Hollywood has a long tradition of thrilling audiences with an impressive variety of movie monsters. Everything from classic ghouls like Frankenstein’s monster and a suave vampire to the nightmarish xenomorph in Alien have kept audiences on the edge of their seats. Some of the most memorable Hollywood monsters get recycled for new projects. We’ve seen this in recent years with King Kong and Godzilla and there will certainly be others. Whether they are made on a computer with motion capture technology or with foam rubber and make-up, Hollywood monsters will continue to scare audiences around the world and leave them screaming for more.
10. Keep Watching The Skies
Hollywood has made 3 movies based on John Campbell Jr.’s short story called “Who Goes There?” The 1982 and the 2011 movie versions of The Thing stayed more true to the original story than the 1951 adaptation. The short story and the later movies confront audiences with a grotesque alien creature that kills its prey then takes on its victim’s appearance for a time. The low-budget 1951 version relied on a big actor wearing movie makeup to create its conventional movie monster. In John Carpenter’s 1982 version a small group of scientists are trapped at a remote research station in Antarctica and stalked by the mysterious monster. Paranoia and finger pointing quickly takes hold as friends and colleagues no longer trust each other and they try to figure out which one of them is trying to wipe them out. Audiences endure several intense scenes where the alien morphs from its victim’s appearance into its true form. The creepiness of the scientist’s predicament is more memorable in some ways than the actual appearance of the shape shifting alien.
9. I’m Having An Old Friend For Dinner
Although brilliant psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter is technically human he remains one of Hollywood’s most memorable movie monsters. The character is terrifying villain in the acclaimed novels and Hollywood’s various movie versions. Although other actors have played the fictional serial killer known as Hannibal the Cannibal Anthony it is Hopkins that realizes Lecter’s full potential for horror in the 1991 release The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins effectively captures the calculating intelligence of a true predator not checked by an ounce of conscience. Lecter’s high intelligence gives him the ability to plot his crimes like a deadly spider weaving its web. When he wishes Lecter can appear to be a cultured professional, but it is just a ploy to put his victims at ease until he is ready to pounce. He can use his animal cunning to inflict the maximum amount of terror on his victims – feeding on their fear before feeding on their flesh. The character’s compelling mix of refinement and viciousness have made Lecter a monster in the truest sense of the word. He is a character fans love to hate and one that Hollywood will likely want to revisit in the future.
8. More Teeth
The Dinosaurs in Michael Crichton’s novels were scary enough on the page, but Steven Spielberg’s 1993 release, Jurassic Park, brought these genetically engineered monsters to a whole new level. When seen on the big screen for the first time they were captivating as a technical achievement. However, they were also thrilling movie monsters that have scared movie-goers ever since. Jurassic World, released in 2015, was met with great success and another sequel is scheduled to be released later this year called Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Hollywood’s ability to create realistic special effects has greatly improved in the years since the first movie. The technology has been used to create even more frightening monsters like the Indominus Rex. This is a new breed of creature created from the DNA of several nasty dinosaurs. The result is a super predator more than capable of scaring a jaded public. It promptly outsmarts its handlers and goes on a rampage that destroys the park. From the T-Rex to the Velociraptors to the Indominus Rex Hollywood has made dinosaurs into some of the most memorable movie monsters.
7. If It Bleeds We Can Kill It
The troubled production of Predator has become part of Hollywood lore, but when they finally got the special effects right they gave audiences one of Hollywood’s most memorable movie monsters. Several complicated designs failed to work because of the rigors of filming in a steamy Mexican jungle. Creature maker Stan Winston was eventually brought in because of his work on The Terminator. Winston created a much more realistic and frightening foe than what was originally designed. Kevin Peter Hall, who stood an impressive 7 feet 2 inches, wore the costume and sold audiences on the idea this was a deadly creature to be feared by a tough band of commandos. The alien’s advanced technology and brutality are an effective combination that fans wanted to see again. Several sequels were made, but these were met with mixed results. These sequels included crossovers with the xenomorph from the Alien franchise where the famous monsters go head to head. Another sequel is in production and the filmmakers promise it will return to the action and thrills of the original 1987 movie that became a classic.
6. It’s Alive!
A young woman named Mary Shelley wrote creepy gothic novel about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who successfully reanimates a stitched together corpse. As popular as her classic book became Doctor Frankenstein’s monster truly exploded into the public’s consciousness with Universal’s 1931 release of Frankenstein. Although the monster remains unnamed, it is often associated with its creator with people referring to it as Frankenstein. The trademark squared off head, metal neck bolts and heavy, lurching gait have all combined to make the monster one of Hollywood’s most memorable creations. This famous look was created by a talented make-up artist named Jack Pierce. Boris Karloff had a long career in Hollywood, but Mr. Karloff will always be most known for playing the sympathetic creature brought back from the dead. The actor imbued the monster with a humanity that viewers respond to. The great success of Frankenstein inevitably led to a host of sequels including 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein. While other movies have offered more faithful adaptations of the novel, the 1931 version is still the undisputed favorite.
5. We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
There’s something about being in the ocean that can be unnerving. It’s a somewhat alien world to most people and there’s the sense that unknown things lurk below out of view. Steven Spielberg took advantage of these feelings when he unleashed his killer shark in June of 1975. Jaws changed the way a generation of movie goers looked at the ocean because the image of a giant Great White shark was burned into their imaginations. In reality this eating machine was an unwieldy contraption that kept breaking down during filming. Spielberg’s desperate decision to use the malfunctioning prop as little as possible turned out to be an inspired one. Using music, point of view shots and mundane objects such as floating barrels in place of the monster was an effective way to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. When the giant shark is finally shown it has already been set up to be one of Hollywood’s most memorable movie monsters. The blockbuster success of Jaws spawned several sequels and imitations, but none of these were able to equal the levels of tension and scares delivered by the original movie.
4. In Space No One Can Hear You Scream
Alien raised the science fiction/horror bar considerably in 1979 when it revealed H.R. Giger’s nightmarish creature to movie audiences. This horrifying xenomorph has not one but two mouths filled with razor sharp teeth and a sleek black form dripping with menace. It relentlessly stalks the hapless humans who find it like a force of nature. Part of what makes the creature truly repulsive is that it uses whatever unlucky life form is available (usually humans) as an incubator. The alien gestates for a short time then the infant creature is ready to burst its way into the world. The creatures are mostly teeth even when they’re born and quickly grow up to be full blown killing machines. There have been many imitators since Alien’s release that have tried to reproduce the intensity and scare factor director Ridley Scott achieved, but most have come up short. Some of the Alien sequels have been effective movies in their own right, but its been difficult to recapture the true shock and horror of the original movie that gave us such a memorable movie monster.
3. Go Go Godzilla!
The iconic Godzilla or Gojira as he is also known in Japan was first brought to the big screen by the director Ishiro Honda in 1954 with the hit Godzilla. This ancient dinosaur-like monster was awakened from the depths of the ocean by atomic bomb explosions. Nuclear weapons were a sensitive subject in Japan after the events of World War Two and this connection to their awesome power was seen as a cautionary tale that resonated with audiences in the 1950’s. More than 30 Godzilla movies have been made to so far and the special effects have improved considerably over the years. The early versions of the monster were obviously actors stomping around in clumsy rubber suits and energetically destroying miniature cities. Godzilla has been a popular culture phenomenon in Japan for decades, but the beast has met with mixed results in Hollywood. The 1998 version featured good special effects, but was disappointing. The 2014 release, directed by Gareth Edwards, did much better at the box office. More Godzilla movies are in production or being planned. Godzilla has fought many monsters, but none more memorable than the giant gorilla he battled in the 1962 Japanese release King Kong vs. Godzilla. Another match up between these two heavyweights is slated for a 2020 release.
2. I Am Dracula
The menacing elegance of Count Dracula has been nearly synonymous with vampires since the 1931 release of Dracula. This movie was adapted from a 1924 play which was loosely based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel. The book became a literary classic and is a genuinely creepy read, but Hollywood made the blood-sucking monster into a true popular culture icon. Bella Lugosi was already a well known stage actor when he took on the role of Count Dracula for the big screen. He is perfectly cast as a monster that stalks his prey wearing formal dress that includes a bow tie and a flowing cape. This is a well mannered creature that treats his guests with courtesy before revealing his true nature. He sinks his fangs into his victims to kill or to turn them into his undead minions. There have been many versions of Dracula since 1931 played by many actors including Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman. These other versions have met with varying levels of success. Most of these versions have patterned the character after Lugosi who helped make Dracula into one of Hollywood’s most memorable movie monsters.
1. It’s Good To Be King
The giant gorilla known as King Kong was created by Merian C. Cooper. In the original King Kong released in 1933 the monster is referred to as Kong by the natives of Skull Island. Cooper had a fascination with gorillas from a young boy when he was given book about explorations in Africa. The book described native reports of large apes that were widely feared. A later encounter with Baboons while he was filming a movie in Africa convinced hime he wanted to make a movie about apes. One of his early ideas for his movie was an image of an giant ape fighting off airplanes from the top of a tall building. The scene in the finished movie with Kong at the top of the Empire State building is one of Hollywood’s most famous action scenes. The success of King Kong inspired several sequels and remakes over the years as well as the famous match up with another iconic monster, Godzilla. The original Kong was a miniature puppet animated with stop-motion photography. The recent versions have taken advantage of the leaps made in motion-capture and other computer animation techniques to make one of Hollywood’s most memorable monsters more terrifying than ever.