20 of the Best Monster Movies of All Time

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20 of the Best Monster Movies of All Time


Ghost, zombie, cannibal, mother-in-law—monsters come in many shapes. Monster movies are a vital subsection of the horror genre, one with ties to the earliest days of storytelling. Ahead of spooky season, we’re taking a moment to honor the monsters of yore, and while there are numerous nameless monsters who walk among us, today we’re talking about the fictional ones. From killer sharks, to murderous extra-terrestrials, to scientists turned flies, these are the 20 best monsters, and their associated movies, of all time.

The Thing

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This 1982 sci-fi comes from the horror legend behind Halloween, John Carpenter. The eponymous “thing” in The Thing is introduced in the remote tundra of Antarctica, where a group of researchers encounter a shapeshifting foe which takes the shape of its victims. In short, this monster is as scary as its last meal.

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King Kong

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Like a few of his friends on this list, King Kong is not emblematic of any single movie, but rather an entire entertainment franchise. That said, the best one came in 2005 and starred Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody and was written and directed by Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson. In this iteration, King Kong is a giant, mountain-crushing ape living on the mysterious Skull Island, which is inhabited by prehistoric creatures.

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Alien

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This 1979 sci-fi horror is an ode to a murderous alien who terrorizes a crew of space explorers, led by Miss Sigourney Weaver. In terms of monsters, the alien from Alien is one of the best and the winningest, with his biopic (Alien) entering the United States National Film Registry and being deemed significant by the Library of Congress.

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The Fly

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Jeff Goldblum, the monsters’ monster. The Fly stars Goldblum as a mad scientist who morphs into a fly-like creature after an experiment gone wrong. If this film doesn’t sound familiar, maybe this will. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

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Bride of Frankenstein

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It’s about time we saw some female representation on this list of monsters! This 1935 classic is the first (of many) sequels to the original Frankenstein, and follows the origin story of the classic monster’s mate.

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Jurassic Park

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More Goldblum! But he’s not the monster this time. This 1993 classic from Steven Spielberg centers around a wildlife park of dinosaurs on an island near Costa Rica, following a group of visitors who find themselves trapped on the island when the park’s power and security is sabotaged. The monsters at play here are prehistoric, of course.

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An American Werewolf in London

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This comedy horror film follows two American backpackers who encounter a werewolf while traveling across England. When one of the backpackers gets bitten, he begins transforming into a werewolf under the glow of the full moon. Some monstrous film history for you, An American Werewolf in London was the first film to ever take home an Oscar for Best Makeup.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

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Pan’s Labyrinth is creepy from start to finish, but the head monster in charge is “The Pale Man,” a terrifying creature of the underworld that feeds on children. His loose skin is a Botox ad, and his spiny fingernails a nail tech’s inspo photo. Terrifying.

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The Shape of Water

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Like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water comes from fantasy master Guillermo del Toro. The story follows a mute woman working at a high-security laboratory who encounters, and falls in love with, an amphibian-like creature in government captivity. In its year, the film took home the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Hottest Monster.

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Monsters Inc.

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Probably Pixar’s best movie, Monsters, Inc. follows the lives and times of James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski, two factory-working monsters who power the city of Monstropolis through the screams of children. No notes. Pure genius.

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Monsters University

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Probably Pixar’s second best movie, Monsters University is a prequel which sees Sully and Mike through their college years. At MU, our monster besties begin as fraternity rivals, competing in collegiate scaring competitions. Again, no notes.

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Cloverfield

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This found footage horror follows a monster called Clover, which takes over all of New York City, terrorizing a few young New Yorkers along the way.

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Little Shop of Horrors

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This classic horror comedy (musical) follows two employees at a flower shop who discover one of the plants is feeding on human blood. The monstrous plant, Audrey II, convinces one of the workers to kill someone and feed them to the plant. All of this plus a musical score, what more could you ask for.

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A Quiet Place

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A great movie with a great monster, A Quiet Place follows a family surviving a post-apocalyptic world overtaken by blind monsters who hunt what they hear. The film and its monsters were nominated for a slew of awards in its year, and inspired a sequel which was released in 2020.

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It

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Anytime Bill Skarsgård is wearing the monster mask, it makes a “best of” list. In this 2017 adaptation of the hit Stephen King novel, Skarsgård plays the killer clown who terrorizes a group of outcast children. Upon release, It broke a number of records and became the highest grossing horror film of all time. That’s that on It.

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Barbarian

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This 2022 horror follows a woman who arrives at her Airbnb to find another person already inside, but spoiler alert, he’s not the monster. Take a guess where the monster lives. In the basement of course! That’s all we’ll say about this one, but give it a watch its some of Justin Long’s best work.

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The Blob

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The Blob was a real movie, and “The Blob” a real monster. This 1958 horror follows a small Pennsylvania community enveloped by an extraterrestrial goo-like creature that arrives via meteorite and grows in size and aggression.

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Godzilla

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The original monster from Godzilla is the best Godzilla. The lore of Godzilla began with this Japanese film from 1954, which follows a battle between Japanese authorities and a giant monster whose sudden appearance and attacks seem to warn of nuclear holocaust.

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Jaws

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The marine mammals activists are gonna hate this one. Jaws is one of the most iconic monster movies, and no, not every shark is a monster, but Jaws certainly is. We’ve named the shark Jaws, right? This 1975 thriller follows a small town ravaged by shark-infested swimming waters. Much more than a mere monster movie, Jaws is certified cinema history, we just wanted an excuse to talk about it some more.

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Hellraiser

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It doesn’t get better than 1987 Hellraiser, the original. The story begins with a puzzle box that, when opened, summons a group of spooky sadomasochists led by a wicked leader by the name of Pinhead. If you like it, there’s (much) more where that came from. Hellraiser was followed by nine sequels and a franchise reboot which was released in 2022. Strap in, there’s plenty more monsters ahead.

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Courtney Young is a freelance writer covering all things entertainment and pop culture, having previously written for Betches, Mic, and The Cut. Her Real Housewives locale of choice is New Jersey, her emotional support show is Girls, and her toxic trait is romanticizing mafia culture. You can follow her on Instagram @courtneyyoungg.





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