Most typical monster movies feature wild chase scenes, bloody atmospheres, and gruesome deaths. But all of that gets ramped up when the featured monster is actually intelligent.
I'm talking about monsters that plan how to catch their prey rather than instinctively chasing them on sight, monsters that can strategize traps, even monsters that torture for sport.
A level above that and you get monsters that aren't necessarily violent. They might aid the main characters against other monstrous beings that do pose threats to humans.
Here are our picks for the best monster movies with smart, clever, and intelligent creatures.
16. Men in Black (1997)
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino
Action, Adventure, Comedy (1h 38m)
When talking about monsters and aliens, we can't forget the Men in Black films. They feature tons of different alien creatures, from office mates and postmen to villains who use everything at their disposal to accomplish their sinister goals.
Remember Neeble, one of the four coffee-loving Annelid aliens? How about Boris, the last known Boglodite?
Well, there are many aliens throughout Men in Black (and the sequels) who possess intelligence equal to—or greater than—humans. Plus, they don't go on rampages like other senseless monsters do.
15. Beyond Skyline (2017)
Directed by Liam O'Donnell
Starring Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (1h 46m)
A sequel to 2010's Skyline, Beyond Skyline is set in the same place as the original film and directly follows its events.
And just like in the Men in Black films, the alien monsters featured in Beyond Skyline are all sentient, meaning they possess a certain level of intelligence that makes it clear they're capable of thinking.
In this case, the aliens harvest human brains and insert them into their biomachines to create their Warriors. Some of them manage to retain their memories and humanity, making them allies to mankind.
14. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Directed by André Øvredal
Starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush
Adventur, Horror, Mystery (1h 48m)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a film based on the children's horror book of the same name by Alvin Schwartz, comprised of a collection of short stories inspired by folklore and urban legends.
All the stories featured in the film are totally creepy, especially the Pale Lady in the Red Room. But what's even scarier is the Jangly Man, who actually knows how to fit himself in the chimney: first his head, followed by the other body parts that fall in after the other.
You really can't escape a monster like this one, as he knows how to get into any room he wants.
13. Rampage (2018)
Directed by Brad Peyton
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (1h 47m)
Rampage stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Davis Okoye, the handler for one of the monsters that goes berserk after getting exposed to a pathogen that alters its genetic makeup.
There are three animals that get mutated into giant vicious monsters, and one of them is George: an albino western lowland gorilla who also happens to be Davis's friend.
George, just like any other trained ape, can communicate with humans through sign language. He also has a sense of humor—even able to make dirty jokes—making him a uniquely clever type of monster.
12. Bleach (2018)
Directed by Shinsuke Sato
Starring Sōta Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Ryō Yoshizawa
Action, Adventure, Fantasy (1h 48m)
We're including the live-action film adaptation of the famous manga and anime Bleach because of one particular Hollow: the Grand Fisher, which is responsible for the death of Ichigo's mother, Masaki.
While this Hollow is just a minor character in the anime and manga, the live-action film turns him into a major antagonist.
And he's actually pretty intelligent. Instead of engaging in tiresome chases, he uses bait—a part of his head that turns into a human figure—to lure his victims to come over him.
Normally, Hollows are just wild soul-eating monsters born from the corrupted souls of the dead. But these types of higher-class Hollows are actually capable of reasoning and comprehension, making them fearsome foes who are tough to overcome.
11. The Great Wall (2016)
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Starring Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe
Action, Adventure, Fantasy (1h 43m)
Who would have thought that monsters would organize themselves into groups? That's one of the twists in The Great Wall, which features a vicious pack of monsters who follow a "head" for their attacks.
The monsters in the film exhibit a fictionalized form of "hive mentality," in which follower-type individuals have consciousnesses controlled by a master-type individual.
This "head" knows exactly what to do in terms of hunting and attacking, and it manipulates its minions perfectly.
10. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Directed by Victor Salva
Starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck
Horror, Mystery (1h 30m)
Jeepers Creepers is a horror film written and directed by Victor Salva, featuring a demonic humanoid monster who feeds on human beings.
Not only is the killer monster in Jeepers Creepers a clever one that's able to track down its victims, but it's actually also an artist. He decorated his lair with petrified corpses like it was the Sistine Chapel!
Aside from knowing how to drive a truck, the monster is also able to use manmade tools that are seen at his base, which are probably used for artwork: sewing severed parts and petrifying cadavers.
The film was followed by a few sequels: Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017), and Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (2022).
9. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Directed by Alexander Witt
Starring Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Eric Mabius
Action, Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 34m)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the second installment of the Resident Evil film series, based on the video games of the same name.
In this sequel to the first film, the story centers on Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) as the virus spreads outside the Hive and infects large amounts of people, turning them into mindless zombies.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse also features Nemesis, a supersoldier created from the same mutation that caused the T-virus. Unlike other zombies, Nemesis doesn't chase or bite—he's smart enough to use machine guns and even rocket launchers.
8. Come Play (2020)
Directed by Jacob Chase
Starring Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr.
Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 36m)
Come Play starts off like any paranormal-themed story. However, the antagonist isn't a vengeful spirit or ghost, but a monster that exists in an unseen dimension that's parallel to the real world.
The story revolves around Oliver (played by Azhy Robertson), a kid who happens to catch the attention of the gruesome monster "Larry."
The lonely and isolated Larry wants to be friends with Oliver, and he's totally obsessed with his mission. He's persistent and won't stop until Oliver holds his hand.
Unlike other monsters, Larry doesn't chase down his victims. Instead, he invades something that almost all kids have today: smartphones! It's a pretty cool way to sneak into the real world.
7. Alien (1979)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 57m)
The Alien franchise features a terrifying extraterrestrial species called Xenomorphs. It's an endoparasitoid lifeform, meaning it lives within a host body before ultimately killing it.
The Xenomorph inserts its larvae into humans, which sustain themselves by consuming their host's innards (while also inheriting its genetic structure). When they're ready, the newborns hatch by bursting through their host's chest cavity.
The Xenomorphs can behave according to a hive mind, sharing a consciousness that's led by a Queen. Despite that, they're mostly seen to work independently and hunt alone.
Intelligence comes into play with the fact that Xenomorphs are able to utilize their surroundings and adapt to their environments in minimal time, as seen when these aliens use human facilities and equipment to their advantage.
6. Life (2017)
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds
Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 44m)
Life is a sci-fi space movie about a group of astronauts who take a living space sample aboard their ship. Little do they know that this little creature will wreak havoc on their lives and safety.
Named "Calvin," the creature first appears as a unicellular organism, which then grows into a multicellular one. It then becomes aggressive and bloodthirsty, to the point that it kills and eats crew members.
But it also possesses decent intelligence, like when it manages to crawl back into the spaceship even after it was discarded, or when it's able to disable a vital spacesuit mechanism.
With its surprising IQ and adaptability—both in and out of the vacuum of space—it stands to be one of the worst enemies we could encounter in outer space, let alone down on Earth.
5. Pacific Rim (2013)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 11m)
Pacific Rim features a world full of gigantic monsters who cause chaos and destruction. All of humanity's hopes rest on the massive human-piloted robots—called Jaegers—who fight them off.
The monsters, known as Kaiju, came from a rift in the Pacific Ocean that connects Earth with an alien dimension. The towering monsters possess high intellect and behave as though they're following orders given by higher authorities.
This intellect is further explored in the sequel Pacific Rim 2 (2018), in which Kaijus manipulate human beings to execute their plan to take over Earth and end humanity.
4. Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)
Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 53m)
Godzilla Vs. Kong is the newest film on our list, and it stands out for representing two of the largest and most iconic monsters in cinema history: the eponymous Godzilla and King Kong.
This sequel ties a knot on two of the best modern monster flicks: Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
Although Godzilla and King Kong often behave instinctually—like protecting their territory—we get glimpses of a deeper complexity, as if they have emotions and intelligence.
Sure, maybe they aren't as intellectually advanced as the Yautja, but they're able to comprehend nuanced situations and they're able to establish connections with human beings.
Combined with their enormous sizes? Both Godzilla and King Kong will forever remain two of the most memorable monsters.
3. Predator (1987)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall
Action, Adventure, Horror (1h 47m)
Predator is a sci-fi action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, about his encounter with an alien monster that killed his entire squad and left him as the sole survivor.
The monster isn't an ordinary one. Not only is it humanoid and not only does it have superhuman strength and reflexes, but it's also decked out in high-tech weaponry and an invisibility device.
Because of its success, Predator birthed an entire franchise that further explored the lore of the Predators, who now have a proper name: the Yautja. From Predator 2 (1990) to Prey (2022), this intelligent creature has been delivering thrills for decades.
2. Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova
Action, Adventure, Horror (1h 41m)
What happens when two of the fiercest extraterrestrial killers clash in a battle for domination? The only possible result is a bloody showdown of prowess, instincts, and capabilities!
Alien Vs. Predator is a crossover film between the hit 1980s monster franchises—Alien and Predator—that features the Yautja on the hunt in pursuit of the Xenomorphs as their targets.
At the end, we're introduced to a new breed of monster: the Predalien, a hybrid of Yautja and Xenomorph. This hybrid creature is explored in more depth in Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), in which the Yautja hunt the Predalien after it lands on Earth.
1. It Chapter Two (2019)
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (2h 49m)
While the first It (2017) introduced Pennywise as a paranormal entity who instills fear in his victims, It Chapter Two featured him as more of a monster while exploring his origin story.
Pennywise might just be the ultimate monster, who takes on the creepiest form known to man (a clown) and knows how to terrorize and psychologically torture his victims in the most terrifying ways.