30. The Dementors – “Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban” (2004)
From three-headed dogs and giant snakes to werewolves and dragons, the “Harry Potter” series had its fair share of monsters (to say nothing of the ‘Fantastic Beasts‘ spin-off, which is stuffed with magical creatures, albeit mostly benevolent ones), but its most memorable are clearly the Dementors, which first crop up (and are best used) in Alfonso Cuarón’s third film in the series. Wraith-like creatures that act as guard to the magic world’s prison, they’re clearly inspired by the Nazgul from “The Lord Of The Rings,” but their ability to drain all happiness from you (inspired by J.K. Rowling’s own depression) gives them a terror all of their own.
29. ‘it’ – “It Follows” (2014)
One of the reasons that “It Follows” caught on among both genre fans and the more horror-reluctant was that it had a genuinely original movie monster — one without a true form. Instead, the untitled creature/spirit/whatever it is can look like anyone or anything as it slowly but unstoppably walks towards you, a manifestation of every terrifying STD that you can imagine as it gets ready to fuck you to death. It’s a perfect monster, and one we can’t believe no one else thought of before David Robert Mitchell did.
28. Nola’s Children – “The Brood” (1979)
David Cronenberg is a great chronicler of monsters, sometimes human (“Maps To The Stars,” “Dead Ringers”) sometimes decidedly not, as you’ll see from our Top 10. But one of his most monstrous creations came when he took on the ever-popular creepy-child genre in “The Brood.” The creatures of the title — deformed, toothless, asexual dwarves born through asexual reproduction by Samantha Eggar’s Nola and wearing onesies with hoodies — are literal nightmare-haunters, and is just about enough to put anyone off having kids.
27. The Babadook – “The Babadook” (2014)
“Dontletitindontletitindontletitindontletitindontletitindontletitindontletitindontletitin” repeats troubled young Samuel in Jennifer Kent’s phenomenal “The Babadook.” And whether the creature of the title — inspired by a storybook that mysteriously appears out of nowhere — is a real thing or a manifestation of his and his mother’s (Essie Davis) grief, the top-hatted, raspy-voiced creature instantly became an iconic movie monster, in part because of how little Kent lets you see of him.
26. The Cave Troll – “The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring” (2001)
It’s easy to forget now that he’s a billion-dollar franchise king, but Peter Jackson started out his career in splattery creature features, and that experience was actually one of the things that helped his original “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy to such greatness. You can see it throughout the films — a glee and a love for his beasts and a relish in dispatching them — but it perhaps comes to a head with one of the first we see, the Cave Troll in the stunning Mines Of Moria sequence. A truly groundbreaking piece of character animation, it’s a scene full of pathos, terror and even fun, building so much into a few minutes of screen time.
25. Pinhead & The Cenobites – “Hellraiser” (1987)
Whatever the flaws of the “Hellraiser” franchise — namely that the first film is rough around the edges, and the eight sequels are all completely rubbish — its principal adversaries, most famously Doug Bradley’s aptly named Pinhead — are not one of them. Clive Barker’s original could have made its Cenobite fairly normal demons, but instead, these grotesque, S&M-tinged creatures, each more disgusting than the last, manage to be continually upsetting to look at (and impressively made up) even at the franchise’s worst. Also, it should be noted that Pinhead & The Cenobites is a great name for a punk band.
24. Graboids – “Tremors” (1990)
A little overlooked these days (a potential TV reboot could fix that), Ron Underwood’s joyous horror-comedy pits Kevin Bacon & Fred Ward’s Nevada handymen against an army of “Dune”-style giant sandworms, later named “graboids.” With B-movie tongue firmly and bloodily bursting through cheek, and the basic premise made for plenty of don’t-touch-the-ground tension, the beasts are achieved with impressive practical effects that are much more fun than a CGI version would ever be.
23. Cat Person – “Cat People” (1942)
We’ll be honest, “Cat People” is not really in here for the quality of the creature design — the “creature” is really only seen at the very end, and is literally just a panther. But we felt it needed to be included here for the sheer quality of Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton’s film, a psychosexual horror-thriller of rare richness about a Serbian newlywed (Simone Simon) with a secret. Paul Schrader’s ’80s remake is fine, but best remembered for Bowie’s theme song, really: stick with the original.
22. Freddy Krueger – “A Nightmare On Elm Street” (1984) and sequels
It’s a shame that, by the time the franchise had run its course (a 2010 remake with, would you believe it, Rooney Mara failed to return the series to its origins), Robert Englund’s horror icon had become a shadow of his former self, a quip-heavy antihero who might as well have been Bugs Bunny for all the terror he inspired. But in Wes Craven’s original, this child-murdering, vigilante-justice-avenging dream invader with a glove of knives was a legitimately terrifying presence and became an omnipresent Halloween costume for a reason.
21. The Wolf Man – “The Wolf Man” (1941)
We decided to keep to just one werewolf for this feature, and had a pretty tough time picking which one. The American Werewolf In London? The guy from “The Howling?” Jacob from “Twilight”? Close, nearly and definitely not, because in the end, we went way back to Lon Chaney Jr.’s original take (well, not quite original: Universal had already made “Werewolf Of London” six years earlier). With a still-great make-up job on its star, it captures the sense of pathos that informed the best of the horrors of the period (and the best werewolf stories in general) perfectly, thanks largely to fine work by Chaney and Claude Rains as his father.