Monster movies are often dismissed as cornball nonsense for children, but, as anyone who's scratched the surface knows, the best creature features reveal the greatest fears and purest malevolence of the society that produces them. Great monster flicks are some of the best movies on Netflix, case in point The Host (the South Korean film from 2006, not the adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel).
Before you roll your eyes and try to run as far away from The Thing as possible, it's important to know monster movies have come a really long way since their rise to popularity in the 1950s. Gone are the days of men in homemade monster suits and campy hand-held puppets playing not-so-terrifying creatures from Hollywood's past.
The '50s delivered a bevy of pretty good monster movies, starting with The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and moving onto classics like Godzilla. Most streaming monster movies are similar to the original gangsters, but only in premise. The best monster movies on Netflix pay homage to classic tropes but give it a fresh twist and ditch the dumb costumes.
Modern technology and CGI has led the monster flick in two different directions. There's the campy, low-budget creature feature that errs to comedy. These films are usually based around some kind of ludicrous, outlandish monster (think: giant wasps or shark tornados) and a classic horror film tropes (think: reckless college students, ancient evil curses). Then, there's serious psychological thrillers that focus on abstract monsters and don't rely on cheap gore (ie: The Babdook and V/H/S, both decent movies on Netflix). Some films do a little of both. Not all are worth watching.
If you're wondering what to watch on Netflix, don't leave it up to chance. Here are the best streaming monster movies (and if you like this, check out the best streaming ghost movies for a weekend full of binging).
While making a documentary about bear poaching, a group of Norwegian film students discover trolls, the existence of whom has been covered up by the government. Their doc quickly changes focus. Of course, when a group of students ever go out to investigate anything in a found footage film, it never ends well for them (especially if they mix themselves up in a government conspiracy).
Trollhunter is as campy as it is thrilling, packed with dark humor that's only lost if you don't pay attention to the subtitles.
Actors: Knut Nærum, Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Hans Morten Hansen, Robin De Lano, + more
Initial Release: 2010
Directed by: André Øvredal
Hellraiser features one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. You might know the him as that weird white guy with nails all over his face; monster movie aficionados know him by his God-given name, Pinhead.
Hellraiser begins when sexual deviant Frank accidentally opens a portal to hell, unleashing beings called Cenobites. The Cenobites tear his body apart, and he's somehow brought back to life while he's still in literal pieces. He convinces his wife to lure men to their house so he can use their blood to reconstruct himself. There's a ton of gore and, seriously, it doesn't get more epic than Pinhead.
Actors: Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Nelson, Clare Higgins, + more
Initial Release: 1987
Directed by: Clive Barker
#11 on The Goriest Movies Ever Made
V/H/S is a horror anthology, but is unique in the way it ties stories together. It's a found footage flick in which a group of misfit crooks are hired to steal a VHS tape from a house. When they get there, they discover a dead body, a bunch of TVs, and creepy-as-anything VHS footage. The six stories in the V/H/S anthology are all intensely creepy features shot on low-definition VHS tapes.
While some of them are straight-up creature features, others focus on religious cults and other unsettling horror movie tropes. Basically, this is a monster flick for people who want a bit of diversity and a ton of different types of scares.
Actors: Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard, Drew Sawyer, Sophia Takal, Kate Lyn Sheil, + more
Initial Release: 2012
Directed by: Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, + more
#63 on The Goriest Movies Ever Made
For those who love sci-fi but hate the campiness that sometimes comes along with monster flicks, meet Monsters. Monsters was shot on a relatively low budget without much of a script, but escaped cheap effects and relished in gorgeous cinematography. This is probably because of the then-unknown director Gareth Edwards, who did all the CGI himself, and went on to direct a movie you've maybe heard of called Rogue One.
Monsters takes place six years after a NASA space probe crashes, forcing a large area between Mexico and the United States to be under quarantine. Giant creatures now live there and the military is fighting a losing battle against them. The film has major political undertones, a documentary-like road movie feel, and a genuine sense of wonderment that recalls vintage Spielberg.
Actors: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able, Annalee Jefferies, Anthony Cristo, Kerry Valderrama, + more
Initial Release: 2010
Directed by: Gareth Edwards