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12 Scariest movie monsters

scariest movie monsters collage
scariest movie monsters collage
Images of the scariest movie monsters

It's just a few more months until the release of the Godzilla remake. It appears (judging by the trailer) to reinvent a creature once thought of as endearingly goofy; no longer a man in a rubber suit, but instead a beast of menacing portent.

Monsters have existed in cinema since close to its inception. We're fascinated by all manners of creatures, and the harm or benefit they could cause to the human race.

With this in mind, I've created a list of the creepiest, most terrifying monsters of cinema. And the operable term is scary; I find creatures like Frankenstein or King Kong deeply empathetic, more victims then menace, so this list is only covering those beasts that terrify, disgust and scare, not ones that tug at your heartstrings.

With this in mind, here are the 12 most terrifying movie monsters in cinema.

12. Giant ants ("Them!")
12. Giant ants ("Them!") The giant killer ants from "Them!"

12. Giant ants ("Them!")

They may look a tad goofy now, but the giant ants from "Them!" (1954) still conjure unease. Ants are annoying and painful in small scale, but at that size they could wipe us out in no time, and are treated with that appropriate sense of menace in the film.

11. Medusa
11. Medusa Medusa from "Clash Of The Titans"

11. Medusa

Medusa is a beautiful, yet deadly seductress in Greek mythology. But in 1991's "Clash Of The Titans", late stop-motion artist Ray Harryhausen makes her as hideous as she is evil, complete with a slithering snake torso. 

10. Nosferatu
10. Nosferatu Max Schreck as Nosferatu

10. Nosferatu

Dracula's threat is often dulled by his handsome appearance. Far creepier is 'Nosferatu', a 1922  German interpretation of Bram Stroke's vampire, whose visage is as hideous as his evil intentions. 

9. American Werewolf
9. American Werewolf The werewolf in "An American Werewolf In London"

9. American Werewolf

Rick Baker's makeup effects for "An American Werewolf In London" accounts for one of the best and most terrifying werewolves in cinema history, and the scene of transformation from man to beast remains impressive in an era of CGI overkill.

8. The Creature From The Black Lagoon
8. The Creature From The Black Lagoon 'The Creature From The Black Lagoon'

8. The Creature From The Black Lagoon

He seems a bit quaint today, but the 50's monster design for "The Creature From The Black Lagoon" is quite elegant for when it was conceived, and watching him swim after unsuspecting victims still packs an eerie punch.

7. Tyrannosaurus Rex
7. Tyrannosaurus Rex Tyrannosaurus Rex from "Jurassic Park"

7. Tyrannosaurus Rex

It's a toss-up between the T. Rex and Velociraptors in 'Jurassic Park' for whose scariest. But for sheer size and impact, I'll go with the former, which is made terrifying by a seamless mix of practical FX and CGI. The rain-soaked Tyrannosaurus vs. Jeep chase still thrills.

6. 'The Fly'
6. 'The Fly' 'The Fly' (1986)

6. 'The Fly'

Jeff Goldblum's terrifying transformation from man to beast in David Cronenberg's 1986 remake of 'The Fly' ends up with a sinister creature that is as nauseating as it is frightening.

5. Flukeman
5. Flukeman Flukeman from 'The X-Files'

5. Flukeman

'The X-Files' Flukeman is the lone television entry on this list, but it's as terrifying as any film monster. A byproduct of radioactive waste, it's a sentient human tapeworm that stalks New Jerseyans through their sewer system.

It's look strikes a nauseating primal note of dread.

4. Bruce the shark
4. Bruce the shark 'Jaws' (1975)

4. Bruce the shark

Much has been made of the fact that Stephen Spielberg shot the animatronic shark in Jaws (affectionately named Bruce) very sparingly. The reason being it was constantly breaking down.

The less-is-more approach turned out to be the most effective, but when Bruce was working, he's still pretty terrifying.

3. The Pale Man
3. The Pale Man The Pale Man in 'Pan's Labrytinth'

3. The Pale Man

Director Guillermo del Toro is the supreme 21st century monster maker, and 'The Pale Man' from 'Pan's Labyrinth' is his most exquisitely disquieting creation; a disturbing sickly figure which can only see through the eyeballs in its hands.

2. 'The Thing'
2. 'The Thing' John Carpenter's 'The Thing'

2. 'The Thing'

What makes the alien menace of John Carpenter's 'The Thing' so interesting, is that the monster is a constantly changing beast, taking bits and pieces from the organisms it replicates.

Rob Bottin's fantastic effects work made for some  of the most jaw-dropping practical effects work of all time, and makes the alien creature one of the most memorable, even if it never looks the same way twice.

1. Alien (Xenomorph)
1. Alien (Xenomorph) The Xenomorph monster from 'Alien'

1. Alien (Xenomorph)

H.R. Giger's creature design for 'Alien' resulted in one of the most nightmarish images in all of cinema; a slimy exoskeleton with two pairs of razor sharp teeth, no eyes and a serpentine tail. 

Director Ridley Scott wisely decided less is more with his shots of the beast, until the very end. Which is good, because it takes that long for you to ingest the imagery.

Quite simply, no fictional creature is as magnificently terrifying as the 'Alien', although Hollywood continues to try (and fail to top it.)