Movie monsters take a lot of different forms, from the vicious to the tragic, the evil to the merely misunderstood. Some monsters are creepy while others you root for; some are threatening only because of their great numbers, while others are some of the strongest movie monsters of all time. Whether they're good guys or bad guys, world-ending threats or just trying to make their way in a world that doesn't understand them, these are some of the most powerful, deadliest, and just downright most awesome monsters ever to stomp, fly, crawl, or burrow their way across cinema screens.
You'll find kaiju here, naturally, but also things that are smaller than you might think. You'll find ones that go bump in the night, ones that topple buildings, and everything in between. One thing they all have in common: They're mighty powerful. Remember to vote up your favorites.
- 13,213 VOTES
As surprising as it may be, given the massive popularity of Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" fiction, the big C himself has appeared on film only a couple of times over the years.
Origins: Originally created by famed pulp scribe H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu was part of a pantheon of cosmic entities that peppered Lovecraft's weird tales. First introduced in "The Call of Cthulhu," which appeared in Weird Tales magazine in 1928, references to Cthulhu can be found throughout the works of Lovecraft, his proteges, and his imitators over the years. Lovecraft writes that Cthulhu came to Earth from "the stars," and that he now lies "dreaming" in his house at R'lyeh, a sunken city on the bottom of the sea. At the end of the 2020 film Underwater, a deep-sea drilling operation appears to have stirred Cthulhu from his slumber, where he is attended to by a host of other aquatic monsters. (The film never says the C-word, but it's a giant monster on the bottom of the ocean with a face like an octopus and protrusions on its back that could be wings. No one has to say Cthulhu.)
Why So Powerful? The exact nature and extent of Cthulhu's powers are never fully spelled out, but in "The Call of Cthulhu," Lovecraft writes that Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones like him are "not composed altogether of flesh and blood" and that they can never truly perish. When the stars are right, they can "plunge from world to world through the sky," but at other times they sleep a deathless sleep. And when they are awakened? All the world will "flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom," at least according to the cults who worship Cthulhu.
Any Weaknesses? At the end of "The Call of Cthulhu," some survivors manage to escape by ramming Cthulhu with a ship. At the end of Underwater, some escape when others detonate the nuclear core of the deep-sea drilling operation. While the latter case appears to have destroyed Cthulhu, as well, Lovecraft's story implies that Cthulhu cannot be slain, and is only "recombining" into its "hateful original form."
- 23,249 VOTES
When it comes to giant, powerful monsters, Godzilla is king of the hill. In fact, the big G has been the star of not one but two films with the subtitle "King of the Monsters," suggesting that Godzilla is just that. Across nearly 40 films spanning more than half a century (not to mention video games, comic books, and even a cartoon series), Godzilla has gone toe-to-toe with dozens of the most fearsome monsters around, and always seems to come out on top.
Origins: Godzilla made its first appearance in the 1954 film that bears its name, where it was suggested that Godzilla was a sort of living fossil, having been disturbed by underwater hydrogen bomb tests and having evolved to resist radiation. Over the course of numerous subsequent films, Godzilla's origins have been retconned and retooled in a variety of different ways, but in its original appearance, Godzilla is usually seen as a walking metaphor for the fear of nuclear annihilation, which was a very immediate specter in 1954 Japan.
Why So Powerful? With the imminent release of Godzilla vs. Kong, a meme has been making the rounds in which Godzilla basically says to King Kong, "I'm a walking nuclear power plant." And that's about the size of it. While Godzilla's height has changed considerably over the years - it was only a little over 150 feet tall when it first appeared back in 1954, and was most recently seen towering to a height of nearly 400 feet in 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Godzilla is always quite large and very strong. But deep down, the fact that Godzilla is essentially a walking nuclear reactor has always been central to what made the character so imposing, and never has that power been showcased as devastatingly as in 2016's Shin Godzilla.
Any Weaknesses? Precious few. While Godzilla has been on the ropes a few times, notably by the experimental "Oxygen Destroyer" weapon in the 1954 film, most of the big G's defeats have been temporary, at best.
- 31,785 VOTES
It's a flying, three-headed gold dragon from outer space - what's not to love? Oh, did we mention that it breathes lightning (actually gravity beams)? Yes, from all three heads.
Origins: Like its frequent nemesis Godzilla, Ghidorah is a kaiju hailing from the long-running Toho series of Godzilla films. In this case, Ghidorah came to Earth for the first time in 1964's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, after having first laid waste to a civilization of aliens living on Venus. Subsequent films have both clarified and complicated the back story of King Ghidorah, but its extraterrestrial origins have remained intact all the way up to 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Why So Powerful? Did we mention that Ghidorah can fly and shoot lightning? It's also huge, weighing in as one of the largest foes that Godzilla ever battled across nearly 40 films. What really earns this guy a spot as one of the most potent monsters around, however, is that Ghidorah is pretty much always the "bad guy" in any movie where it shows up. Meaning that Ghidorah has not only fought Godzilla to a standstill multiple times, but it's also been on the receiving end of numerous monster tag teams, beginning all the way back in its first cinematic appearance, when it battled Godzilla, Rodan, and a larval form of Mothra.
Any Weaknesses? In many of its iterations, Ghidorah has been controlled by other forces, usually aliens bent on using the giant monster to conquer Earth. In these instances, Ghidorah is reliant on orders from those controlling it, leaving the monster confused when those communications are cut off. In the 2019 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ghidorah's three heads are shown as being somewhat independent, leading them to occasionally get in one another's way. Guess three heads aren't always better than one...
- 41,669 VOTESPhoto: Aliens / 20th Century Fox
"Each one of these things comes from an egg, right?" Ripley asks Bishop in James Cameron's Aliens. "So who's laying these eggs?"
"I'm not sure," Bishop replies. "It must be something we haven't seen yet."
Origins: Cameron's 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic increases the scope considerably. Instead of one, lone Xenomorph stowing away on board a ship, there's an entire planet full of them, having formed a hive amid the colonists there and creating countless numbers of swarming aliens. To stop them, we have Colonial Marines, "very tough hombres" who specialize in just this kind of thing - and who nonetheless find themselves extremely out of their depth. Especially when they face off against the queen that has been laying the eggs that produce the Xenomorphs in the first place.
Why So Powerful? Well, for starters, the alien queen is huge, towering over Ripley and the other survivors. The puppet used to bring the queen to life in several scenes stood more than 14 feet tall, with two human puppeteers inside and several others working from the outside to get all the parts to move. And she boasts all the same lethal traits that make the other Xenomorphs so dangerous, from a barbed, whipping tail to acidic blood and a second pair of jaws that jut out of her mouth. What really makes the queen alien dangerous, though, is her ability to lay those aforementioned eggs, which hatch into facehuggers, which can lead to more Xenomorphs, and so on.
Any Weaknesses? The Xenomorphs are all pretty sturdy, but when you get right down to it they can be damaged by anything that will damage a human - sometimes it just needs to pack a little extra punch. Ultimately, though, the queen is kicked out of an airlock into deep space, just like the primary antagonist in the first Alien film.