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Ten Best Movie Monsters

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Hollywood's all-time greatest monsters reign supreme. King Kong, Godzilla, Alien, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, Frankenstein, Rodan, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, Count Dracula and Freddy Krueger are the best film monsters.

Movie monsters have been on the prowl since the earliest days of Hollywood. Here are ten of the greatest film monsters that have ever graced a movie set. Sweet dreams...

King Kong

The big, prehistoric ape from Skull Island first came on the scene in King Kong (RKO, 1933). Showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) and his party manage to capture Kong and ferry him across the ocean on a huge raft, where he goes on display in New York City as the eighth wonder of the world. But the mighty King Kong isn't cut out for show biz, busting out of his chrome steel chains, snatching blond Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and scaling the Empire State Building where he is eventually brought down by a squadron of dive-bombing biplanes. "He's always been king of his world, but we'll teach him fear," Denham tells his boys on Skull Island. Well, not quite...

Theater exhibitor's campaign book: King Kong (1933)


The prehistoric Godzilla first came lumbering on the scene in the Japanese-produced Gojira (Tojo, 1954). Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka came up with the idea behind Godzilla following a real-life incident in which a Japanese boat became radioactively contaminated after wandering into an American nuclear testing zone. An Americanized version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, in which dialogue from Gojira was redubbed and actor Raymond Burr was added to the cast as reporter Steve Martin, was later released by Embassy Pictures and TransWorld Releasing Corp. in 1956. In both versions, the nasty, slobbering 400-foot Godzilla is awakened from hibernation by atomic bomb testing, where it subsequently wreaks havoc on Tokyo. "I was headed for an assignment in Cairo, when I stopped off in Tokyo for a social; but it turned out to be a visit to the living hell of another world," Raymond Burr as an American reporter informs viewers during the film's opening. 

One sheet movie poster: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) 


The bloodthirsty alien creature introduced itself in Alien (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979). It's the year 2037 and the planet is the cold, foreboding LV-426. Three crew members (Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright) from the deep space mining vessel Nostromo investigate an SOS transmission. An especially nasty extraterrestrial beast attaches itself to Hurt's helmet visor and is brought aboard, where it stalks the remaining crew members. The famous "Gut Buster" scene is sure to horrify viewers, with the face-hugging critter literally ripping its way out of John Hurt's belly. "I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality," Ian Holm's Ash says of the alien creature. Well put – but then science officer Ash is a damn robot.

15th anniversary 1994 advance one sheet movie poster style A: Alien (1979)

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

The half man/half fish beast first made its appearance in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Universal, 1954). While on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River, Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning and company happen upon the hideous creature from the black lagoon. Not currently welcoming visitors, the creature kills several crew members and eventually abducts Miss Adams, taking her to his secret lair. Two actors dubbed a rubber suit and played the creature with horrifying results. Ricou Browning, a professional diver and swimmer, portrayed the creature in the water and Ben Chapman performed the honors on land. "We didn't come here to fight monsters, we're not equipped for it," Richard Carlson's Dr. David Reed proclaims. Well, you best get equipped, Doc... 

Spanish one sheet movie poster: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

The Great White Shark in Jaws

The big, 25-foot rogue great white shark first menaced people in Jaws (Universal, 1975). After a young girl turns up dead on the beach – the first victim in a series of savage shark attacks – police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) depart on the Orca, hoping to kill the offending great white who has staked the waters off Amity Island as its personal feeding ground. Three mechanical sharks weighing 2,000 pounds each and all nicknamed "Bruce" doubled as the on-screen monster. "This shark, swallow you whole," Robert Shaw's Quint observes in what would prove to be a prophetic statement on his own demise. 

Promotional still: Jaws (1975)

The Frankenstein Monster

Mary Shelley's classic horror novel was first shot as a short silent film titled Frankenstein (Edison, 1910), with Charles Ogle playing the monster and Augustus Phillips appearing as Dr. Frankenstein. In 1931, Universal Pictures released its version of Frankenstein, which many film historians cite as the classic horror movie. Boris Karloff, in his square rubber head, heavy boots and bulky wardrobe, plays the monster with Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein. The monster, created in Dr. Frankenstein's mountain laboratory, is a terrifying, lumbering creature, eventually cornered by the townspeople at a windmill where it is torched into oblivion. "The brain you stole, Fritz. Think of it. The brain of a dead man waiting to live again in a body I made with my own hands!" Colin Clive's Frankenstein tells his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye). Poor Fritz, though, he grabbed the wrong jar at the nearby university, the one marked "Criminal Brain."

Promotional still: Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931)


Rodan made its first appearance in the Japanese film Giant Monster of the Sky Radon (Toho, 1956). Released in the United States in 1957 as Rodan! The Flying Monster!, this sci-fi horror flick features Japanese miners burrowing into the earth where they awaken a pair of prehistoric flying beasts who proceed to wreak havoc on the city of Fukuoka – or Sasebo in the American version. "Nothing escapes this monstrous beast of evil!" the movie's trailer announces, as Rodan is seen knocking over suspension bridges, destroying buildings and making a mockery of the military's latest weapons.  

Lobby card: Rodan! The Flying Monster! (1957)

The Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park

The ferocious, genetically engineered T-Rex made its debut in Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993). The big prehistoric creature breaks through its electrified fence during an unauthorized security shutdown, going on a rampage and pursuing the park's employees and visitors. The T-Rex's fearsome roar was accomplished via a sound mix of a baby elephant, a tiger and an alligator. Almost equally frightening are the smaller velociraptors in Jurassic Park, who hunt their prey in packs. In one scene, the attack on Bob Peck's Robert Muldoon character, men in suits play the vicious raptors. "Dinosaurs and man... two species separated by 65 million years of evolution, have suddenly been thrown into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea of what to expect?" Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant poses the question. Well, expect the worst...

Italian photobusta: The T-Rex stalks its victim in Jurassic Park (1993)

Count Dracula

The incomparable Bela Lugosi first played the cinematic Count Dracula in Dracula (Universal, 1931). Although not without his Old World charms, the ancient vampire from Transylvania is a monster, nonetheless, feeding on his victims and killing the entire crew of the Vesta during his voyage to England. Lugosi, who had previously played the same role on stage, had Dracula nailed like no other actor, using those hypnotic, bloodshot eyes and accented voice to sow terror among his many victims. "I am Dracula. I bid you welcome," Lugosi's evil count greets Dwight Frye's R.M. Renfield at Castle Dracula. Run!

Reissue 1938 lobby card: Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler in Dracula (1931)

Freddy Krueger

The menacing, mutilated Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) burst onto the horror scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street (New Line Cinema, 1984). Set in fictional Springwood, Ohio, the film features the vengeful Krueger invading the dreams of teenagers, where he slashes them with razor-sharp knives protruding from his fingers. The stalking Krueger, or the ghost thereof, is a child killer who was burned alive in his hideout by a band of vigilante parents following his release from prison on a technicality. "It's too late, Krueger. I know the secret now. This is just a dream. You're not alive. This whole thing is just a dream," Heather Langenkamp's Nancy Thompson tells her nemesis. But is it?

One sheet movie poster: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Ten More Greatest Movie Monster Favorites

  • The Wolf Man/Lawrence Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941)
  • Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)
  • Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
  • The Thing from Another World (1951)
  • Count Graf Orlok in Nosferatu (1922)
  • Brundlefly in The Fly (1986)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King's It (1990)
  • Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Pinhead in Hellraiser (1987)

Promotional still: Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941)

Image Credits

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas
  • Top horizontal photo: Reissue 1938 lobby card from King Kong (1933)

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 


Kathleen Murphy
Posted on Jun 15, 2010
Phoenix Montoya
Posted on Jun 15, 2010
Posted on Jun 15, 2010
M 5446
Posted on Jun 15, 2010

About This Article

William J. Felchner

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