Top 10… Movie Monsters

OK, so this week the scope is a little, um, monstrous? Sorry. I mean it’s quite wide. The term ‘monster’ could be applied to a lot of things (like some recent Top 10s, for instance), but I’m thinking more along the lines of actual creatures, so no real-world animals (be they normal or giant versions, so no King Kong), no humans, and also no other generic monsters that have been used enough to become worthy of their own list. This means no zombies, witches, vampires, werewolves, aliens, dinosaurs, dragons, ghosts or robots. Also nothing that was a person, but has become something else, like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. This puts Frankenstein’s monster in a difficult category, as technically it used to be several different people, so I left that one off. Sorry guys, but your times will all come. Next October, maybe. monsters_vs_aliens29Also, I’m limiting this to just one ‘monster’ per film (or franchise), just to prevent this being a Top 10 Monsters Inc. characters list. Oh, and cards-on-the-table time – despite having a deep appreciation for both creature features and stop-motion animation, I’ve never seen a Ray Harryhausen film. I’m fully aware that this is horrific (I’ve even got a book written by the guy about the history of animation) but as far as I know they aren’t shown quite as often in the UK as they are in the rest of the world. Yes, I’m ashamed. No, I don’t plan to do anything about it soon, but yes I’d like to. Some day.7th-voyage-of-sinbad-harryhausen2Another big omission may be Godzilla, but as I’ve only seen the Roland Emmerich version (which I admit is a guilty pleasure) then it really didn’t deserve a place here. The same can therefore be said of all the monsters Godzilla fights amongst his extensive catalogue, as I’ve not seen any of them either. Sorry, Mothra. So, creatures, critters, freaky beings from other dimensions. Let’s see what we’ve got.
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Honourable Mention: Kraken, The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

kraken
As usual, the hardest position to fill in this list was the Honourable Mention, mainly because there’s so many to choose from, and the definition of monster is really quite broad. Does Gollum count? Probably not, as he used to be a Stoor Hobbit, before being corrupted by the ring. The same goes for pretty much all the other more monstrous characters in The Lord of the Rings. What about the Grinch? Well he probably counts, but he’s not good enough to be included. Ursula from The Little Mermaid? Yeah, kinda, but I’m categorizing her more in the witch category than as a monster, despite the tentacles. I was really tempted to include something from The Mist, but none of the beasties from there are focused on long enough to earn an entry. As an ensemble, they’d definitely get a place. So instead I opted for the Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It’s the ultimate sea-dwelling creature, capable of tearing apart a ship and devouring everything that falls off. It’s key component is definitely it’s size, but dozens of tentacles and a Sarlacc pit’s worth of teeth don’t exactly hurt either. Well, they do hurt, but not in that way.

10. The Mountain Kings, Troll Huntertroll-hunter-3

There’s a total of four species of troll that we get to meet in Troll Hunter. Of the four, my personal favourite is the smallest, the mountain kings. They’re not the most impressive – bearing in mind there’s a troll here the size of a skyscraper, and another with three heads, but they provide the most up close and personal encounter, when our intrepid troll trackers enter the abandonned mine shaft the mountain kings call home, but fail to leave before the trolls come back in the morning. So why do I like these the best? Well, for one thing they drew the film’s biggest laugh from me – they’re more than a little flatulent in their sleep – and also because their noses are shaped like penises. I’m easily pleased.

9.  Graboids, Tremors

graboid
Giant worms that live under the ground, attacking people based on the vibrations they make walking around are a brilliant idea for a monster, especially out in the deserts of Nevada, where there’s pretty much nothing but ground. I love the claw-faced design of these things.

8. Mr. Wink, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

wink
Another film that’s full to bursting with monsters – including the eponymous horned devil-creature – there’s a lot to choose from here. As much as I like Abe Sapien, who I preferred as David Hyde Pierce but don’t dislike as Doug Jones, I’ve got to go with Mr. Wink, the troll sidekick of the elven Prince Nuada (Luke Goss). He isn’t in the film an awful lot, but when he is he’s great, so much so that I was deeply annoyed at his fairly early disappearance, regardless of how brilliantly it’s done. It also helps that, in this age of computer-generated pixels-bashing-pixels, Wink is predominantly mechanically-made, right down to his projectile fist-on-a-chain.

7. Gill-man, Creature from the Black Lagoon

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The inspiration behind this list, after my recent appearance on an episode of the Lambcast discussing the classic Universal Monsters franchise (with Dylan, Pat, Todd and Mette), The Creature From The Black Lagoon‘s Gill-man is the most sympathetic creature on this list. He was perfectly happy being left alone, until researchers started invading his property. Most of his appearances are just of his scaly, webbed, clawed hand reaching out from under the water, and it’s very clear that he’s just a man in a suit (Ben Chapman on land, Ricou Browning in the water), but it’s a very emotional protrayal, and there’s a beautiful underwater ballet sequence between him and Kay (Julie Adams).

6. Merman, The Cabin in the Woods

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[SPOILERS] Another film with lots (I mean lots) of monsters to choose from, but most of them don’t pass my earlier requirements. One that does, though, is the merman, as obsessed over by Hadley (Bradley Whitford). What makes this such a high position for me is how perfectly the merman is used. Hadley so very badly wants it to be the antagonist for the five kids who had the misfortune to stay in the titular cabin, so it is only right that when he meets his messy end, it’s at the hands – or rather, fins – of this hideous beastie.

5. Mike Wazowski/Art, Monsters Inc./Monsters University

art
OK, so I said one monster per franchise, purely so I wouldn’t have more than one from the Monsters Inc. films, but I really couldn’t choose between these two. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) is easily my highlight from Monsters Inc. His design is fairly basic – essentially a giant eyeball with legs, I have no idea how or even if he poops – but he has most of the film’s best lines. He’s also a great character – a monster who really wants to be a scarer, but just isn’t scary, so he has to come to terms with how he just wasn’t made to fulfill his dream. He’d have been a sole-position shoe-in were it not for Monsters University, and its creation of Art (Charlie Day), a squeaky-voiced fluffy purple hug with arms, he’s adorable and lovable and just wants to be your friend. Another highlight, and the main reason I can’t wait to own the movie so I can watch it again and again. Roll on Christmas.

4. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Ghostbusters

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It’s a giant man, made of marshmallow, wearing a sailor’s costume, do I really need to say anymore? Yes? Ok. When Gozer the Gozerian breaks into our world, he takes the form of whatever the Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson) think of. Unable to keep himself from thinking of anything, Stantz (Aykroyd) imagines the only thing that could not possibly cause any harm, the aforementioned Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who is promptly created, and begins wrecking havoc, until he’s blasted into a giant, sickly, goey mess. It’s a shame there wasn’t a scene where he was speared on the Chrysler building and roasted over a giant fire, but you can’t have everything.

3. The Monster, The Host

thehost
Look at that thing. It’s hideous. And yes, that’s a person it’s devouring.Bong Joon-Ho’s underseen 2006 South Korean film is a personal favourite of mine because of it’s blend of an action movie with a black comedy – there’s not many films that could turn a mass funeral – primarily focussing on the death of a young girl – and make it into something hilarious. The creature itself, which never really gets a name, is a giant fish-reptile thing, adept at hunting you down on land or in the sea, and it’s definitely the last thing you’d hope to see in a dark alley. Or a brightly-lit one, for that matter, as you’d be able to see it better and who the hell wants the above to be the last thing they see before they die?

2. Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors

Audrey-II
Chances are I’m unlikely to do a Top 10 Movie Plants list (Adaptation‘s Ghost Orchid, Batman Begin‘s blue flower, Treebeard, Jumanji‘s big yellow thing, the orange tree from The Illusionist and the Triffids are the best I could come up with), so I think I’m safe including it here. This is definitely one of my favourite musicals, and that has to be at least partly due to Audrey II, and Levi Stubbs’ perfect voice work. Now apparently he’s an alien (he’s just a mean green mother from outer space and he’s bad) but this is never proven, so I’m sticking him in the monster category. He feeds on blood – of just whole people – and grows the more he eats, until he’s huge. Plus, he sings. I regularly find myself singing Feed Me Seymour, but there’s just no imitating Stubbs’ amazing voice.

1. Pale Man, Pan’s Labyrinth

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The second Guillermo del Toro creation on this list, the Pale Man is a clear winner for the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen, and therefore the best monster. He only really has one scene in Pan’s Labyrinth, and it’s one of the most frustrating scenes in history, that I always shout “Don’t eat the grape!” at in anger whenever I watch it. Christ that girl is so annoying at times. Anyway, the Pale Man, as he’s unofficially known, is played by Doug Jones, and is found sleeping away at the head of a massive feast. As soon as Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) nicks some of his food though, he wakes up and bites the head off one of Ofelia’s fairies and chases her from his room. It’s all in the character design here, with the sallow, hanging folds of skin from his otherwise skeletal frame, he resembles a plucked, uncooked chicken, but of course with a mishapen, bulbous head, protruding nostrils, long conical black fingers and EYES IN HIS DAMN HANDS. Eyes. In his hands. It makes me ill just thinking about it, and it has to be highly impractical for doing anything, as can be seen by the jazz-handed way in which he has to walk. Anyway, the Pale Man is my favourite movie monster (easily beating Jones’ other Pan’s Labyrinth creature, the rather annoying Pan himself), and he’s one of the reasons I appreciate Guillermo del Toro and all he does.

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8 thoughts on “Top 10… Movie Monsters

  1. I don’t know if this went through. It seems it didn’t, so I’ll post it again just in case. Reading your introduction, I was like “So… a Top 10 Movie Monsters list… that is not going to include… any monsters whatsoever since they’ve all been exempted.” But then I read the list and I must say, I approve. The only difference is I’d probably put Graboids higher. And I feel so conflicted with the placement of your #1 and #2. Of course Little Shop is my all-time favorite movie, but the Pale Man is SUCH a great monster that I might allow its placement at #1. Nice list!

    • Thanks Nick. I’ve only seen Tremors once (maybe twice?) and I’ve never seen any of the sequels, so it didn’t rank very highly for me. And I know what you mean about the initial feelings towards a monsters list with no monsters, but when I set out to do this list with most of them included there was just too much choice to narrow it down! And I knew you’d call me on not having Audrey II as #1.

  2. Very nice list! Like Nicholas, I was skeptical going in with all the monsters you chose to make ineligible, but it works. Great to see love for Troll Hunter, and The Host, two underrated movies. And I just introduced my daughter to Audrey II a few weeks ago, lol. Some other monsters I like: The Cloverfield Monster, Stripe from Gremlins, The Kraken from Clash of the Titans, Shrek (does he qualify?), and of course, Godzilla – the old Japanese guy in a rubber suit version.

    • Thanks, Dell. I hope your daughter liked Little Shop of Horrors, I wish I’d watched it when I was younger. I don’t know why, but I’d assumed the Cloverfield creature was an alien, but it does appear to be a non-descript monster that’s very worthy of note. The same with the gremlins. And I’m now kicking myself about forgetting Shrek, who definitely counts.

  3. Jay, any list that has Mr. Wink on it cannot be a bad one. I do enjoy how you removed a lot of choices so you didn’t end up with really obvious answers like the shark from JAWS or the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. This made it tricky. I will say that there is only one real Kraken in the movies, and it’s not CGI.

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