The 1990s were full of great monster movies, ranging from Jurassic Park to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that audiences viewed as respectable for a genre that can tend to get a little silly from time to time. While some were better than others, there are still many monster movies that didn’t quite get their due.
It’s very rare for a monster movie to achieve wide acclaim because filmmakers usually never try to go for high art when making them but, instead, just hope to create a fun, scary experience. Because of this, there are many monster movies that critics dismissed but audiences have enjoyed, perhaps as a guilty pleasure, or due to repeated viewings, since their original release.
10 Starship Troopers (1997)
It can be said that Starship Troopers is a good movie disguised as a bad one. Despite having some, at-the-time, A-list special effects, Starship Troopers features a young up-and-coming cast who give questionable performances and deliver cheesy, uneven dialogue in a story that is pretty weak. However, the entertainment comes from the military vs giant bug action and political satire.
Based on the book by Robert Heinlein, director Paul Verhoeven kept what could be seen as “fascist” elements and satirized them instead of promoting them. Aside from all the political allusions, this war-against-giant bugs movie is an over-the-top visual spectacle with plenty of violence and gross-out moments featuring giant alien brain monsters. A modest hit at the box office, Starship Troopers has come to be much more appreciated over time.
9 Deep Rising (1998)
Taking its cues from the 1950s B-movie monster movies of old, Deep Rising concerns a giant tentacled creature that attacks a cruise ship and the mercenaries sent to rob it, who now have to find a way to survive.
The film is led by not-bankable stars like Treat Williams and Famke Janssen but features a great musical score by A-list composer Jerry Goldsmith (who composed a lot of scores for undeserving films). The star of the movie is the monster, however, it suffers from late ’90s poor CGI work which unfortunately dates the film. Despite not being a hit at the box office, Deep Rising has gained a cult following for being a fun popcorn movie. Ultimately, it led to the director, Stephen Sommers, directing the excellent Mummy remake, starring Brendan Fraser, the following year.
8 The Relic (1997)
Described as “Alien in a Museum,” The Relic features a mutated creature breaking loose in the Chicago Field Museum Of Natural History. Together, a biologist and a cop played by Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore must track down the creature before it escapes.
The Relic takes B-movie concepts and gives them a serious tone. Memorably, the monster creature effects were designed by the late, great Stan Winston. However, viewers have criticized the film for its very dark photography, complaining some parts of the movie are very hard to see. Despite poor reviews, a lot of fans think of it fondly as a cheesy, gory, and atmospheric monster movie with some good scares.
7 Congo (1995)
After Jurassic Park’s massive success, Hollywood began mining author Michael Crichton’s other sci-fi works for potential box-office gold too and the first one released was Congo. Directed by Jurassic Park producer Frank Marshall, Congo concerns a rescue mission sent to find a diamond hunting team but, along the way, they must contend with dangerous gorillas.
Starring a great cast of character actors like Laura Linney, Tim Curry, Ernie Hudson, and more, Congo is less groundbreaking than Jurassic Park but succeeds as a fun jungle adventure. Despite being written by acclaimed playwright John Patrick Shanley, the dialogue has often been considered cheesy and many viewers couldn’t get past the gorilla character, Amy, that talks through a digitized voice. Despite negative reviews, Congo performed well and is still highly regarded among fans.
6 Tremors (1990)
Tremors smartly takes a silly concept that audiences probably would find in a 50s B-movie and has fun with it, without taking itself too seriously. Starring Kevin Bacon, the movie centers around the residents of a Nevada town who find themselves under attack from giant subterranean wormlike creatures they call “graboids.”
Full of affable, everyday characters vs well-made practical effect monsters, Tremors is a fun watch clearly made with a love of the B-movies that inspired it. Initially a modest box office success, the film spawned a cult following on home video that has led to six straight-to-video sequels and two TV shows.
5 Lake Placid (1999)
Lake Placid understands its premise is pretty silly but has fun with the characters that inhabit it. Written by Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley, Lake Placid surrounds its giant crocodile story with witty characters and clever dialogue.
More a dark comedy than an all-out horror movie, the entertainment comes from the hapless humans who try to contain the beast, including bickering Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson, who play off each other wonderfully. Betty White’s spirited performance as a cursing widow makes the movie worth a watch alone. Ultimately, Lake Placid spawned several straight-to-video sequels without the wit and with worse special effects.
4 Mimic (1998)
After making his Spanish language debut with Cronos, acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was brought to Hollywood to make his first English language feature. In the film, an attempt to eradicate disease-spreading cockroaches turns them into man-sized hybrids that mimic their human prey.
Starring Mira Sorvino and Charles S. Dutton, del Toro directs one of the most beautiful looking horror/sci-fi movies ever made. A disastrous production led to a cut released to theaters that del Tor was unhappy with, which ultimately bombed. However, a cult following grew on home video that eventually led to del Toro being able to go back and construct a director’s cut he was happy with.
3 Arachnophobia (1990)
Reminiscent of The Birds, Arachonobia features deadly spiders attacking a picturesque California town, around the same time a new doctor (Jeff Daniels) has moved in. Instead of being an all-out monster movie or an all-out comedy, Arachnophobia straddles the line between both, creating a darkly funny horror movie without losing any scares. Also featured is a funny, steal stealing performance by John Goodman as an exterminator.
Using no CGI, Arachnophobia has the power to give audiences the title affliction due to the production’s use of thousands of real spiders. Clever, scary, and funny, Arachnophobia is a great monster movie without being too outlandish.
2 Predator 2 (1990)
After the smash-hit Predator was released in 1987, producers were quick to capitalize on its success so they created a sequel that took the action from the Central American jungle to the jungle of Los Angeles. This location change took the sci-fi premise and combined it with a gritty cop drama.
Starring Danny Glover as a cop trying to figure out what’s murdering drug lords, Predator 2 is a much more violent and visceral movie than its predecessor and features a great performance by Gary Busey. Released to decent box-office but reviews that compared it negatively to the first, over time viewers have come to appreciate Predator 2’s uniqueness, gaining it a strong following among fans.
1 Godzilla (1998)
Part of the reason audiences didn’t like Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was that it was too different from the original incarnation. Perhaps if it was an original movie, audiences would have been far more receptive. Despite initial reactions, Godzilla works as a big action spectacle and has too many things right about it for it to have such a negative reputation.
Taking place in a New York City that’s always raining, the movie is texturally different than other action movies and has a great musical score by David Arnold. Godzilla also features spectacular action scenes between the military and Godzilla, including an extremely exciting car chase scene at the end. Regardless of criticisms given towards its screenplay and acting, Godzilla is way too much fun to be considered bad.
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