Monsters and Mayhem: The Classics

Move over, Twilight: you’re not the only one with fangs here.   These films are home to just some of cinema’s most iconic monsters, boogiemen, and creepy-crawlies, all pre-1985.

1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Captain Nemo battles it out with the world’s most terrifying giant squid in this 1954 classic adventure film, starring Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre, and James Mason.  Bonus points for getting the electric surface of the Nautilus just right.

2. Nosferatu

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It’s the vampire film that inspired them all—Edward Cullen’s come a long way from the 1922 original.

3. Frankenstein

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This 1931 version is much more faithful to Mary Shelley’s novel than later versions, but isn’t as amusing as, say, Gene Wilder’s comic romp Young Frankenstein.  Still, this one gives us the classic shovel forehead and neck bolts, and what more could you ask for in a monster?

4. Journey to the Center of the Earth

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So the “dimetrodon” was just an iguana with a paper sail on its back.  Does that mean it wasn’t an awesome monster to find in the center of the earth?  The 1959 Journey might be a little low-tech to us now, but it’s a fun watch.  And if you squint, those iguanas look huge.

5. Godzilla

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It’s the 1954 Godzilla. Enough said.

6. King Kong

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1933 was an ok year for America: Prohibition ended, the World’s Fair opened in Chicago, a giant depressed gorilla took over New York City…

7. Night of the Living Dead

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Whether you see them as a modern critique of consumerism and mindless materialism, a reflection of our dread of death, or an allegory for the human condition, zombies make for some pretty good cinema.  Try the 1968 version for good old-fashioned reincarnation horror.

8. The Wolf Man

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Inspiring Halloween costumes since 1941.

9. Cat People

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So the villain here might not technically qualify as a monster, but there was apparently something scary enough about a woman-turned-to-jaguar that qualified this 1942 film as a horror flick.  Freud would have had something to say about all this, I’m sure.

10. The Time Machine

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Underground maybe-cannibals who rule the future that look like a cross between Boo Radley and a cave-dwelling fish species?  H.G. Wells couldn’t have imagined the terror these monsters might inspire (in impressionable 7-year-olds everywhere) when he wrote his 1895 story, on which the 1960 movie was based.

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