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 a threat to humans.
From planet-shaking creatures to frightening aliens, here are the best movies that feature smart and clever monsters.
10. Men in Black (1997)
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 that possess intelligence equal to—or greater than—humans. Plus, they don't go on rampages as other senseless monsters do.
9. The Great Wall (2016)
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.
8. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Jeepers Creepers is a horror film written and directed by Victor Sava, 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).
7. Alien (1979)
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)
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)
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. Predator (1987)
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.
3. Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)
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.
Combine that with their enormous sizes? Both Godzilla and King Kong will forever remain two of the most memorable monsters.
2. Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
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)
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.