Monster movies tend to be about man’s arrogant superiority over nature — which is why the plots of classics like Them! and Godzilla center around the damaging after-effects of the atomic age.
Others like Frankenstein and The Fly examine man’s God complex and his need to tamper with or recreate life which usually ends with cruelty and misery being unleashed on to innocents.
And finally, there are sci-fi monster movies like Predator that deal with our fear of the alien and our insecurity about our insignificant place in the universe.
Monster movies represent our fears on the screen, through the monster or the monsters’ creator we confront ourselves.
Here are the 10 best:
Giant radioactive ants born from the first atomic bomb tests are behind the disappearance of locals in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Special Agent Graham and Dr. Medford search for the creatures but the Queen escapes to start a new colony.
The Government declares a state of emergency, before the Ants are found in the L.A. storm drain tunnels where the final confrontation takes place.
Thanks to the Cold War and the space race, 1950s movie audiences were hungry for science fiction.
Them! (1954, G. Douglas, US) doesn’t disappoint. The giant ants are suitably intimidating and look a lot like a race of invading alien creatures.
Geology professors Ira and Harry (David Duchovny and Orlando Jones) discover signs of life in a sample taken from a crashed meteor.
The extra-terrestrial organism is evolving at an alarming rate and soon strange and dangerous alien creatures are wreaking havoc.
The pair continue to research the new life forms in a bid to save the planet despite repeated interference from the military.
Evolution (Reitman, 2001, US) took an affectionate sideswipe at the 90s new wave of big budget sci-fi disaster movies.
Duchovny’s casting is pure brilliance; he is essentially sending himself up, playing on all of the cliché surrounding his character Fox Mulder on the X-Files.
Hud (T. J. Miller) is filming his friend Rob’s leaving party when the building begins to shake.
Everyone heads into the street in time to see the Statue of Liberty destroyed. It soon becomes apparent that a giant monster is to blame.
Hud films his friends as they make a perilous journey across New York to rescue their friend Beth from her tower block.
The monster attack in Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008, US) plays out like a terror attack, using video camera footage (nowadays it would be cell phone footage) to give an immediacy and a realism to the chaos and panic of the situation.
Cloverfield revitalized the monster movie for modern audiences.
Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team of army commandos are deployed to the South American jungle under the pretense of rescuing hostages.
The mission is in fact to recapture intelligence uncovered by a missing Special Forces unit. The commandos are picked off by a terrifying invisible Alien warrior but Schwarzenegger is no pushover.
Despite being set in South America, Predator (McTiernan, 1987, US) has the feel of a Vietnam War movie.
The Predator is invisible amongst the thick foliage of the jungle and the movie adeptly portrays the nightmarish horror of jungle warfare.
The plot also highlights mistrust of the motives of army leaders.
Randall buys a mysterious creature called a mogwai for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) as a Christmas present. Billy names the mogwai Gizmo.
There are three rules to care for Gizmo; keep him away from sunlight and water, and never feed him after midnight.
Billy’s friend spills water on Gizmo causing him to multiply into more mischievous mogwai who trick Billy into feeding them before going on a murderous rampage.
Gremlins (Dante, 1984, US) is an alternative Christmas movie with a playful, irreverent attitude.
The little monsters are cute both before and after their transformations and they each have an individual personality.
With Gizmo as its poster boy, Gremlins became a cult classic.
5 The Fly
Scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) wants journalist Veronica (Geena Davis) to document his groundbreaking teleportation experiments.
They quickly fall for each other, but Brundle’s jealousy over a love rival causes him to take increasing risks.
He teleports himself but a fly gets into the machine and their DNA is spliced together causing Brundle to gradually mutate into a ‘Brundle-fly’.
Director David Cronenberg brought his unique brand of body horror to The Fly (1986, US/UK/CA) making sure that Seth’s transformation is as painful, gross and animalistic as possible.
We feel for Veronica as she sees Seth change from the man she fell in love with. Goldblum’s quirky nihilism adds a shade of humor.
4 King Kong
Filmmaker Carl Denham charters an expedition to Skull Island to investigate rumors of a giant beast.
Actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) is kidnapped by the giant ape. After rescuing her, Denham captures the beast and transports it back to New York for exhibition. Kong escapes and rampages through the city.
The themes of King Kong; (M. Cooper, 1933, US) man’s exploitation of nature and the beast’s love for the beauty translated well through the decades with big remakes in 1976, 2005 and reboot Skull Island set for release in 2017.
Kong clinging to the top of the Empire State Building with Fay Wray in his hand became one of cinema’s most iconic images.
An ancient sea monster is awakened by hydrogen bomb testing off the coast of Japan. The monster decimates the fish population and rampages through the local villages.
Palaeontologist Kyohei Yamane-hakase wants to study the monster but the government wants to destroy it.
In Godzilla (Honda, 1954, JP) the monster represents the devastation felt in Japan after the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America at the end of the Second World War.
The film also deals with the tension caused by Japan’s own experiments with hydrogen bombs and nuclear energy which conflict with its traditional values of living side by side with nature.
Godzilla spawned two American remakes.
Henry Frankenstein hopes to raise the dead. He uses body parts from dead criminals to form a new body then uses electricity to reanimate it.
The monster is childlike. Frankenstein is disappointed with his creation and plans to kill it but it escapes into the local villages.
One of the all-time classics, both Mary Shelley’s book and James Whale’s movie feel as modern today as they did in 1818 and 1931.
Boris Karloff played the titular monster as a misunderstood creature of pity trying to discover its place in an unforgiving world.
Frankenstein has been an inspiration for many movies that followed and has been endlessly parodied and referenced in modern culture.
After a teenager is killed in a shark attack, Police Chief Brody wants to close the beaches for the public’s safety but the Mayor doesn’t want to upset the local summer economy.
When another attack takes the life of a small child Brody decides he must do everything he can to catch the shark.
‘Don’t go in the water’ was the tagline for Jaws (1975, US) with Spielberg doing for the ocean what Hitchcock did for the innocent hot shower.
The shark is a natural creature, and most are harmless but Spielberg gave it monster status.
Audiences quivered and raved and Jaws became a handbook on movie suspense for young filmmakers.