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Top 10 Universal Monsters

by Simon Troaré
fact checked by Alex Hanton

This list is about the 10 best and most scary monsters. Universal studios has, since the 1920s, produced numerous creatures, monsters and phantoms. Not only amazing monsters, but also some pretty awesome performances from actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Logusi, Claude Rains, Lon Chaney and his son. Not only is this list focused on appearance, but also performance.


It Came from Outer Space

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Monster: Aliens; One-eyed creature.

It came from outer space is an original sci-fi 3D film, the creature attacking the people of Earth is really frightening with its big scary eye – and that eye is huge! I think it’s a really underrated film, and should be praised more like Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The movie centers around the author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his woman Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) as they witness a meteorite crash-land near Sand Rock, Arizona. Putnam is quick to believe that it’s a space craft that has landed on Earth, but Fields is skeptical about it.

Putnam is proven right when a number of local people start to disappear and act strangely. He wants to reach a peaceful solution, so he goes into a mine which he hopes will lead him to the buried spacecraft and its occupants. It ends up that the aliens are benign beings whose space craft crashed because of a malfunction; they planned to stay until the parts on the ship were replaced. They temporarily took control of a few humans since they looked so different from them. In a way, you could say that they feared us more, than we did them.


The Phantom of the Opera

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Monster: The Phantom; disfigured Claudin.

The Phantom of the Opera (1943) is known for its amazing music and beautiful colors, but there is also looming an evilness, or is it evil? Isn’t it just love gone bad? This story is Universal’s version of the Phantom and the idea of the acid has spawned many versions like this. Claudin isn’t a monster, but just madly in love.

The story tells us about an old lonely violinist, Erique Claudin (Claude Rains). Claudin has been playing in the Paris Opera for twenty years, but soon finds himself fired due to a lack of motion in his left hand. Claudin is broke; he is so in love with the voice of Christine Dubois (Susanna Foster) that he has used all his money on paying lessons for her, so she can become the greatest singer of all!

With no money to pay for her lessons and being kicked out of his small apartment, Claudin is forced to sell his lifework – a concerto. Unfortunately the author is an old angry man who doesn’t like newcomers. Frustrated, Claudin searches for his lifework at the office, but he can’t find it! He starts to shake in anger when he hears his concerto being played in the next room. A misunderstanding leads Claudin to strangle the author, whose wife throws acid in his face. Disfigured, Claudin escapes in the sewers and catacombs of Paris. He is now transformed into the Phantom, stalking and killing out of madness and love mixed together – helping Christine and killing anyone who tries to stop him or her voice from being great.


The Bride of Frankenstein


Monster: Frankenstein’s Bride.

Everyone knows Frankenstein’s bride; she’s beauty mixed with elegance and ugliness. She’s one of the 8 Legendary Universal Monsters, and an all-time original. This list is nothing without The Bride of Frankenstein.

The story continues right after the original Frankenstein’s ending, the monster (Boris Karloff) has survived the burning and crumbling windmill and is very lonely. He isn’t evil, just misunderstood, and he misses love. Henry Frankenstein (the doctor that created the monster) survived the kidnapping too, and now meets his old professor Dr. Septimus Pretorius, the two of them plan in madness to create a bride of Frankenstein.

A storm rages as final preparations are made to bring the Bride to life. Her bandage-wrapped body is raised through the roof. Lightning strikes a kite, sending electricity through the Bride. Henry and Pretorius lower her and realize their success. “She’s alive! Alive!” Henry screams. The excited Monster sees his mate (Elsa Lanchester) and reaches out to her, asking, “Friend?” The Bride, screaming, rejects him. “She hate me! Like others,” the Monster cries. Angered, the Monster rampages the lab and finally tells Henry and Elizabeth, “Yes! Go! You live!” To Pretorius and the Bride he says, “You stay. We belong dead.” As Henry and Elizabeth escapes the monster sheds a tear while pulling a lever making the castle and lab collapse.


The Mummy


Monster: Imhotep; ancient priest.

The Mummy is a cult classic and also one of the 8 Universal Monsters. its story has been retold in other forms from time to time, but nothing comes near this exiting ancient story about the evil Egyptian priest Imhotep. The Mummy has spanned many semi-sequels – The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Mummy’s Curse. Though these doesn’t center around Imhotep, but Kharis.

An Ancient Egyptian priest called Imhotep (Boris Karloff) is revived when an archaeological expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) finds Imhotep’s mummy. Despite the warning from his friend Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), Sir Joseph’s assistant reads an ancient life-giving spell that brings Imhotep back to live. Imhotep escapes from the archaeologists, taking the Scroll of Thoth, and prowls Cairo seeking the reincarnation of the soul of his ancient lover, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon.

Ten years pass and Imhotep returns in human form, now under the name Ardath Bey. He contacts Sir Joseph’s son and says that he knows were Ankh-es-en-amon’s tomb is. After a lot of digging, they finally find her grave; the mummy and treasures are given to the Cairo National Museum. Imhotep was once mummified alive for attempting to resurrect her and – upon finding Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the Princess – attempts to kill her with the intention of mummifying her corpse, bringing it back to life using the ancient scroll, and making her his bride. In the end the scroll that keeps Imhotep alive is burned, due to Helen remembering her past and praying to the goddess Isis, making Imhotep crumble to a skeleton.


The Invisible Man


Monster: Griffin; Mad scientist.

This film is just awesome! It has action, explosions, a mad scientist, and the idea of being invisible! The film was made in the ’30s and it’s just amazing that the technology at that time could make a man invisible. And we must not forget the very amusing acting of Claude Rains; his voice will tear your soul apart.

The film opens in a blizzard, where we see this mysterious man with bandages covering his face and body and his eyes obscured by dark goggles. He takes a room at an inn in the English village of Iping, and tells the owners, with his crumbling voice, that he wants to be left alone. The Invisible Man has also spanned many interesting sequels – The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent, and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. All these films has some of the greatest special effects of the ’30s.

We later find out that the mystery man is Griffin (Claude Rains) a mad scientist who has created a drug that makes you invisible! The film continues with the people of Iping discovering him, forcing him to torment and kill anyone who tries to stop him, which in the end makes him a complete madman. He is hunted down like Frankenstein and shot in the snow. We then see his dead body regaining visibility again.


The Wolf Man


Monster: Larry Talbot; half wolf, half man.

I think personally that this is the greatest American Werewolf film. The make-up is very wolfy, but with an extra touch of human! I like that! And the fact that the son of Lon Chaney plays the Wolf Man makes it even better. Also you actually feel sorry for the monster, it’s not his fault he just transforms automatically to the wolf and kills. The Wolf Man also had appearances in other films, but never alone – Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula.

After learning of the death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). While there, Larry becomes romantically interested in a local girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop. He tries to make a conversation with Gwen by buying a silver-headed walking stick decorated with a wolf.

That night, Larry attempts to rescue Gwen’s friend Jenny from what he believes to be a sudden wolf attack. He kills the beast with his new walking stick, but is bitten on the chest in the fight. Talbot transforms into a wolf-like creature and stalks the village, first killing the local gravedigger. Talbot has weak memories of being a werewolf and wanting to kill, and continually struggles to overcome his condition. In the end he’s killed by his father with his own silver-headed walking stick.




Monster: Count Dracula of Transylvania.

The old and classic novel by Bram Stoker is now retold as a Universal Monster film, with the famous Bela Lugosi portraying the charming, but deadly Count Dracula, who can not only transform into a bat, but also a wolf. This film will never be forgotten. Universal Studios created four sequels to the franchise – Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, House of Dracula, and appearances in House of Frankenstein.

Renfield (Dwight Frye) is a solicitor on his way to the Castle belonging to Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in Transylvania on a business matter. The people in the local village are fearful that vampires inhabit the castle and warn Renfield not to go there. Renfield refuses to stay at the local inn and asks the driver of the carriage that brought him to the village to take him to the Borgo Pass. The innkeeper’s wife gives him a crucifix to protect him from the blood-thirsty vampires. He is driven to the castle by Dracula’s coach, with Dracula himself disguised as the driver. During the trip, Renfield sticks his head out the window to ask the driver to slow down, but is startled to see that the driver has disappeared, and a bat is leading the horses.

As the story continues we meet Dracula’s three wives, and together they transform Renfield into a mindless slave by Dracula drinking his blood. Dracula eventually finds his way to London and begins to fill his lungs with blood, while having Van Helsing on his heels.

In the end, Van Helsing and Harker hunt Dracula down to his castle. Dracula, thinking that Renfield lead them to him, strangles Renfield and kills him. The sunrise forces Dracula to cover in his coffin making him open and weak to Van Helsing and Harker. As Harker keeps searching for the kidnapped and hypnotized Mina, Dracula moans in pain when Van Helsing impales him with a wooden stick, which causes Mina to return to normal. Harker leaves with Mina while Van Helsing stays.




Monster: Frankenstein’s Monster.

I think that on this list Frankenstein’s Monster is one of the most original monsters. Boris Karloff is just amazing as the Monster, his appearance, his speech and even his glance! It’s in this film that the ever so famous flat head of Frankensten’s Monster was decided! So why not No. 1 since he’s Universal’s most well-known monster (if not the most well-known monster of all time)? Well, I guess you’ll just have to see No. 2 and 1 on this list to know! Though I must say it was very hard to choose between these three great movies.

Frankenstein was also followed by a string of sequels – The Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. From Ghost of Frankenstein Lon Chaney Jr. took over Boris Karloff’s role as the monster.

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), an ardent young scientist, and his devoted assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), a hunchback, piece together a human body, the parts of which have been secretly collected from various sources. Frankenstein’s consuming desire is to create human life through various electrical devices which he has perfected.

The brain is the only part missing, and Fritz is out to get it. Stupid as he is, he drops the normal brain on the ground, thinking that the brain next to the broken brain is just as normal he takes it. What Fritz doesn’t know is that the brain he took is actually a criminal brain! In the same way as the Bride of Frankenstein, the Monster is lay down on an operating table and risen to an opening in the lab. Lightning hits the Monster making Henry scream, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

The monster turns out to be out of control and mad because of its differences from other people, therefore Henry is forced to lock him down in the basement. Unfortunately, the Monster escapes and brings chaos in the little township, forcing the people to hunt the Monster down, and burn it (with its only weakness, fire) in a windmill.


The Creature from the Black Lagoon

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Monster: The Creature.

This amazing piece of motion picture is genius! Ladies and gentlemen, this is a true freak of nature! A true monster and one of the best monsters to ever be produced by Universal. The Creature’s make-up is just so realistic that it even beats nowadays’ special effects. I mean, now they use computers, which sometimes can make it look just a little bit FAKE! But this is something else.

An expedition in the Amazon uncovers fossilized evidence from the Devonian period of a link between land and sea animals in the form of a skeleton hand with webbed fingers. Expedition leader Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) visits his friend, Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), an ichthyologist who works at a marine biology institute. Reed persuades the institute’s financial backer, Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remainder of the skeleton.
They go aboard a tramp steamer, the Rita, which is captained by a crusty old codger named Lucas (Nestor Paiva). The expedition consists of David, Carl and Mark, as well as Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams), and another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell). When they arrive at the camp, they discover that Maia’s entire research team has been mysteriously killed while he was away.

As the story continues the Gill-man starts to stalk the strange-looking humans, and finally falls in love with the beauty Kay (so it’s kind of like beauty and the beast). The story centers around the Gill-man killing the crew members, and the crew trying to catch the monster. Reed is actually just interested in leaving and gathering a bigger crew, but Mark wants to stay and catch the beast by himself, so he can be rich and famous.

Random encounters with the Gill-man claim the lives of two of Lucas’ crew members, before the Gill-man is captured and locked in a cage on board the Rita. It escapes during the night and attacks Edwin, who was guarding it. Kay hits the beast with a lantern, driving it off before it can kill Edwin. Following this incident, Reed decides they should return to civilization, but as the Rita tries to leave, they find the entrance blocked by fallen logs, the work of the escaped Gill-man.

In the end the Gill-man kidnaps Kay leading to David, Lucas, and Carl chasing the Gill-man to save her. Kay is rescued and the creature is riddled with bullets before he retreats to the lagoon where his body sinks in the watery depths, presumably dead.


The Phantom of the Opera


Monster: Erik; The Phantom.

The first Universal Monsters’ Monster! Gaston Leroux’s amazing novel is transformed into an extraordinary film starring the man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney. This is the closest you get to Leroux’s novel from 1911, and the make-up for the Phantom was so scary that the women fainted in the cinemas. Even though there are no voices, this is the best acting on this list. It even makes the expressions more powerful, with no voices to do the job. Simply the best monster make-up and story by Universal Monsters.

The film is about the sad story which centers around the tormented and disfigured Erik (Lon Chaney). He lives in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, goes in disguise as the Phantom and falls in love with the beautiful Christine Daaé (Mary Philbin). She sees him as the angel of music and her mysterious master teaching her in the shadows, but their teaching (love from Erik’s side) is disturbed by Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry) which forces Erik to kidnap Christine to his lair many cellars down under the opera.

Raoul follows Erik and Christine with a secret detective (Arthur Edmuns Carewe). As the Phantom already had caused the famous chandelier sabotage in the Opera, he did not hesitate to kill, already having killed Raoul’s brother. Erik traps Raoul and the detective in many traps almost killing them with heat, and drowning them.

There are two endings to this version, the original and the more “heart breaking” ending. The original ends with the Phantom attempting to flee with Christine in a stolen carriage. While Raoul saves Christine, Erik/Phantom is pursued and killed by a mob, who throw him into the Seine River to finally drown. The “heart breaking” version ends with the Phantom letting Christine and Raoul go after realizing that Christine truly loves Raoul and not him. Christine gives the Phantom her ring, then departs with Raoul. The Phantom shrieks in pain and falls over dead, of a broken heart.

fact checked by Alex Hanton