Monster movies are totally my thing. Give me the slimy, the toothy, and the disgusting. Give me the things that go bump in the night, or the primordial fear that humans might no longer be on the top of the food chain.
There are so many monster movies that we’ll never be able to fit all of them into a single list. You could make a sublist for each decade they were produced in, or each type of critter.
If you’re already a burgeoning fan or interested in knowing more about the genre, however, here’s a list of monster movies you absolutely have to watch. It’s a combo of old classics, campy horror, and modern day marvels.
Shin Godzilla is one of my favorite films in the Godzilla franchise. Produced by studio Toho, Shin stars Hiroki Hasegawa as “Rando Yaguchi,” a high-level government official who becomes mired in red tape while trying to protect Tokyo.
The film manages to combine old-school rubber monster suits with genuine horror and grief. Along with its killer soundtrack, it definitely makes for a viewing experience full of emotion.
2. Piranha 3D
Looking for a more recent camp classic that came out in the past decade? Check out the horror comedy Piranha 3D, a loose remake of the 1978 original.
Utterly ridiculous and completely gory right from the start, things go south when an earthquake opens up a cave at the bottom of Lake Victoria. A horde of carnivorous fish then swim downstream to terrorize a resort.
No list is complete without at least one mention of Jaws: grandaddy of the modern monster mash and one of the more infamous and beloved movies of all time.
Based upon a 1974 novel by the same name, Jaws takes place off the coast of New England where a giant shark has been preying on the local population. A reluctant team of professionals are forced to work together to take it down.
One of the many, many campy monster films that were made during the 2000s, Eight Legged Freaks is on this list because it’s a great example of early aughts cheese. It’s also, you know, not the sort of film you’d want to watch if you’re afraid of spiders.
Starring Scarlett Johansson and David Arquette, Eight Legged Freaks takes place in a small mining town. A private collection of spiders are transformed into giant monsters after they’re doused in a chemical toxic spill.
We’ve talked about Annihilation before in our rundown on strange plants in science fiction, so this film definitely has a theme.
A sci-fi horror based upon a book by the same name, Annihilation follows a group of female scientists who venture into an uninhabited area that was hit by an alien comet.
This area they travel into is full of strange animals, the most awful of which includes the “bear”—a creature that mimics human speech as it hunts them through the reedy swamps behind “The Shimmer.”
6. The Host
A South Korean monster mash directed by Bong Joon-ho, The Host follows an awkward, dysfunctional family that tries to save their daughter when a giant, amphibious creature begins eating people along the Han River.
While it’s not as gory as some of the other monster movies on this list, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a classic. If you want to get a good idea of what inspired other cult hits like Jaws, you’ll need to give this a watch.
Adapted from a novel by Jules Verne that has since been turned into numerous versions, the adaptation that we recommend is the 1954 film by Walt Disney Productions.
In the film, rumors of a giant squid inspire an adventurous professor to go searching for it in the Pacific Ocean. Instead, he and his team run across Captain Nemo and his high-tech submarine. It turns out that Nemo is looking for the creature, too.
8. Lake Placid
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Lake Placid—the first one, at least—helped to repopularize the monster movie genre in the early 2000s.
Taking place in a fictional community somewhere in Maine, a group of professional pest hunters, game officers, and wayward scientists have to kill a gigantic crocodile.
We’re getting towards the end of our list, and as we near the end we have to give a shoutout to one of the best monster movies of all time: 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon.
A black and white monster movie, Black Lagoon is about a small team of explorers who go into the Amazon to look for a mythical creature’s remains. To their surprise, they find out that the creature is very much alive and actively seeking them.
Things go from bad to worse when it kidnaps a female scientist.
Last on the list, we’re going to recommend that you check out Kong: Skull Island, which came out in 2017.
Starring heavyweight actors like Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson, Kong is a great example of an older monster movie that’s been revitalized. In this particular film, military contractors are hired to hunt down the giant ape.