What makes a great movie monster? It’s an interesting question, not least due to the fact that there is no definitive archetype for a riveting monster on screen. They can be big and powerful, small or menacing, and they can even be subtle. For example, one of the scariest movie monsters of all time is the Blair Witch, who never actually appears on screen in the eponymous movie. Others, for a variety of reasons, might not be particularly scary, at least not in the traditional sense.
As such, everyone will have a different opinion as to what makes the best movie monsters. However, we believe the tensome in this list below showcases some of the best movie monsters of all time:
- The Pale Man (Pan’s Labyrinth)
We start with a character that has stayed with movie-goers long after they’ve forgotten everything else that happens in Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s not strictly a horror movie, but the moment Ofelia wakes the Pale Man at the feast is the stuff of nightmares. The Pale Man is only on screen for a few minutes, but the monster is the most recognizable character from the movie.
- “The Entity/It” (It Follows)
We could make an argument that It Follows is the best horror film of the 21st century. The key is the relentless unnamed and largely unseen pursuer, referred to in retrospect as “It” or “The Entity”. The Entity takes different forms, so this is not a traditional monster. But the fear that is created in your mind as it follows at a walking pace is chilling.
- Kong (Various)
What more needs to be said about Kong? We know what to expect by now. Kong has appeared in no fewer than 12 major movies (a 13th is forthcoming) since 1933, as well as popular comics, and games like King Kong (PS2 2005) and Mighty Kong online slot by Pragmatic Play. Ninety years of the ginormous simian, and we still can’t get enough. The key is, of course, is that Kong is not a traditional villain or hero. A monster with a soul.
- Durin’s Bane (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Not all Tolkien fans love Peter Jackson’s depiction of the Balrog of Morgoth, but, boy, did it make an impression when bounding onto our screens in the Mines of Moria. We include Durin’s Bane on this list for a variety of reasons, particularly the ground-breaking use of CGI. The Balrog – and Jackson’s movies – still hold up over twenty years later.
- Graboid (Tremors)
We are talking about monsters, plural, here. However, as with others on this list, it is the unseen terror of the subterranean alien monsters that takes center stage. A raucous and funny, but sometimes terrifying, adventure, Tremors is proof that scariness and comedy can co-exist.
- The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (Ghostbusters)
Is the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man scary? No. Ridiculous? Yes. But does it work to create one of the most memorable movie monsters in history? Absolutely. You know the drill. The Ghostbusters inadvertently summon a 110ft Marshmallow Man who wreaks havoc on New York in the movie’s final minutes. So absurd, yet genius.
- Shark (Jaws)
The shark in Jaws perhaps vies with Kong and Godzilla (see below) as the most iconic movie monster on this list. The mechanical shark was famously difficult to control in filming, so Steven Spielberg limited the amount of time it spent on screen. The shark didn’t even appear fully for the first 80 or so minutes. But the happy accident led to a masterclass in tension building and, indeed, monster making.
- Darkness (Legend)
As with Pan’s Labyrinth, Legend is not a horror film. But many of us who grew up in the 1980s were forever haunted by the terrifying portrayal of Darkness by Tim Curry. The late actor also played Pennywise in (the original IT), which easily could have made this list. But we have opted for the satanic Darkness in Ridley Scott’s fantastical cult classic.
- The Thing (The Thing)
As the years pass, there is a growing sense that The Thing is a great movie, despite being widely panned on its release in 1982. Nonetheless, it delivers what we like to think of as a psychological monster, where the audience is increasingly paranoid as to the identity of the fearsome Thing. A great leap forward in special effects, and a truly frightening central monster.
- Godzilla (Various)
In truth, we could have coupled Godzilla with Kong. After all, the pair appears in several movies together and are equally gargantuan. However, we wanted to finish the list with the mighty Godzilla, as the Japanese-created prehistoric beast arguably epitomizes movie monsters more than any other on this list. Like Kong, we need say no more. It’s Godzilla. The king of movie monsters.