Top 9 Classic Monster Movies

classic monster movies

Classic monster movies range from shapeless blobs to enormous apes to Swamp Creatures. Some are symbolic of widespread social anxiety, while others are direct expressions of their creators’ most-biggest fears. Some are simple creatures with a hunger for human flesh or a thirst for blood.

While modern monster movies may be more graphic and sexually explicit, the classics still can attract and frighten audiences.

Furthermore, the foundation for modern movies would not be there without these movies. Of course, not every monster movie qualifies as a horror movie.

Monster movies are those in which the audience is threatened by supernatural or science-fictional beings who are not of this world.

Below is a list of classic monster movies.

1. The Wolf Man (1941)

  • Director: George Waggner
  • Star cast: Claude Rains, Warren William, and Lon Chaney Jr.
  • IMDB rating: 7.2

In the classic werewolf movie The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr. established himself as a legendary movie monster in his way.

Larry Talbot, played by Chaney, travels back to Wales to spend time with his emotionally distant father, John (Claude Rains). After meeting a charming lady in town, he begins to think things are looking up for him.

However, then he is attacked in the fog, bitten, and realizes, to his horror, that he is transforming into a violent beast.

Famous time-lapse effects in The Wolf Man required Chaney to sit perfectly motionless for hours while his makeup was done in many phases.

While the design of the movie’s titular monster is certainly iconic, it is Chaney who steals the show. One of Universal’s most terrible creatures, Larry Talbot, is well aware of his situation but is unable to change it.

The movie’s horrific ending is all the more devastating because of the almost unrequited love between the son and his father.

The Wolf Man is Lon Chaney Jr.’s crowning achievement. This is one of the best classic monster movies.

2. It (2017)

  • Director: Andy Muschietti
  • Star cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, and Finn Wolfhard
  • IMDB rating: 7.3

This 2017 movie version of Stephen King’s epic book is set in the 1980s instead of the 1950s, and Bill Skarsgard will give you the willies.

The actor’s use of double-vision elevates Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise. He drools like a starving animal whenever he’s around the kids, showing his insatiable need to feed off of their fear and innocence.

While the themes of friendship and the loss of innocence are reminiscent of Stand By Me and ET, the great performances from the young cast also preclude any “child acting” discomfort.

It has its emotional moments, but when it shocks, it’s terrifying, serving as a stark reminder that clowns are dangerous for people of all ages.

3. The Invisible Agent (1942)

  • Director: Edwin L. Marin
  • Star cast: Ilona Massey, Jon Hall, and Peter Lorre
  • IMDB rating: 6.0

Frank Griffin (Jon Hall), a patriotic American, inherited the invisibility formula from his grandpa. The original Invisible Man refuses to give it to the American troops out of fear that Axis agents may use it against them.

However, he does agree to travel beyond enemy lines to fight the Nazis.  Although it was a smashing success in 1942, the movie now seems a touch dated due to its awkward blend of clever effects, forced humor, plodding pace, and wartime cliches.

4. The Mummy (1932)

  • Director: Karl Freund
  • Star cast: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, and David Manners
  • IMDB rating: 7.0

The Mummy is one of the Universal classic monster movies directed by Karl Freund. It is capitalized in on the popularity of Dracula and the passion for Egyptian archaeology around the turn of the century.

Freund tells his version of the narrative of a mummy who falls in love with the reincarnation of his long-dead sweetheart.

It significantly alludes to Browning’s successful monster movie. It’s more than simply flattery that the movie was modeled after Freund’s.

The latter is widely considered to be the best adaptation of the story, with all its sensuality, romance, and suspense.

Likewise, Boris Karloff is at the center of it all, but he is only seen in the famous death robes for a brief period.

He is shown as a compassionate, polite guy throughout much of the movie who will go to almost any lengths to help Zita Johann’s young character rediscover the person she once was and the life she still has the potential to live. Although the mythology is incorrect, the story’s emotional depth and suspense are spot on.

5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

  • Director: James Whale
  • Star cast: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, and Colin Clive
  • IMDB rating: 7.8

James Whale rummages around the graveyard for the remains of Frankenstein to make a sequel that many people think is better than the original.

In Bride of Frankenstein, Karloff’s monster compels Shelley’s creator to make him a bride to alleviate his incessant loneliness. This plot point was cut from the original book.

The monster has a tragic epiphany: you can create a living being out of dismembered body parts, but you can’t force someone to love you.

Bride of Frankenstein goes all out, creating a movie that is both macabre and hilarious through the use of surreal special effects and sympathetic characterization.

Additionally, Whale explicitly confronts subjects that Hollywood deemed forbidden during the Production Code era while hiding behind the façade of the fanciful horror genre.

The movie ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ mockingly combines homosexuality, blasphemy, and necrophilia into what passes for conventional entertainment.

It’s a mental buffet and a sensory extravaganza of the highest kind. This is among the best classic monster movies.

6. A Quiet Place (2018)

  • Director: John Krasinski
  • Star cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, and Millicent Simmonds
  • IMDB rating: 7.5

A quiet place is one of the best classic monster movies. In this post-apocalyptic horror about a family’s struggles to live in a world guarded by aliens, director John Krasinski has an almost Hitchcockian mastery of suspense.

These alien life forms are more akin to demonic land dolphins or alien bats in that they hunt by sound.

The need for stillness to survive is an interesting twist. In contrast, the descent of the slathering hell-beasts at the sound of a single creak or an unintentional spill is terrifying.

7. The Invisible Man (1933)

  • Director: James Whale
  • Star cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, and William Harrigan
  • IMDB rating: 7.6

Dr. Jack Griffin, the aptly called Invisible Man, is about as unlikable as it gets when it comes to classic monster movie villains. Claude Rains stars as a scientist who entirely vanishes in this movie adaptation of another H.G. Wells classic.

However, after briefly believing that he had found a cure for his strange condition, Rains’ character goes crazy with power and begins a murderous and terroristic rampage.

It’s hard to think that the visual effects of The Invisible Man were conceivable before CGI, but they make Rains a fascinating monster.

8. The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)

The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)
  • Director: Ford Beebe
  • Star cast: Jon Hall, Evelyn Ankers, and Alan Curtis
  • IMDB rating: 5.7

The Invisible Agent actor Jon Hall is back for this sequel in all but name that restores the franchise to its horror origins.

Robert Griffin, the character played by Hall, is a murderous psychopath who has no apparent ties to the show’s prior protagonists other than their names.

After accidentally entering the house of a crazy doctor (John Carradine) looking for a guinea pig for his experiments, he starts to share the other Griffins’ excitement for unseen mayhem.

The series’ last installment may lack ambition, but it’s nevertheless entertaining thanks to Hall’s enthusiasm and Carradine’s eerie presence.

9. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

  • Director: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, and Ernst Laemmle
  • Star cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry
  • IMDB rating: 7.5

Lon Chaney, Sr., the “Man of a Thousand Faces” who featured in a string of disturbing silent horror movies, is an essential part of any discussion about classic monster movies.

Possibly his best work is The Phantom of the Opera. This version of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 horror book, in which a maniac stalks a beautiful ingenue from his cave under the Paris Opera House, is a grand spectacle.

It is complete with elaborate scenery and throngs of spectators. The Phantom of the Opera is primarily an outlet for Chaney’s special effects makeup work.

Half of the movie takes place in the Phantom’s catacombs, where he serenades his love while concealed in masks.

Unable to contain her curiosity, she pulls off his mask just as he begins to play the organ, revealing her mystery benefactor’s identity.

Chaney’s expression becomes as shocked and disgusted as many viewers. On the one hand, people shudder at the sight of his rotting body, but on the other, he is taken aback by the unexpected nature of the betrayal.

In other words, he was attractive before he was seen, and now that he is seen, he will play the monster forever.

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