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He's fearful of the unknown, incapable of controlling his emotions, desperately in need of a friend — wait a minute, Dr. Frankenstein's creation is really just a 7-foot 3-year-old. Through inches of makeup, Boris Karloff miraculously expresses the ultimate sadness of the movies' most iconic monster.
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Furious at having been awakened by a nuclear blast after eons of hibernation, the 164-foot creature fends off attackers with bulletproof skin and atomic breath. The original Japanese film was butchered for U.S. audiences (new scenes with future Perry Mason Raymond Burr were even inserted); the original remains a thought-provoking testament to Japan's post-World War II anxieties.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
"Well, there's something you don't see every day!" observes ghostbuster Bill Murray as the most unlikely of monsters waddles up Broadway. Maybe it's that ghastly, ghoulish grin, but for some reason the pudgy predator became the soft stuff of countless kids' nightmares
Mary Evans/Columbia Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
Jurassic Park, 1993
First we are almost giddy at the sight of harmless brontos cavorting in a field — but it's not long before this theme park's most dangerous attraction, a rampaging tyrannosaurus rex, starts chomping everyone's tickets. Audiences had never seen anything like Steven Spielberg's computer-generated dinosaurs; consequently, they had never been terrified quite like this before.
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Alien, 1979; Aliens, 1986
Here's a monster that came crashing in to terrorize Sigourney Weaver with no backstory at all. In Alien and its sequel (forget the other rip-offs that followed), directors Ridley Scott and James Cameron want to get just one thing clear: These mean mothers live only to kill, eat — and make little baby mean mothers.
Bureau L.A. Collection/CORBIS
The horrors that lay ahead for the Jews of Europe make all the more poignant this silent German classic, cinema's first great monster movie. A Prague rabbi, desperate to protect the city's Jews from persecution, summons up a figure from Hebrew legend: a huge man made of clay. Of course, everything goes wrong.
Created as a tool of vengeance by a mad scientist, the shapely robot is programmed to impersonate Maria, a beloved leader of the city's underclass. Robot Maria whips the masses into a violent frenzy; ironically making the humans the true monsters of the film.
Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, 1958
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — unless she's a scorned woman who's also been irradiated by aliens and turned into a giant rampaging monster. Luckily for '50s-era censors, Allison Hayes' bikini costume expands with her as she yanks off every roof in town looking for her philandering hubby.
Say what you will about director David Lynch's failed take on the Frank Herbert sci-fi book series, his depiction of the gigantic, toothy worms that lurked beneath the spice-laden sands of the planet Dune was pretty perfect. Summoned by vibrations, the tubular beasts attacked from below, swallowing entire settlements with one gulp. Their little brothers turned up in later films such as Beetlejuice and the campy Tremors series.
Snatched from his island home, held in chains for a gawking New York audience, Kong became one of the first movie monsters you actually felt sorry for. He deserved better than his fatal fall from the Empire State Building, but then again, he did nosh on those island natives in the first couple of reels.
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
The title monster in Steve McQueen's first starring film lacks both a personality and a defined shape. But the red, throbbing creature from outer space nevertheless terrorizes a small town, absorbing everyone in its path. The famous scene in which a movie theater-full of teenagers runs for their lives is reenacted each year in the town where The Blob was filmed, Chester Springs, Pa.
Courtesy Everett Collection
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