40. Tanker Bug – “Starship Troopers” (1997)
Picking just one beastie from the well-thought-out ecosystem of them in Paul Verhoeven’s subversive, splattery sci-fi classic “Starship Troopers” was a tough task, but our fave might be the beetle-like tanker bug, which burrows out of the sand just as a key battle looked to be won by the human forces, leading to one of the film’s best action scenes, and an extremely gruesome climax as a grenade goes off inside it.
39. Rancor – “Return Of The Jedi” (1983)
One of the many elements of George Lucas’ genius, at least in terms of maximizing the appeal of his films to their target audience, was that he knew that every eight-year-old boy loves a good monster, and the “Star Wars” films were always happy to throw one in — it’s why there isn’t just a trash-compactor scene, but a trash-compactor scene with a giant squid in it. The best beastie, however, is the Rancor, the slimy, giant-clawed motherfucker that Jabba attempts to feed Luke to, until he gets nailed by the gate to his cage (in an oddly bathetic death, thanks to his keeper’s tears).
38. The Golem – “The Golem: How He Came Into The World” (1920)
What was the very first movie monster? Well, we’re sure there are some that predated it, but we’d probably give that honor to the title creature in three films that Paul Wegener made about the Jewish legend of the Golem (only the last of which, “How He Came Into The World,” survives today). Created by Rabbi Lowe (Albert Steinrück) to save the Jews of Prague in medieval times, he soon turns on his creators. It’s a classic of German expressionism, and particularly heartbreaking now given what would happen just a few decades later to the Jews of Prague.
37. Deadites – “Evil Dead II” (1987)
Yeah, to some extent the Deadites, the demon-possessed folks of Sam Raimi’s horror-comedy classic “Evil Dead II,” are just zombies, and zombies are kind of boring. But there’s something about their particular design, their all-white eyes and snarled-up faces, that makes them unique, and uniquely wonderful, giving them an EC Comics vibe that suits what Raimi’s going for perfectly.
36. Clover – “Cloverfield” (2008)
If you’re going to try to reinvent the monster movie, as J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard attempted with their found-footage picture “Cloverfield,” you’d better have a damn good monster. But even if the film had other flaws, they certainly delivered on the beastie front, with a giant, grotesque creature (referred to as ‘Clover’ by production staff, though never in the film) designed by Neville Page. The genius of it is the way that, in the glimpses you get throughout the film, you’re trying to piece together what it could possibly look like: what you see sometimes seems to contradict itself. And yet when you finally get the totality of the thing, it’s far from a let-down. Shame the “Super 8” monster felt so similar, though.
35. Imhotep – “The Mummy” (1932)
This summer, Tom Cruise hopes to put a new spin on the Ancient Egypt horror archetype with “The Mummy” (or “Edge Of To-mummy,” as we’ve been calling it), but for now, the definitive take on the monster icon came with Boris Karloff as Imhotep in Universal’s 1932 film. Coming a year after “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” became smash hits, the film feels a little too much in their shadows, but the make-up job remains impressive 85 years on, and Karloff brings the same pathos as he did to Mary Shelley’s creation.
34. Darkness – “Legend” (1985)
Veteran actor Tim Curry has played his fair share of great villains over the years, but the greatest must be the devilish Lord Of Darkness (or just plain old Darkness) in “Legend” (yes, even more so than the hotel concierge in “Home Alone 2”). Ridley Scott’s film is a bit of a mess, but Curry (essentially unrecognizable under a make-up job that’s still remarkable today) is an iconic delight, the literal essence of evil, seductive and monstrous at once.
33. The Id Monster – “Forbidden Planet” (1956)
Somewhat overlooked now in the sci-fi canon (perhaps because it’s so far escaped the remake machine), Fred M. Wilcox’s “Forbidden Planet,” a sci-fi riff on “The Tempest,” remains a visual delight that’s more successful than you might imagine at capturing the essence of Shakespeare’s original. For all its innovative effects, the best is The Monster From The Id, an invisible take on Caliban that’s portrayed, innovatively, with traditional animation when it can be seen. The effect remains striking today.
32. Fish-Beast – “The Host” (2006)
Korean master Bong Joon-Ho is soon to get back in the monster game (in seemingly quite a different way) with genetically-engineered-pig tale “Okja,” but he’ll find it hard to top his extraordinary 2006 film, one of the best the genre has ever seen. Introduced in an amazing extended attack sequence, the central beast, something like if a tadpole had a baby with a dragon, is characterful, beautifully animated and an absolute force of nature.
31. Kraken/Calibos/Medusa – “Clash Of The Titans” (1981)
With the lousy remake thankfully deleted from all of our memories (fun fact: they actually made a sequel to that! It was called “Wrath Of The Titans.” No, really. It came out in theaters and everything), we can go back to admiring the amazing work that Ray Harryhausen did on the 1981 original film. Harryhausen’s final sword-and-sandals epic contains a number of great monsters, but the enormous multi-armed Kraken puppet and the even more impressive stop-motion Medusa are among his greatest creations ever, and have dated much better than anything in the seven-year-old redo.