Through the horror, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, cinema has gifted the world with hundreds – if not thousands – of strange creatures throughout its history. Whatever strange monster can be imagined by a writer can be captured on-screen, so long as said writer’s supported by a talented team of special effects artists. There were amazing-looking creatures captured on-screen before the advent of CGI, and there have been plenty of unique-looking ones depicted on-screen since.
It’s impossible to pay tribute to every single weird and wonderful movie monster found throughout film history, but the following are among the strangest and most distinct-looking. Some are well-known, while a few others tend to languish in obscurity, perhaps due to how strange and off-putting they look. Any fan of monster movies should give these titles their attention, as they all demonstrate the sheer creativity of the filmmakers who specialize in making these kinds of movies.
10 The Pale Man from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006)
Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to depicting fascinating and strange-looking monsters on-screen. His films are almost always praised for their creature designs, and he even won Best Picture at the Oscars for one of his creature features: 2017’s The Shape of Water.
His most acclaimed film, however, also contains his most memorable cinematic beast. Pan’s Labyrinth might well be the best fantasy movie of the 21st century so far, and though the Pale Man only shows up for a few moments, his sole sequence stands as one of the film’s most memorable scenes. The horrors of war as depicted in the film may end up being more destructive and deadly, but few of Pan’s Labyrinth’s sights measure up to the horror of the Pale Man, with his flappy, pale skin, lack of facial features, and eye sockets in his palms.
9 Utam from ‘The Mighty Peking Man’ (1977)
While Shaw Brothers Studios was best known for its martial arts movies, it occasionally funded other projects that weren’t based around hand-to-hand brawls and/or sword fights. One of the most notable of these more experimental films was The Mighty Peking Man, which ended up being a slightly lower budget – and far more gonzo – spin on King Kong.
Like the 1933 monster movie classic, The Mighty Peking Man also features a giant ape-like monster who’s transported to a city, has feelings for a woman much smaller than him, and eventually goes on a rampage. One key difference is that The Mighty Peking Man is much wilder, and its central monster, Utam, is also more bizarre-looking than Kong ever was.
8 Viras from ‘Gamera vs. Viras’ (1968)
The Gamera series is destined to live in the shadows of the Godzilla series. There have been great Gamera movies, but there have been more great Godzilla movies, and also just more Godzilla movies in general. Additionally, the king of the monsters got his first film in 1954, whereas Gamera’s first cinematic outing wasn’t until 1965.
Still, the messier nature – and lower budgets – of the Gamera series did lead to one accidental benefit: the foes Gamera was pitted against often looked super strange. None look weirder than Viras from Gamera vs. Viras, who’s a size-changing squid monster with a bird-like face, and somehow looks even weirder in live-action than he does in still images.
7 All the monsters from ‘Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare’ (1968)
In the late 1960s, there was a trilogy of Japanese fantasy/horror movies known as the Yokai Monsters trilogy. Each featured a collection of monsters from Japanese folklore and mythology interacting with the human world in some way, and the best of the three was 1968’s Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, the second in the trilogy.
There are so many different creatures in the film, and it’s impossible to single one out as being the weirdest, because they all look so odd, and often uncanny. There’s a triangle-shaped monster with a long tongue, a woman/snake hybrid with a ridiculously long neck, and a creature called a kappa, who looks a bit like a penguin/frog hybrid, but with human hair. It’s bizarre, especially because many of the monsters aren’t actually malicious to the good-hearted human characters, making the creatures equal parts disturbing and endearing.
6 The Blob from ‘The Blob’ (1958)
The Blob is a well-known sci-fi movie that showed audiences in the 1950s that a monster didn’t need to have any recognizably human characteristics to be a genuine threat. The blob in The Blob is really just that: a big red blob that rampages around a small town, absorbing everything it comes into contact with.
It’s the kind of trick that can only be pulled off once, because it’s such a ridiculously simple idea for a monster that any attempts to copy the film (without remaking it) would seem like plagiarism. Still, it took ambition to be the first movie to feature such a strange yet simplistic monster, so for that, The Blob deserves credit.
5 Mechani-Kong from ‘King Kong Escapes’ (1967)
While Mechagodzilla might be the most famous mechanical version of an iconic movie monster, it wasn’t the first. Mechagodzilla’s big-screen debut was in 1974, while the lesser-known Mechani-Kong was first depicted on-screen in 1967’s King Kong Escapes, which was a Japanese/USA co-production that served as a sort-of sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).
Mechani-Kong is exactly what you’d expect him to be. He’s a robotic creation the size of King Kong, and as such, he can equal the non-mechanized Kong in combat. Naturally, King Kong Escapes holds out on showing the big smackdown between the two too soon, but it ends up being worth the wait.
The Thing features one of the creepiest and hardest-to-explain monsters in the history of horror/sci-fi. The creature that terrorizes the film’s characters is an alien lifeform that can shape-shift into anything it comes into contact with, but appears grotesque when in the process of assimilating something or when exposed to extreme heat.
The special effects used to bring the creature to life in such scenes still hold up astonishingly well, making The Thing a horror movie that still feels effective. Additionally, its appearance sometimes being a perfect recreation of a person also makes it terrifying, and this horror is utilized well in the film’s famous final scene.
3 Godzilla from ‘Shin Godzilla’ (2016)
Taking Godzilla and making him the centerpiece of a disaster movie that’s both unnerving and darkly funny in a satirical way, Shin Godzilla is one of the boldest films in the history of the series. It does a great job at updating Godzilla for the 21st century, delivering an impactful movie that might have modern-day audiences reacting the same way audiences in the 1950s reacted to the original.
One of the most striking things about the movie is how horrific the titular monster looks, with his red flesh and contorted face making him look like he’s in constant pain. Godzilla also evolves as the film goes on, with each stage of his rapid evolution looking freakish and alarming in its own way.
2 The bird monster from ‘The Giant Claw’ (1957)
If the main monster in The Giant Claw didn’t look so ridiculous, there’s little chance this B-movie would be remembered at all today. It’s a rough, clunky film, and at 74 minutes long, still finds ways to waste time and drag out its ludicrously simple premise to an unbearable extent.
However, when the weird-looking giant vulture creature (who does indeed have giant claws) appears on-screen, things are very entertaining. The cheapness of the effects and crude puppetry somehow add to its screen presence, and it’s a hard creature to forget. The rest of The Giant Claw, on the other hand? It’s likely to leave your mind entirely five minutes after it’s over.
1 The kappa from ‘Death Kappa’ (2010)
Death Kappa isn’t the first movie to depict a kappa on screen, given there’s one featured prominently in the Yokai Monsters series. However, it might well be the first movie to depict a giant mutant kappa whose size rivals Godzilla on-screen, while also constructing an entire movie around the Japanese folklore creature.
The kappa begins the movie as a friendly, human-sized creature, but grows exponentially when it gets caught in a nuclear explosion, and destroys a great deal of property before he’s saved by the power of love, and reduced back down to normal size. The film he’s the star of, Death Kappa, is primarily a ridiculous parody of classic monster movies, but it’s also got a real charm – and even some heart – to it that ends up proving hard to resist.