalment in Ishiro Honda’s long line of atomically irradiated animals. This massive pterodactyl was originally called Radon in Japan. Still, the name was changed for English audiences so that it wouldn’t be confused with the periodic element radon. Capitalizing on the sudden boom of Kaiju films would have been a missed opportunity if Honda hadn’t continued his legacy. Instead, this massive, city-destroying pterodactyl was the next step in building the mythos surrounding the titans, the kaiju and Godzilla.
12. 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
Nathan H. Juran created the story of a monstrous Venusian alien named Ymir who was never one of Earth’s alien invaders, but rather a creature that had been captured by the American government and transported to a foreign planet, who was then demonized for going on a confused rampage and defending itself from its captors. While the movie is more of a comment on the monstrosity of capitalism and the human response of demonizing things that they don’t understand, it is still a thrilling, stop-motion, animated, excellent monster movie.
11. Mothra (1961)
Yet another continuation of Ishiro Honda’s magnificent Kaijus, Mothra is a female kaiju or titan that has always been misunderstood and is usually one of the “good guys”. Yeah, she might have accidentally destroyed a city or two in her mission to do good, but with her massive size, is it really her fault? Instead of being a film that makes you horrified about the enormous monster, Mothra is a movie that makes you realize that sometimes humans are the ones that have transgressed too far, modernizing the natural world that used to belong to these creatures, like King Kong, and Godzilla.
10. Jaws (1975)
There has always been a debate about whether or not Jaws by Steven Spielberg is a monster movie. Still, the fact that he could turn a very normal sea animal into nightmare fuel and stop many people from wanting to swim in the ocean shows that he turned the shark antagonist into a monster. Unfortunately, the film never explains why the shark started attacking humans. Still, the film birthed a franchise with many spin-offs and sequels about the terrifying ocean animal that turned on humanity and reminded us that we aren’t really the apex predators we think we are.
11. Alien (1979)
Now if you want to see an apex predator, you need to look no further than Ridley Scott’s Alien, which brought the terrifying Xenomorph to the screen, making us realize that outer space is a little scarier than we think it is. H.R. Giger’s Alien is one of the most iconic monsters in sci-fi and horror history. These alien creatures birthed a franchise in many forms, like movies, series, board games, comics, and books. There is nothing more iconic than the terrifying Xenomorph. This creature wants to survive by any gory means possible.
10. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is usually at the top of the list of the best monster movies. It is terrifying and brings a new type of scary for horror fans. Carpenter’s version was a remake of the first film, The Thing From Another World, from 1951. Still, this version expanded on the titular character’s scary capabilities, who could infect and change nearly anyone. Unfortunately, we have yet to see something as terrifying in recent years as the monster could be anyone, and we have no real clue about why it is here on Earth. Is it the last remnant of a failed alien invasion? A virus? Who knows.
9. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
This film was more of a dark comedy than a horror film and a musical adaptation. This film tells the story of a florist with a talking venus flytrap-type creature that craves human blood. This movie is a classic and needs to be watched with a group of friends so you can all enjoy the humorous tale of this man who has to deal with a plant with an insatiable appetite.
8. Tremors (1990)
This isn’t a movie so much as a series of Ron Underwood films starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, which brought the terrifying concept of Jaws onto dry land with this monster movie and action comedy. This visceral film features giant worms known as Graboids that have infested the Nevada deserts, making them even more inhospitable to humans. Slowly, humans are starting to have less safe ground to traverse.
7. Hellboy (2004)
Guillermo del Toro is a famous director who has brought many creature features to life. This is no different from the exciting tale of Hellboy, adapted from comic books. The story features many Lovecraftian monsters, a demon meant to bring about the world’s end, and the psychic Abe Sapien, who seems connected to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The story has seen a sequel and a remake and is an absolute must-see for monster movie fanatics.
This remake of the original story by Peter Jackson brought back sympathy for the great ape, as humans are dumb enough to try and traverse his domain. It is also an excellent opportunity for the King of the jungle to reassert himself as one of the strongest, most enormous monsters that exist in our terrifying world while reminding us that even monsters have sympathy and want to protect the ones that they come to love, especially if it is a young woman who has been sacrificed to him.
5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Another Guillermo del Toro masterpiece, this Spanish film is simultaneously a war saga and a fairy tale, which del Toro has always had an immense love for. There isn’t just one monster in this film. Instead, the film is fraught with them, filling every corner of the labyrinth that the young girl, our main character, must navigate and try to escape on her journey to save her mother’s life.
4. The Host (2006)
Before the director Bong Joon-Ho, of South Korea became famous for his magnificent steps in the horror genre with his multi-Oscar-winning Parasite, he created this masterpiece, with one of the more unique monsters that have been made in the last few decades. This mutated creature looks like a giant tadpole with teeth and legs. It terrorizes the citizens of a small town in South Korea. This truly original creation had children terrified for many years.
Frank Darabont’s take on the Stephen King tale, starring Thomas Jane as the protagonist, is a sad tale of how quickly humanity can devolve in the face of a seemingly insurmountable force. When a strange mist rolls into town that conceals blood-thirsty giant insects and Lovecraftian monsters, this cautionary tale tells us not to let ourselves cling to our ideas of structure which will inevitably fail in the face of things we fear and don’t understand.
2. Pacific Rim (2012)
By now, you shouldn’t be surprised by how many times Guillermo del Toro’s name will show up on this list, as he is arguably one of the godfathers of monster movies alongside Ishiro Honda. Ironically, this film was almost del Toro’s tribute to the kaiju creator as it features the massive monsters and humanity’s attempt to try and fight the gigantic monsters. Unfortunately, the monstrous kaiju of Pacific Rim didn’t have names or established stories like many of Honda’s creations. Still, it was a tribute to his magnificent stories throughout Hollywood history.
Both starring in and directing the film, John Krasinski created one of the most blood-chilling stories about blind aliens that have invaded Earth and the complex tasks that humanity faces in trying to escape them when they must live in a completely different world from what we are used to, and try our best not to make any noise. He constantly reminds us that we are only human and will make mistakes that might cost us our lives in dire circumstances, such as trying to quietly have a baby or keep our children out of trouble. The monsters are terrifying and vaguely Lovecraftian, not surprisingly when H.P. Lovecraft pioneered nightmares and our human fear of the unknown.