Who doesn’t like a good movie monster? Whether it’s Count Orlok from Nosferatu or the Rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, cinema has a monster flick out there to suit your tastes. Maybe you’re a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons, or perhaps the granddaddy of all kaiju, Godzilla. But there are movie monsters, and then there are walking nightmare factories that can make even horror connoisseurs blanche.
These beasts in our list of 10 Movie Monsters That Will Give You Nightmares deserve a very special place in horror canon, though not all of them hail strictly from horror films. Anyone can make a movie about a vampire and call it a monster picture; it takes real talent to concoct an abomination so memorably dreadful that it sears its visage into viewer's minds for life. You might find them in fairy tales made for both young and older audiences; you might find them lurking in the belly of a spaceship. You might even find them in your TV set.
Samara, The Ring
The image of the yūrei, a spirit kept from the afterlife in Japanese folklore, doesn’t have the same connotations in America as it does in its homeland. That didn’t stop Gore Verbinski’s remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu from striking a chord with US moviegoers, so maybe cultural specifics don’t matter; scary is scary, whether you prefer Nakata’s Sadako or Verbinski’s Samara. The white funereal garb and the unkempt black hair make an effective combo.
2002 doesn’t seem that long ago, but The Ring caused a shift in horror cinema upon its release. After films like Scream, The Faculty, and Bride of Chucky soured us on slashers and monster movies through their genre deconstructions, Samara felt like a breath of fresh air. Her appearance and her creaky, inhuman gait gave her visceral impact; the famous sequence in which she crawls out of a TV set and into Martin Henderson’s living room made her foerver memorable.
The Xenomorph, Alien
Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece made the subject of H.R. Giger’s painting Necronom IV into an instant horror icon. For that alone, the Xenomorph deserves a spot of high prestige on this list. The chitinous, slavering creature has been aped and homaged endlessly since Alien’s release, and yet to this day remains an original. Few movie monsters are as uniquely cinematic, or as immediately recognizable, as the Xenomorph.
Alien may be the best example of how to combine horror and science fiction, though it skews more toward the former than the latter. How do you make ductwork feel foreboding? By designing a monster that’s tailor-made to thrive in a cold, metallic environment. You might think you’re just looking at exposed piping in the wall, but look again; double check for that spike-tipped tail and for the telltale oblong head. Even if you recognize the Xenomorph for what it is, it’s still probably too late.
Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street
Any list with the word “nightmare” in its title probably has space for the king of nightmares himself. Sure, many fans count him in the company of slashers like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, rather than monsters like the Gill-man or the Wolfman; that’s Freddy’s milieu, and has been since 1984. He might not fit in the “monster” category, but he’s definitely monstrous (supernatural powers and all...), and boy does he know his way around a bad dream.
Freddy also knows how to have fun, though his idea of fun tends to be one-sided (not to mention fatal and disgusting). He's bound to the spirit world, which means he can’t harm his victims in person. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he has boundless creativity and free rein to kill hapless teens in imaginative ways. The worst news is that he’s a showman who derives amusement from suffering, unlike his emotionless masked 1980s peers. Other maniacs kill and move on. Freddy takes his time while cackling aloud, which is far worse.
And now, one for the odontophobes out there: a monster bred especially to give you the heebie-jeebies. You could watch every single film in the Hellraiser franchise and pick any number of unwholesome fiends from each, and most of them would probably fit the criteria of this list without much trouble. Chatterer, however - with his clacking chompers and pulled-back facial features - churns stomachs at first, second, and tenth blush. He’s the definition of grotesque.
At the same time, he’s weirdly sympathetic - at least if you’ve seen Hellbound: Hellraiser II and seen the reveal of his true identity. He’s just a kid! And yet every time he makes an appearance alongside Doug Bradley’s Pinhead, he’s utterly ghastly. Maybe it simply boils down to looks. Maybe it’s the fact that he can only communicate by clicking his pearly whites together. Or maybe the sight of him means that your number is up, and you’re off to an eternity of torment.