It’s National Save A Spider Day this week, so we’ve rounded up – in no particular order – the 25 best bug movies ever…
The Fly (1986)
A remake that (unusually) equals the original film, David Cronenberg’s sci-fi body shock horror sees scientist Jeff Goldblum accidentally merge his DNA with that of a housefly. Goldblum soon begins to take on the physical and mental characteristics of the bug – and that’s where the fun really starts…
A cult classic heavily influenced by concerns over the rise of atomic energy in the 50s, Them! sees giant irradiated ants rampage over New Mexico. Winning an Oscar for its (now understandably dated) special effects, the movie’s influence can be seen today in games like the Fallout series.
Jeff Daniels conquers his fear of all things eight-legged to battle a plague of highly poisonous spiders in small town America. A horror film that refuses to take itself too seriously, it’s still worth a watch over 20 years after release.
Disney’s puppet-to-real-boy classic features one of the best-loved insects in film: Jiminy Cricket. A small, unnamed character in Carlo Collodi’s original story, the snappily-dressed Jiminy is a central character in the movie, acting as storyteller and Pinocchio’s conscience. Oh, and he also sings “When You Wish Upon A Star” better than any grasshopper ever could.
Foolish scientists yet again unleash chaos by trying to PLAY GOD in Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi horror. Jeremy Northam and Mira Sorvino release a genetically engineered bug into the New York subway to kill off a bunch of diseased cockroaches, only for the Judas Breed (the name should have been a warning, guys) to rapidly adapt, breed and start feasting on people. The name comes from the fact the bugs have copied human form.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
High in the running for the Best Titled Film Of All Time, this fondly-remembered family comedy sees Rick Moranis’ eccentric inventor accidentally reduce his and his neighbour’s children to minuscule dimensions. During their adventures in the peril-strewn back garden – now the size of a small country – the gang befriend an ant (imaginatively dubbed “Antie”), ride a bee and battle a scorpion.
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Another 50s B movie concerned with rampaging giant insects. Here, a volcanic eruption melts polar ice, releasing a 200-foot-long praying mantis – which soon makes its destructive way to Washington, DC (huge insects clearly having a preference for attacking America).
A Bug’s Life (1998)
Disney-Pixar’s follow-up to Toy Story features a talented voice cast (Kevin Spacey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus among them) taking on the roles of CGI ants, ladybirds and various other common-or-garden creepy crawlies. Released a mere month after DreamWorks’ Antz, A Bug’s Life is possibly the better of the two – well, it is based heavily on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, with different bugs recruited to battle off a horde of marauding grasshoppers.
If A Bug’s Life is Seven Samurai performed by comic insects, Antz is Brave New World. The cast is arguably even better than A Bug’s Life, with Woody Allen bringing his own brand of neurotic energy to the main character, ably supported by the likes of Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken and Sylvester Stallone.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
A 21st century take on those 1950s B movies, this knowing comedy horror sees a small town overrun by huge, toxic waste-altered spiders. It stars David Arquette, a pre-fame Scarlett Johansson and lots of green CGI spider-guts.
Dr. No (1962)
The first James Bond movie features a memorable scene in which the baddies use a tarantula in an attempt to assassinate a sleeping Bond, only for 007 to wake up just in time and demonstrate his own inimitable form of shoe-based pest control. The accompanying score is pure comedy.
Naked Lunch (1991)
David Cronenberg clearly has a thing for giant insects. In this adaptation of William S Burroughs’ cult novel, Peter Weller’s exterminator is exposed to chemicals causing him to hallucinate human-sized bugs. A strong stomach is a necessity.
The Swarm (1978)
Not Michael Caine’s finest hour, perhaps – but The Swarm’s all star cast and sheer badness have cemented its status as a cult curio. A disaster movie in which a mass of killer bees is the threat, it’s notable not only for its high camp (“Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?”), but for the fact that actual bees were used in the production – people were even employed to clip off the stingers to save cast and crew from too much discomfort.
Yep, you’ve guessed it: this 1950s film features a simple bug transformed into a giant menace by RECKLESS SCIENCE. In this case a scientist attempts to enlarge cattle to combat a world food shortage but instead manages to unleash a skyscraper-sized spider on the world. Keep your (eight) eyes peeled for an appearance by a young Clint Eastwood.
Winning a prize at Cannes, this French documentary features stunning close-up footage of all manner of mini beasts in their natural habitat. It shows us a world we scarcely know exists – despite the fact that it’s right there under our feet and in our back gardens.
Highly Dangerous (1950)
This British Cold War comedy thriller finds the Soviets employing insects as weapons, using them as carriers for deadly germs. Margaret Lockwood’s entomologist is sent to the Balkans to find out more, with enjoyably daft consequences.
Another enjoyable mix of horror, science fiction and comedy, Slither sees a parasitic alien slug crash on Earth, breed (in typically disgusting fashion) and transform inhabitants of a small town into hive mind-controlled zombies. Fans of 1980s horror shouldn’t miss it.
The Fly (1958)
The original may lack the twisted sexuality of Cronenberg’s retelling, but it still packs a punch as a horror movie. A scientist attempting to create a teleportation device fuses his body with a fly during an experiment, leaving him with the insect’s head and “arm”.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Okay, so it might not be the best Indy movie, but it does feature one of the best bug-related scenes in popular cinema. Spielberg has a gift for making an audience feel uncomfortable when he wants – and never more so than the scene in which Kate Capshaw has to save Indy and Short Round from a booby trap – by reaching through a teeming tunnel of large, horribly chittering insects.
Known in some countries as “Ticks”, this straight-to-video horror features a bunch of troubled inner city kids (including a young Seth Green… and Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) terrorised by mutated insects while camping at a rural retreat. Silly and high on the gross-out count.
The Wasp Woman (1959)
The search for eternal youth, Roger Corman style. A cosmetics company owner attempts to stave off the effects of age by ingesting a serum derived from wasp royal jelly, and the results – predictably, it has to be said – aren’t entirely successful. While her skin does get smoother, she also transforms into a murderous human-wasp hybrid. Oh dear.
William “The Exorcist” Friedkin directs this claustrophobic psychological thriller in which Ashley Judd (remember her?) and Michael Shannon become convinced their motel room is infested by flesh-boring bugs. But are the insects real or just a shared delusion?
They Nest (2000)
Directed by Ellory Elkayem, also responsible for Eight Legged Freaks, this similarly silly TV movie plays on our almost universal revulsion of cockroaches. A deadly breed of these creepy crawlies has infested a small Maine town, burrowing into people’s flesh and eating them from the inside out. Shudder.
Quite possibly one of the best superhero movies of all time, Spider-Man’s premise should be familiar to almost anyone: geeky boy gets bitten by radioactive spider; geeky boy takes on spider-like abilities of super strength, wall-crawling and web-slinging. Tobey Maguire does fine work as the crime-fighting kid who learns that with great power comes great responsibility. A new franchise begins this summer with Brit actor Andrew Garfield donning the red and blue suit.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
This Tim Burton-produced take on Roald Dahl’s book combines live action and stop motion animation to tell the fantastical story of a boy who flies around on and inside, well, a giant peach, accompanied by a group of human-sized anthropomorphic bugs. Weird? Pretty normal for Dahl, we’d say.
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