Born in the atomic age, big bug science fiction and horror films crawled onto the cinema screens. Fear of the bomb and the fear of bugs created instant fearful films.
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The formula was so successful, and that is why these big bug movies are still being made today.
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Mutated giant ants run amok and wreck havoc in a New Mexico town, making their way to the sewers of L.A. – the first big bug movie of the atomic age and still one of the best. Look hard and you’ll see a young Leonard Nimoy (of Spock fame) without pointed ears. This film scared my mother when she was a kid, coming home from the theatre the chains on the car tires sounded just like the giant ants in the film. It still holds up today and was paid tribute to in Eight Legged Freaks.
Directed by Inoshiro Honda
Perhaps one of the most poetic and beautiful of all bug movies, Mothra starts out as a giant caterpillar that invades Tokyo searching for the tiny, twin princesses who were kidnapped by an evil nightclub owner. Then she crawls into a cocoon and emerges as a giant moth that knocks over buildings with the force from her wings. She has appeared in a number of Godzilla movies including Mothra Versus Godzilla (1964), Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Godzilla Versus The Sea Monster (1966), Godzilla Versus Mothra (1992) and Mothra (1996).
Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
Directed by Ellory Elkayem
Mutated spiders grow to gigantic size after a toxic spill in the sleepy town of Prosperity, Arizona. Doug E. Doug steals the show as radio talk show host Harlan, who spouts out about UFOs and government conspiracies from his mobile home in the desert. The special effects are outstanding and there are plenty of creepy crawlies around.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Sci-fi epic based on the Robert Heinlein young adult classic is a great shoot ’em up of the army versus the bug people from outer space. Paul Verhoeven keeps the thrills and special effects up throughout the film, a lot better than his other science fiction films RoboCop and Hollow Man.
The Monster That Challenged The World (1957)
Directed by Arnold Laven
A campy classic and, actually, there are several monsters – giant caterpillars that challenge the Navy after the discovery of strange eggs. This is a cult film that is loads of fun to watch at 3 a.m. with plenty of popcorn.
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
A gigantic praying mantis is frozen for a million years until a volcano awakens the critter. The insects goes destroying Washington D.C. and New York City until the military is sent in to gas it. Some spectacular special effects are in this one.
Directed by Ron Underwood
A lot of 1950s’ big bug style fun with this flick. A tiny desert town is besieged by man-eating worm creatures with big teeth. Amusing special effects and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour help this picture along. In Tremors 2: Aftershocks the critters grow legs.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos is one of the creepiest and most innovative vampire movies from south of the border. Religious and government undertones make things even creepier. Here, there’s good usage of setting with the New York subway’s underground tunnels, and the giant cockroach creatures are nasty and effective.
Del Toro went on to direct Blade II.
The Wasp Woman (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
In her quest for eternal beauty, cosmetic company president (Susan Cabot) uses a potion made from wasp enzymes that make her more beautiful – until the nighttime when she becomes a bloodthirsty wasp creature – what women do for their beauty! Schlock fun remade for cable TV in 1996 with a bigger budget, but the original still is the best buzz.
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
Directed by Bill Rebane
A meteorite carrying spider eggs crashes in Wisconsin and soon giant spiders crawling all over the place. Very likely inspired Eight Legged Freaks. One of the funniest and goriest moments involves a spider and a blender. The spiders themselves look like fury Volkswagens. The film barely nudged out Tarantula and Earth Versus The Spider for this list.