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The 50 Scariest Monsters In Movie History

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The 50 Scariest Monsters In Movie History

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2012/10/50-scariest-monsters-movie-history/frankenstein


The 50 Scariest Monsters In Movie History
Matt Barone
ByMatt Barone

Matt Barone is a staff writer at Complex who specializes in covering movies and TV.

@MBarone | facebook | linkedin | google+
Oct 17, 2012

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There's a reason why those Paranormal Activity movies work so well with viewers anxiously seeking scares: The presence of evil is suggested but little is shown, leading viewers to imagine the worst possible horrors and freak themselves out more than any director could. It's a tried and true formula dating back to classic horror flicks like Cat People (1942) and The Haunting (1963). Instead of revealing what the ghosts, demons, or supernatural beasts look like, the directors (Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise, respectively) use noises and characters' frightened reactions to convey the terror.

When filmmakers reveal their movies' monsters and allow the nightmarish antagonists to linger on screen for long stretches of time, the results can often deflate the tension they've built up. It's impossible to be scared of laughable baddies that suffer from cheap special effects, silly makeup work, or simply lame designs.

Directors and their trusty visual effects collaborators do get it right on occasion. In the new box office champion Sinister, for instance, there's a fictional Pagan deity known as Bughuul whose black-metal-demon look nicely adds to the film's overall creepiness. Sinister has us feeling all kinds of wonderfully nostalgic about the best kinds of scary cinema, but with the presumably implication-heavy Paranormal Activity 4 set to dominate the box office this weekend, it seems that we're heading into another period of less-is-more horror.

And sometimes, especially around Halloween, it feels good to shriek at the sight of something solely conceived to scar brains and linger in thoughts. Hence, the inspiration behind compiling the following list of The 50 Scariest Monsters in Movie History. Here, seeing is believing.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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50. The Predator

Appears in: Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Alien vs. Predator (2004), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Scariest moment: The Predator fires a laser beam at George Dillon (Carl Weathers) that rips his arm clean off.
Weakness: Fighting former Mr. Universe champions.

Director John McTiernan's thoroughly badass Predator made all aliens presented as little green men look soft batch and laughably lame. The film's titular baddie is a technologically advanced extraterrestrial that resembles a diesel Rastafarian and uses laser weaponry and active camouflage invisibility to hunt special forces fighters (led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime) for sport in a Central American jungle.

Thanks to those inept Alien vs. Predator flicks, the character has been diluted in recent years, but as long as McTiernan's genre classic exists in DVD and Blu-ray forms, the Predator's once-sterling reputation won't ever completely fade away.
49. The Triffids

Appears in: The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Scariest moment: One particularly disruptive triffid crashes through a window and terrorizes a fancy dinner party.
Weakness: Seawater.

Remember that priceless scene in M. Night Shyamalan's awful film The Happening where Mark Wahlberg tries to verbally reason with a plant? Anyone who's seen the 1962 British sci-fi flick The Day of the Triffids should have a pretty good idea how we would've handled that moment, given the chance to rewrite Shyamalan's screenplay: Marky Mark's head would've met the plant's venomous stinger.

Inherently silly, yet somehow efficiently executed, director Steve Sekely's adaptation of author John Wyndham's 1951 novel presents a poisonous plant-form known as the triffid. Which can uproot itself, move around as if it have legs and feet, communicate with other triffids, and murder people with the aforementioned stinger.
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48. The Rheodsaurus

Appears in: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Scariest moment: Rampaging the streets of Manhattan, the huge dinosaur withstands military gunfire as it crushes its way through buildings.
Weakness: Radioactive isotopes.

Before anyone accuses The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms of cribbing all of its ideas from Japan's Godzilla, consider this: Beast was released a year earlier than Godzilla. So is it actually the other way around? It appears so, but, frankly, who gives a damn?

Both films are monster movie blasts in their own right, though only one (Beast) has creature effects from Mr. Ray Harryhausen. And only one (Beast, again) features the wicked plot development of the monster's blood, let out by a soldier's bazooka fire striking the Rhedosaurus' scaly throat, turning human bystanders into beastly humanoids, albeit briefly.
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47. Stripe

Appears in: Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Scariest moment: Inside a toy store, while showering atop a small water fountain, Stripe fires handgun rounds at Gizmo as baby Mogwai convulse in bubbles on his back.
Weakness: Sunlight. Strictly spray tans, dig?

Set during the Christmas season, Joe Dante's family-approved horror-comedy Gremlins is perfect viewing near a yuletide tree with glasses of non-alcoholic eggnog. Gizmo, the cute Mogwai with a heart of gold, allows for the kiddies to enjoy Gremlins. For the most part.

Once Stripe, the evil product of feeding some Mogwai after midnight, makes his grand entrance, Dante's holiday classic adopts an insidious undertone. A minuscule but destructive nihilist, Stripe lives for no other reason than to terrorize, specifically our boy Gizmo (and generally all child viewers).

When it comes to gift-giving, save the Gizmo toys for the Teddy Ruxpin crowd—Stripe collectibles are strictly for My Pet Monster owners.
46. Pumpkinhead

Appears in: Pumpkinhead (1988), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994), Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes (2006), Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud (2007)
Scariest moment: Thinking he's shot Pumpkinhead dead, Joel (John D'Aquino) does what all idiotic characters in horror movies do: He checks the seemingly lifeless body. Then, the monster impales Joel with his own rifle, once again giving validity to the old phrase, "Leave well enough alone."
Weakness: Any harm done to Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen), the father of the dead boy whose vengeance Pumpkinhead seeks.

It should come as no surprise that Pumpkinhead, a wholly original horror film marked by its ingenious premise, was the brainchild of Stan Winston, the master of special effects. Who else could imagine a large, hideous demon spawned when a witch combines a pumpkin and a human corpse?

Wisely, Winston also cared about story while putting Pumpkinhead together, and its emphasis on character is what has given the film its current cult status. Lance Henriksen shines as a grieving father who's hell-bent on making the bastards who inadvertently killed his young son—via reckless dirt bike riding—pay with their lives. Hence his meeting with the aforementioned witch and her decision to save the orange squash from being used as a jack-o'-lantern.
45. The Pack

Appears in: The Pack (2010)
Scariest moment: Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne) hangs upside down as the humanoid cannibal monsters crawl out of the ground and feed on the person hanging next to her.
Weakness: English subtitles.

Don't underestimate a mother's love for her sons—even if her kids are long dead and feast on human flesh.

In the nifty, if not altogether memorable, 2010 French horror flick The Pack, a hitchhiker lures a beautiful, rebellious woman to his mom's isolated farm, where she harbors a twisted secret: Buried underneath the ground outside her cabin are the bodies of her deceased seeds, who were killed in a mining accident.

Using the chicks her living son brings back to her, Mommy Sickest feeds her zombified offspring by stringing the ladies up by their feet, cutting them, and letting their dripping blood entice the ghouls to rise up from the ground and chow down. Cite this example of motherly love the next time your mom refuses to do your laundry.
44. The Blob

Appears In: The Blob (1958), The Blob (1988)
Scariest Moment: In the 1988 remake, a cook, working in a diner's dirty kitchen, reaches into the sink to unclog it when the blob shoots out of the drain, hugs his face, and pulls his entire body through the drain. Excruciating pain, anyone?
Weakness: Freezing cold. Fortunately strip clubs in Montreal are crackin'!

Not scared by what closely resembles a wad of raspberry jam gone horribly wrong? Just try to outrun it, as many of the victims in the 1958 cult classic The Blob do to no avail. The byproduct of a crashed alien meteor, the jelly-like substance attaches itself to people and basically swallows them whole, all while slithering around town and jamming out to its own beautifully cheesy theme song, "Beware of the Blob," sung by who else but a group called the Five Blobs. That's scary for an entirely different reason.
43. Quetzacoatl

Appears in: Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
Scariest moment: The serpent plucks a pesky sniper out of a building's tower with its mouth and spits him out into the air. It's an incredibly long drop to the poor guy's death.
Weakness: Poorly concealed green screens.

Excuse those cheesy special effects for a second.

Today, Larry Cohen's Q: The Winged Serpent registers as one of those seriously dated '80s oddities that play best for crowds of midnight audiences in venues like Austin's Alamo Drafthouse. But just imagine how the resurrected flying Aztec god Quetzalcoatl must have played in 1982 to moviegoers back who weren't conditioned to James Cameron's kind of visual FX.

OK, maybe Q: The Winged Serpent's campiness was apparent back then, too. Nevertheless, the idea of cult members bringing a winged demon back from the dead to wreak havoc in New York City is definitely unsettling. If that were to happen in real life, you wouldn't be laughing. Trust us.
42. The Critters

Appears in: Critters (1986), Critters 2: The Main Course (1988), Critters 3 (1991), Critters 4 (1992)
Scariest moment: In this case, "scariest" is used loosely. A more apt word would be "funniest," or "best scene in which the filmmakers threw their arms in the air and said, '**** it.'" During the climax of 1986's Critters, two of the titular beasties are about to bum-rush a house, but there's a problem. "They have weapons," one says in their indecipherable language, right before a woman blows the other Critter away with a shotgun. The surviving one's response: "****!" Pure genius!
Weakness: Human feet (which can just punt them with ease).

Aren't those little bastards cute? Sure, especially if you used to collect those old Troll dolls and always wished that they'd have sex with Stripe from Gremlins and start biting people. The puny, carnivorous monsters are members of an alien race that's blessed with the ability to roll with motorcycle-like speed and launch the spikes on their backs as pointy missiles. Silly, yes, but also the last kind of animal you'd ever want nipping at your heels to play Fetch.
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41. The Crawling Eye

Appears in: The Trollenberg Terror (1958)
Scariest moment: With a building's roof blown clean off, the eye-monster starts wrapping its tentacles around the necks of several men and pulling them into the air.
Weakness: Molotov cocktails.

That's right, the monster in 1958's The Trollenberg Terror is a giant eyeball. With tentacles. And it's amazing.

Though certainly dated by the sands of time, the gigantic pupil at the center of this optometrist-friendly sci-fi romp deserves a spot in this countdown simply for its creators' nuttiness. In the late '50s, concepts of this variety were commonplace, so The Trollenberg Terror's proposition of being terrified by an eyeball wasn't as ridiculous then as it is now.

Think about it this way, though: You're casually strolling down the street, listening to the new G.O.O.D. Music album on your iPod, when the thing seen in the above pic crawls toward you. Yes, you'd defecate on sight.
40. The Toilet Ghoul

Appears in: Ghoulies II (1988)
Scariest moment: The most unlikable character in Ghoulies II (which says a lot) sits down to, um, unload in the bathroom of a trailer. Though we don't see what's actually happening beneath his waist (thank heavens), dude's bloodcurdling screams and the sounds of little teeth munching imply all we need to know.
Weakness: Plungers and anyone who just ate fast-food "meat."

Yes, Ghoulies was little more than a darkened ripoff of Gremlins, and the diminutive monsters themselves look ridiculously silly when viewed through the eyes of people seasoned by today's lavish visual effects. But what's scarier than something that attacks you while you're using the toilet? And we're not talking diarrhea. With their field of vision blocked below and their pants down, a potty user is vulnerable and exposed.

Too deeply thought an analysis for a scene that involves a shitter and a goofy looking demon? Perhaps. Just don't judge us for standing up while taking dropping deuces.
39. The Giant Ants

Appear in: Them! (1954)
Scariest moment: Onboard a freighter loaded with sugar, tons of humongous ants attack the crew in a full-scale massacre.
Weakness: Flamethrowers. Or possibly gigantic magnifying glasses.

Hell hath no fury like an ant given gargantuan size. In the 1954 flick Them!, atomic tests in New Mexico go awry, causing those little black insects everyone casually crushes on sidewalks to mutate into murderers the size of monster trucks. And it's not as if ants don't have a reason to hate humans—when was the last time you stopped to let an ant pass you by, rather than step on it and go about your day without remorse? Exactly.
38. The Bugs

Appear in: Starship Troopers (1997)
Scariest moment: An endless army of pissed-off alien insects charges toward the steadily firing soldiers' bunker.
Weakness: Unsubtly veiled propaganda.

For a movie that, on the surface, seems like one you'd watch on the SyFy network, Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is terrifically clever. It's pure modern-day propaganda, a military recruitment video masked as a special effects science fiction extravaganza with endless swarms of large insect enemies dubbed "the Bugs." Attacking the futuristic human soldiers with overpowering vigor, Verhoeven's creepy-crawlies never kill someone without leaving a gooey, blood-red pool of guts and limbs behind.
37. Clover

Appears in: Cloverfield (2008)
Scariest moment: A small group of survivors, flying away in a helicopter, shout in joy as they watch the monster get pummeled by Army missiles, but then, seconds later, "Clover" jumps into the frame, out of nowhere, and smacks the 'copter down to the ground.
Weakness: An addiction to eating attractive, successful, and painfully bland NYC 20-somethings. Everybody knows they go right to the thighs.

Forget about predecessors like Godzilla, King Kong, and Rodan—in 2008's Cloverfield, the humongous monster had to contend with half a year's worth of speculation and anticipation.

Producer J.J. Abrams and company first premiered the film's ambiguous teaser trailer in July 2007, in front of Transformers, and set off a firestorm of movie blogger questions surrounding everything from Cloverfield's plot to what exactly the antagonist would look like. Some people wanted the new Godzilla; others wanted H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu.

But what they all got was something naysayers never would have expected: a massive creature designed with ingenuity and masterfully revealed in increments thanks to nicely employed found-footage tactics. When director Matt Reeves does finally show "Clover" in all its insect-meets-lizard glory, the impact is viscerally pleasing. Fulfilled expectations always feel so damn good.
36. Pyramid Head

Appears in: Silent Hill (2006)
Scariest moment: With sirens ringing, Silent Hill's petrified churchgoers watch in horror as Pyramid Head grabs a young woman, lifts her in the air, and tears all of her skin off in one swoop, as if her flesh is a tabelecloth and she's the table.
Weakness: People with thick skin...literally.

Don't believe the critics who lambasted director Christophe Gans' video game adaptation Silent Hill. Save for its admittedly clunky script, the film is a triumph of visual creep-outs, discomforting sound design, and dedication to disturbing audiences in any way possible. Taken directly from the popular Konami games, Silent Hill's most striking monster is Pyramid Head, a faceless punisher that drags its massive spear on the ground and yanks the skin off its victims in one swoop.
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35. Crowley Demon

Appears in: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)
Scariest moment: The transformation of Professor Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund) into the obese, repulsive demon, during which tentacles spring out of his back and Crowley's face inflates like a fleshy balloon.
Weakness: Treadmills.

Making no qualms about his love for Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films, Canadian director Jon Knautz emerged on the horror scene in 2008 with the underrated horror-comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. The title character, played by Trevor Matthews, is Knautz's version of Bruce Campbell's Ash, except, here, blue-collar everyman Brooks slays demons in various places, not just a cabin in the woods.

And, boy, do those demons look really damn cool. Packed with top-notch makeup effects, the independently made Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer looks like a big-budgeted Hollywood production. Most impressive of all is the Crowley Demon, which starts off as a malicious college professor (Freddy Krueger himself, actor Robert Englund) and, through meddling with an evil force, morphs into that attractive thing seen above.
34. Cyclops

Appears in: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Scariest moment: Fleeing desperately, Sinbad and his crew hurl spears at a very angry Cyclops as the one-eyed monster chases them down a beach.
Weakness: Any damage done to its one eye.

Legendary animator Ray Harryhausen's monsters will never get old. Unlike the creatures visualized in cheaper 1950s schlock like Creature with the Atom Brain and The Brain from Planet Arous, his stop-motion creations possess a special quality that's equal parts simplistic and lifelike. In The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen's Cyclops gives memorable life to one of Greek mythology's greatest beasts. For all their CGI, those recent Clash of the Titans movies have nothing on it.
33. The Rancor

Appears in: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Scariest moment: Pinned against a closed gate and thinking that his time is up, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) watches in panicked horror as the Rancor barrels toward him.
Weakness: George Lucas' inability to stop tinkering with his movies (like every other Star Wars character).

Of all the many otherworldly creations in George Lucas' Star Wars franchise, the Rancor, seen in 1983's Return of the Jedi, is by far the scariest. Well, unless you count Jar Jar Binks—that idiotic and totally racist character is horrifying for different reasons.

In terms of sheer terror, the Rancor has no Star Wars peer, and when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gets thrown into the beast's pit for Jabba the Hut's barbaric entertainment purposes, Return of the Jedi briefly becomes an old-school creature feature. Though the Rancor is too easily defeated, it's nonetheless a monster with real staying power.
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32. Imhotep

Appears in: The Mummy (1932)
Scariest moment: After waking up, the reanimated corpse exits its coffin, lumbers over to the table where researcher Ralph Norton (Bramwell Thatcher) is seated, and slowly snatches the scroll off it. Norton, naturally, screams like a little girl.
Weakness: Destroying the scroll that gave him life.

Pity the fool who associates the movie title The Mummy with those soulless special effects films starring Brendan Fraser. As Hollywood often does, the producers behind the initial 1999 film took an elegant, subdued horror classic (the 1932 Universal movie of the same name), depleted all of its nuances and intelligence, and replaced them with pricey CGI and flat characters. For another example, see Jan de Bont's wretched remake of The Haunting.

Allow us to use this space to avenge the good names of Boris Karloff, director Karl Freund, and producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. Combining their formidable talents, the trio delivered The Mummy in 1932 to audiences that were riding high on Universal's one-two punch of Dracula and Frankenstein (which also starred Karloff) in 1931.

Karloff played Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian priest brought to life inside his coffin by overzealous archaeologists. Wrapped in filthy bandages and conveying imposition through mere groaning, the English actor gave yet another stellar performance in a role that required no dialogue.
31. The Dog Gargoyle

Appears in: Ghostbusters (1984)
Scariest moment: Ruining an otherwise enjoyable apartment party, the ferocious beast chases Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) out of the high-rise building and right into the glass wall of a swanky restaurant.
Weakness: Possessed vacuum cleaners.

For a second there, Louis Tully is on the verge of scoring. A textbook nerd, he's stepping out of his league to kick game to a tall, buxom blonde who's attending Louis' apartment party. But there's a knock at the door, and the gathering's latest guests give Louis their coats; thinking nothing of it, he tosses their outerwear into the closet, onto the head of the possessed dog nobody has noticed.

Hearing the growls from inside the closet, Louis playfully asks, "OK, who brought the dog?" If only it was a cute Golden Retriever. Instead, it's a four-legged gargoyle with horns, and it's terrifying.
30. Gwoemul

Appears in: The Host (2006)
Scariest moment: The creature's forceful introduction, when the oversized water-dweller leaps out of the Han River and decimates its way through a crowd of shell-shocked humans.
Weakness: Little girls (but not in the perverted way).

In the tradition of Japan's Godzilla, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's underrated monster movie The Host taps into the fears associated with the military's interferences within the natural order. Here, the amphibious beast that emerges from the Han River is the result of an American pathologist dumping hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde into a sewer system that leads into the Han.

Once it pops up to say "**** you" to everyone in sight, The Host's antagonist, dubbed "Gwoemul," barrels through myriad people before kidnapping a cute little girl and solidifying itself as a top player within the big monster pantheon. No hard feelings, Mothra.
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29. The Skeletons

Appear in: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Scariest moment: Armed with swords and shields, a small army of combatant skeletons attacks Jason and his cohorts near the edge of a mountain top.
Weakness: Swords, kicks, and punches, just like any other (living) swordsmen.

How do you kill what's already dead? That's just one of the many troubling questions in Greek mythological hero Jason's (Todd Armstrong) mind as he and his fellow sword-and-sandal heroes are forced to swing blades against a band of skeletal soldiers. Created with wonderful stop-motion innovation by Ray Harryhausen, the bone brigade in Jason and the Argonauts only appears on screen for a few minutes, but its impact lingers, mainly because Harryhausen's designs blur the line between video game surrealism and herky-jerky realism.
28. The Terminator

Appears in: The Terminator (1984)
Scariest moment: In the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the robot assassin in The Terminator (1980) warns a police officer "I'll be back," a quote that's been rendered corny today but was rather chilling at the time of the movie's release.
Weaknesses: Hydraulic presses and anything else that can crush metal.

The word "monster" implies many things: enormous animals, undead stalkers, pint-sized demons. Monsters come in all kinds of forms, and in the world introduced in James Cameron's seminal The Terminator, they're actually robots, though their metallic forms don't stop them from being some of the deadliest monsters in all of cinema.

Built by Skynet, an advanced artificial intelligence from the future, the killing machines, or "endoskeletons," were designed to resemble humans, from the ways in which they move to their physical makeups, usually covered in synthetic skin. The key difference being, of course, that flesh-and-blood folks can't withstand dozens of bullets, nor can they intimidate foes by simply flashing their red, laser-beam eyes.
27. Jason Voorhees

Appears in: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Friday the 13th Part III (1982), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), Jason X (2002), Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Scariest moment: Oddly enough, Jason's scariest moment happens long before he ever finds that hockey mask or even makes his first kill. It comes at the end of 1980's Friday the 13th, when, after decapitating the film's murderer, Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), final girl Alice (Adrienne King) tries to relax on a drifting canoe; seemingly about to enter a peaceful dreamland, Alice suffers one more shock as the rotted corpse of young Jason rises out of the water and pulls her into Crystal Lake.
Weakness: Bad actresses who love showing off their boobs during sex and shower scenes.

Making his first official appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2, the ubiquitous slasher Jason Voorhees has since become one of the horror genre's most iconic and instantly recognizable figures. Yet, the question of whether he's actually scary or not has always been in discussion. How terrifying can an undead slayer be when, by the fifth or sixth movie in his franchise, his methods of killing repeatedly border on self-spoofing?

Just try asking that question to Mr. Voorhees himself as he's about to plunge that machete into your forehead. Even though the Friday the 13th series jumped the proverbial shark a long time ago (see: Voorhees' absurd outer space adventure in 2001's Jason X), the concept of a muscular, unstoppable zombie wearing a hockey mask will forever be the stuff of nightmares, at least in theory.
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26. The Graboids

Appears in: Tremors (1990), Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996), Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
Scariest moment: Showing their strategic brainpower, the Graboids dig a huge ditch in the path of bulldozer, causing the machine to wreck.
Weakness: Explosives made by backwoods yokels.

There's nothing wrong with a little self-analysis. When we put together our list of the 15 best horror-comedies of all time earlier this year, we unfortunately overlooked one very worthy flick: Tremors, the intelligently written, nicely cast romp about extremely large sandworms known as "Graboids." Rumbling underneath the ground and bursting through dirt to finish humans off, they're the sources of plenty of efficient jump scares and tongue-in-cheek action.

Starring a young Kevin Bacon, Tremors is that rare example of a big-time actor's early horror film role being something to take pride in, not frown upon, a la Brad Pitt in the forgettable 1989 slasher flick Cutting Class.
25. Count Dracula

Appears in: Dracula (1931), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Scariest moment: Dracula (Bela Lugosi), holding a lit candlestick, stands in front of a staircase covered in thick cobwebs and invites Renfield (Dwight Frye), as well as future generations of horror movie fans, to walk with him up the stairs. Clearly, the destination isn't anywhere positive.
Weakness: Sunlight.

Depending on how you feel about modern-day vampires, Bela Lugosi's turn in director Tod Browning's classic adaptation of novelist Bram Stoker's Dracula is either the most important acting performance in horror history or the catalyst for infuriating crap.

We reside within the former camp, but also sympathize with the latter. Playing Count Dracula as a suave charmer, Lugosi established the blueprint for future undead ladies' men like Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer on HBO's True Blood) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson in the Twilight movies). To the influential Hungarian actor's credit, though, he was also able to scare us by simply leering over a woman who's sleeping in bed. The same can't be said for today's emo vamps.
24. Cesare

Appears in: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Scariest moment: The first time Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) opens up Cesare's (Conrad Veidt) coffin to reveal the black-eyed, white-faced, slumbering ghoul resting within.
Weakness: Alarm clocks.

The horror film as we all know it can be traced back to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the 1920 German silent film masterpiece directed by Robert Wiene with a surrealist's touch. Before the film's monster, the somnambulist Cesare, even shows up, Caligari is an excellent demonstration of off-kilter creepiness, an effect achieved by Wiene through his decision to have all of the sets abstractly designed as dreamscapes populated by jagged, fantastical looking buildings.

But then Caligari, one of cinema's great mad doctors, sends his sleeping, hypnotically controlled man-servant Cesare out on the town to abduct the beautiful Jane Olsen (Lil Dagover). That's when Wiene's film reaches its apex of pure horror, and the degree to which The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has been influential amongst the genre's elite directors is immeasurable.
23. Jaws

Appears in: Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Scariest moment: As Brody (Roy Scheider) and Quint (Robert Shaw) attempt to bring a ripped-up cage onto their boat, the Orca, the massive Great White suddenly pops out of the water and smashes its head on the vessel, causing the Orca to tip.
Weakness: Exploding scuba tanks.

In 1974, novelist Peter Benchley's Jaws emerged as a best seller, an unlikely thriller about a killer great white shark and the few men brave enough to battle it. As an enjoyable page-turner, Benchley's book works just fine, but it wasn't until Steven Spielberg endured a hellish shoot to complete his 1975 blockbuster adaptation that the homicidal fish officially earned its scary stripes.

Mostly kept off the screen—the unintended result of the animatronic shark's steady malfunctions on set—Spielberg's underwater antagonist strikes fear in viewers' bone through mere suggestion, be it a camera shot beneath swimmers' dangling legs or composer John Williams' iconic score. When Jaws does finally show his face and razor-sharp teeth, so to speak, the shocks are ferocious.
22. Pinhead

Appears in: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Helllworld (2005), Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Scariest moment: Rising up behind a scared shitless Kristy Cotton (Ashley Laurence), Pinhead cryptically informs her, in his muddied up, marble-mouthed Darth Vader voice, "We have such sights to show you."
Weakness: Hats? Lightning bolts? Low hanging entryways?

It takes a truly sick bastard to be crowned the leader of a crew as demonic as the Cenobites, the monsters that rule Clive Barker's Hellraiser movie franchise. Adorned with body piercings, clad in sliced-up S&M black leather outfits, and cursed with inhuman faces, the Cenobites torture and kill through disgustingly hedonistic means.

The only purveyor of sadomasochistic pain worthy of running their show is Pinhead (Doug Bradley). As the story goes, he was once British captain Elliot Spenser, who shunned God, wandered the land practicing sadistic hedonism, and ultimately became Hellraiser's villain identified by the nails sticking out of his head. Not to mention, his penchant for mutilating victims by summoning hooks and chains to rip their bodies apart.

For Pinhead, pain is pleasure.
21. The Baby in Eraserhead

Appears in: Eraserhead (1977)
Scariest moment: The sight of the sperm-like creature, sores and all, crying in agony as it struggles to breathe.
Weakness: Parental neglect. *cough* Dad. *cough*

Does the thought of one day becoming a father scare you half to death? Give David Lynch's Eraserhead a gander and watch that "half" change to "fully."

As the eponymous weirdo, actor Jack Fisk mesmerizes as the strangest human inhabitant in an exceedingly bizarre alternate reality of sorts, where his anxieties about parenthood take the form of a disfigured newborn. In a fiendishly clever touch, Lynch has the repulsive baby act very much like your average, normal looking baby: It cries nonstop and keeps Fisk awake at all hours.

The key difference between Eraserhead's rug rat and actual babies: This one's cries are the result of multiple sores all over its body, it has no skin, and the turning on and off of light switches causes its head to become a planet. Parents who've never seen a David Lynch movie just don't understand.
POST CONTINUES BELOW
20. The Pterodactyls

Appear in: The Mist (2007)
Scariest moment: After being shot, one of the wounded monsters approaches little Billy Drayton (Nathan ****) while the boy's back is turned and opens its mouth in a get-in-my-belly roar.
Weakness: Bullets, broomsticks, and torches.

Released in the same exceptional year for cinema as films like There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men, Frank Darabont's ballsy Stephen King adaptation The Mist performed admirably (making $57M on an $18M budget) yet was mostly overlooked by critics assembling Best Of lists come December. Genre heads, however, recognized its greatness.

With its thick-headed characters trapped inside a supermarket, The Mist unleashes a barrage of otherworldly monsters of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of effectiveness. During the film's centerpiece—a siege within the market's aisles that leaves several folks dead—pterodactyls with a taste for flesh charge their way through the broken glass windows and raise hell.

Here's a tip: To enhance their old-school monster impact, seek out the two-disc special DVD or Blu-ray edition of The Mist and watch the movie in black-and-white, as Darabont intended.
19. The T-Rex

Appears in: Jurassic Park (1993), Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997), Jurassic Park III (2001)
Scariest moment: A jeep's rearview mirror shows the standard "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear" as the T-Rex's face roars up close and personally into the mirror.
Weakness: Evolution.

Growing up, most little boys scour books and visit museums to learn all about the dinosaurs that once ruled Earth, and, obviously, the Tyrannosaurus Rex commands more attention than any other dinosaur. So when Steven Spielberg's blockbuster adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park debuted in June of 1993, kids everywhere demanded that their parents bring them to the nearest movie theater. The thought of seeing a T-Rex in action was too awesome to quell.

But then kids actually saw the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, and nightmares ensued. Wisely, Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp kept the "tyrant lizard" entirely evil, complete with a magnificently staged emergence involving the Tyrannosaurus, a few jeeps, some petrified humans, and a doomed lawyer sitting on a crapper.
18. Freddy Krueger

Appears in: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Scariest moment: While teenage mental patient Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) watches TV in the asylum, Freddy suddenly appears on the talk show she's checking out; when she walks closer to the screen, Freddy's exaggeratedly long arms extended out of the tube's sides and grab her as Krueger's head pushes out of the television's top. Before ramming her head into the screen, he says, "This is it, Jennifer: Your big break in TV. Welcome to prime time, ****!"
Weakness: His inability to avoid becoming mortal once he's pulled out of dreams and brought into the real world.

Over the years, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) has garnered acclaim more for his stand-up comedian qualities than his ability to inspire night terrors. It makes perfect sense, since Englund's brilliant portrayal of the child molester turned knife-glove-wearing dreamland serial killer fully embraces the character's morbid wit.

When writer-director Wes Craven first imagined Freddy, though, the ideas bouncing around in Craven's head were sickly clever. While sleeping, people are at their most vulnerable, making it nearly impossible to stop Krueger from offing whomever he pleases in gory, imaginative ways. Furthermore, nobody can stay awake forever, so, eventually, whether it's after a week or two months or longer, you're going to enter Freddy's domain. And the outcome won't be ideal.
POST CONTINUES BELOW
17. King Kong

Appears in: King Kong (1933)
Scariest moment: Kong's unforgettable introduction, when Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), tied up as a helpless prisoner, screams in terror as the massive Kong pokes his head out from behind some trees.
Weakness: Hot blonde women. We feel you, Kong!

Screenwriters James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose executed a deft okie-doke when they brought King Kong to life in 1933. At first, the gigantic ape is presented as a villainous monster, the sure-to-be doomsayer for beautify actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) when she's abducted by jungle natives and strung up for Kong to do with as he pleases.

As the story progresses, though, Kong softens up. By the film's end, the once-scary beast has earned the audience's affections, giving its tragic episode atop the Empire State Building a sad poignancy that's uncommon for monster movies.
16. The Phantom

Appears in: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Scariest moment: While being held captive in the Phantom's underground hideout, Christine (Mary Philbin) slowly walks up behind him as he's playing the piano, pulls his mask off, and reveals the Phantom's hideous, skeletal face.
Weaknesses: Mirrors, obviously; also, dentists and toothbrushes.

Poor Phantom—all he wants is for Christine (Mary Philbin), the apple of his eye, to love him as much as he adores her. That's why Lon Chaney's deformed character, who haunts the Paris Opera House in this 1925 silent film classic, goes about killing people who stand in actress Christine's path to on-stage success. One of horror's great tragic figures, the Phantom embodies that old saying "love stinks." It's not his fault that his face looks like it's been dipped in acid for a solid five minutes straight.
15. The Creeper

Appears in: Jeepers Creepers (2001), Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
Scariest moment: Casually driving down the highway, Trish (Gina Phillips) and Darry (Justin Long) see the Creeper dumping what appears to be a body wrapped in bloody bedsheets down a large pipe; then, seconds later, the Creeper turns and stares at them.
Weakness: Any day that's not the 23rd day of every 23rd spring.

If only horror movies like Jeepers Creepers came along at least twice a year. In a genre notoriously chastised for its overall lack of originality, writer-director Victor Salva surprised critics and fans alike with this creative subversion of monster movie tropes and slasher movie conceits.

Unlike any other horror villain, the Creeper is a fascinating amalgam of several fresh ideas. Living in a house tucked away on the side of a desolate highway, it's a winged, flesh-devouring creature that only comes out to play every 23rd spring for 23 days, and when it's done, a piece of a victim is taken and added to the Creeper's collection of humans organs and limbs.
POST CONTINUES BELOW
14. The Thing in the Crate

Appears in: Creepshow (1982)
Scariest moment: An arrogant grad student, not believing his professor's story about the monster in the crate, foolishly investigates and gruesomely meets the beast face to face.
Weakness: The lack of desire to stray too far away from the crate.

As a whole, Creepshow, the E.C. Comics-inspired horror anthology from George A. Romero and Stephen King, holds up as one of the best genre omnibuses of all time. Like every other anthology, the 1982 gem has its weak spots, as well as one segment that's inarguably its strongest component, and that's "The Crate."

Adapting his own short story, King lays out a bloody, shocking, but also darkly funny tale of a disgruntled husband's (Hal Holbrook) payback against his emotionally abusive, insufferable wife (Adrienne Barbeau). How the male spouse enacts his revenge is the real rub: He desperately employs a Yeti-like monster, found inside a college basement, that's been dormant inside a crate for 148 years.

Romero doesn't show viewers much of the crate's inhabitant until the segment's payoff. And, as you can see above, it's totally worth it.
13. Pale Man

Appears in: Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Scariest moment: Pale Man grabs two eyeballs off of a plate, stuffs them into his palms, and opens his hands in front of the eye socket area, suddenly able to see the little girl who's disturbed his slumber.
Weakness: Overly firm handshakes.

There's no denying the singularly fantastical imagination of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, a guy whose childhood, centered around Universal Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft's literature, has turned him into a true genre master. Pan's Labyrinth, the 2006 Academy Award-winning knockout that officially put his name on the worldwide map, showcases del Toro's creativity at its best.

It's the tale of an oppressed little girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who creates elaborate dreamworlds in her head to escape her evil, militant stepfather's (Sergi Lopez) forceful tyranny. In one of Ofelia's make-believe retreats, she encounters the Pale Man, an eyeless eater of children that guards an abundant feast and attacks anyone dumb enough to steal any of his food. Ofelia, naturally, swipes a couple grapes, causing the Pale Man to reveal the eyeballs in his palms and chase her down.

Whimsical yet terrifying, it's the kind of sequence that could only come from del Toro's wonderfully twisted mind.
12. Gill-man

Appears in: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Scariest moment: As the sexy Kay Lawrence takes a nice, casual swim, the creature stalks her from underneath the water, swimming parallel to Kay and ogling her.
Weakness: Sexy women wearing one-piece bathing suits. We feel you, Gill-man!

Before Steven Spielberg's Jaws turned the act of swimming into a fearful endeavor, director Jack Arnold's The Creature from the Black Lagoon made it impossible for women in the late 1950s to do the breaststroke without paranoia.

Set in an Amazonian jungle, Arnold's film follows a group of geologists investigating fossilized evidence of ancient sea creatures. When one of the modern-day descendants pops up to abduct one of the doctor's girlfriends, The Creature from the Black Lagoon shifts into a stalk-and-prey thriller anchored by the almighty Gill-Man, one of the freakiest looking creatures ever conceived. Extra props for Gill-Man's taste in women, too.
POST CONTINUES BELOW
11. The Psychomatic Offspring

Appear in: The Brood (1979)
Scariest moment: In the middle of an otherwise calm grade school classroom, two of the evil kids beat their teacher to death with toy hammers.
Weakness: The death of their mother, Nola Carveth (Samantha Egger), kills them, due to the loss of her psychic connection.

If there was ever an effective tool to dissuade men from treating women poorly, it's David Cronenberg's excellent 1979 horror freak show The Brood. Enraged by her son-of-a-**** husband's (Art Hindle) abusive ways, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) literally embodies her anger, numerous times, in the form of inhuman, bloodthirsty, asexual kids without navels.

Telepathically engineered to kill, Nola's devilish brood helped Cronenberg's film to redefine the overused horror term "creepy kid movie," and, subsequently, set a standard that's yet to be outdone.
10. Mr. Hyde

Appears in: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Scariest moment: Having just gulped down the magic potion, Dr. Henry Jekyll's (Fredric March) face begins contorting as his skin darkens, his teeth sharpen, and, ultimately, he turns into the repulsive Mr. Hyde.
Weakness: Jekyll's conscience, plus anything that can kill any flesh-and-blood human.

On the page, author Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is a shockingly dark and imaginative tale about an English gent whose latest batch of lab-made potion allows his deepest, most evil impulses to surface in the form of an alter-ego named Mr. Hyde.

It's a story tailor-made for the film medium, with its rich characterization, and, fortunately, actor Fredric March was more than up for the challenge in the 1931 movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As the latter half of the title, March consistently disturbs with his animalistic demeanor and unsightly, simian look.
9. Godzilla

Appears in: Godzilla (1954), Godzilla Raids Again (1955), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), Son of Godzilla (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), All Monsters Attack (1969), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Terror or Mechagodzilla (1975), The Return of Godzilla (1984), Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995), Godzilla 2000: Millennium 1999), Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters (2001), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Scariest moment: A barrage of cannonballs can do nothing to stop the sea monster from tearing his way through power lines.
Weakness: Mouths that don't match English dubbing.

For the average moviegoer, the gargantuan sea monster Godzilla is scary for obvious reasons—just look at the damn thing. Scaly, always agitated, and big enough to manhandle a skyscraper like it's a Subway foot-long, Godzilla, or "Gojira," as it's known in Japan, is helpless fear manifested in its biggest form. If you happen to see the God in person, you're pretty much ****.

In the eyes of Japanese viewers back in the 1950s, however, director Ishiro Honda's franchise starter Godzilla encapsulated the fears and anxieties surrounding nuclear testing and nuclear weapons. The monster, as conceived by Honda and co-screenwriter Takeo Murata, is the direct result of military fakery, a none-too-subtle warning against man's dangerous advances coming back to bite him in the ass. Or, in this case, smash his buildings and stomp him down as if he's an ant.
8. Brundlefly

Appears in: The Fly (1986)
Scariest moment: Inside Seth Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum) laboratory, Stathis Borans (John Getz) tries to rescue Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) from the Brundlefly when the half-man/half-insect dissolves Stathis' left hand and right foot with its acid-like vomit.
Weakness: The charms, and, let's be real, hotness of Veronica Quaife (played by Geena Davis).

You can't help but feel bad for the Brundlefly, the man/insect mutant that scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblums) morphs into in David Cronenberg's superb body-horror flick The Fly. It's not like Brundle wanted to physically alter himself into one of the most repulsive monsters ever seen in a movie—it was just a case of bad luck.

As in, a pesky housefly buzzed into the teleportation chamber that Brundle designed for himself to enter and prove modern science's perceived limitations wrong. Gradually, Brundle's exterior changes into that of a man-sized fly, and, since this is a Cronenberg picture, it's always hideous to look at.

And when Goldblum finally becomes the full-blown Brundlefly, Cronenberg works his storytelling magic, asking viewers to both shriek at and sympathize with the creature you see above. Answering "yes" to both inquiries is guaranteed.
7. Wolf Man

Appears in: The Wolf Man (1941), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Scariest moment: Prowling at night, during his first time as the wolf, the transformed Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) attacks, and ultimately kills, an unsuspecting gravedigger.
Weakness: Silver bullets and the constant need for a good blow dryer.

The Wolf Man represents the worst kind of after-hours transformation into a ravenous beast, minus any alcoholic stimulants. Instead of booze, the catalyst for Larry Talbot's (Lon Chaney, Jr.) curse of becoming a werewolf whenever there's a full moon is a bite from another lycanthrope—a passing of the torch, if you will.

More often than not, moviemakers treat their werewolves literally like the four-legged beasts, having average Joe's morph into unrecognizably human dogs; the genius thing about director George Waggner's The Wolf Man, though, is that Talbot's evil, hairy alter ego looks very much like a dude, albeit of the Robin Williams by way of a Chia pet variety.
6. The Humanoid Crawlers

Appear in: The Descent (2005), The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
Scariest moment: The first clear, in-your-face shot of the monsters comes through a character's video camera, set in Night Vision mode, that pans across the cave and reveals a crawler standing inches behind another character.
Weakness: Blindness, which prevents them from finding prey without hearing the targets' movements.

Neil Marshall didn't need to introduce monsters at the start of The Descent's third act. Throughout the film's first creature-free hour, the writer-director's claustrophobic, unbearably tense feature plays more like a thriller than horror, getting up close and personal with a group of female spelunkers finding themselves repeatedly trapped in narrow caves and crumbling, constrictive walls.

Just when you don't think The Descent can get any more suffocating, though, Marshall unleashes his army of blind, inhuman ghouls. Stalking the ladies through sound, not sight, the humanoid crawlers tear through flesh and snack on innards as a means of survival, not simply to express villainy. Nevertheless, their murderous, unrelenting actions are stained-underwear material.
POST CONTINUES BELOW
5. The Thing

Appears in: The Thing (1982)
Scariest moment: When Copper (Richard Dysart) tries to resuscitate Norris (Charles Hallahan) with a defibrilator, Norris' chest caves in, giving way to massive fangs that bite Copper's arms off at the elbows. Seconds later, a large, oozing, tarantula-like creature with Norris' head jumps out of the open chest.
Weakness: Sausage parties in the Antarctic wilderness.

The scariest thing about the parasitic alien in John Carpenter's The Thing isn't its appearance, since, technically, it changes appearances numerous times. Which leads us to the reason why it's so damn effective: The Thing can be anyone or anything.

Attaching itself to various characters throughout the film, the devious life-form turns the humans against one another through simple implication, leading everyone to suspect their neighbor of being inhuman. And whenever it physically manifests itself, the Thing turns its hosts into everything from tentacled spiders to indescribably grotesque monstrosities.
4. The Wicked Witch of the West

Appears in: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Scariest moment: Caught in a cyclone, Dorothy (Judy Garland) cowers as the Wicked Witch flies by on her magic broom, cackling all the way into viewers' nightmares.
Weakness: Physical contact with water. Seriously.

Not unlike Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Wizard of Oz is one of those family films that leaves astute viewers wondering how little kids could ever watch it without crying for mommy. Chiefly responsible for such a reaction is the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), the evil fantasy world version of Miss Almira Gulch, who demands that little protagonist Dorothy's dog, Toto, be taken away after the pooch bit Miss Gulch.

Whenever she talks, the Wicked Witch's voice seeps into one's brain, with its shrill pitch typically followed by that cackling, demonic laugh. Hamilton's nightmarish creation doesn't even need to open her mouth, though, in order to instill unease—her pointy nose, long fingers, and devilish eyes tap directly into children's fears of witches, those unwelcoming old hags who dominate Halloween decorations yearly.
3. The Xenomporph

Appears in: Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997), Alien vs. Predator (2004), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), Prometheus (2012)*
Scariest moment: Looking for the crew's cat, Jonesy, engineering technician Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) doesn't realize that the fully formed Xenomorph is standing right behind him. The stunned look in Jonesy's eyes are all viewers need to understand the gory fate that Brett suffers once he sees it.
Weakness: Female military officers with short haircuts.

Hands down, the most memorable scene in Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi/horror classic Alien is also one of cinema's all-time greatest shock moments: Nostromo executive officer Kane (John Hurt), having recently been face-hugged by a small crab-like alien, suddenly starts convulsing at the spaceship's dinner table, before his chest bursts open and a tiny E.T. slithers across the floor.

What Alien's chestbuster rapidly becomes is the film's scariest attribute. Known as the Xenomorph, the tall, lanky bastard—armed with a little fang-filled head inside its bigger mouth—is a truly awe-inspiring creation, one that comes from the mind of Swiss artist H.R. Giger and has yet to be matched in its nightmarish beauty.

[*Cameo appearence.]
2. Count Orlok

Appears in: Nosferatu (1922)
Scariest moment: Nosferatu slowly creeps up a staircase, and all that's seen his side profile's reflection through candlelight.
Weakness: Sunlight.

When people think about Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the image that first appears in their minds is that of Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning's iconic 1931 film adaptation. And we're not about to complain—Lugosi's performance is stellar. But is it the scariest, most mentally scarring version of the Count? Not even close.

That honor goes to deranged German actor Max Schreck's interpretation, as the slightly modified Count Orlok, in director F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film masterwork Nosferatu. The stories about Schreck's obsessive method acting techniques are legendary, revolving around how he literally thought he was a vampire. That's all well and good, yet it doesn't deter from the man's insanely committed performance.

All Count Orlok has to do is stare at you and it's an immediate source of frozen paralysis. And Murnau, a first-rate filmmaker, uses Schreck's freakishness to his full advantage, framing the bloodsucker in shadows and emphasizing its penetrating eyes.
1. Frankenstein's Monster

Appears in: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1938), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Dracula (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Scariest moment: The monster's scariest moment is, tragically, the result of its good intentions gone terribly wrong. Doctor Frankenstein's creation comes across a little girl picking flowers alongside a lake. Seeing how much fun she's having tossing petals into the water, the monster naively similarly picks her up and throws her into the lake. Unfortunately, the girl can't swim.
Weakness: His own insecurities, as seen when the Bride rejects him in Bride of Frankenstein.

The basic concept behind Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, famous adapted by director James Whale for his 1931 genre classic of the same name, is the ghastliest of ideas: a monster created from various parts of long-buried corpses. As brilliantly played by the great Boris Karloff, Frankenstein's monster is so unforgettably chilling that it's easy to overlook the fact that a figure made up of different body parts should look more disjointed and piecemeal.

Still, Karloff's incarnation of the walking dead man achieves a distinct level of horror through the monster's slightly human but mostly lifeless look. Injecting just the right amount of pathos into the character, Karloff disarms the viewer, leaving one prone to sympathizing with the beast (he just wants to be loved, after all) before doing something horrific (i.e., killing a little girl) or simply reverting back to his malevolent ways.
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