The Best Movie Creatures of All Time

Peter Sciretta: Gizmo in Gremlins

Most of the other entries on this list have looked toward big evil monsters, but for some reason, my top choices for favorite movie creature were cute alien creatures from 1980’s movies. It comes down to E.T. from Steven Spielberg’s classic adventure film or Gizmo from Gremlins. In fact, I own life-size replicas of both E.T. and Gizmo, and they sit on a shelf in my living room. In the end, I decided to go with Gizmo.

I can’t tell you how many times I watched Gremlins as a child wishing Gizmo and Mogwai were real and  staying up late at night, trying to understand how the creature’s body knows our arbitrary concept of midnight and time. How many other kids like me wished they could somehow find that shop in Chinatown and adopt a Mogwai of their own? As an adult, I appreciate Gremlins on a different level. I enjoy the old-school practical VFX techniques that were used to create the illusion of a real living alien creature.

Jack Giroux: T-Rex in Jurassic Park

I’ve heard that iconic Tyronassourus Rex roar countless times, whether on cable, DVD, or Blu-Ray. When I watch Jurassic Park, I still feel the intensity of the dinosaur’s classic introduction. Each one of its movements build tension. I can go years without watching Steven Spielberg’s movie and still vividly recall the shots involving this creation, brought to life by the late Stan Winston and his team. I relish every second this incredible effect is on screen. I break out a smile – and feel the terror and excitement the characters do – every time I see it.

David Chen: Gollum from Lord of the Rings

In the days before The Phantom Menace was released, I remember one of my friends remarking to me how incredible the concept of Jar Jar Binks was. “They have this character who’s in the movie, but he’s entirely in CG!” he said to me excitedly. His excitement actually rubbed off on me. But while Phantom Menace pioneered a lot of filmmaking techniques, Binks will be remembered more for being an annoying and offensive presence than for how he pushed the medium forward.

It wasn’t until I saw the Gollum/Smeagol monolog in THE TWO TOWERS that I realized the cinematic potential for performance capture and digital creations. Not only is the character seamlessly integrated into the environment around him (an effect that mostly holds up to this day), but he’s having a genuinely tortured conversation with himself in ways that are convincing and powerful. For the first time, a digital creature had made me feel.

In reality, it was Andy Serkis’s incredible performance and the digital wizards at Weta that conjured this character to life. But all I could see was a once-decent, now-hideous man, brought low by an unhealthy obsession with The One Ring. The illusion was finally complete.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts: The Fish Monster from The Host

The two things that popped into my head first [when hearing this question] is the point in The Thing when they’re doing the autopsy, and they’ve got the defibrillator, and it goes through his chest, and then the head comes up and goes up to the ceiling and how incredible those effects are.  They all still hold up. That’s why I think it’s such a fascinating story when you read about the remake where they tried to do practical effects, but it didn’t look good. I haven’t seen that stuff, but I’d be so curious to see what it looks like.

But honestly, my favorite like movie monster of late was the weird fish creature in The Host. I think the way that creature moves and the inelegance that it moves, part of it was an inspiration for the Skull Crawler in Kong: Skull Island in the way that it moves and just the general idea that this thing has a painful existence and it evolved wrong.

I think not enough people have seen that movie. I believe that it’s a masterpiece.  And I believe that the creature is something that you look at and your initial response when you show it to someone is like, does that look cool? I don’t know if that looks cool. Like, is that stupid looking? But it’s so brilliant. I love the way it moves, the way that it like stumbles over itself. The fact that it does have this inelegance to it is what I just find so compelling. As soon as I saw it, I was like “this feels so fresh.”  And it’d be so easy for someone not to get it.  And also I really like all of the design evolutions in Shin Godzilla.  I love how crazy all of them look.

The Thing Monster

Ethan Anderton: The Thing From The Thing (1982)

It might seem strange to pick a creature that is never seen in its natural form, but that’s exactly what makes me love the organism from John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982. The fact that we don’t know what the Thing actually looks like means it could be any person or living creature. To me, that’s more terrifying than any other monster in the history of cinema. Plus, the practical effects used to bring the deformed transformations of the creature to life in that movie are unbelievably disgusting and unbelievable.

Furthermore, the fact that the Thing can shapeshift to take the form of any living thing makes it deadlier than a monster who just stalks and eats its prey. The Thing has the power to manipulate the very society that it’s inhabiting. When the Thing arrives at U.S. Outpost North #31, it has to kill to actually take the place of another person. But to me, what’s more deadly is how it can create doubt, turmoil, and danger by turning other potential hosts against each other. The tension in The Thing comes from each of the human outpost residents not trusting each other. That makes them weaker as a group, and thus easier for the Thing to infiltrate and destroy.

Right to the very end of John Carpenter’s film, the audience isn’t sure who can be trusted (though there might be a trick to that) as most of the post’s crew has been killed, leaving two men to last night cold arctic night. Is one of them the Thing? Hell, there could be a creature like the Thing among us at this very moment, and we’d never know. And that’s what makes the Thing my favorite creature on film.

Godzilla 2 Writers

What Is Your Favorite Movie Creature?

What do you think of our picks? What is your favorite movie creature of all time? Talk about it in the comments below or email your personal answer (about a paragraph or so) to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com with the subject title “Favorite Movie Creature.” Our favorite responses will be featured on the site in a future post!

And in case you missed any past editions of /Answers, here is a look back:

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