20. Predator – “Predator” (1987)
The trouble with all the “Alien Vs. Predator” stuff over the years is that it’s very, very obvious to basically anyone that Alien is better than Predator, both as a movie and as a creature. But that’s not to take too much away from the dreadlocked extraterrestrial, who first appeared in John McTiernan’s action classic of the same name: it’s still a badass character with a strange nobility to it, even if the subsequent films have rarely lived up to his promise. Here’s hoping Shane Black can do it justice in 2018…
19. The Skeletons – “Jason And The Argonauts” (1963)
Maybe the finest achievement of a creature expert and stop-motion designer who sits among the best who ever lived, Ray Harryhausen, “Jason And The Argonauts” has more great monster set-pieces than almost any other movie: Talos coming to life, or the many-headed Hydra, to name just two. But its finest hour comes at the climax, with Jason and his force squaring off against an army of skeletons. It remains a seamless piece of wizardry, one that influenced the imaginations of generations.
18. The Gill-Man – “Creature From The Black Lagoon” (1954)
He doesn’t get the same respect as some of his Universal monster colleagues (while Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp and Dwayne Johnson are attached to play the others, no remake is firmly in the works for old fish-pants right now), but we have a serious soft-spot for the Gill-Man from “Creature From The Black Lagoon.” Found in the Amazon, he’s a more primal, less sympathetic creature than some of the others (though, like all the best, recognizable even in silhouette), and although some might mock some moments now, the film’s enormously effective (it’s one of Guillermo Del Toro’s favorites, and he knows what he’s talking about).
17. The Woman – “Under The Skin” (2013)
Jonathan Glazer’s modern masterpiece is undoubtedly a monster movie — it has more in common with, say, “Frankenstein” than most films of its genre, both in its terror (that beach scene!) and its pathos — but considering that Scarlett Johansson‘s unnamed…uh, heroine (?) looks as human as you or I for much of it, we would have disqualified it from this list. Then comes that final unmasking, the moment that helps to make some sense of the title, as she slips her human suit to reveal the unnerving jet-black figure underneath. It, like the film, still haunts our dreams.
16. Anna’s Lover – “Possession” (1981)
Andrzej Zulawski’s oblique horror classic is another film that makes relatively sparse use of its creature — a horrific, Lovecraftian sex octopus that appears to have seduced Anna (Isabelle Adjani) after a grim miscarriage. But its every appearance is highly discomforting, and it haunts the film after its first appearance even when it’s not on screen, thanks in part to Adjani’s alarming delivery of the line, “He is very tired. He made love to me all night.” Fascinatingly, the monster was part-created by the legendary Carlo Rambaldi, who was also behind “Alien” and “E.T.”
15. Sadako – “Ringu” (1998)
In monster mash “The Cabin In The Woods,” it’s telling that in the briefest of scenes set in Japan (also one of the movie’s best jokes), it’s a pale-faced girl with black hair that is used to represent the nation’s horror output. While it’s more generally based on folklore known as Onryo (vengeful ghosts), it’s specifically a clear reference to the pant-shittingly scary monster at the center of the mythology of the ‘Ring‘ series. A young girl might not sound like such a monstrous thing, but once you’ve seen her jitteringly crawl out of a television, you’ll never forget it.
14. The Pale Man – “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
Guillermo Del Toro probably stands as our greatest modern creator of monsters, and at least until we see what his merman romance “The Shape Of Water” has in store this summer, his finest hour came with a creature seen briefly, but indelibly, in his masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth.” There are plenty of great monsters, both fantastic (the frog, the faun) and human (Sergi López as the Fascist captain), but it’s the Pale Man, as played by Del Toro’s monstrous muse Doug Jones, who steals the show. Wasted away but covered in loose skin as if he’s just had a stomach staple, eyes embedded in his hands, he’s child-eating nightmare fodder of the purest kind.
13. Raptors – “Jurassic Park” (1993)
The T-Rex might be the thing you remember first when you think of “Jurassic Park,” and quite rightly: the scene where it attacks the jeeps is one of Spielberg’s finest hours. And yet, as the film’s ending makes clear, the most fearsome of the dino-monsters are the smaller, nimbler, more savage Raptors. Brought to life with some amazing puppetry (and a little CGI), they’re relentless, lupine murderers, and that kitchen scene is the most terrifying thing in the film. THEY WORKED OUT HOW TO OPEN DOORS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
12. Regan/Pazazu – “The Exorcist”
We weren’t 100% sure if we were going to put “The Exorcist” in here — possessed 12-year-old Regan (inhabited by the demon Pazazu) isn’t quite a traditional idea of a monster in some ways. But it was too difficult to leave it off, ultimately — William Friedkin’s classic is one of the very greatest horror movies ever, and we figured Regan’s physical form changes enough under the influence — that scarred face, those white eyes, that uncomfortably flexible neck, that goddamn voice — that it counted. Anyway, she’s an extraordinary, endlessly influential creation, and Father Merrin and Father Karras’ battle to overcome the demon sits with anything else on this list.
11. The Thing – “The Thing” (1982)
Undoubtedly a true great among monster movies, probably the only reason John Carpenter’s take on “The Thing” falls outside the Top 10 is that its central beast is less a single iteration and more an ever-mutating, eternally surprising nightmare. From the first proper glimpse that we get of it — as a bundle of dogs being absorbed into a whole — every time it crops up instigates a reaction somewhere between “oh god no, that’s so wrong” and full-on nausea and terror, with Rob Bottin’s ageless effects still unmatched in the practical field.