Although this collection is subjective, it goes without saying that the monsters listed here have all inspired our individual imaginations in one way or another. They are all legendary for their severity and strange existences as true Hollywood phenomenon.
25. The Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park (1993)
Michael Crichton’s novel was sold to Steven Spielberg’s company Amblin Entertainment before it was even published. And both became, of course, super successful. The movie continues to spawn sequels and spin offs. The original film’s box office take was $500 million. In its opening weekend alone!
The re-creations of these extinct dinosaur species were constructed through the use of animatronics and computer-generated imagery. This was a huge feat in the early 1990’s. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are scary, realistic and overwhelming. Spielberg created a monster movie for the ages.
24. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labrinth (2006)
Guillermo Del Toro is a known maestro of the bizarre, but this guy may be his oddity that takes the cake. The design of the character is impressionistic and a very strange mystery. Why does it need its hands to see? It’s questions like this that make it so compelling.
23. It Follows (2014)
The most terrifying thing about the monster in this film is that we never actually see it. It is a demon that kills strictly after someone has sex. It then exists through the victim until it is passed to another through a subsequent sex act. It’s a terrifying game of sexual hot potato.
22. Brundlefly in The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg directed Jeff Goldblum as a peculiar scientist who becomes the victim of a freak accident. After a lone fly obstructs one of his experiments, he is left to steadily metamorphosize into a human-insect hybrid mutant. The film won the Academy Award for Best makeup and helped to further Cronenberg’s reputation as a force within the genre.
21. The Babadook (2014)
This Australian import was a game changer to say the least. Its release sparked a flame and reignited a love for monsters! The director, Jennifer Kent, introduced her future intentions for this feature with a short film appropriately titled Monster.
The Babadook scared the crap out of audiences all over the globe. The beast’s depiction itself is disturbing as well as clownish and comical. It has become an iconic image that will go down in horror history. He’s playful but painful simultaneously. A contrast that seemingly resonates with people universally.
20. The Grand High Witch from Witches (1990)
Angelica Huston’s character Eva Ernst, the head of the Ladies League Against Child Abuse, pulls off her human face in front of a conference room full of women. She reveals the grotesque, gnarled vision that is The Grand High Witch. The makeup effects in this single scene are out-of-control brilliant! This is a perfectly fright filled children’s movie.
19. The Thing (1982)
Terror grows inside of us at the simple thought of the unknown. Once again, Stan Winston works his movie magic in this John Carpenter classic. He tells the story of a band of scientists shut in an arctic base with an other-worldly being. More appropriately, a Thing. It is the physical transformation scenes that make this movie stand out for the history books.
18. Castle Freak (1995)
Cult director Stuart Gordon adapted H.P. Lovecraft’s gothic novel “The Outsider” into this campy B-movie gem. When a family inherits a lonely castle, they quickly realize they aren’t the only ones residing there. An abnormal monster suddenly comes into play. And its history is deep and dark.
17. The Shark from Jaws (1975)
The freakiest thing about this sea dweller is the genius of director Steven Spielberg. He uses his camera exactly as it should be used. As a device to glimpse through the eyes of this predator. We, as the audience, don’t even see the monster until the last act of the movie! The anticipation builds, creating a sense of claustrophobia even as the shark exists among the great giant ocean.
When it is revealed, the mechanical menace is big, bold and blood thirsty. It’s the build-up to this point that makes Jaws a monster to be reckoned with. It has tormented and murdered many swimmers and trackers in its path. It’s only when it devours Quint, the small ship’s pseudo-Captain, that we behold the real jaws of it all. It finally comes to horror movie fruition.
16. Dr. Satan from House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
They say his name throughout the beginning and middle of the film, but we never know exactly who or what he really is. Rob Zombie’s premiere slasher-fest plays mostly on the movies that inspired the young auteur, primarily The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Even with the murderous Firefly family tormenting teenagers above ground, something more sinister persists below.
A lone girl survivor is sent into seclusion under the earth after a satanic ritual is performed. Rob Zombie’s heavy, dark metal music ensues. She finds herself in a labyrinth-like maze, ultimately facing evil. A surgeon, drill spinning, is cutting a hole into a stunned man’s head. He’s creating a sort of army of zombies. Dr. Satan is a creature of parlous proportions. He has a skeletal complexion, and creepily long witch-like hands. He welcomes the young girl into his dungeon of doom. The drill buzzes on as she screams!
15. The Crawlers from The Descent (2005)
These creatures from the caves were truly unique and difficult to swallow because an existence of such beings is quite possible when it comes down to it. What do we really know about life below the surface? These freaks are blind and stalk prey with their heightened sense of smell and hearing. Does this idea sound familiar to anyone else? I’m talking to you John Krasinski!
14. The Rancor from The Return of the Jedi (1983)
This blood thirsty reptilian carnivore from planet Dathomir is violent and human hungry! They live under the belly of Jabba the Hut, in a pit designated for eventual mutilation. They are trained fighters. Thy live to battle it out with captivate criminals.
They have gnarly hands, and sharpened teeth. Their giant hooves for feet have the ability to stomp out the simplest of opponents. As any hardcore Star Wars geek knows though, they’re no match for Luke Skywalker’s baffling sword tricks! The image of this monstrosity in the third of the original series brings a lump in the throat and a spring in your step……. to fucking get away!
13. Pennywise from It (1990 and 2017)
This clown from the sewers has been depicted twice. Once with Tim Curry in the television miniseries and more recently in a two-part theatrical film version. Poltergeist and the capture of clown loving serial killer John Wayne Gacy had previously placed a sense of terror in the public perception of the clown. But it was Pennywise that solidified these fears.
12. Frankenstein (1931)
Although he may be seen as sad and naive, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster ultimately wants to eat your brains! He is as classic to horror as black cats and cauldrons. And he will forever be scrutinized under a microscope……….. Is he good? Is he bad? The isolation from his family and friends created a thunderstorm inside the Doctor’s head. He’s a mad genius on the brink of a breakthrough. His private project is the collection of different people’s body parts, put together in a sort of creepy patch work quilt.
This is a story for the ages. It is the inspiration for an endless list of knock offs and horror side pieces. The monster’s stitched face and coffee table leveled top head are instantly recognizable. These are iconic horror visuals. His ghastly green appearance has survived ages and affected generations.
11. Pumpkinhead (1988)
In this genre favorite, veteran actor Lance Hendrickson plays a man suffering from post- traumatic stress. In his delusional frustration, he makes the horrible decision to summon a nasty creature in order to rid himself of some pesky teenage loiters. The legendary make-up effects master Stan Winston made his directorial debut with this direct-to-video monster feast. The creature he created is a truly unique vision in horror history. It has since spawned sequels and even a video game entitled Blood Wings: Pumpkinhead’s Revenge.
10. Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
This serial slasher icon did appear in the original but only for a moment. His mother was the murderous mastermind the first time around. Poor Jason though! He was the victim of bullying and torment by the cool kids at Camp Crystal Lake. He returns, masked up and bigger than ever! It isn’t until future films in the franchise though that we actually see the deformity beneath his goalie disguise.
9. The Exorcist (1973)
This is definitely one of the most popular horror movies of all time. When the demon Pazuzu possesses a little girl, nightmares ensue. She develops a potty mouth that would make a hardcore porn star blush!
8. Predator (1987)
Director John McTieman began an on-going franchise with this science fiction film favorite. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the prime of his Hollywood acting career, plays the head of an elite military team determined to rescue hostages from a Central American rain forest. It’s here we meet the Predator. It’s the 1980’s vision of a technologically advanced alien.
This is a classic in the arena of action flicks. Again, another shout- out to the wizard of weird Stan Winston. He was crucial to the monster’s ultimate look. Coming into the project, he insisted profusely that the Predator have mandibles. This is the crushing part of an arthropod’s mouth. Ultimately, this is the most memorable thing about the Predator. Winston was a smartie. R.I.P.
7. Godzilla (1954)
Originally, this towering dinosaur-like beast was intended to be a mammoth octopus. The Japanese filmmakers were primarily just interested in creating a memorable monster movie. And that they did! It became a pioneer in filmmaking. It was the first to use a new type of effect called suitmation. This is brilliant when it comes down to it. It’s just a stunt performer wearing the Godzilla suit and hovering over a meticulously constructed miniature city set. The effect is evident.
6. Darkness from Legend (1985)
From his first word uttered to his last desperate grip before being shot into space for eternity, this huge horned red creature is haunting. Particularly to children! A gothic creation of gigantic height, Darkness is a demon from hell determined to destroy light, and the young Hollywood up and comer Tom Cruise.
5. Gremlins (1984)
These little green guys are the official menaces of Christmas! Chris Columbus wrote the script primarily because he LOVED the holiday and monsters as well. Their combination is classic. Stripe, the head honcho of this motley crew, wreaks havoc on a small town. Their most lovable killing is of Mrs. Deagle, played hysterically by actress Polly Holliday. She’s the town bitch who ultimately gets what’s been coming to her.
4. The Mother Alien from Aliens (1986)
This movie is a prime example of when a sequel is better than the original. In Alien, Sigourney Weaver was up against only one other-worldly nemesis. This time around the Mama has spawned. And although the first was so successful, it took Hollywood years to conjure this sequel of all sequels.
James Cameron is a bad ass director who wrote a 200 plus page screenplay and had an extreme vision for the future of the first film. H.R. Giger, who created the original Alien vision, was not involved in this latest venture. Instead, the maestro himself Stan Winston took the helm. The aliens came to life with the combination of puppeteers, miniatures and elaborate costumes designed to hold a number of people inside of them. And the Alien blood! That’s a strange scientific mix of tetrachloride, cyclohexylamine and acetic acid.
3. The Cenobites from Hellraiser (1987)
This band of sadistic misfits from hell is led by one of the most iconic characters in horror movie history, Pinhead. He is a lost soul hellbent on causing the same terror and torture he himself had experienced in his life as a man on Earth. The makeup effects in this ’80s trail blazer included the creations of the Chattering and Butterball Cenobites. They are true monstrosities to behold.
2. Nosferatu (1922)
This legendary German expressionist silent film is responsible for what was to come in the future of horror. F.W. Murnau directed Max Schreck (a name Tim Burton fondly stole for one of his villains in 1992’s Batman Returns) as an ancient vampire who travels across oceans in search of a new life. But more importantly, a new bride.
It was an unofficial translation of Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel Dracula. The writers of the movie were keen on keeping their distance from legal issues, so they ended up naming the central character Count Orlok.
Although altered from the Dracula source material, the film caught the attention of Stoker’s family. They sued the producers for copyright infringement which led to the prints of Nosferatu being destroyed. A few remained intact though, in secrecy, and helped propel Nosferatu to cultural classic status.
1. Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
One…. two…. Freddy’s coming for you…. This child molesting murderer takes the top spot because his story is so profound, and his character transcends the idea of a horror movie monster. He was, at one time, a real man but the monster he becomes is the essence of true terror.
He was burned alive by the vengeful parents of his young victims but comes back to harass these kids in their dreams. Genius. He is a ghoul that rips off his face, hangs out in a boiler room and gets his kicks from tormenting spoiled, self-centered teenagers. He is the closest thing our modern era has come to a Frankenstein, a Dracula, or a Godzilla. He is the epitome of the modern-day monster.