Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Top 16 Scariest Monsters to Ever Grace Movies, Television, and Video Games

Right now I'm going to do something a bit different: a list of the scariest monsters I've ever seen in movies or TV. The only rule is: No people. Only inhuman monsters will be found here. No Joker (The Dark Knight) or Kurgan (Highlander). Though one could make an argument about either of those characters being inhuman monsters in and of themselves.

Why 16? Because it's 2016!

I'm also unfamiliar with the likes of Freddy Krueger, Mike Myers, and Jason. For now. So they won't be showing up. Darth Vader is debatable, but I think he's still human enough to not be included. Feel free to comment with your own monster nominations.


#16 - T-600 (Terminator Salvation, 2009)

Terminators. Not the first time they will appear on this list. With their skeletal visages, terminators seem designed precisely to evoke fear in human beings, their prey. Skynet no doubt had detailed files on human psychology. In the real world, Stan Winston did a brilliant job designing these terminators to evoke fear in the audience. The T-600 was one of Winston's last creations before he passed away. As a terminator model from the early parts of the Future War, they're larger and grittier than the more advanced terminators seen in the earlier (or is it later?) movies. I've heard that in the recent novelizations of the Terminator universe, the T-600s travel in packs and are more menacing and formidable, so it's too bad that didn't make it over to the Salvation movie. Still, they're scary enough to make it onto this list, what with their walk-through-walls demeanor and emotionless overseeing. I just wish their bite had been as bad as their bark, or rather that they had been utilized more effectively on screen.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: I detailed this a bit above. Basically, in the movie they were slow, dumb, and didn't do a whole lot.


#15 - The Ringwraiths/Nazgul (Lord of the Rings Series, 2001-2003)

Early on, they're known as the Ring Wraiths, or Black Riders. Later on they take on their battle personas as "The Nazgul", riding flying serpents and wreaking havoc on everything in their path. There were nine of them, and they were so feared that even the strongest of the heroes didn't want to have to engage them. One of the more enduring images from the series is that of a Black Rider sniffing for Frodo and company, hiding just out of its sight. These creatures exuded menace. In the last movie, their mounts emitted piercing screams that were the stuff of nightmares, no doubt to crush the morale of the enemy forces. Everything about these monsters seemed to evoke fear.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: Because they were defeated so easily in the end. Kill one and they all evaporate? A bit anti-climactic.


#14 - The infected people (I Am Legend, 2007)

Were these things even really zombies? What sets them apart from zombies in other movies (in scariness) is the setting. This movie is a story about the last man on Earth (at least, as far as he knows) who searches an abandoned city by day and hides by night. The mere look of an abandoned city is unsettling, and the fact that these monsters are lurking under the surface waiting for nightfall is even scarier in and of itself than seeing them. The idea that they can spread their rage-inducing virus to other people until there's no one left is a frightening one. This isn't the last time a "viral" type of monster will appear on this list, as I consider this kind of creature to be quite menacing. Things that can take over our bodies in some way, or at least walk among us, are bad enough, but if they can spread...that's even worse.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: Because once you DO see them...well, they're kind of weird and obviously not real. Scary, yes, but they


#13 - Predator (Predator series, 1987+)

With infra-red vision, sharp blade-claws, and an aptitude for removing spines, the predators are truly fearsome enemies. They exist for the hunt, and they're nearly unstoppable. The brutal way that they kill their victims adds another layer (so to speak) of fear to their aura; being killed and skinned (and not necessarily in that order) by a vicious predator is a terrifying idea.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: The bludgeoning of the character itself by money-grubbing studios. The creature in the original movie is a terrifying antagonist, ruthless and intelligent; not to mention stealthy. In later movies it became more of an obnoxious brute (even in the excellent Predators) if not an outright joke like in the crossover movies.


#12 - Giygas (Earthbound, 1995)

This is one that I hesitated to include on the list, since it's a bizarre apparition with no real discernible physical form that we can grasp. That said, it's incredibly creepy, ranting at you throughout the fight and taking on various eerie shapes as it swirls around in a void. The metaphors surrounding this battle are also worth noting, ranging from abortion and rape to loss and despair.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: It doesn't have as much of a "physical presence" as the other entries on this list. It's a terrifying presence, but... it's more presence than a solid menace.


#11 - T-1000 (Terminator 2, 1991)

The T-1000 was revolutionary for its special effects. In 1991, those effects rivaled or even surpassed a lot of modern movies. That isn't why the T-1000 is on here, though. It's here because of how scary it was. It could run faster than some cars could move; it could literally go ANYWHERE through uses of mimicry and "puddling"; it could melt itself into a wall or a floor and lurk there, undetected; and it could assume the appearance of anyone it touched. And typically then killed them, of course. And let's not forget the biggest reason of all why this thing was scary: it apparently couldn't be killed. Yep. For 90% of the movie, there's no way to stop it. Perhaps it could be stopped in 2029 with plasma weapons that disintegrated bits of it off, but in the present, it couldn't be. Shooting, crushing, freezing, blowing up... none of these things phased the T-1000, as it would just re-form within a few moments and resume its unwavering chase. In the end, it turned out that dropping it in molten steel actually did the trick... but who has vats of molten steel laying around the house? Indeed, the T-1000 might as well have been un-killable at that point. They also managed to take one out with an acid bath in Terminator: Genisys, which was good thinking. But again, at that point you're risking your own demise just to try and trap this thing.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: For the same reasons Terminator 2 (while perhaps a superior movie) isn't as scary as The Terminator. T2 was meant to be an action movie, T1 was meant to be a horror movie. The T-1000 is still intimidating, regardless.


#10 - Jaws (Jaws series, 1975+)

It's a killer shark. Out in the ocean, it could be anywhere, and strike at any time. The pointy fin became a symbol of fear to a generation of beach-goers, mostly because of this movie. The legendary "Jaws Theme" is famous enough music that this entry may well be the most well-known (and by extension, most frequently referred to in pop culture) of all the monsters on this list.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: Being a shark, Jaws couldn't leave the water. So there's no chance of it breaking down our door or lurking in our bedroom at night, waiting to get us. If you're dealing with it in the water, though...


#9 - The Unidentified Creatures (Devil's Pass, 2013)

Devil's Pass is a frightening movie about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, one of the creepiest and most unexplainable events I've ever heard about. The movie speculates on something that is very hard to speculate on because of how little sense the real-world event made; it does an interesting job of it, though. At some point in the movie we're introduced to creatures that, like the event, defy explanation. Teleporting monstrosities that may or may not be a Cold War era Russian science experiment, these creatures are kept locked away deep underground. You can't escape them, you can't outrun them, and you can't even hide from them.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: They aren't as deadly as some of the other creatures on the list. Their small size also takes away from the intimidation factor...slightly.


#8 - Clickers (The Last of Us, 2013)

Horrifying zombies whose brains have been entirely invaded by the plant-based viral menace of The Last of Us. These things are fearsome not only for their creepy look, but also due to their ability to insta-kill the player if they catch up to you. The strange clicking sound they make as they wander around adds to their eeriness. It's also worth noting that their weird, cauliflower-like heads are legitimately unpleasant to look at.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: They're a bit plain in design outside of their heads. 


#7 - Xenomorph (Alien Series and numerous spin-offs, 1979+)

The motivation behind the Xenomorph is simple: they're vicious predators that lurk in the dark... and hunt us. The fact that they have furiously-spraying acid for blood means that actually stopping one with force is a threat in and of itself. The Xeno was/is a killing machine, and appearance-wise might well be the scariest thing on this list. Even their babies are scary. Who can forget the chest-bursting scene? And the face-huggers that lay eggs in people? Yeah, these things are horrifying.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: For one thing, they aren't too smart outside of perhaps the first movie. And while they evoke a visceral response from the viewer, the higher entries on this list engage a deeper sense of fear: the fear of the unknown. Sure, the Xeno can also do this with their tendency to lurk in dark places where they're naturally camouflaged, but when they're in the open they're easily recognizable. This can't be said for most of the entries to come.


#6 -  Necromorph (Dead Space, 2008)

Terrifying foes that are reminiscent of John Carpenter's The Thing, Necromorphs are extraterrestrial mutations borne from human corpses. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of them intent on murdering your character violently. In addition to being incredibly intimidating to look at, Necromorphs move quickly and often strike without warning using appendages that you didn't even know they had.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: During the game you kill SO MANY of these things that eventually their scare factor dies down a bit. They essentially become cannon fodder after a while.


#5 - Sadako Yamamura (The Ring, 2002)

Creepy, terrifying, and rooted in real-world urban legend, Sadako Yamamura's original incarnation in The Ring was chill-inducing nightmare-fuel on every level. Her silence as she slowly creeps towards her prey means she could be right behind you right now; her usage of televisions as a means to enter people's homes means that her portal of appearance is something we all have right there in our homes. As a monster, this creature works, and works extremely well.

Why this one isn't higher on the list:  The amount of parody this movie sustained in pop culture, through no fault of its own. Much like the Xenomorph, this iconic monster has been dragged through the mud over time, draining a lot of its thunder.


#4 - The Body Snatchers (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978)

These things are basically viral. They're more or less plants that transform into people (each pod becoming a specific person whose DNA they've come into contact with), and when the transformation is complete, the original person dies. They slowly begin to take over the world, and the only person who can stop them is Donald Sutherland (who is perhaps best known for his work producing... Kiefer Sutherland).

Now, this movie was a remake of an earlier movie of the same name. The version that came out in the 50's was also pretty scary, in a kinder gentler sort of way. I give priority to the 1978 version for several reasons. One, it's considerably more graphic. Two, it's colder. What do I mean, you ask? There's just a colder edge to it that the original didn't have, more of a sense of being on a slippery slope as things begin to spiral out of control. While both movies are great.... the original feels like an extended Twilight Zone episode, while the 1978 version feels like something that could really happen. At least while you're watching it. It plays off of feelings of powerlessness AND fear of being alone that are common traits in our collective subconsciousness. Needless to say, I'm quite a fan of this movie.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: The bodysnatchers take over very non-violently. Their victims tended to die quiet deaths in their sleep. Some may consider this pretty damn scary, but to me it lowers their menace level a notch.


#3 - T-800 (The Terminator and Terminator Salvation versions, 1984/2009)

"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, until you are dead."  These words sum up the high placement of the T-800 here.

 Arnold Schwarznegger was truly terrifying in this role in the original terminator. It laid waste to everything in its path with no emotion, and nothing seemed to be able to slow it down...much.

It was also extremely intelligent, and was able to predict the moves of the protagonists while in unwavering pursuit of them; this was especially apparent when it impersonated Sarah's mom to find out where she was. And these things came off of an assembly line in the future.

In said future, they were able to blend in with people and use their human appearance to infiltrate hiding places, killing everyone they found within. This sense of the unknown, coupled with the bleakness of fighting an army of these things that were often nearly indistinguishable from humans, makes the T-800 a truly terrifying monster that personified the futility of the Future War.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: Because the top two are just that scary.


#2 - Mor-Taxians (War of the Worlds, the series, 1988-1990)

War of the Worlds was really good...for the first season. A big reason why: The antagonists, the aliens, were truly terrifying. Unfortunately TV execs took over production of the show after the first season, turning it into a dark, dismal show for the second and final season. It was nearly unrecognizable after the change, and the incredibly menacing aliens were reduced to being human-looking Nazis.

That first season, however, was a great show in and of itself. It was scary to say the least, and contributing to that was the fact that it was probably more graphic than anything else on TV at the time. Back to the aliens... why were they terrifying, you ask? They could inhabit people's bodies. This might be what the show was best-known for and is most remembered for even now. Once they inhabited someone's body, that person essentially became a puppet/zombie under full control of the alien.

The aliens were able to blend into society this way, and move from body to body quietly. They had to do this, since inhabited bodies would (being dead and all) quickly begin to decompose. So when they'd move to a new body, generally the alien would jab a three-fingered hand out of the chest of their host body and choke their next host with it, de-fusing from the first body and fusing into the second. Unused bodies would melt into a puddle of smoldering goop. Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. They had no regard for humans either, seeing them as diseased vermin, and usually chose to kill people in as gruesome ways as possible.

Why this one isn't higher on the list: They were easy to kill...if their victims were aware of their presence in time. That's about the only reason, and a big if. They got very good at masquerading as common people and blending into groups as needed, later bursting out to wreak havoc and move to a new body.


#1 - The Thing (John Carpenter's The Thing, 1982)

This is hands-down the most terrifying monster I've ever seen put to film. Part of that is how gruesome the creature is in most of its forms, but I think even more of it can be attributed to the directing. Even before The Thing appears for the first time, this movie gives off a sense of forboding under the surface. You just know that there's something off about that dog.

The Thing itself is nearly un-killable, since any bits of it that survive can grow into a new Thing. Whether it's a different creature or has the same mind as the rest of it is up for debate, as the creature is very much an alien mystery. Not only that, but it has the ability to inhabit other creatures and use them as a disguise. The Thing seems to also be able to assimilate some of the traits of its hosts, behaving like they would even after it takes over their mind. This adds that layer of fearing the unknown, of being able to trust no one.

At some point the protagonists learn that The Thing could potentially colonize the entire Earth in a couple of years just by systematically inhabiting all of the creatures on it. This might be one of the scariest things I've ever heard in a movie. This one hits on nearly all of the most frightening points that the previous entries have. It's a malevolent creature that is scary in and of itself, that can walk amongst us, and that can spread from person to person until there's no one left. Thus, this is the easy pick for the #1 spot. Did The Thing ever find a way off of Antartica, in the story? We'll never know, but the mere idea that maybe it did is a scary one.

No pictures for this one, because... eww. Just go see the movie.

Thus concludes my picks for the Top 16 Scariest Monsters to Ever Grace Movies, Television, and Video Games. Feel free to comment on these picks below, or even tell me your own picks.


  1. I gotta give it to the Terminators myself. Do the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park count as monsters?

  2. I thought about Jurassic Park, and thought they deserved a spot on here (especially if Jaws got on the list). Problem is, I have only seen JP once and don't remember being particularly scared by them. Maybe it's because I was so into dinosaurs as a kid.

    You've never seen The Thing (that I know of) or WotW the series, but take it from me, those top two are pretty nasty. Still, terminators are bad enough that I almost consider #3 and #2 a tie.

  3. This list is a lot of fun to read. I'm glad the Ring Wraiths made it onto this because those things freak me the hell out.

    I actually think the First Lord Of The Rings "The Fellowship" could be considered a horror movie in a lot of ways.

  4. Sorry I'm reading this quite a bit late, but I felt compelled to comment.

    Too. Much. Terminator.

    Having watched horror movies from a pretty young age I may be fairly desensitized, but I question the inclusion of these characters. In fact, I'll see your Terminator, and raise you a Norman Bates (Psycho, 1960).

    Alternately I would suggest the goblins from Labyrinth, but if you'll excuse me I'm going to bow out of this conversation because I fear my nerd is showing.

  5. Darth Vader might be worthy if this was just A New Hope. Once he actually doesn't want to hurt Luke (...all cutting off of hands aside) he loses most of his malice.

    The Thing really can't be topped. If it was actually defeated that would be one thing, but... it was probably... well, you know.

  6. This is the most you've ever written about War of the Worlds and you did a great job explaining why the show made such a impression on you. I see that monsters that hide inside your body really get to you even more than terminators who just kill you. I agree the fear of violation is just chilling.

    We're now 10+ years away from LOTR and I Am Legend so it's nice to see they're not forgotten.

    Sadako from The Ring was such a person villain in my book because I look at screens all the time and the idea of a monster coming out of one is just the worst.

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