30 Greatest Modern Monster Movies
As Troll Hunter thuds into cinemas this week, TotalFilm check out the top monster movies of the last few years...
452 6.6 71. Troll Hunter (2010)
The Monster: Trolls of various shapes, sizes and temperament. They have one thing in common – they hate humans. A lot.
The Movie: Norwegian mock doc that follows weary troll hunter Hans (Otto Jespersen). He’s sick of doing the government’s dirty work, so agrees to be filmed going about his business – with both horrific and hilarious results.
Coolest Detail: A troll can smell out a Christian man in the wild, no matter how far away he is. Now that’s one sensitive nozzle.
921 6.9 72. The Host (2006)
The Monster: A massive, water-dwelling beastie that lives in the Han River and likes to take humans captive. Also may harbour a potentially devastating virus.
The Movie: South Korean pseudo-political chiller, depicting the fall-out from the presence of American paratroopers in Korea. That fall-out comes in the form of an amphibious creature that has been created by toxic formaldehyde dumped in the Han River by those pesky Yanks.
Coolest Detail: The Host’s monster was inspired by a real article about a deformed fish with an S-shaped spine that was caught in the Han River. This article heavily influenced the monster’s design.
2191 6.4 7.13. Cloverfield (2008)
The Monster: Skycraper-sized alien with massive, elongated limbs and a lot (a lot) of brute strength.
The Movie: Shaky-cam victim-eye-view of an alien attack on the Big Apple. When the Statue of Liberty is decapitated, it’s just the beginning of a night of terror as New York is devastated by a giant, hulking extra-terrestrial.
Coolest Detail: Concept artist Neville Page designed the creature, and reasoned that it was a youngling suffering from ‘separation anxiety’ – it’s just as scared of us as we are of it, apparently.
4311 8 8.34. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
The Monster: The creepily-named Pale Man, who’s as anaemic-looking as that moniker implies. Adding extra creepiness is the fact that this guy has no eyes in his head – instead, they’re in the palms of his hands.
The Movie: Guillermo del Toro’s masterful fairytale, which is set five years after the Spanish Civil War. Escaping the terror of everyday life, young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) discovers a whole new world full of fauns and fairies.
Coolest Detail: Doug Jones portrayed the Pale Man, and had to look through the costume’s nostrils in order to see.
64 6 6.25. No Such Thing (2001)
The Monster: A mythical, shaggy-haired thing with big horns like tree branches and a very snappy suit.
The Movie: Sort of an update of Beauty And The Beast, with Sarah Polley’s young journalist travelling to Iceland in search of her fiancée. There, she discovers an odd mystical being with whom she becomes close. As you do.
Coolest Detail: Robert John Burke’s attempt to freak New Yorkers out by walking through the city in his make-up fell flat – nobody even gave him a second glance
1759 6.8 7.46. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Monster: Zombies! The living dead! And in this surprisingly decent reboot, they’re not reduced to shuffling flesh-munchers – these guys can actually run.
The Movie: Zack Snyder shows us he can make a good movie if he really tries, updating George A Romero’s classic zombie flick for the Noughties.
Coolest Detail: The fact that these zombies can run means they’re now pretty impossible to escape.
337 5.2 5.67. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
The Monster: Rat-sized menaces that emerge from the grate in the basement of a really old mansion.
The Movie: Another fairytale from Guillermo del Toro, this one pitting wee Bailee Madison against night terrors in Rhode Island. When she goes to stay with her dad (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes), Madison soon discovers the mansion they’re renovating is hiding some very dark secrets.
Coolest Detail: In a spin on the Tooth Fairy fable, these little nasties like children’s teeth. We’re never told why, which only makes it all the scarier.
428 6.6 6.98. Dog Soldiers (2002)
The Monster: Werewolves! Immense, snarling lycanthropes with claws like razor blades and fangs that would make Edward Cullen weep.
The Movie: Breakout British horror from director Neil Marshall. When a squadron of soldiers enter the Scottish Highlands for a routine training operation, they discover that they’re not the only ones hunting in the wilderness.
Coolest Detail: Want CGI? Look elsewhere. The guys behind these towering wolfbeasts decided to go for old school prosthetics, feeling that CGI was being overused at the time. And we love ‘em for it.
652 4.7 5.49. Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
The Monster: A variety of hairy, hoary and horrific spiders – oh, and did we mention they’re supersized? Arachnophobes beware.
The Movie: Daft horror comedy starring David Arquette and Scarlett Johansson. Set in a quiet mining town in Arizona, the town’s inhabitants fall prey to a swarm of spiders who’ve grown into eight-legged giants thanks to a little toxic waste.
Coolest Detail: A variety of spiders get the supersize treatment, including the orb-weaver, the jumping spider, the trapdoor spider and the trusty old tarantula. If you want us, we'll be in the corner crying.
602 6.6 6.810. Ginger Snaps (2000)
The Monster: Werewolves again. They’re still gnarly, but this time we get to see them go from innocent human to slobbery beast over the course of the entire film.
The Movie: Culty, achingly cool exercise in bleeding whipsmart metaphors into horror material. Here, the werewolf conceit is played as a period gag, as titular teen Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) gets bitten and starts going through some changes. It’s up to sis Brigitte (Emily Perkins) to help her before it’s too late.
Coolest Detail: Isabelle’s monster make-up took three hours to apply. Happily, it was quicker to scrub off – that only took 45 minutes.
504 6.2 6.411. Monsters (2010)
The Monster: Tentacle-y, squid-like extra-terrestrials who have invaded Earth, and are causing chaos in Mexico.
The Movie: Famously made on a shoestring budget (without a script) by first time director Gareth Edwards, Monsters follows a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) and his boss’ daughter (Whitney Able) as they attempt to get to safety. Edwards did something right – he’s directing the Godzilla reboot.
Coolest Detail: Edwards personally cranked out 250 special effects shots at home. “You can go in the shop now and you can buy a laptop that's faster than the computers they made Jurassic Park on,” he notes.
703 6.2 6.512. Slither (2006)
The Monster: A whole freak show’s worth of deformed, bloated monstrosities.
The Movie: James Gunn’s directorial debut (he was uncredited on Tromeo And Juliet) plays with icky B-movie conventions as residents of Woodsville become infected with slimy little parasites that turn them into deformed monsters. Think Night Of The Creeps with a post-millennium twist.
Coolest Detail: Numerous shop names and signs in Woodsville nod to other classic monster movies, including Shivers, Evil Dead, From Beyond and The Thing.
2689 6.6 6.813. Hellboy (2004)
The Monster: Well, Hellboy himself, though he’s not a monster in the traditional sense of the word. Sure he’s part demon (and looks it), but he also defends mankind from the real nasties.
The Movie: Oh look, Guillermo del Toro again! The monster-loving director helmed this film version of the comic book, which follows the arrival of Hellboy (Ron Perlman) on Earth and his subsequent adventures as a member of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
Coolest Detail: Fortuitously, Ron Perlman turned out to be left-handed, which meant that Hellboy’s Right Hand of Doom (the big stone one) could remain unchanged in the film.
1112 5.6 614. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
The Monster: The Creeper, who sort of resembles a dusty-jacket-wearing cowboy until he gets out that scaly old face. Oh, and a pair of wings.
The Movie: Nightmare On Elm Street-style horror, in which siblings Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Philips) are driving home for spring break when they encounter unimaginable horror in the countryside. And creepy old ladies with cats.
Coolest Detail: The Creeper’s truck has a clever little warning hidden in its license plate – ‘BEATINGU’.
4063 6.4 7.315. King Kong (2005)
The Monster: Big, hairy gorilla with a bad temper and a big appetite. What he really wants, though, is a friend. All together now: aahhh.
The Movie: Peter Jackson’s big budget remake of the 1933 classic. Naomi Watts stars as vaudeville actress Ann Darrow, who ends up on a boat to Skull Island where she’s served up as a sacrifice for a 25ft beast called King Kong.
Coolest Detail: Mo-cap master Andy Serkis hopped straight from playing Gollum to playing Kong himself. Not bad.
1703 6.6 7.216. The Mist (2007)
The Monsters: All manner of bizarre beasts who hide in a supernatural fog. They’ve all got a taste for human flesh.
The Movie: Based on Stephen King’s same-named 1980s novella, this doom-laden sci-fi from Frank Darabont follows a group of smalltowners who become stranded in a supermarket as a mist descends on the world outside.
Coolest Detail: Creature designs for The Mist were originally drawn up way back in 1980, when Darabont first showed an interest in making the movie. They were resurrected for this adap.
1226 6.8 7.117. Pitch Black (2000)
The Monster: Looks sort of like something a hammerhead shark mating with an alien might produce. Also, think big, gnashing teeth.
The Movie: Unexpected cult hit, and the film that rocketed Vin Diesel into superstardom. He plays bad-ass Riddick, a prisoner who ends up being the only hope of a shipful of people when their craft crashlands on a planet teeming with nasty ETs.
Coolest Detail: Riddick was originally supposed to die at the end of the movie, but that part was rewritten to keep the possibility of sequels open. Pitch Black 3 is about to start shooting…
1279 6.9 7.318. The Descent (2005)
The Monster: Flesh-eating humanoids known as Crawlers. They live underground.
The Movie: Neil Marshall again, jumping from the boy’s only Dog Soldiers to this oestrogen-packed chiller. Six young women enter an unmapped cave system and are soon trapped, then hunted by very hungry subterranean meanies.
Coolest Detail: Marshall envisioned the Crawlers as cavemen who never left the caves and ended up evolving in the dark. Could this really happen?
1258 7.2 7.519. [REC] (2007)
The Monster: Well, us, sort of. A demonic virus has spread through the population and turns anybody infected into ravenous, screaming monsters.
The Movie: Spanish horror in which a television reporter and her cameraman get drawn into a night of terror while shooting a documentary about fire fighters. Pitching up at an apartment block after receiving a call for help, they discover a mental old lady who takes a bite out of anybody who comes near…
Coolest Detail: Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza kept much of their film’s plot secret from their actors, meaning that their fearful reactions were almost always genuine.
2684 7.5 820. District 9 (2009)
The Monster: Not so much monsters as prawn-like aliens, though they’re definitely considered hideous by the humans they share air with.
The Movie: The first feature from Neill Blomkamp, and a clever concoction of themes revolving around xenophobia and social isolation.
Coolest Detail: Weta Workshop designed the aliens, and the director was adamant they had to be human-esque. “Unfortunately, they had to be human-esque because our psychology doesn't allow us to really empathise with something unless it has a face and an anthropomorphic shape,” he reasoned.
8830 8.1 8.821. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the... (2001)
+ The Two Towers & Return of the King
The Monsters: Orcs, goblins, a Balrog, there are no end of slimy, many-legged beasties presented in JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece.
The Movie: Not exactly a monster movie in the traditional sense, but definitely a film packed with hulking, drooling, cackling nasties. Not least Christopher Lee as a bad wizard, whose army of Orcs is the stuff of nightmares.
Coolest Detail: A gargantuan 73 minutes of special effects were created for The Twin Towers alone - mostly thanks to the involvement of CG grumbler Gollum.
4635 7.2 7.822. 300 (2006)
The Monster: Scarred, fanged war beast that attempts to rip apart Spartan mercenaries.
The Movie: Zack Snyder’s meaty, homoerotic ode to the Spartans’ battle against the Persians, replete with more six packs than 10 boybands combined and lakes of the red stuff.
Coolest Detail: An animatronic wolf and 13 animatronic horses were also created for the film.
1062 5.9 6.223. Reign of Fire (2002)
The Monster: Dragons! Humongous, fire-breathing dragons. Harry Potter eat your heart out.
The Movie: Director Rob Bowman graduates from The X-Files to big budget feature films, pitting Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey against massive flying lizards in a burnt-out future London.
Coolest Detail: The way that dragons breathe fire in the film was inspired by the bombardier beetle and the spitting cobra. You couldn't make this stuff up.
485 5 5.624. Lake Placid (1999)
The Monster: A 30ft crocodile, just big enough to swallow you whole if you’re silly enough to venture into the water.
The Movie: Horror director Steve Miner takes a script from Ally McBeal scribe David Kelley and turns it into a fun horror-comedy. Bridget Fonda stars as a palaeontologist who investigates when human floaters are found half eaten.
Coolest Detail: The massive croc was created by the ever-reliable Stan Winston Studios. Hurrah!
5599 7.5 8.125. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
The Monsters: An entire world populated by unique monsters – among them creatures resembling slugs, chameleons and giant spiders.
The Movie: Pixar’s big-hitter about monsters who need the screams of children to fuel their city’s power generator. Sulley and Mike find themselves in a tricky situation, though, when a human child breaks into their power plant.
Coolest Detail: Mike was originally drawn with no arms, which meant he had to use his legs for everything.
226 6 6.326. Rogue (2007)
The Monster: Another giant croc, this one courtesy of the director of Wolf Creek.
The Movie: Written and directed by Greg McLean, Rogue follows an American journalist who discovers a massive croc’s on the loose in the Australian outback. In a subgenre now swimming with slithery crocs, this is the best of a bad bunch.
Coolest Detail: Rogue was inspired by the true story of a giant crocodile called Sweetheart, who attacked boats in the late 1970s in Australia.
673 5.4 5.827. Splice (2009)
The Monster: Dren (yep, that’s ‘nerd’ spelled backwards), who’s created in a lab and is a combination of animal and human DNA.
The Movie: The debut of director Vincenzo Natali. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star as two scientists who create a monster, and then have to deal with the consequences. Those consequences get very messy indeed.
Coolest Detail: Dren doesn’t have regular yes – her pupils are actually cross-shaped. Freaky.
270 6.1 6.428. Feast (2005)
The Monster: A seriously ugly mofo, with protruding fangs and a bulky build. It also likes to shag deer heads.
The Movie: Yep, it’s another people-get-locked-in-with-hellbeasts-with-no-escape situation, as the patrons of a bar find themselves, uh, barred. Forced to fight, they take on grisly monsters despite the odds.
Coolest Detail: All of the characters in the film are named after their general function – Bozo, Heroine, Coach.
229 6.1 6.129. Splinter (2008)
The Monster: A malicious ‘splinter’ parasite, which infects people and turns them into big bads.
The Movie: More trapped people fight for their lives in this B-grade horror. When they’re stranded in an isolated petrol station, a young couple team up with an escaped convict to save their necks. Desperate situations and all that...
Coolest Detail: Severed pieces of victims are able to take on sentient life, driven by an insatiable desire to kill.
1218 5.2 5.730. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
The Monster: Genetically engineered mako sharks, created in an effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Side effect? Super-smart sharks.
The Movie: Jaws-aping actioner from Renny Harlin, in which Saffron Burrows attempts to cure Alzheimer’s by making sharks really clever. Except now the clever sharks want their revenge. LL Cool J’s in it.
Coolest Detail: Harlin tips his hat to Jaws in an early scene in which Thomas Jane removes a Louisiana license plate from a tiger shark’s mouth – in Jaws, a Louisiana license plate is found in a shark’s belly.
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