The Fantastic Beasts of Filmland and Where to Find Them

Nick Nunziata

This Fall Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is going to take the world by storm and in turn introduce a host of amazing new monsters. We’re keeping track of those beauties, but they are but a small part of the wild universe of creatures, monsters, and oddities that the world of cinema has brought us. Join us as we take a winding trip down the path of scaly, hairy, and oily delights from days gone by.

King Kong

The original giant monster, Kong is a primal beast with a soft spot for attractive blondes. After being discovered on the mysterious Skull Island, eccentric filmmaker Carl Denham captures the ape and brings him to New York City. Needless to say, things go crazy pretty quickly. Eventually, Kong scales the Empire State building and does battle with a fleet of fighter pilots before falling to his tragic death.

Kong is one of cinema’s most important creatures because he’s not just a monster. He’s also a character with his own motivations and emotions. When he meets his end, we don’t feel ecstatic or relieved. We feel sad. That’s the mark of a wonderful creation.

Kong will be re-entering our pop culture once again though he’ll be considerably larger than ever when Kong: Skull Island hits theaters this March. [Drew Dietsch]

Godzilla

Godzilla

Whether as an allegory for the dangers of nuclear weapons or as a heavily merchandised hero for the people, Godzilla reigns high on the list of fantastic beasts to have graced the screen. Since 1954, Godzilla has been a part of the public consciousness — whether as a villain or a hero. Godzilla’s size, sex, design, abilities, and circle of friends has evolved over time as well. The one constant is a large lizard causing major destruction, and for fans, it rarely disappoints.

With solid efforts in recent years on both sides of the Pacific, Godzilla looks to be continuing that run for the foreseeable future. It’s a good thing because Godzilla is the epitome of simplicity as a unifying element. Who doesn’t get Godzilla? The creature and its formulaic movies may scare off the elitist crowd, but due to the creature’s roots in Japan’s devastating losses in World War II, there is a deeper meaning. Add to that Godzilla’s presence through generations and generations of families. Few pop culture icons can do that. There’s something inherently warm about the absolutely flexible way this giant monster finds its way into our hearts. [Nick Nunziata]

Frankenstein’s Monster

Frankenstein

Frankenstein’s monster made his film debut in 1910, in the iconic film of the same name. The film was an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s iconic 1818 novel Frankenstein. Many films feature the fantastic fiend who was created by the young student, Victor Frankenstein, in a quest to create the perfect human being. Ultimately, he created a monster with terrifying looks and a jealousy complex like no other. This monster craved the power of Frankenstein’s relationship and attempted to break it up. It wasn’t a happy set of circumstances.

Frankenstein’s monster has made appearances in many films since, notably in the original Casino Royale, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, and fan favorite The Monster Squad. [Terry Tucker]

Gizmo

Gizmo

Sure, Gizmo looks cute. But trust me — after two movies full of goofy murder and mayhem, he’s not worth the trouble. You probably know the rules — Mogwai reproduce when they come into contact with water. But if you should feed one after midnight, they’ll turn into a Gremlin. And if the Gremlin gets wet, then you’ve got more Gremlins on your hands. And a Gremlin infestation is a bad, bad thing.

One of the worst and best things about them is how variable and adaptable they are. Pump them full of chemicals, and they adapt. They grow spider legs, bat wings, or look like a pile of vegetables. Their one big weakness, however, is bright light. If that doesn’t get rid of your Gremlin infestation, you could try throwing a party on the ground floor of your kooky office building, play some Sinatra, and electrocute them all.

Where To Find Them: “If your air conditioner goes on the fritz or your washing machine blows up, or your video recorder conks out; before you call the repairman, turn on all the lights, check all the closets and cupboards, look under all the beds. ‘Cause you never can tell — there just might be a gremlin in your house.” [Travis Newton]

Balrog

When Peter Jackson decided to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings, he knew that the first film had to absolutely floor audiences. Though there are plenty elements of The Fellowship of the Ring that achieved that, nothing was as awe-inspiring as the demonic Balrog.

The fellowship encountered this gargantuan monster in the Mines of Moria, and it proved to be a worthy adversary to the wizard Gandalf. The Balrog looks like every metal album cover ever, and his satanic stature made him instantly iconic. His fiery whip and sword only made him appear even more fierce.

Tolkien created a plethora of fantastic beasts, but none are quite as jaw-droppingly awesome as the Balrog. It’s a perfect visual representation of all that is foul and malicious in Middle-earth. [Drew Dietsch]

The Thing

John Carpenter’s well-known fixation on body horror reared its ugly head with his 1982 directorial masterpiece The Thing. Based on a novella that also became The Thing From Another World, the beast itself is spectacular. The film also inspired a 2011 remake/prequel of the same name.

Truly insidious, the amorphous (presumed) alien can shapeshift and perfectly impersonate any living thing and spread like a virus across the planet. The Thing’s only weaknesses are distance, fire, and raw survival instinct. So, to keep it from consuming all life on earth, surviving researchers try to keep the beast ice-bound.

Though Carpenter brought us many fantastic beasts throughout his career, the theme that even in the face of an apocalypse, humans are the ultimate monsters is still apparent. The beast is our worst nightmares and a dark reflection of ourselves, making us question or identity and all those around us. [Isaac Fischer]

We’re always on the lookout for our next Fantastic Beasts, so stay tuned!

Nick Nunziata
Nick Nunziata created CHUD.com.