Top 10 Horror Movie Monster Types

A horror movie is futile if there’s nothing to be scared of. And over the decades, Hollywood has produced numerous monsters and villains for the audience to love to fear. Many of these have gone on to become cultural icons. I got to wondering just how iconic some of these monsters are — at least in terms of their current movie popularity. So I broke them down into types (i.e., looking at vampires and not just Dracula), and did some research on IMDb. The results are in this top 10 list; bear in mind these aren’t my choices, this is how it all came out after I did the number crunching.

And just what was that number crunching? I picked the top 10 horror films that had a relevant keyword (such as “vampire”, “Dracula”, “nosferatu”, and so on), based on the number of votes. Yes, the number — I wanted to first pick the films that people were aware of. Then I took the rating of that film and multiplied it by that number, giving me a “total points” score for that film. Those top 10 films then combined to form a score for the monster type, which is what I used for the ranking. It’s not completely scientific, but it’s good enough for our purposes. Now, I limited this to horror because of cases such as The Lord of the Rings (which would have made trolls and orcs the winner) and Twilight (I just couldn’t bear to see the top 10 vampire movies dominated by a romance franchise.) There were still some judgment calls to make here and there, of course, (if Blade and Stan Helsing count as horror, and IMDb says they do, then Van Helsing should as well) but I think overall it came out reasonably well. Plus, this method gives me a “Top 10 in awareness” list for each monster type as well, which in a way makes this Top 10 list a Top 100.

Honorable Mentions

I tried out several different monster types, and naturally not all of them can fit in the top 10. In fact, several of these “lesser” monsters didn’t even manage to have ten distinct horror films, and at least a couple suffered from the horror-only restriction (the Blob would have gotten a bit of a boost from Monsters vs. Aliens, for example, though I don’t think it would have been enough to break into the top 10). Here are the also-rans, and their scores:

Goblins & Gremlins: 996,364.7
Mummies: 454,411.5
Trolls: 305,744.8
Blob: 279,185.1
Invisible Man: 264,307.8
Gill-Man: 162,294.1
Jekyll & Hyde: 151,982.4
Sasquatch & Yeti: 49,354.9

#10: Frankenstein’s Monster — 2,034,687.6

Frankenstein’s Monster may be the most specific “type”, but he’s still definitely a type. Any kind of person stitched together from parts would have done, but it’s almost always Frankenstein’s monster specifically. Ol’ Frank may have just barely made the cut, but he made it.

Van Helsing (2004) — 5.7 * 109,515 = 624235.5
Young Frankenstein (1974) — 8.0 * 75,402 = 603216
Frankenstein (1931) — 8.0 * 31,145 = 249160
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) — 6.3 * 28,125 = 177187.5
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) — 8.0 * 20,617 = 164936
The Monster Squad (1987) — 7.0 * 10,766 = 75362
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — 7.4 * 7,362 = 54478.8
Stan Helsing (2009) — 3.5 * 6,251 = 21878.5
Frankenweenie (2012) — 7.6 * 4,813 = 36578.8
Son of Frankenstein (1939) — 7.1 * 3,895 = 27654.5

#9: Werewolves — 3,087,370

Whether you call it the wolf man or a werewolf, the man-beast hybrid is one of the classic horror monsters. So it’s a little surprising to see it this far down the list. Personally, I think it suffers a bit from often being double-billed with vampires. While I didn’t restrict the films to just one type of monster, I think the overlap may cause people to not check out werewolf specific films as much. Or it may just be that the make-up tends to look hokey.

Van Helsing (2004) — 5.7 * 109,515 = 624235.5
The Cabin in the Woods (2011) — 7.3 * 98,371 = 718108.3
The Wolfman (2010) — 5.9 * 60,930 = 359487
Red Riding Hood (2011) — 5.2 * 47,294 = 245928.8
An American Werewolf in London (1981) — 7.6 * 37,218 = 282856.8
Trick ‘r Treat (2007) — 6.8 * 34,595 = 235246
Dog Soldiers (2002) — 6.8 * 31,845 = 216546
Wolf (1994) — 6.1 * 28,892 = 176241.2
Ginger Snaps (2000) — 6.8 * 20,117 = 136795.6
Cursed (2005) — 4.8 * 19,151 = 91924.8

#8: Witches — 4,302,748.1

Witches, to be honest, surprised me just a little bit. I wasn’t entirely sure they’d make the list at all. But here they are at #8, even after filtering out a few cases where the witches weren’t the villains, or where the connection to witches was spurious at best (at least, so far as I could tell. If I erred anywhere, I’m blaming the magic mirror.)

The Blair Witch Project (1999) — 6.3 * 121,358 = 764555.4
Silent Hill (2006) — 6.5 * 103,100 = 670150
Drag Me to Hell (2009) — 6.8 * 96,161 = 653894.8
The Ninth Gate (1999) — 6.7 * 85,247 = 571154.9
Army of Darkness (1992) — 7.6 * 78,461 = 596303.6
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) — 6.0 * 39,781 = 238686
Night Watch (2004) — 6.4 * 35,388 = 226483.2
The Craft (1996) — 6.0 * 33,440 = 200640
Hocus Pocus (1993) — 6.2 * 29,148 = 180717.6
Suspiria (1977) — 7.4 * 27,049 = 200162.6

#7: Giant Monsters — 5,319,158.1

Giant humans, giant lizards, giant insects, giant spiders, giant rabbits… lots of ways to cause some fright by taking something and blowing it up to gargantuan proportions. They’re all lumped in here together, since the operative word here is “giant”. Even so, they wind up relatively low on the list — as popular as Godzilla may seem to be, he isn’t actually watched that much by IMDb’s voters.

King Kong (2005) — 7.4 * 199,373 = 1475360.2
Cloverfield (2008) — 7.2 * 192,912 = 1388966.4
The Mist (2007) — 7.3 * 129,003 = 941721.9
King Kong (1933) — 8.0 * 49,496 = 395968
Anaconda (1997) — 4.4 * 45,463 = 200037.2
The Host (2006) — 7.0 * 41,322 = 289254
Trollhunter (2010) — 7.0 * 28,647 = 200529
Eight Legged Freaks (2002) — 5.4 * 28,365 = 153171
Lake Placid (1999) — 5.4 * 26,893 = 145222.2
Mimic (1997) — 5.8 * 22,229 = 128928.2

#6: Aliens — 6,116,675.2

In space, no one can hear you scream. And even when all the regular sci-fi and action movies are removed from the mix, there’s still a fair number of extraterrestrial monsters to scream at, even accounting for the peculiar zig-zagging of the Alien franchise.

Alien (1979) — 8.5 * 291,946 = 2481541
The Thing (1982) — 8.2 * 142,184 = 1165908.8
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007) — 4.7 * 60,801 = 285764.7
Doom (2005) — 5.1 * 58,981 = 300803.1
The Faculty (1998) — 6.3 * 58,779 = 370307.7
The Thing (2011) — 6.3 * 51,313 = 323271.9
Dreamcatcher (2003) — 5.4 * 50,692 = 273736.8
Sphere (1998) — 5.8 * 49,764 = 288631.2
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) — 7.9 * 46,925 = 370707.5
Slither (2006) — 6.5 * 39,385 = 256002.5

#5: Vampires — 6,922,092.1

Dracula might just be the most iconic horror monster around, but his kinfolk only come in at #5. Of course, it could be worse; before I limited things to horror movies, the top ten vampire movies were almost half Twilight films. At least when sticking to the horror genre, the line-up winds up looking a little less pathetic… though I’m still eyeing that #1 film a little suspiciously. Also, we see here the influence that a fandom can have — Blade is definitely over-represented.

Interview with the Vampire (1994) — 7.5 * 141,886 = 1064145
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) — 7.2 * 123,343 = 888069.6
Let the Right One In (2008) — 8.0 * 113,160 = 905280
Blade (1998) — 7.0 * 110,038 = 770266
Van Helsing (2004) — 5.7 * 109,515 = 624235.5
Blade II (2002) — 6.6 * 89,488 = 590620.8
30 Days of Night (2007) — 6.6 * 87,523 = 577651.8
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) — 7.4 * 87,222 = 645442.8
Blade: Trinity (2004) — 5.8 * 74,482 = 431995.6
Daybreakers (2009) — 6.5 * 65,290 = 424385

#4: Demons — 7,180,360.2

Between overt demon appearances and demonic possessions, the diabolical side of horror movies has been going really strong in the past few years. It’s no surprise to find them in the top half of the of the list; if anything, it’s a surprise that they don’t quite break into the top three.

The Exorcist (1973) — 8.1 * 173,571 = 1405925.1
Constantine (2005) — 6.8 * 132,790 = 902972
Paranormal Activity (2007) — 6.4 * 110,813 = 709203.2
Silent Hill (2006) — 6.5 * 103,022 = 669643
Drag Me to Hell (2009) — 6.8 * 96,081 = 653350.8
The Ninth Gate (1999) — 6.7 * 85,247 = 571154.9
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) — 8.0 * 83,371 = 666968
[REC] (2007) — 7.6 * 73,938 = 561928.8
The Evil Dead (1981) — 7.6 * 72,995 = 554762
Insidious (2010) — 6.8 * 71,243 = 484452.4

#3: Slashers — 7,392,725.5

Sometimes the scariest monster is human. That’s the take-away from these movies. The slasher genre was brought into prominence in the late 70s and the 1980s, and it’s never really let go of its grip on the throat of the horror-watching public.

Psycho (1960) — 8.6 * 219,043 = 1883769.8
Scream (1996) — 7.2 * 137,566 = 990475.2
Death Proof (2007) — 7.1 * 122,533 = 869984.3
Scary Movie (2000) — 6.1 * 112,188 = 684346.8
Halloween (1978) — 7.9 * 95,313 = 752972.7
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — 7.5 * 78,656 = 589920
Scream 2 (1997) — 6.0 * 78,558 = 471348
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) — 6.1 * 67,016 = 408797.6
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) — 5.5 * 64,019 = 352104.5
Scream 4 (2011) — 6.2 * 62,743 = 389006.6

#2: Ghosts — 8,941,276.4

Scary stories are traditionally called ghost stories, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that ghosts rank high up on the list of the movie monster types. Between poltergeist activity and regular haunting, the only real surprise is that ghosts didn’t take the #1 spot. But #2 is still a very respectable position for one of the least-visible monsters. Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that has the most effect on the mind….

The Shining (1980) — 8.5 * 300,347 = 2552949.5
Sleepy Hollow (1999) — 7.5 * 165,207 = 1239052.5
The Ring (2002) — 7.1 * 140,793 = 999630.3
1408 (2007) — 6.8 * 126,505 = 860234
Silent Hill (2006) — 6.5 * 103,100 = 670150
The Cabin in the Woods (2011) — 7.3 * 98,371 = 718108.3
The Descent (2005) — 7.3 * 91,721 = 669563.3
The Grudge (2004) — 5.8 * 68,100 = 394980
What Lies Beneath (2000) — 6.5 * 66,412 = 431678
The Woman in Black (2012) — 6.5 * 62,297 = 404930.5

#1: Zombies — 9,712,476.1

Last alphabetically, but apparently first in the hearts of movie-goers, zombies come in all sorts of varieties. Fast moving or slow, plague victims or strangely resurrected, the living dead have been a constant of horror movies for decades. And it’s unlikely that they’ll be going anywhere… at least, not very quickly.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) — 8.0 * 219,767 = 1758136
Zombieland (2009) — 7.8 * 191,194 = 1491313.2
28 Days Later (2002) — 7.6 * 173,555 = 1319018
28 Weeks Later (2007) — 7.0 * 122,336 = 856352
Resident Evil (2002) — 6.6 * 121,319 = 800705.4
Dawn of the Dead (2004) — 7.4 * 118,468 = 876663.2
Planet Terror (2007) — 7.4 * 103,841 = 768423.4
The Cabin in the Woods (2011) — 7.3 * 98,371 = 718108.3
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) — 6.0 * 93,401 = 560406
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) — 6.2 * 90,863 = 563350.6

And there, after entirely too much research from me, are the top 10 horror movie monster types. Are you surprised at the placement of anything? Notice something interesting about the top films for each monster? Did I, God forbid, completely omit some monster type? Let me know in the comments.

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About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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13 Responses to Top 10 Horror Movie Monster Types

  1. S says:

    Great post and breakdown.
    I still prefer American Werewolf in London [AWIL] in all horror.
    The two like films that finish above it in total points are Van Helsing, which Rotten Tomatoes has at 23% and Cabin in the Woods that RT users have at 76%, the same as AWIL. I believe AWIL to be more rewatchable and hence a better story in the werewolf category; just a personal preference here. Again nice post in the pumpkin season.

    David: “Maybe its a sheep dog… lets keep going”
    -American Werewolf in London (1981)

    • I think you’re mixing and matching your tomatoes there… VH is at 66% on audience reaction. šŸ˜€ But yes, I expect some big disagreements on what should be ranking high here, since this wasn’t a personal favorites list or anything like that. I was actually pretty pleased to see An American Werewolf in London make it onto the list at all, since older movies don’t tend to be watched as often. Real testament to its staying power.

  2. spikor says:

    Interesting stuff.

    Army of Darkness had a “Witch” tag, but not a “Demon” or “Zombie” tag? That’s kinda crazy.

    Great post!

    • Yeah, I’m not sure how Army of Darkness didn’t have a “Demon” tag. I’m pretty sure it does have a “Zombie” tag, but it just didn’t have a high enough number of votes to make it into the top 10 in that category.

  3. shannon79charmed says:

    Hi Morgan,

    I am new to your blog (found it yesterday, your review of High Spirits was actually what brought me here to read more). I love the other stuff I have read so far. Great work!

    Anyhoo, I was just wondering about Animals gone bad as a scary monster? Like in Pet Cemetery or any movie with cats, bats, rats, or spiders that make them out to be horrible? I actually find those movies very disturbing in a freaky way, mostly cause I love animals and have lived with one or more since I was a kid. šŸ˜›

    I love the post though, this is not a critique, just wondering. šŸ™‚

    I have recently become a fan of zombie movies (Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead for examples), but I can generally find them funny to watch. I am still trying to ease my way into other horror movies without giving myself nightmares (although I have seen a lot of the movies on this post already…I must be doing good, haha).

    Thanks for this great blog with the positive atmosphere,
    Shannon

    • Welcome, Shannon! Thanks for the kind words.

      I would have liked to have included animals gone bad — certainly there are a lot of examples, especially from Stephen King — but I wasn’t sure how to tally them up for this. Unlike most of the others, there isn’t really a convenient keyword to search on (at least, not one that I was able to come up with).

      There are definitely some funny zombie films out there… I think comedy-horror has become almost as common as plain horror in today’s films. I’m not sure if that’s because people have gotten more jaded about their fears or if it’s reflective of some other trend. If you liked those films, you might check out one called “Aaah! Zombies!” (also called “Wasting Away”), which was a decent comedic zombie film.

  4. Eric says:

    Cool idea for a list, Morgan, and great research! Not surprised to see zombies as #1, but vampires only being #5 is a bit of a shocker. It seems like vampires would have the advantage with their longer cinematic history, but I guess not.

  5. Pingback: Halloween Haunters 2012 Roundup | Morgan on Media

  6. You forgot vegetables. “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”

  7. Pingback: Top 10 Iconic Horror Movie Franchises | Morgan on Media

  8. Really cool list. I think we really came out to a similar conclusion in terms of what are the major sub-genres of monster movies. Maybe that could be interesting four you: http://horroronscreen.hubpages.com/hub/The-monsters-genres-in-movies

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