When it comes to creature features in which the creature in question actually does (or once did) exist in our reality, the most common examples are movies about sharks, such as Jaws, or dinosaur movies, like Jurassic Park. But if you've had your fair share of said aquatic predators or prehistoric beasts and are still interested in checking out some new kinds of scary animal movies, look no further.
We have all kinds of classic horror movies and modern favorites alike that will do the trick, and without a single shark or dinosaur in sight.
When it comes to snake movies, Hollywood has truly never gone bigger than Anaconda, which is named after the largest species of said animal on record. Director Luis Llosa’s thriller about a wildlife documentary crew taken hostage by a hunter seeking to capture the titular reptile is also remembered for its all-star cast, including Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and more.
People who legitimately suffer from arachnophobia — just like Jeff Daniels’ main protagonist does — might want to avoid watching the movie named after the psychological condition, which sees a cunning South American spider make its way to a California suburb and wreak havoc. From producer Steven Spielberg and director Frank Marshall and also starring a scene-stealing John Goodman, this ‘90s horror classic boasts one of the most horrifying depictions of an infestation of web-spinners ever put to celluloid.
Idris Elba has taken on a diverse variety of threats on the big screen, but none have been quite as terrifying as the ferocious rogue lion his character must contend with while touring the Savannah with his daughters. Curiously, before starring in Beast, Elba would play a Bengal Tiger in Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book and a villainous stray in Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the Broadway hit Cats.
The Birds (1963)
Out of all of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, The Birds is probably the most absurd and least grounded to come from the filmmaker behind classics like Psycho and Strangers on a Train. However, in retrospect, it would only take a master of suspense like him to make this tale of winged animals unleashing deadly attacks against the unassuming citizens of a small Californian town so memorably terrifying.
Cocaine Bear (2023)
The only victim of the true story that inspired Cocaine Bear was the bear itself, who passed away after ingesting the illicit substance the animal is named for. Changing things up, director Elizabeth Banks wanted to make a revenge film with this zany horror-comedy out of sympathy for the furry woodland creature.
Director Alexandre Aja and producer Sam Raimi teamed up for this thrilling mix of a creature feature and natural disaster flick. One of Kaya Scodelario’s best movies, Crawl sees our protagonist take on flooding house full of alligators during a Category Five hurricane in the hopes to rescue her father (Barry Pepper).
Only a great Stephen King movie could make a St. Bernard so terrifying. Said dog — gone murderously rabid after he is bitten by a bat — traps a woman (Dee Wallace) and her son (Danny Pintauro) in their car, leaving them hungry and desperate for a rescue in Lewis Teague’s adaptation of Cujo.
The Food Of The Gods (1976)
Rats and wasps are effective nightmare fuel for some people, but not so much rabbits and chickens. However, when they mysteriously grow to a monstrous size like in the H.G. Wells adaptation The Food of the Gods, all of these animals could easily become fearsome to anybody.
A horror movie in which ribiting amphibians are billed as the villainous predators seems pretty absurd. Yet, Frogs — one of the earlier Sam Elliott movies — boasts plenty more slimy creatures for the main characters to contend with, making for an intriguing and nightmarish depiction of nature run amok.
The Grey (2011)
At its core, director Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is really a somber, meditative tale about six oil workers coming to terms with their impending doom after crash-landing in the bitterly cold wilderness of Alaska. But we all know that the selling point is seeing Liam Neeson take on a pack of wild wolves, right?
This Finnish recent horror movie that mostly flew under the radar in the United States focuses on a 12-year-old gymnast (Siiri Solalinna) who keeps a mysterious egg in her room. Hatching is unlike most creature features in the way its central, bird-like monster symbolizes the film’s deeper meaning and the harrowing way it delves into shocking body horror.
King Kong (1933)
There has never been a more iconic movie about primates than the original King Kong, and it is easy to understand why. The titular beast — who rules over Skull Island and has fended off Godzilla a couple of times — has "King" right there in his name.
Lake Placid (1999)
Cinema (and reality) has seen some scary crocodiles, but the creature from Lake Placid — also one of best, and most unlikely, Betty White movies — is easily the king of that corner. At 32-feet-long, the massive animal puts Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and Oliver Platt in way over their heads as they attempt to stop its attacks.
Cockroaches are already pretty freaky, but co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro makes them a force to be reckoned with in Mimic. How? This vastly underrated ‘90s movie pits its protagonists against bugs that are not just human-sized, but can also appear as if they are human.
Monkey Shines (1988)
If fans of George A. Romero’s zombie movies haven’t checked out his work outside of that realm, one bizarre thriller that is definitely worth a watch is Monkey Shines. It stars Jason Beghe as a quadriplegic who is given an adorable capuchin as an assistant who proves to have a dark side and also awakens a dark side in her master.
The success of Jaws begat various rip-offs that tried to make villains out of other aquatic predators, such as the killer whales in Orca. Needless to say, this film — one of the more famous and acclaimed marine creature features of this time, which makes its antagonist more than a hungry beast and, instead, a somewhat more sophisticated figure of revenge — is no Free Willy.
Instead of just one vicious, man-eating undersea creature terrorizing innocent swimmers like in Steven Spielberg’s classic, Jaws, Piranha features a whole pack of them. This beloved (and sometimes wonderfully corny) summer horror movie classic from director Joe Dante and producer Roger Corman spawned a sequel directed by James Cameron and a 2010 remake released in 3D by Alexandre Aja, which also got its own sequel.
Before it hit theaters, this horror film was marketed as being based on the true story of a notorious serial killer who is still at large. While that may not have been a straight-up lie, the antagonist in Primeval is really an East African, 25-foot crocodile.
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
Could there have possibly been a better title for this thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson as an FBI agent accompanying a murder witness on a commercial flight crawling with innumerable deadly reptiles? Most fans of the shamelessly cheesy Snakes on a Plane — which is also one of Taylor Kitsch’s best movies — would probably say, no.
The title of Squirm is not just a description of how the creepy little killers in this 1970s creature feature move around, but also a promise of what the film will make you do while you watch. The worms — unearthed by broken power lines knocked over in a freak storm — do not just eat their human prey in this flick, but also manage to make a killer out of R.A. Dow’s character, Roger, by infiltrating his skin.
When an American man (Gregory Harrison) comes to the Australian outback in search of his missing wife — a wildlife reporter (Judy Morris) — he becomes embroiled in a battle against the creature that killed her. Said creature from Razorback is a wild boar that our main protagonist describes as being the “size of a rhino.”
The wasps that attack a fancy garden party in the horror-comedy movie Stung start off freaky enough by being only slightly larger than average. We would not blame anyone who fears insects if they decided not finish the movie once the bugs start using their human prey as cocoons to breed gargantuan hybrids.
The Swarm (1978)
Michael Caine leads the all-star cast of The Swarm: a disaster movie from The Towering Inferno director Irwin Allen in which a breed of deadly bees hailing from South America manage to migrate north in startlingly large quantities. What really makes this film a marvel to watch is knowing that the cast and crew had to work with actual bees, which even sprayed fecal matter on the actors — an obstacle easily avoided by CGI these days.
An essential creature feature, especially when it comes to the topic of giant bugs, is director Gordon Douglas’ Them!, which was nominated for a Best Special Effects Oscar. It bears a plot similar to Godzilla — in how atomic energy leads to the mutation of terrifying, gargantuan beasts — but it swaps out a really big lizard for huge, man-eating ants roaming the New Mexican desert.
Perhaps the most annoying, let alone unsettling, thing about ticks is that their minuscule size allows them to cling to their prey’s skin without being detected. Well, in director Tony Randel’s Ticks — which stars Seth Green and Alfonso Ribeiro — experimental plant growth hormones effectively solve that problem, but also make the critters way, way too big.
Based on the novel by Stephen Gilbert, Willard stars Bruce Davison as the titular, young social outcast whose only friends are a pack of rats he trains to help him punish his enemies. It begat a sequel called Ben — named after Willard’s most trusted pet and featuring an original song by Michael Jackson — and a 2003 remake starring Back to the Future cast member, Crispin Glover.
On the surface, there is nothing particularly scary about beavers, which why making them into vicious, undead killers is such a brilliantly funny idea. Co-writer and director Jordan Rubin's gross and goofy Zombeavers is a fun cabin in the woods feature with a couple of surprising cameos.
The Pool (2018)
The Pool is a Thailand import available with a Shudder subscription that follows a photographer (Theeradej Wongpuapan) and his girlfriend (Ratnamon Ratchiratham), who become stranded at the bottom of a deep, empty outdoor pool. To make matters worse: the only one who hears his cries for help is an alligator that finds its way in.
Most movies about animals within the same family as pigs — such as Babe or Charlotte’s Web — are really adorable and a perfect feature for the whole family to enjoy, but Boar is most definitely not one of them. This Australian import from writer and director Chris Sun and starring Scream King Bill Moseley — star of many Rob Zombie movies — sees a group of hikers brutally taken out by a merciless, unusually large swine.
The Nest (1987)
The mere idea of a horde of vicious, genetically-engineered, meat-eating cockroaches is already more than enough to make your skin crawl. However, the Roger Corman-produced The Nest takes it a step further by giving the pests the ability to mutate into grotesque hybrids of their human prey.
In most real cases, mosquitoes are merely a mild irritant, but what if one of those pests bit a crash-landed alien, causing it undergo a sizable metamorphosis? That is what happens in the sometimes silly B-movie, Mosquito, which has earned a modest cult following since its mid-‘90s release.
This aptly titled sci-fi thriller is more than just your typical horror movie about snakes. Sssssss stars Strother Martin as a mad animal researcher who develops a serum that can mutate human beings into the slithery reptiles and plans to use his creation on his new, young lab assistant (Dirk Benedict).
Animal lovers beware!