15 Famous Monsters in Pop Culture
Monsters were once seen as scary creatures who terrorized innocent people in the dark of night. These days monsters are part of everyday pop culture and celebrated in various media. Famous monsters are written about in books, drawn in comics, seen in movies and tv shows, and even discussed on podcasts. Monsters are everywhere!
While they still scare us shitless and have us hiding behind the couch, monsters are all the rage these days, especially with moviegoers. Dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Dominion, the Predator in Prey, and the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise are just some of the creepy monsters people love.
There are so many monsters out there that it’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list, so we’ve tried to focus on those monsters that have impacted popular culture across various mediums. From King Kong to the assimilating alien life from The Thing, these 15 monsters are sure to give you nightmares, or at the very least have you checking under your bed before lights out.
1. Count Dracula
One of the most enduring monsters in literature history, Count Dracula is the mastermind of author Bram Stoker. Unlike classic vampires of gothic horror, Dracula is a charismatic and good-looking creature of the night who wants to leave Transylvania for the greener pastures of England. Despite his charming personality, Dracula is a cold-hearted killer whose only goal is to take down all who oppose him.
Since first appearing in the novel Dracula, the vampire has popped up in various media throughout the century. He’s featured in a variety of novels and has been portrayed on-screen by the likes of Bela Lugosi, Gary Oldman, Christopher Lee, and Rutger Hauer.
2. The Thing
Created by special effects expert Rob Bottin, The Thing is one of the scariest and most disgusting monsters ever committed to film. The creature can perfectly imitate any living organism and plans to infect the entire world. It is during the assimilation scenes where the thing is at its most gruesome.
At one point during the movie, it grows teeth in its chest cavity that bite down on someone’s arms while its decapitated head grows legs like a spider and tries to escape. It is truly horrifying and all the credit has to go to Bottin’s practical effects that still hold up today.
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is a hideous creature brought to life by Dr. Viktor Frankenstein who goes on a murderous rampage. While it sounds terrifying, the original story is actually quite sad and paints the Frankenstein monster (known as the Creature) as a sympathetic man.
Similar to Dracula, Frankenstein has appeared in more movies and TV shows than you can imagine, with Boris Karloff making his name playing the creature during the 30s. He also appeared multiple times in the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine created by Forrest J Ackerman, where he was drawn by famous artist Basil Gogos, who specialized in science fiction and horror creations.
4. King Kong
For more than eight decades the “King of the Jungle” has been terrorizing moviegoers. First appearing in the 1933 film King Kong, the massive gorilla has constantly been a threat to mankind, whether he’s climbing the Empire State Building or fighting Godzilla. He is another misunderstood creature who just wants to be left alone.
Like vampires, werewolves have been part of folklore for centuries. These monsters are humans that can take the shape of a wolf. They have dominated pop culture for decades, appearing in modern properties such as The Twilight Saga, True Blood, and the Underworld franchise.
Alongside Michael J Fox’s portrayal of a werewolf in Teen Wolf, the best on-screen werewolf pops up in An American Werewolf in London. This is one of the most lifelike werewolves, thanks to special effects guru Rick Baker. You definitely don’t want to get bitten by this monster.
6. The Mummy
The Mummy is part of the Universal Monster collection. This franchise of horror films came out between the 30s and 50s and consists of films starring famous monsters. Along with Dracula and Frankenstein, the Mummy is one of the main monsters that makes up these creature features.
There were six stand-alone films starring the bandaged individual during the Universal Monster days, with the most successful version being the 1999 remake. This led to several sequels and a terrible 2017 reboot staring Tom Cruise, with Universal trying to bring back a darker version of this franchise for modern audiences. So far they have had little success, with the 1999 reboot still the most entertaining.
The one-eye creature from Greek mythology is not going to win any beauty contests. While known as Cyclops, there are actually three different groups of these powerful monsters who appear in a variety of famous stories, including Homer’s Odyessy.
Cyclops also makes a splash in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Created by animator Ray Harryhausen, the Cyclops is a deadly creature with unbelievable strength, although Sinbad manages to blind it, causing the monster to fall to its death.
8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Quasimodo is one of the sadder monsters in pop culture. Born with a giant hunchback, he lives in Notre Dame where he is the bell ringer. In the famous story by Victor Hugo, Quasimodo falls in love with street dancer Esmeralda. She is being chased by the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, whose actions set off a chain of events that end in tragedy.
Since his first appearance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, versions of Quasimodo have been seen in over a dozen films (Lon Chaney played him in the original movie), several stage plays, and a variety of TV shows. Even Disney made a film about the poor fella.
With acid for blood and an incredibly strong inner set of jaws, the Xenomorph, or Alien, is a creature of your nightmares. Brought to life by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, it is one of the scariest space monsters of all time. It’s become a huge pop culture icon and despite being horrifying, is loved by horror fans.
10. The Misfits
This collection of monsters is actually a punk band founded in the late 70s. The original line-up of songwriter and keyboardist Glenn Danzig, bassist Jerry Only, and drummer Manny Martinez wrote horror-themed tunes and wore creepy makeup when playing live. They broke up during the 80s but reformed in the mid-90s with Michale Graves taking on frontman duties until Danzig returned in 2016.
The Misfits continue to perform, today, with “Halloween,” “Die, Die My Darling,” and their cover of the “Monster Mash” some of these human monsters’ most well-known songs.
Along with the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, the Predator is the most loved alien in modern movies. These tall humanoid creatures are equipped with futuristic weapons and travel the universe hunting other species for sport. The mythology behind the Predator has continued to grow since the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger starring original.
Not only have there been seven movies starring the killer, but a host of graphic novels and books have focused on the Predator species and expanded the background behind them.
When it comes to famous monsters, you have to include zombies. While not as scary as some of the beasts on this list, zombies are still deadly creatures you don’t want to be stuck in the same room with. Originating from Haitian folklore, zombies have evolved from undead corpses to fast-moving killers over the years.
They’ve been particularly celebrated in film, with some of the best monster movies featuring these brain-loving humans. Our favorites include Dawn of the Dead, REC, Train to Busan, Night of the Living Dead, and 28 Days Later.
13. The Creature
The Creature from the Black Lagoon doesn’t get a fancy name like most monsters. He’s just stuck with the Creature, but that doesn’t make him any less deserving of a place on this list. The Creature is an amphibious humanoid who lives in the Amazon jungle who waits for his victims in the deep water.
While a remake has been in the works for decades, the Creature has had a second life in the world of comics and has cameoed in several animated features.
This misunderstood beast from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was put to death by Luke Skywalker. While it was a fight to the death, Skywalker didn’t realize the close bond the Rancor’s handler had with the monster. This is explored more in other media, with a variety of Rancors appearing in books, comics, and video games affiliated with the Star Wars universe.
Of all the monsters on this list, Cthulhu is the one you never want to run into. Not only is it terrifying, but its appearance pretty much signals the end of the world. Usually depicted as a humanoid with an octopus-like face, dragon wings, and claws on its feet, this cosmic entity is part of the Great Old Ones, evil and powerful beings that once ruled the earth but are now imprisoned below the surface. If ever to escape, these monsters would bring about the end of days.
Cthulhu was created by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft who crafted an entire universe surrounding the Cthulhu Mythos. Although not a major monster when first invented by Lovecraft, Cthulhu has become big with modern horror writers and fans, with many novels, comics, and movies dealing with the Cthulhu Mythos.
See more about - The 10 Best Monster Movies Of All Time