The Best Animal Horror Movies of All Time

Alexander Aja’s alligator/hurricane thriller Crawl seeks to take a bite out of theaters this weekend, so it seemed like a perfect time to look back at some of the best animal-centric horror movies ever made. The list proved to be slightly tricky, as intentionally awful (?) fare such as Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane didn’t make the cut, while others such as Open Water (sharks) and The Grey (wolves) simply weren’t good enough.

Note that I excluded monster movies from this list (animals that don’t exist in real life).

10. The Shallows

Somewhere, at some point in history, a filmmaker sat down and decided: I’m going to make a movie with Blake Lively, put her in a bikini, and have her battle against a shark as she is stranded just feet from safety. Someone, brilliantly, greenlit such a project and brought it to life. The Shallows is far from perfect, but it’s a simply executed and largely effective shark thriller.

9. The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic may be a little dated, but have you never looked up into the sky and wondered whether that flock of crows is hunting you, planning to peck your eyes out with their shank-style beaks? That is the legacy of The Birds.

8. Piranha 3D

In Piranha (directed by Alexander Aja), it’s spring break time at a popular resort town where college students from across the country gather to wear next to nothing, dance, drink and have sex. For the sheriff (Elisabeth Shue), she soon realizes she has more than drunks on her hands: an underwater earthquake has unleashed a horde of flesh-eating piranhas.

7. Cujo

Everyone is scared of St. Bernards, right? They’re large, slobbery, and oh so obsessively loving. It’s downright creepy. Stephen King’s novel is adapted to the big screen and is definitely a slow burn… until Cujo succumbs to rabies and starts terrorizing the town.

6. Backcountry

We’ve all been there. You take your girlfriend out for a hike and you end up lost—horribly, amazing lost, three days away from your car and unsure of how to get back. Such a situation can fray any situation, but a ruthless black bear hungry for human flesh is guaranteed to bring you closer together.

5. The Edge

You have an affair with a man’s wife, you get eaten by a bear. That seems like proper karma. The Edge pits Anthony Hopkins against Alec Baldwin—back before he was funnyman Alec Baldwin—in a fight against nature, each other, and a gigantic grizzly bear after their plan crashes deep in the Alaskan wilderness.

4. Deep Blue Sea

What if Jaws were, you know, smart? Deep Blue Sea has a trio of ultra-smart sharks hunting the researchers that made them that way, seemingly unimpressed by their scientific achievement. Set on a deep sea rig and featuring Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, and a few other recognizable faces, this movie is one of the rare killer shark movies aside from Jaws that is actually memorable.

3. The Ghost and the Darkness

Some kitty cats want to snuggle. Others want to know what your intestines taste like. Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer team up to hunt a pair of deadly and suspiciously elusive lions that are killing people left and right in this surprisingly effective animal thriller.

2. Jaws

Stephen Spielberg’s classic still stands the tests of time amazingly well and is incredibly effective at building and maintain suspicious. Jaws singlehandedly made many people think twice about wading into the ocean, and between the heart-pounding score and vintage characters and dialogue, Spielberg delivers a film with many memorable moments and lines.

1. Arachnophobia

I could have gone the easy route and put Jaws at #1, but what’s the fun in that? Speaking of fun, few movies simultaneously deliver the goods and make you change the way you go about your day—you know, checking the showerhead every morning, making sure a spider isn’t going to bite you when you turn on a lamp, etc.—the way Arachnophobia does. As good as Jaws is, Arachnophobia taps into your worst fears in all the right ways.

What did I miss? Tell me in the comments section below, ideally without calling me an idiot who needs to change careers.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movies