Throughout film history, audiences have been treated to visions of otherworldly monsters; things that could not exist (at least hopefully) in the real world, but that someone might have envisioned in a nightmare or a fever dream. These are the kinds of monsters that keep people up at night, wondering what they would do if they ever happened to run into one of them. In many cases, there would be no escape from these creatures. They are far too cunning, too threatening, and too dangerous to ever get away from. That goes for a lot of movie monsters, but there are definitely some that are the exact opposite. There are some movie monsters that are so ridiculous, so downright lame, that you can’t help but think that the characters in the movie are actually kind of silly for thinking that it’s scary.
Here’s how you know you’re watching a bad monster movie: if you can think of a way to easily defeat or avoid the creature, then it’s probably a pretty bad monster. The word “monster” itself, derived from the Latin “monstrum,” means anything that is abnormal or beyond understanding. The scariest monsters are the ones that seem incapable of being defeated, the ones who are singularly bent on destroying or taking down anything and anyone in their path. The weakest monsters are the ones who are just plain silly, whether it’s because they look bad on film or they are just kind of ludicrous. These are the ten scariest (and ten lamest) move monsters.
20. GOOD: THE PREDATOR (PREDATOR)
When you stop and think about, the Predator isn’t really that different from a human. It skillfully hunts its prey, it’s developed technology, and it loves a challenge. Maybe that’s what makes it so scary in the first place: it’s a reflection of humanity, exaggerating its most primal instincts and turned them against humanity itself.
There are many reasons the Predator is a great movie monster: aside from just being a rampaging space creature, it is smart, cunning, and it knows what it is up against. Utilizing its stealth technology and infrared vision, it easily takes out a platoon of soldiers before finally blowing itself up as a final challenge to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
19. BAD: THE CREEPER (JEEPERS CREEPERS)
The thing about Jeepers Creepers is that it is not exactly a great horror movie, but what makes it even worse is its particularly sad move monster. Aside from being a mish mash of genre cliches, the Creeper is simply too easy to avoid. He only emerges every 23rd spring for 23 days (and with how crazy the weather is in spring, he might end up having to hunt in the snow some years).
Ultimately, the Jeepers Creepers franchise fell out of favor with movie goers, mostly because of its one note monster and thin premise. There’s nothing to make the Creeper interesting or even particularly scary when all you have to do to beat it is stay out of his corn field for a very brief period every quarter of a century.
18. GOOD: BRUNDLEFLY (THE FLY)
David Cronenberg’s The Fly is almost like a modern Frankenstein where the doctor creates a monster out of himself. Dr. Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum) accidentally fuses his own DNA with a housefly’s while testing his teleportation pods. The resulting transformation turns Brundle into an ugly insectoid monster over time.
The scariest thing about Brundlefly is that he begins the film as a committed and enthusiastic scientist, who believes that his work will forever help mankind. Eventually, however, the monstrous aspects of his transformation erase all traces of his humanity, until he has no drive but to fuse himself with another human in order to reverse the process.
17. BAD: PUMPKINHEAD (PUMPKINHEAD)
Pumpkinhead was the first directorial effort by special effects wizard Stan Winston, and it definitely shows off his technical skill in that aspect. However, the film itself, and particularly the monster, fall flat. Pumpkinhead never feels as intimidating as a good monster should, and part of that might have to do with its look.
Pumpkinhead kind of resembles a more halloween themed xenomorph from Alien, only it is cumbersome and honestly a bit plain in its design. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the monster is named Pumpkinhead, which kind of takes away from its menacing nature. Overall, Pumpkinhead‘s monster falls short of being a classic movie monster, however it does still inspire a cult following.
16. GOOD: THE BLOB (THE BLOB)
Some people may look at the eponymous monster from The Blob and think of it almost like a joke. “Really? A big gelatinous blob is supposed to be scary?” Well, if you could see what that big gelatinous blob could do to people, you’d probably be pretty scared. While the original blob is a pillar of ’50s science fiction films, the 1988 remake really shows its destructive power.
As the Blob grows, it becomes more powerful and harder to avoid. As soon as it touches someone, they are done for, unable to escape its sticky, digestive mass. The Blob not only rolls through the city, but it also hides in plumbing and can drop from ceilings. Eventually it grows to a massive size and is able to grow tentacles, easily grabbing its next victim.
15. BAD: THE ALIENS (SIGNS)
Remember how great the ending of The Sixth Sense was? Well, it seemed to really pigeonhole M. Night Shyamalan into a certain kind of writing, because he’s been throwing those famous twists into his films ever since. If there’s one move where this becomes especially egregious, it has to be Signs.
Why in any universe, would a presumably advanced species of beings who are capable of interstellar travel but susceptible to water come to a planet that is literally made out of water? Why are they only affected when water spills on them but not by the water vapor in the atmosphere? Not to mention the fact that one of them gets locked in a pantry. That’s a pretty sad invading force.
14. GOOD: THE XENOMORPH (ALIEN)
There is no more perfectly engineered space monster than the xenomorph from the Alien series. Right form the moment of its birth when it bursts forth from its victims, the xenomorph is already an incredibly dangerous entity. It is able to hide in the bowels of a ship due to its black shell which also lets it blend into the walls.
Defeating one of these monsters is no easy feat, either. Their blood is a highly acidic substance that can eat through solid metal, so anyone firing a gun at one of these things needs to be standing pretty far back. running into a regular xenomorph is bad enough, but there are also the giant queens to worry about, which are far more intimidating and frightening.
13. BAD: THE LEPRECHAUN (LEPRECHAUN)
Let’s settle something right now: a monster can make jokes and still be scary. The greatest demonstration of this is Freddy Krueger, an absolute nightmare demon who taunts his victims before taking them out. That being said, there is a difference between a monster who has a sense of humor and one that is essentially just a punchline.
The leprechaun from the Leprechaun series of movies falls into the latter category. He is not as much of a joker as he is just a joke. It’s hard to find the tiny little leprechaun intimidating, even though the filmmakers try so hard to make him scary. Whether he’s in space or “in the hood,” there’s just no real scare for the people watching these movies play out.
12. GOOD: GREMLINS (GREMLINS)
They may start out fuzzy and cute, but don’t be fooled by the Mogwai. They can easily be turned into scaly, demonic little monsters that can multiply and attack the entire town. That’s exactly what happens in Gremlins, and despite the small stature of these little monsters, when there are a lot of them, they can do a lot of damage.
The titular gremlins may be scary, but they carry out their evil deeds with a sense of mischief and darkly comic fun. This is due in part to director Joe Dante, who took his cues from Bugs Bunny cartoons and the early work of Steven Spielberg. Along with Temple of Doom, this was another film that helped bring about the MPAA decision to create the PG-13 rating.
11. BAD: GILL-MAN (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON)
It may be a classic of the genre, but it’s safe to say that the Gill-Man from Creature From the Black Lagoon has not aged well. While the film itself achieved some amazing technical feats such as filming the monster underwater, the design of Gill-Man has become little more than a punchline.
The clearly rubber face mask and fishy, scaly body don’t exactly inspire fear. In fact, they have only inspired the looks of monsters that are meant to be sympathized with such as Abe Sapien from Hellboy and the monster from The Shape of Water. In fact, it just seems that the film had a large impact on Guillermo Del Toro.
10. GOOD: GODZILLA (GODZILLA)
Out of all the monsters that you probably hope not to encounter on this list, the big boy himself, Godzilla, has to be one of the top choices. Originally created as an allegory for the nuclear bomb, Godzilla is one scary monster. The image of him rising from the sea just gives you one more reason to believe there are monsters in the depths.
With Godzilla, it’s not just him you would have to worry about. While he does have atomic breath and is big enough to tear down an entire city, it’s clear that what’s really dangerous around Godzilla is the collateral damage. You can run all you want, but if a building is falling into the street, you might not have much chance to escape.
9. BAD: GOBLINS (TROLL 2)
There might not be a horror movie more infamous than the absolute disaster Troll 2. The film was so bad that it inspired a documentary, 2009’s Best Worst Movie, which told the story of the haphazard production that led to one of the worst, yet most entertaining horror films ever made.
The monsters in Troll 2 are notable not even trolls. They are referred to as goblins, and they literally look like kids in Halloween masks. They are also vegetarian, but their nefarious plans involve turning people into vegetable matter before consuming them. If anyone has taken anything away from this movie, it is one of the worst line readings in history (“they’re eating her, and then they’re going to eat me too! Oh my God!”).
8. GOOD: COUNT ORLOK (NOSFERATU)
When people think of vampires, they might go back to the classic image of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula: black cape, pale skin, fangs, widow’s peak, and usually some formal wear. However, it was years earlier that a more creepy vampire made his screen debut. That would be German actor Max Schreck as Count Orlok in the 1922 film Nosferatu.
Whereas Dracula appeared kindly, human, and inviting, there is nothing about Count Orlok that would make you want to get close to him. Aside from his monstrous visage, he also has animal-like claws. This is the kind of vampire that would truly inspire fear.
7. BAD: DEATH-BED (THE BED THAT EATS)
It’s a horror movie monster so silly, so lazily conceived, that its very existence inspired one of the best Patton Oswalt bits of all-time (you can hear it on his album Werwolves and Lollipops). Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is exactly what you think it is: a bed that eats people.
What sounds like a joke is, in fact, an actual movie released in 1977. The plot involves a demon who fell in love but lost the woman he adored. The demon cried tears of blood which fell on the bed and turned it into a person devouring monster. Yes, the film is as crazy as it sounds, and the monster is actually just a bed. It can’t move and it can’t hypnotize people. The secret to beating it? Sleep on the couch.
6. GOOD: THE ALIEN (THE THING)
There might be another science fiction horror film as thrilling and tense as 1981’s The Thing. John Carpenter created a film that played no only on fear of the unknown, but the distrust of people around you. The alien that takes over an Antarctic research station has the advantage of being able to disguise itself as any living person, which makes it very hard to find.
Not only that, but when the creature is discovered, it mutates into an unimaginably monstrous being, made of tentacles, teeth, and claws. The creature makes one especially horrifying appearance in one of the most intense scenes of the film, in which every man’s blood is tested for the presence of the alien.
5. BAD: THE CRITTERS (CRITTERS)
The eponymous creatures in the film Critters are tiny little balls of fur with big mouths and sharp teeth. The film came out shortly after Gremlins and was clearly trying to capitalize on the idea of scaring (but also kind of silly and adorable) monsters attacking a town.
Unfortunately, the critters never became as big a hit as the Gremlins, probably because they weren’t nearly as inventive or scary. After all, the gremlins were scaly little monsters who were cunning and almost humanlike in the way they could set traps and cause mischief. Meanwhile, the critters are so tiny, you could practically just step on them.
4. GOOD: THE WEREWOLF (AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS)
An American Werewolf in London, like Gremlins was an early example of blending comedy and horror. However, Werewolf fell more squarely in the horror category, delivering some truly memorable frights and monster imagery. The wolf itself is glimpsed only briefly in the film, but it remains an iconic movie monster for the ages.
What really makes the film’s monster stand out though is not how it hunts the citizens of London, but it how the main character through a breathtakingly painful transformation. This special effects sequence, created by Rick Baker, nabbed an Oscar for best makeup. The transformation itself is juxtaposed against the song “Blue Moon” by Sam Cooke.
3. BAD: PLANTS (THE HAPPENING)
M. Night Shyamalan makes the list yet again with one of the least inspired movie “monsters” in years: plants. Thats right, the main antagonists hunting the human heroes in The Happening are none other than plants and trees. The film itself was laughably bad for a number of reasons, but the fact that everyone was so afraid of the wind rustling through the leaves was chief among them.
While some could argue that the film was trying to make a statement about environmentalism and the fact that nature could one day fight back, the fact is that message could have been delivered in a far more subtle way. Instead, what audiences got were sinister blades of grass and Mark Wahlberg talking to a house plant.
2. GOOD: CAVE DWELLERS (THE DESCENT)
The Descent may be one of the scariest films of the 2000s if only because of its setting. Claustrophobes who haven’t seen it should beware: the main characters are hunted down in a pitch black, suffocating system of cave tunnels by nocturnal, cave dwelling monsters that can see in the dark.
These cave dwellers are truly the stars of the show, moving around the caves with a nimble grace that might almost be admirable if they weren’t so haunting. There are few images more fear inducing than one of the characters examining a cave with her camera on night vision, only to point it back at her face, revealing one of the cave dwellers standing silently behind her.
1. BAD: CHUCKY (CHILD’S PLAY)
He may be an iconic horror villain, but there’s no denying that when you really examine Chucky from Child’s Play closely, he’s not all that intimidating. Yes, he is a doll that came to life and is nothing but pure evil, but there’s a very important part of that description that most people tend to gloss over: he is a doll.
As long as Chucky doesn’t get the drop on you, there’s no reason you couldn’t punt him through a window like a football. There’s nothing stopping you from locking him in a safe and burying the safe forever. He may be evil, and it may be disconcerting to see a living, talking doll, but at the end of the day, he’s still a doll.
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