When you think of the scariest monsters from the big screen, your mind might go big, either in stature or legacy. You’ve got your giant monsters, the Godzilla-like creatures who crash through a city with no care for the people they splat along the way. Or your mind might go to characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster or even Michael Myers, supernatural beings whose body count is only outnumbered by their franchise numbers. But it’s important not to forget the little guys because they can be just as mean, evil and deadly as the big boys. Worse yet? You can barely see them coming because they’re so tiny.
The all-time, reigning kings of mini-monsters will always be the Gremlins. Whatever you might think of the mutated versions seen in Gremlins 2, there’s no denying that Stripe and the batch that spawned from Gizmo are the baddest little dudes around. Just look at the way they terrorized the town of Kingston Falls. Sure they have their goofy moments, but only the worst of the worst can drive a nice person like Billy’s mom to throw a living creature in a blender! Many of the monsters on the list were born from the popularity of the ’80s classic, but have done some pretty gruesome things to earn spots on the list.
Before turning into a one-note joke sent to the hood (twice) and space, Warwick Davis’s Leprechaun used to actually be scary, just ask Jennifer Aniston who got her start in the 1993 original. While nowhere near a straight horror film, the original Leprechaun was kind of like the early Nightmare on Elm Street movies where our lead cracked jokes, but also struck fear in the hearts of his victims and audience members while trying to get his gold back.
9) Nilbogian Goblins, Troll 2
If you haven’t watched Troll 2 and the documentary based on its creation, Best Worst Movie, do yourself a favor and check them out. This slapped-together schlock fest offers plenty to laugh at up to and including the goblin-not-troll costumes which mainly consist of inside-out brown sweatsuits and ill-fitting masks. There’s such a low-rent quality to them, though, that they actually look creepy, like when you’d leave one of your action figures out in the sun and you’d find him the next day all deformed. The goblins of Nilbog are far from the creepiest thing in this film, but they do lead to some horrific and awkward moments.
8) The Breath-Stealing Troll, Cat’s Eye
The third installment in the Stephen King-based Cat’s Eye anthology features a cat defending young Drew Barrymore from a troll creature dressed up like a jester. The monster’s been tormenting little Drew and finally wants to take her out by stealing her breath when the cat jumps in to save the day. This one gets bonus points for its resemblance to the Rancor.
Another property used mainly for laughs instead of serious scares, the Ghoulies get definite bonus points for variety. Unlike Gremlins or Critters, you don’t get one uniform kind of monster. Ghoulies don’t discriminate and include everything from a spin on the Creature from the Black Lagoon to a gnarly-looking cat. Corny as their jokes have been, these little bastards came up with some pretty ingenious ways to kill people in everything from a carnival to a fraternity bathroom. No matter what, you’ll never look at a toilet the same way after watching these flicks.
6) Flying Monkeys, The Wizard of Oz
If we learned only one thing from The Wizard of Oz, it’s that flying monkeys are not nearly as cool in practice as they are in theory, especially when controlled by an evil witch. These blue, fez- and vest-loving creatures have no problem stomping scarecrows, terrorizing young girls and stealing dogs. Plus, there’s the whole “Monkey, monkey, in the sky, why’d you do that in my eye?” element which offers a whole extra layer of evilness.
5) Demons from Beyond, The Gate
The Gate is a seriously strange ’80s horror movie starring a young Stephen Dorff who deals with the fact that a gate to hell is opening up in his backyard. This portal sends out an army of killer moths, creatures under the bed, the family’s dead dog and a small army of miniature demons to try and murder three children. Don’t worry, though, the kids have the power of heavy metal behind them.
4) Krites, Critters
The furry beasts made famous in the four Critters movies might look like toothy Tribbles, but they still regularly threatened the denizens of Earth. These little guys had a penchant for raucous behavior that often involved biting people, but they could also combine into a tumbleweed of death that would tear through anything in its path. Plus, if you were a kid in the ’80s, those VHS boxes and posters left an impression on you that will never go away.
3) Dwarf-Creatures, Phantasm
Everyone knows that The Tall Man is the big bad from Phantasm, literally and figuratively speaking. But even an immortal, interdimensional whateverheis needs some help and he gets that in the form of the Jawa-like dwarves. These little guys seem to share many of their boss’s powers, always appearing from out of nowhere and terrorizing people, but we know the truth: they’re really dead people from earth sent over to the Tall Man’s dimension where they’re reanimated and turned into his minions.
2) Torok the Troll Wizard, Troll
Troll 2 might have become a nerd culture phenomenon, but it’s important to remember the movie that came before and made that one possible. Troll featured a wizard-turned-troll who possesses a little girl and makes her go bugnutty until her brother, Harry Potter Jr., helps put a stop to it. Torok turns Sonny Bono and Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ apartments into parts of new troll dimension and even creates more mini-monsters. Don’t be fooled by his relatively innocuous appearance, he’ll still sacrifice you for his plans.
1) Belial, Basket Case
A different kind of monster, Belial was actually the deformed, scrotum-resmbling conjoined twin of Duane. The two seemed to be getting along pretty well until a doctor surgically separated them without their consent. Enraged, Belial has Duane carry him around in a basket, kind of like how Luke carried Yoda, but a lot more murderous. Their less than healthy sibling relationship lasted three movies, but the original is the best of the bunch.