Photo: Columbia Pictures (Getty).
As any random cat video proves, animals are just biding their time until they turn their claws our way to kill us. Sobering thought for everyday life, but in the movies, that scenario has been playing out since their invention. Every stripe of animal has been portrayed as man’s mortal enemy decade after decade. Here are the 10 best of the animal kingdom’s worst offenders.
The Top 10 Most Villainous Movie Animals
10. Bear in Prophecy (1979)
As the seminal The Simpsons episode “Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes On Every Fish” taught us, contaminated water can do the darnedest things to wildlife. That environmental message was given the killer treatment in 1979’s Prophecy. Mutant salmon, raccoons, and even tadpoles create bizarre encounters for the townsfolk in rural Maine. But it is a mama bear — with half its body scarred in deformity — whose run-in’s are most lethal. At first, like the white man is wont to do, the Native Americans are blamed for the carnage. But after enough pic-a-nic baskets are discovered doused in blood, cooler heads prevail.
9. Rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
What makes this creature even more terrifying is that it appears to be a harmless rabbit, one you might find in a cage in a family’s home or vanishing inside a magician’s hat. But don’t be fooled, its white fur will turn blood red in an instant after decapitating you for getting too close in one unimaginably swift bunny hop. Such is the scenario encountered by King Arthur and his knights during their quest for the Holy Grail. Unlike the other animals on our list, this fearsome rabbit only makes the briefest of appearances, but is a ruthless killer just the same, going for the jugular like it was a firm carrot in what a victim would acknowledge as the worst luck possible.
8. Anaconda in Anaconda (1997)
Privileged American documentarians trekking to the Amazon to find a long-lost Indian tribe are only asking for trouble. But picking up a stranded Jon Voight along the way just opens the floodgates of disaster. Snakes have tormented movie heroes practically since the advent of film. But who better to go head to head with a gargantuan Anaconda than Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, and Eric Stoltz? This behemoth with coil you up, crush you, and swallow you whole. And maybe even regurgitate you back up again for one last act of humiliation. This is not unlike the experience a documentarian might encounter with Hollywood executives, as well. Though the snake might just be a little less slimy.
7. Rats in Willard (1971)
There are many good answers to the question of which wild animal you would least like to meet your demise from. But one that is sure to rise to the top is rats. One rat, it seems, is bad enough in itself. In Willard, the title character sees these creatures oppositely. He’s a loner in search of friends while carrying his own vendettas. He trains his furry pals skills beyond their normal intellectual capabilities and creates an obedient troop. At the helm is Ben, a dark-haired baddie, who might be getting too smart and brazen for Willard’s good. Audiences loved the evil Ben so much, that the little bugger got his own eponymous sequel, with a chart-topping theme song by Michael Jackson to boot. A rodent could do a lot worse.
6. Spiders in Arachnophobia (1990)
Not only is this villainous animal bent on exterminating the townsfolk of a small California town, but he has spawned an army of offspring to help carry out his diabolical plan. The National Geographic Channel might simply call this nature at work, but moviegoers see it as a tried and true tale of terror led by one of the creepiest, crawliest spiders ever put on film. Dubbed “The General,” this arachnid would make Charlotte inscribe an emergency of warning in her web as fast as her eight legs could carry her. And when it comes to a final showdown with our human hero, despite his small stature, The General’s odds of victory are pretty terrific.
5. Cujo in Cujo (1983)
As a mean girl might say, there’s absolutely nothing fetch about this pooch. Usually an emblem of safety and rescue, this St. Bernard is anything but. Here, he’s a soaking mass of dread, having been transformed into a killing machine by a rabid bat. He’s certainly the last four-legged fiend you’d want to encounter outside your inoperable car stranded in a remote area in a heat wave. While the innovation of cell phones would have made this horrific incident end rather quickly, back in the early ‘80s, villains thrived on antiquation. Cujo is no exception, taking the command “sic ‘em” to shocking levels.
4. Alligator in Alligator (1980)
There are many things you don’t want to flush down the toilet. Old condoms, new condoms, fidget spinners, and, as I’ve been told by the sweet old neighbor lady in an uncharacteristically awkward fence to fence chat, feminine hygiene products. But according the ’80 horror movie, you should definitely add an Alligator to that list. Because, as everyone may have already guessed, it would survive such an action, spend years feeding on the discarded carcasses of animals exterminated by biohazardous science experiments, and consequently grow to a monstrous size and terrorize Chicago in a carnivorous rampage. Al Capone may have seized the mantle of that city’s greatest menace, but only because humans are blindly bestowed notoriety for everything.
3. Velociraptors in Jurassic Park (1993)
While the T. Rex got most of the attention and essentially serves as the film’s emblem, the baddest beasts of Jurassic Park are the merciless and malicious velociraptors. Running in pairs, they are also smart, cunning, and formidable opponents to their human prey. Taking their cues from any respectable slasher film villain, they will hunt down individuals from your party one by one in the maintenance shed, kitchen, or wherever someone might choose to hide or retaliate. But here it takes a beast to best a beast, and in the end, this terrible twosome cannot vanquish the king of the dinosaurs in battle or reputation.
2. King Kong in King Kong (1933)
For those only familiar with the Jack Black version — who’ve never heard of Jessica Lange or maybe even the ‘70s — you might be surprised to learn that King Kong has been monkeying around since 1933. He is routinely dubbed a villain because of his colossal bulk — and his habit of killing independent filmmakers, Skull Island natives and otherworldly beasts, air force officers, and New York City bystanders — even though his love of a beautiful young woman makes him a sympathetic figure, as well. He may only possess two of the tall, dark, and handsome criteria, but look at it this way: such sacrifices are made by Tinder users each and every day.
1. Shark in Jaws (1975)
During production, director Steven Spielberg nicknamed the animatronic shark used in Jaws Bruce after his lawyer. But he would soon become a symbol of terror the world over and make this 1975 update of Moby Dick the highest grossing film of all time (at the time). This fearsome shark, with “black eyes, like a doll’s eyes” would also lead the world’s population to second guess a dip in any body of water, even the backyard pool. Jaws was cinema’s first summer blockbuster, complete with filmgoers waiting eagerly in lines around the block to see the greatest animal movie villain of all time make them feel as unsafe in the comfort of a movie theater as the characters were onscreen floating atop the Atlantic Ocean.