Get us in your inbox

Great movie monsters
Photograph: Time Out

The 66 Greatest Movie Monsters

From Dracula to the Blob, the creatures that haunt our subconsciousness

Edited by
Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Helen O’Hara
Simon Crook
Matthew Singer
Anna Bogutskaya
Sean McGeady

Movie monsters are a many-splendored thing, with a strong emphasis on ‘thing’. Some may take the form of giant irradiated lizards or skyscraper-sized apes, others amphibious swamp creatures or slow-creeping mounds of gelatin. Some represent the biggest fears of society at large, others are manifestations of their creators’ personal hang-ups. Others, meanwhile, are more instinctual, killing either for food or just for the sheer fun of it.

If you’ve read this far, you may be experiencing some déjà vu. Didn’t we already write a list of the best monster movies of all-time? Indeed we did. But not all of cinema’s greatest monsters inhabit great movies. Sure, there’s a good deal of crossover. But as with actual human actors, some of the most memorable creatures in film history can be found slumming it in subpar productions – and they deserve to have their moment in the spotlight. A few caveats: this list largely follows the same parameters as our monster movies list, meaning that it steers away from non-mutated animals – sorry, Bruce the Shark and the spiders from Arachnophobia – as well as slasher villains such as Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. But zombies? Trolls? Brundlefly? You’ll find them all below.


👹 The 50 best monster movies ever made
💀 The 100 best horror movies of all-time
🧟 The best zombie movies of all-time
👹 Cinema’s creepiest anthology horror movies
🩸 The 15 scariest horror movies based on true stories

66 Greatest Movie Monsters

Photograph: Prana Film

1. Nosferatu

MovieNosferatu (1922) 

A monster so iconic that even his shadow is instantly recognisable, director FW Murnau and star Max Schreck’s creation is 100 years old and still standing. Their film was conceived as a way to make a Dracula film in the absence of the rights to do so, but Nosferatu became its own, entirely separate thing. The vampire’s bald head, pointed ears and high collar influenced all movie lore that followed, even shaping Dracula stories so that daylight is now usually fatal rather than mildly inconvenient as in the book. Maybe that’s because Nosferatu was too scary without a sure-fire way to stop him: we needed to know that this silent menace, rake-thin and stooped over his victims, could be stopped.—Helen O’Hara

The Thing
Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

2. The Thing

MovieThe Thing (1982) 

Nothing disguised as an adorable pooch could be evil, surely? Alas for dog lovers, the answer is a resounding ‘hell yes’ in John Carpenter’s classic fusion of sci-fi smarts and creature feature chills that gave us the slimy Dog-Thing. At the time, The Thing had the biggest monster budget in film history, and that money is there in every chest chomp, scurrying spider head and supporting character spewing out gunk and tentacles. With some help from fellow SFX pioneer Stan Winston, Rob Bottin’s creature effects remain a marvel as the parasitic alien morphs and shapeshifts from one scientist to another at an Anatarctic base under siege from within. For lovers of truly horrifying, icky, old-school special effects, this insidious extra-terrestrial is the capo di tutti capi. Carpenter and Bottin, who worked so hard on making it happen that he almost died of exhaustion, inspired generations of filmmakers with their visceral Alien-on-Earth opus. The Thing itself? As the ultimate malevolent disruptor, it might have inspired a tech CEO or two.—Phil de Semlyen

Alien queen
Photograph: 20th Century Fox

3. Alien queen

Movie: Aliens (1986)

An egg that hatches explosively and lethally when disturbed by another living thing. A ‘facehugger’ that imposes its own features over that of its victim and planting an embryo deep in their body. A newborn that claws and bites its way to freedom and spitting acid even as it grows, rapidly, on the blood of its prey. A monster that can take down a ship’s crew in a single day. The queen, laying thousands of eggs and destroying entire civilisations. There is no stage of the alien’s life cycle that is not terrifying – and no part of its body that cannot stab, slash or burn you. It’s a creature out of the nightmares we didn’t even know we had until HR Giger, Ridley Scott and later James Cameron showed them to us. Best take off and nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Universal Pictures

4. Dracula

MovieDracula (1931) 

The first big-screen Dracula, played by Hungarian emigré Bela Lugosi, cast a long shadow over every other onscreen vampire. Mannered, sophisticated, and, yes, sexy, this Dracula was a gentleman monster interested in seduction as much as blood. Aside from the blood-sucking, it was the vampiric accoutrements established by Lugosi’s performance that have persisted in pop culture: the cape, the widow’s peak, the dark suit and the generic-foreign accent.—anna Bogutskaya

Photograph: LANDMARK MEDIA / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Medusa

Movie: Clash of the Titans (1981) 

Nearly every creature Ray Harryhausen designed in his long career as Hollywood’s original special effects genius deserves recognition. But we have to omit those iconic skeletons – how do you pick just one? – and the cyclops, iconic as he is, is just a smidge too cheerful for a proper monster top ten. Instead, it’s his swansong project that stands out for us – and from the time period from which it emerged. Coming four years after Star Wars, the stop-motion characters in this sword-and-sandals epic are charmingly anachronistic – yet they seem more alive and realistic than the flesh-and-blood actors. The best is Medusa, a hideous creation with reptilian skin, piercing eyes and a nest of snakes wriggling atop her head. Even now, it feels risky to look straight at her.Matt Singer

Photograph: Entertainment Film Distributors

6. Pinhead

MovieHellraiser (1987)

The Hellraiser franchise is bursting with grotesque images, but its most lasting contribution to horror is an interdimensional leather daddy with a face like your nana’s sewing cushion. Its creator, Clive Barker, didn’t intend for Pinhead, as he was later called, to become a franchise icon – he was simply the most articulate of the Cenobites, a clan of sadomasochistic abominations who travel through time and space in search of human flesh to defile. But it was clear who fans were coming back to see. Given almost Shakespearean authority by English actor Doug Bradley, he’s something like an S&M Freddy Krueger, a kind of philosopher demon prone to intoning withering bon mots like: ‘No tears, please, it’s a waste of good suffering.’ Back in the first movie he was a terrifying unknown: unrepentantly brutal and kinda cool.Matt Singer

Photograph: Universal Pictures

7. Frankenstein

MovieFrankenstein (1931)

You could argue that the real monster in James Whale’s fine screen adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel is the scientist Victor Frankestein, who tries his hand at playing god and creating a man out of body parts. Next to Dracula, Boris Karloff near-mute take on the newly-alive creature was one of the first two iconic monsters of horror, and also one of its most tragic ones. A man rejected by his maker, feared by everyone and doomed to be misunderstood because of his horrific appearance.—anna Bogutskaya 

Photograph: Universal Pictures with Ben Chapman

8. Gill-man

MovieCreature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 

Perhaps the least-known of the Universal monsters, Gillman is an amphibian humanoid who thrives both underwater and on land. An expedition of scientists become obsessed with capturing him, while the Creature itself becomes obsessed with the girlfriend of one of the scientists. Designed by Disney animator Milicent Patrick, and a direct inspiration for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, there is an air of longing to this creature feature. The Creature, played by two different actors (one on land, the other underwater), doesn’t speak, and really was minding his own business before the scientists came out. Despite being a somewhat romantic monster, when enraged he can kill a man with a single, webbed hand. Gillman would appear in two more sequels in the 1950s and inspired the naming of a real, fossilised amphibian discovered in 1998.—anna Bogutskaya 

The Pale Man
Photograph: Warner Bros. Pictures

9. The Pale Man

MoviesPan’s Labyrinth (2006)

‘These are Pale Man times’, tweeted Guillermo del Toro of his monstrous creation back in 2017. He meant that this classically inspired ghoul is a cipher for all the corrupt systems of power that devour and deny the needy – here, the young, hungry Ofelia, who attempts to retrieve a mythical dagger only to be tantalised by an off-limits table of treats – and you know the horror auteur would only double-down on the sentiment in these troubled times. The Pale Man is scary because he represents unpalatable political truths. Of course, he’s also scary because he’s a sallow bastard with fingers like razor-sharp carrots, who resembles a bin liner filled with teeth and ill-will. He’s a hybrid of Homer’s cyclops and Goya’s harrowing ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, a painting directly reference when he chews the fairies heads off, and inhabited with a terrifying sense of slow undeniability by del Toro’s long-time man-in-the-suit Doug Jones, for whom every hour in the make-up chair translates into about a billion nightmares for the rest of us.—Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Toho

10. Godzilla

Movie: Godzilla (1954)

What’s the measure of a great monster? Maybe it’s cultural impact. By that standard, no creature compares to Gojira. Maybe it’s malleability. During its journey from grave beginnings to popcorn excess, the atomic amphibian has embodied existential fears that range from nuclear power and American hubris to Japan’s imperial past and more. Maybe it’s resilience. Along with the classics – the 1954 original, 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, 2016’s Shin Godzilla – the prehistoric titan has endured almost as many calamities as it’s caused, Roland Emmerich’s 1998 mess chief among them. Maybe it’s their adversaries. Alongside Ghidorah and Mothra, Godzilla’s list of rivals knows no equal. By any measure, then, more than half-a-century after it emerged from the ocean, Godzilla remains the King of the Monsters. Long may it reign.—Sean McGeady

Photograph: Carolco Pictures

11. T-1000

Movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

After the bulk and brawn of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the original Terminator, James Cameron went the other way for his sequel, choosing Robert Patrick’s lithe, swift figure as his unstoppable robot killing machine. Not only with this Terminator not stop until you are dead, you won’t be able to see him coming thanks to that mercury form, able to take on any shape and flow through any crack in the defences. An instant icon that inspired imitators but no equals, this is still the most terrifying of all the Terminators.—Helen O’Hara

King Kong
Photograph: RKO

12. King Kong

Movie: King Kong (1933)

It’s weird to think that Skull Island’s resident alpha was originally going to be an actual gorilla rather than the giant ape-like colossus we know and love. Happily, stop-motion legend Willis O'Brien went big with a chest-beating mega-beast that remains a high-water mark for creature design. His fight with the T-rex – homaged in Peter Jackson’s remake – showcases his romantic streak (he’s fighting to save Fay Wray) and fighting style (pub brawler after nine pints of Stella). Fierce yet tender, Kong is a true Hollywood great. His eventual death is a true heartbreaker.Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: 20th Century Fox

13. Predator

MoviePredator (1987)

Some men will literally create an iconic vagina-faced monster as a projection of their fear of the female anatomy instead of going to therapy. Maybe it’s wrong to suggest SFX legend Stan Winston was reflecting some deep-seated psychosexual issues when he designed the race of intergalactic sport hunters at the centre of this long-running action-horror franchise… but, like, c’mon, just look at ’em. It’s even more curious when you consider they’ve spent the series chasing after some of cinema’s most macho men, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Danny Trejo. Ironically, though, the creature looks even more fearsome in the recent female-fronted instalment, Prey, its high-tech replaced helmet with a freaky animal skull, making its fleshy maw more visible than ever before. Shudder. —Matthew Singer

The Beast
Photograph: ARCHIVIO GBB / Alamy Stock Photo

14. The Beast

MovieLa Belle et la Bête (1946)

Jean Marais, one of France’s bona fide 1940s A-listers, was buried under six hours’ worth of furry prosthetics for Jean Cocteau’s great fantasy-romance. Marais’s Beast is a complex creature whose foreboding presence, all barely-reined-in feline power and fury, belies the library-owning softboi that lies beneath. Beast could just be the perfect embodiment of the inner torment that haunts many of our favourite movie monsters.—Phil de Semlyen

Bride of Frankenstein
Photograph: Universal Pictures

15. Bride of Frankenstein

MovieBride of Frankenstein (1935)

Picking up immediately where
Frankenstein ends, the Monster survives, learns some rudimentary English and demands that his creator fashion him a mate. Pushed by the comically nefarious Dr Pretorious and his own undead adult child, Frankenstein gets to work on building The Bride. Elsa Lanchester delivers dual performance as both the author of this whole thing, Mary Shelley, and the Bride. With only five minutes of screen time, an iconic hairdo and an ear-piercing scream, she managed to ingrain the Bride as one of the very first, and most sartorially imitated, female monsters in movie history. 

Photograph: United Film Distribution Company

16. Bub

MovieDay of the Dead (1985)

George A Romero’s zombie opus imagined an evolutionary leap in the form of Bub: a lumbering corpse ‘domesticated’ by Richard Liberty’s Dr Logan. Howard Sherman plays Bub with ‘the intelligence of a very stupid dog’, but the shambling pathos dies the moment the flesh-eating instincts kick in and he learns to hunt dinner with a gun. The thinking behind Bub’s prune-shrivelled face? FX overlord Tom Savini figured zombies don’t need water, so he designed his wrinkly zombie to look dehydrated.—Simon Crook

Photograph: Lionsgate

17. Merman

MovieCabin in the Woods (2011)

Much like Bradley Whitford’s character in the meta horror comedy Cabin in the Woods, I too want to see the merman. Half-inspired by Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), half-grotesque vision of the otherwise alluring merfolk, when he finally appears, dragging himself by his webbed hands through the mist, ready to chomp off someone’s head, the merman is a vision to behold. When he happily vomits the blood from his merman-blowhole, it’s dazzling.—anna Bogutskaya

The Rancor
Photograph: 20th Century Fox

18. The Rancor

Movie: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Long, dragging arms tipped with razor-sharp claws about a foot long. A hunched posture, massive head and ripping jaws. That blood-curdling roar. The rancor appears well-named; this thing doesn’t look remotely friendly as it tries to eat Luke Skywalker. But in a single shot, showing the rancor’s blubbering keeper weeping over its corpse, we get a different perspective. The rancor wasn’t evil, just penned up and half-starved. It’s not really bad, it’s just trained that way.—Helen O’Hara

The Nazgûl
Photograph: New Line Cinema

19. The Nazgûl

Movies: The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

Once leaders, the Nazgûl were corrupted by evil jewellery and transformed into monsters. Led by the Witch-king of Angmar – cool name, btw – they are a terrifying force on the battlefield and off it, black-robed and armoured, bearing poisoned weapons and riding terrifying bat-steeds. But as with the best monsters, there’s an air of tragedy about them too: they were once noble, trying to protect their people. They experience torment, as well as inflict it.—Helen O’Hara


20. Pennywise

MovieIt (1990)

No shade to Bill Skarsgård, who stepped into his floppy, evil shoes in the 2017 remake, but Tim Curry will always be the definitive Pennywise. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, Curry’s take on the demonic, razor-toothed clown – from the original TV adaptation of Stephen King’s doorstop-sized novel –  is such an engaging monster that you almost find yourself rooting for him over his less-memorable human prey. In this case, that’s a group of children, which should tell you how good Curry is in the role.Matt Singer


21. Crawlers

MovieThe Descent (2005)

Man-eating goblins that put an entire generation off potholing, these orc-like terrors patrol the pitch black of a North Carolina cave network in Neil Marshall’s enduringly terrifying shocker. Blind but fast, agile and very, very violent, they lurk in the shadows as a group of female adventurers unwittingly hazard into their lair. Like the darkness from which they lurch, their scariness lies in their unknowability: who they are is a mystery; what they want is bloody obvious.—Phil de Semlyen

The Werewolf
Photograph: Producers Sales Organization

22. The Werewolf

MovieAn American Werewolf in London (1981)

The werewolf is a classic monster of cinema, not based on any novel but existing in the folklore of almost every culture and here repurposed as a symbol for survivor’s guilt in John Landis’s horror-comedy. Our titular American is bitten by a werewolf on the Yorkshire moors, an attack that also kills his friend. Now transformed into a werewolf himself (via an iconic, physically pained transformation scene), he is haunted by his dead friend, and every victim he attacks in his wolf form.—anna Bogutskaya 

Brain Gremlin
Photograph: Warner Bros.

23. Brain Gremlin

MovieGremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

The 1984 batch of Gremlins seemed unimprovable. Just big enough to be a threat they were pointy toothed and devilishly fun. But the sequel brims with upgrades: think bat-winged, gender-bent and even vegetal versions. Best, however, is the Brain Gremlin, the surprisingly erudite figure who leads the horde. Equally at home hosting an intellectual talk show or plotting New York City’s destruction, the Brain Gremlin is a monster you can’t help but love.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Warner Bros.

24. Pazuzu

MovieThe Exorcist (1973)

Blink and you won’t miss him. Despite being flashed across only a frame or two of William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece, the face of this boss level demon – aka Captain Howdy – imprints on your brain. IRL it’s the face of 18-year-old American actress Eileen Dietz, who was made up by Oscar winner Dick Smith as the Face of Death and the pea-soup-puking Regan. He’s just a very bad, very scary Sumerian-Babylonian hombre.Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Toho

25. Mothra

MovieMothra (1961)

You’d have to have a cupboard full of hole-riddled knitwear not to have a soft spot for this huggable insect. Worshipped as a god on a Pacific island, Mothra, in caterpillar form, heads off on a rescue mission to retrieve some abducted islanders, eventually metamorphosing into the flying kaiju we know and love. It’s got a formidable array of weaponry on board, too, including a flappy energy field that would later send Godzilla flying in Mothra vs Godzilla.—Phil de Semlyen

Winged Monkeys
Photograph: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

26. Winged Monkeys

Movie: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

These fellas shouldn’t be scary: they’re just monkeys, after all, in rather spiffy red and gold uniforms like they belong with an organ grinder. But something about their numbers and those dark, flapping wings grafted to their backs makes them deeply sinister. As they carried Dorothy and her friends away to see the Wicked Witch, they made an indelible impression on every young mind who saw them. A gateway monster for kids, perhaps, but one that’s been scaring consistently for over 80 years now.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Columbia Pictures

27. Stay-Puft

Movie: Ghostbusters (1986)

Modelled after the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Michelin Man and, supposedly, a certain Columbia Pictures security guard, the final boss of Ivan Reitman’s comedy-horror classic isn’t especially intimidating on paper – which is, of course, the whole joke. Add a menacing scowl, the soul of a vengeful Sumerian deity and about 100 feet of height, though, and you’ve got yourself the Godzilla of the 1980s. Summoned from the mind of Dan Aykroyd as he tries to imagine ‘something that could never possibly destroy us’, the squishy colossus is the perfect kaiju for the era of peak consumerism: a skyscraper of sentient processed food who’ll smush the hell out of you, and look adorable doing it. Matthew Singer

The Babadook
Photograph: Umbrella Entertainment

28. The Babadook

Movie: The Babadook (2014)

Sometimes the most terrifying monsters are the ones that are closest to home. The horror of the Babadook is that it appears to want to hurt young Samuel (Noah Wiseman) but may have been conjured by his grieving mother Amelia (Essie Davis). Director Jennifer Kent nails the creepy atmosphere and distinctive look that all horror icons must share, but creates a new and different psychology behind it. This monster cannot be killed or driven away, only managed, even embraced, in order to defeat it.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Paramount Pictures

29. Clover

MovieCloverfield (2008)

Taking the Jaws approach for much of the film, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves only shows flashes of the skyscraper-sized alien laying waste to New York. He saves the money shot for the final minutes, as the first-person shakycam finally steadies and stares right up at its fleshy, fangy, amphibian-bat hybrid hell-beast of a face. Forget a bigger boat – you’re going to need a bigger planet.—Matt Singer

Photograph: Toho

30. Rodan

MovieRodan (1956)

If Godzilla and Ghidorah are the ‘obvious’ fan favourites, Rodan is for the hipster Toho fan – the 100-tonne flying Pulp in a world of Oasis and Blurs. But this giant fast-moving pteradon is not to be trifled. It’s 1956 screen debut is marked with a spree of destruction that would have any civil engineer sobbing in despair, unleashing sonic booms just by flapping its wings. The moral here is never to wake anyone up after a 200-million-year nap.—Phil de Semlyen 

The Lamia
Photograph: Photograph: Buckaroo Entertainment, Ghost House Pictures, Mandate Pictures

31. The Lamia

Movie: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

The demon that torments bank clerk Christine (Alison Lohman) and swears that it will drag her soul to hell in three days is a hard one to describe: one minute appearing as the ghost of an old woman, the next in the likeness of a goat, the next as a horrifying face at a window. It’s less about how this one looks than what it does, the grim inevitability that, once summoned, it absolutely will not leave until it takes you with it.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Universal Pictures

32. Graboids

MoviesTremors (1980)

The 1980s saw a ton of throwback creature features hit cinemas and video-store shelves, but the best of them arrived at the very end of the rush. Taking the basic Jaws formula and swapping ocean for desert, Tremors stars Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon as wiseacre handymen defending their town against carnivorous subterranean sandworms. The monsters, nicknamed ‘Graboids’, are truly disgusting – imagine the grossest burrito you’ve ever eaten, mutated to the size of a dump truck, and now it wants to eat you.—Matt Singer

Audrey II
Photograph: Alamy

33. Audrey II

Movie: Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)

A mean green mother from outer space who is
bad, Audrey II rises from humble beginnings, rooted in an empty coffee can, to become a man-eating menace. All this, and he has a fantastic singing voice and built-in backing singers in the seedlings along his viney limbs. There’s a seductive quality to Audrey II, as he ropes in the naive Seymour (Rick Moranis) to his schemes, but also a ruthless intellect that is plotting the destruction of the entire human race. It’s an evergreen combination.Helen O’Hara

Maleficent dragon
Photograph: Alamy, Disney Studios

34. Maleficent dragon

MovieSleeping Beauty (1959)

‘Now, shall you deal with me, O Prince – and all the powers of hell!” The animated Maleficent is formidable even in her basic fairy form: the sort of elegant, ruthless creature who would literally curse a baby to death over a social slight rather than, say, take the royal parents off her Christmas card list. But stand up to her and you could find yourself facing her in dragon form, breathing fire and attacking you from above. They didn’t name her ‘evil doer’ for nothing.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Universal Pictures

35. Imhotep

MovieThe Mummy (1999)

‘A corpse… but make it fashion.’ That was presumably the directive from filmmaker Stephen Sommers when he revived the Universal monster to surprisingly sexy effect, thanks to actor Arnold Vosloo and some impressive visual effects. Yes, this mummy is regenerating from a withered husk and occasionally chews on one of the scarabs that scuttle through his still-knitting flesh, but he has a fine way with a cape and he’s clearly been hitting the tomb gym. No wonder the crowds chant his name.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Album / Alamy Stock Photo

36. Darkness

Movie: Legend (1985)

Legend should loom much larger in the cultural imagination than it does. Ridley Scott directing a young Tom Cruise in a dwarves-and-unicorns fantasy epic? C’mon! As it turned out, its story was too derivative to stand out in the era of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. It did, however, produce an enduring image: Tim Curry as a lobster-red approximation of the devil. Designed by make-up artist Rob Bottin, he’s big and menacing, with massive horns and cloven hooves, but also… kinda hot? I mean, do you see those abs?—Matt Singer

The Blob
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

37. The Blob

Movie: The Blob (1958)

A glob of space goo doesn’t sound particularly fearsome. But it’s that ’uniqueness’ that earns the Blob a spot in our Hall of Fame. Its malleability has also allowed it to represent different things at different times. In the Steve McQueen-starring original, it’s an alien lifeform symbolising communism’s slow creep. In the gorier ‘80s remake, it’s an escaped bioweapon – a creation of the government consuming its own citizens. In either case, you’ll never look at grandma’s Jell-O mould the same way again.Matt Singer

Photograph: 20TH CENTURY FOX / Album

38. Brundlefly

Movie: The Fly (1986)

Is it fair to refer to the human-insect hybrid poor Jeff Goldblum gradually transforms into over the course of David Cronenberg’s body horror masterwork as a ‘monster’? Sure, his skin is falling off, he’s vomiting green goo all over his food and he snapped a dude’s forearm in half in an arm-wrestling contest. Underneath it all, though, he’s still Seth Brundle, brilliant if hubristic scientist, who even at the end has enough of his humanity intact to beg Geena Davis to end his suffering. Then again, the best movie monsters are ultimately reflections of flawed humanity, and none are more flawed – or human – than Brundlefly.—Matt Singer

The Jötnar
Photograph: SF Norge A/S

39. The Jötnar

MovieTrollhunter (2010)

Maybe the last gasp of creativity in the found-footage genre, this Norwegian gem follows a documentary crew into a remote region of Norway as they shadow a man who hunts, well, trolls. Not the rainbow-haired munchkins who dance to Justin Timberlake – nasty, foul-smelling grotesqueries out of the Grimm brothers’ worst opium nightmares. Although made for a pittance, the creature design never looks silly – and in the case of one mean, mountain-sized monstrosity, they’re frighteningly believable.Matt Singer

Photograph: Legendary Entertainment / Warner Bros. / Album

40. Sandworm

Movie: Dune (2021)

When is a monster not a monster? When it’s also a form of mass transport, a weapon and a god whose lifecycle powers a civilisation. The gigantic sandworms of the planet Arrakis, growing up to a mile and a half long by one account, are so large that seeing one is like seeing the Grand Canyon: your mind isn’t entirely capable of taking in the sheer scale of it. They’re not deliberately hostile, just working on a different plane from the rest of us.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Sony Pictures Entertainment

41. Aliens

MovieAttack the Block (2010)

With fur as dark as the void of space – better to show off their glowing, neon-green fangs – the creatures that descend upon a London housing project in Joe Cornish’s highly entertaining sci-fi action-thriller are more feral and animalistic than most cinematic alien invaders. But being easier to outsmart doesn’t make them any less frightening – particularly when a whole mess of them start crawling up the side of an apartment tower like wolf-sized ants.Matt Singer

Constance Nebbercracker
Photograph: Amblin Entertainment

42. Constance Nebbercracker

MovieMonster House (2006)

If Wes Craven had made
Up, you’d end up with Monster House. Two teenage boys fear that their neighbour is a serial killer but discover something much stranger: the monster is his home, embodying the abused spirit of his late wife, and nasty Mr Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) is just trying to protect his late missus from further victimisation. It’s a wild concept, developed beautifully thanks to some inspired monster interior design.—Helen O’Hara

The Skeksis
Photograph: Henson Associates

43. The Skeksis

MovieDark Crystal (1982)

The despotic rulers of the planet Thra are another entry-level monster for kids, but they remain scary well into adulthood. What’s terrifying about the Skeksis is their endless cunning. It’s that combination of guile with cruelty that haunts you – that, and the engineering genius. Aside from their hooked beaks and beady eyes, they also have machines that will suck the life right out of your body, keeping them young a little longer but leaving you a shrivelled husk.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Warner Bros.

44. Smaug

MovieThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

‘I am fire. I am death.’ Meet Smaug, fighter not lover. The dragon – or wrym, if you’re a purist – is not one of those cats who wakes from a nap in an upbeat frame of mind. When Bilbo clinks and rustles him from his slumber amid the treasures of the Lonely Mountain, all hell breaks loose. He’s a Third Age flamethrower with a lethal but flawed combination of near-impenetrable armour, scimitar gnashers and enormous ego.—Phil de Semlyen

The Toxic Avenger
Photograph: Troma Entertainment

45. The Toxic Avenger

MovieThe Toxic Avenger (1984)

Not all heroes wear capes. Some prefer tutus. When persecuted nerd Melvin is plunged into a vat of chemical waste, he’s reborn as the ‘monster hero’ and makes it his mission to mop up Tromaville’s pimps, rapists and corrupt politicians using gleefully gory vigilante justice. It speaks to the appeal of the movie monster that a character created by schlock studio Troma could end up on bedspreads and lunchboxes – and with its own cartoon. Creator Lloyd Kaufman calls him Troma’s Mickey Mouse.—Sean McGeady

Photograph: Cinematic Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

46. Pumpkinhead

MoviePumpkinhead (1988)

Special effects legend Stan Winston made his directorial debut with this cult horror flick, a fairly standard story of a vengeful demon hunting down and killing off a group of young adults. But coming from the SFX genius, the creature design is a level above similar movies from the time period. It looks something like the xenomorph from Alien – another Winston creation – only with its skin turned inside out and hands the size of an NBA star.Matt Singer

Photograph: Studio Ghibli

47. No-Face

MovieSpirited Away (2001)
Studio Ghibli has some monsters prowling its back catalogue: good (My Neighbor Totoros Catbus), bad (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’s Ohmu) and cuddly (Totoro). No-Face, a haunting presence throughout Spirited Away, combines all those facets into one shape shifting whole. Aside from the serene mask that distracts from a hungry maw ready to shovel in the unsuspecting, the spirit’s USP is its ability to absorb the personalities of those it consumes. Think of it as a kind of anti-The Thing.—Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Gaumont

48. Dren

MovieSplice (2009) 

A pair of geneticists (also a couple) played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody create a human-animal hybrid they name Dren. The baby girl grows up to have claws and retractable wings, and in a truly weird sci-fi spin on the Oedipal complex, has sex with her father. Splice dares to ask the age-old question of: if you create a monster, would you also want to fuck it? Just to find out.—anna Bogutskaya 

Photograph: Alamy

49. Christine

MovieChristine (1983)

She’s a fast machine, she keeps her motor clean, and she’ll run you the hell over if you even think of boning her owner. John Carpenter adapted this Stephen King story, about a 1958 Plymouth Fury possessed by a demonic spirit with a serious jealous streak, as satire of American car culture and female objectification. It’s more knowingly campy than truly scary, but it might play a bit differently in the era of the self-driving vehicle.—Matt Singer

Photograph: Entertainment Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

50. Humanoids

Movie: Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

There’s no escaping the sour backstory of this salacious 1980 spectacle. Producer Roger Corman didn’t think director Barbara Peeters’ film was nasty enough, so he secretly had a second unit director shoot additional scenes of abuse. As a result, Peeters asked for her name to be removed from the credits. It wasn’t. None of this detracts from the Humanoids’ creepy design. With their long arms, upturned mouths and enlarged craniums, these uncanny salmon aren’t easily forgotten.—Sean McGeady

Photograph: New Line Cinema

51. Shelob

MovieThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

King Kong wasn’t Peter Jackson’s first dalliance with eight-legged freaks. Held back from The Two Towers to give Frodo and Sam something to overcome on the final leg of their journey, the great spider Shelob is responsible for the most hair-raising sequence in any Tolkien property. Jackson based Shelob’s design on New Zealand’s black tunnel-web spider (do not look this up). Of the many giant spiders of cinema, few have ever been more frightening.—Sean McGeady

Photograph: Universal Pictures

52. Quetzalcoatl

MovieQ – The Winged Serpent (1982)

Q is only half a monster movie – but its monster is far from half-arsed. Based on an Aztec deity, Quetzalcoatl is rendered in delightful stop-motion. From its nest atop the Chrysler Building, the ‘plumed serpent’ takes to the skies and snatches sunbathers from Manhattan’s rooftops. Meanwhile, grisly ritual murders have caught the attention of the NYPD. Could the two be connected? Q features all the street-level grime that a New York crime movie should have – but its skies are just as dangerous.—Sean McGeady

King Ghidorah
Photograph: Toho

53. King Ghidorah

MovieGhidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

In its first decade on screen, Godzilla was a wrathful antagonist – until Toho delivered a monster much more menacing. Capable of exterminating entire planets, the three-headed golden dragon King Ghidorah made its debut in 1964. Always the primary threat in any multi-monster movie, it takes on the combined might of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra. Ghidorah gets a good showing in 2019’s otherwise braindead Godzilla: King of the Monsters but it’s never looked as resplendent as it does in 1991’s Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. Nor has any other monster, for that matter.—Sean McGeady

Photograph: Sego Entertainment

54. Gwoemul

MovieThe Host (2006)

This is not just a monster; this is a Bong Joon-ho monster. That means a truck-sized mutant fish that’s a metaphor for government failings and class struggle. It’s also brilliantly designed, all frog-like legs and slimy skin as it goes rampaging through a crowded park and disappears back into the river to bring its catch home to a nest in the sewers (shot in a real sewer). It’s a scaly reminder to demand more from your government when it comes to environmental protection.—Helen O’Hara

Sumatran Rat Monkey
Photograph: WingNut Films

55. Sumatran Rat Monkey

MovieBraindead (1992)

Remember Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake? Its unlikely origins spring from Simian Raticus, the rancid unofficial star of Jackson’s 1992 splatterfest. Smuggled from Skull Island, our cuddly monkey-rat thrashes in its cage at Wellington Zoo, merrily spreading its zombie pestilence and looking like a skinned Chihuahua crossed with Nosferatu. Brought to life via stop-motion and glove puppetry, it’s a gloriously squalid creation.—Simon Crook

Splinter Fungus
Photograph: Magnet Releasing

56. Splinter Fungus

MovieSplinter (2008)

Both a throwback to the 1980s creature feature and the under-siege thriller, Splinter traps Jill Wagner and Paulo Constanzo in an abandoned gas station riddled with a spiky, ravenous parasite that, once it’s killed its host, reanimates the corpse. Bones crack. Flesh splits. And it simply will not stop. The insatiable liquid porcupine is a killer creation: as amorphous, voracious and mysterious as the Thing. Underseen, underrated and guaranteed to get under your skin.—Simon Crook

The Stuff
Photograph: New World Pictures

57. The Stuff

MovieThe Stuff (1985)

Like the love child of Stay-Puft and the Blob, this horribly moreish marshmallow-like goo oozes through Larry Cohen’s entertaining satire of rampant consumerism. The alien Stuff gradually transforms America into a nation of goo-craving zombies, attacking anyone who stands in its delicious path. Cohen resented the film’s characterisation as a horror, but it’s hard to argue with all those imploding heads.—Phil de Semlyen

The Kothoga
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

58. The Kothoga

Movie: The Relic (1997)

Meet Kothoga: 30 percent dog, 30 percent beetle, 40 percent gecko and 100 percent gory gold. Designed by monster maestro Stan Winston, The Relic’s South American lizard god evolves in stages: first as a jungle fungus, then as an insect, and finally, into a rhino-sized rampaging chimera. If that progression sounds familiar, it’s entirely deliberate: Peter Hyam’s creature-feature is pretty much Alien-in-a-museum as its beast terrorises Penelope Anne Miller’s biologist and Tom Sizemore’s cop. Kothoga’s taste for decapitation leads to so many rolling heads, the besieged museum resembles a game of abattoir snooker.—Simon Crook

Death Angels
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

59. Death Angels

Movie: A Quiet Place (2017)

These aliens’ weakness is also a strength: they can’t see for toffee, but their hearing is pin-drop perfect. They’re a mainly unseen threat for the family who try to survive by living in stealth mode. Fast-moving, with outsized limbs and tulip-like heads that unpeellose to reveal rows of razor teeth, they’d lose a beauty contest with a Predator. But as harbingers of sudden death in a post-apocalyptic world, they’re badass.—Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Disney

60. Tamatoa

MovieMoama (2016)

The Jemaine Clement-voiced crab puts his money where his mouth is in Disney’s animation. And his back, and his sides, and all over his limbs. Like Smaug, he considers bling the best armour. Big-headed and small-brained, there’s something winning about Tamatoa’s eagerness to be admired that offsets the voracious hunger to eat our heroes. For all his claws and size and scuttling legs, he’s still outwitted by a teenager and an egomaniac. That’s gotta pinch.—Helen O’Hara

Photograph: Syfy

61. S-11

MovieSharktopus (2010)

Steven Spielberg didn’t just define the summer blockbuster with Jaws, he also chummed the waters for those swimming in its wake. Following countless rip-offs, the advent of CGI sent Jawsploitation filmmakers fishing for increasingly out-there ideas. SyFy’s Sharktopus is the real trophy catch. Its shark-octopus hybrid was created as a US Navy weapon. Naturally, it escapes and skewers, strangles and decapitates victims up and down the Mexican coast. Not bad for a ‘crime against nature’.—Sean McGeady

Fluffy the Crate Beast
Photograph: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

62. Fluffy the Crate Beast

Movie: Creepshow (1982) 

Fondly dubbed ‘Fluffy’ on set, there’s nothing cuddly about the beast in Creepshow’s fourth entry. ‘The Crate’s man-eating gorilla chews through the cast with merciless glee. While Stephen King’s short story described the monster as ‘a six-legged Tasmanian Devil’, Tom Savini imagined something far nastier: a midget silverback with switchblade claws, a rictus smirk and snappy stalactite teeth. ‘Fluffy is my masterpiece,’ Savini later proclaimed and who are we to argue?—Simon Crook

Photograph: MGM

63. Werewolf

MovieThe Howling (1981)

In 1981 two films dusted off werewolf mythology, both with darkly comic tones and gnarly, cutting-edge special effects. An American Werewolf in London lingers larger in the cultural imagination, but Rob Bottin’s lycanthropes in Joe Dante’s The Howling are scarier. True wolf-men – as opposed to Baker’s man-turned-wolf – they walk on their hind legs, and their beastly, snarling faces could not be confused with any earthly animal. These are actual hounds of hell.—Matt Singer

James P Sullivan
Photograph: Pixar

64. James P Sullivan

MovieMonsters, Inc. (2001)

If you had to pick the scary one from a duo that includes a cuddly blue dude and a giant frickin’ eyeball, it shouldn’t really be a contest. But it’s Sully, not Mike, who has the fearsome side in his locker as Monsters, Inc.’s champion child scarer. Fortunately, he’s a big softie at heart, who’d much rather spread joy than body parts. This is a Pixar film, after all.Phil de Semlyen 

The Iron Man
Photograph: Kaijyu Theatres

65. The Iron Man

Movie: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Shinya Tsukamoto’s magnificently haywire cyberpunk opus is torture porn for technophobes. The accidental slaying of a metal fetishist sees a newly possessed Japanese salaryman morphing from suited and respectable to looking like something out of a David Cronenberg version of ‘Starlight Express’, with a drill for a penis and a face gnarled up with wires and assorted ferrous freakery. Forget The Terminator, here’s a really unsettling vision of man and machine becoming one.—Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Universal Pictures

66. Krampus

MovieKrampus (2015)

Thought to have pre-Christian origins, Krampus – all horns, hair and hooves – is an anthropomorphic monster said to frighten misbehaving children at Christmas. Today, though, the anti-Santa is better known for his roles in horror cinema than ancient Alpine lore. This comedy-horror home-invasion movie, in which the old goat terrorises a family, is his meanest outing. Krampus also commands its own army of mini-monsters, which includes evil elves, a living gingerbread man and a grotesque jack-in-the-box.—Sean McGeady

In Dreams Are Monsters runs at London’s BFI Southbank until Dec 31.

  • Film

Any time is a good time to watch a scary movie, but let’s be real – there’s just something incredibly satisfying about watching a horror flick in October. It’s a bit of social conditioning, sure. Most of us have been told since we were children that October is Spooky Season, and for the rest of our days, the month will always represent frightful fun, even when we’ve long outgrown the ritual of dressing up and going begging for candy around the neighbourhood. But early fall itself also just feels spooky – a time when the air gets crisp, the days get darker and the spices more pumpkin-flavoured. It’s probably too cold and rainy to go outside, anyway. So why not curl up and give yourself a good scare?

With Halloween approaching, we’ve scanned five streaming services – Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max and dedicated horror streamer Shudder – to scare up a veritable pillowcase of amazingly terrifying films. In this grab bag you'll find everything from gruesome slashers to goosebump-raising ghost stories, wigged-out b-movies and more than a few that’ll keep you up at night. Here are the best horror movies to stream on Halloween – or any time you need a good shock to the system.


🎃 The best Halloween movies of all-time
👻 The best Halloween movies for kids on Netflix
😱 The 100 best horror movies of all-time
🧟 The best zombie movies of all-time

    You may also like
    You may also like