At Cultoid we are lovers of all things practical FX related. And when when it comes to seeing real things on real sets, it doesn’t get much better than having a perfectly conceived and executed monster suit walking around, giving a fully formed performance at the hands of a heavily sweating man or woman inside it.
There have been so many great examples of this artform over the years, and as you’ll see from the list there are still great filmmakers working today who see the importance of a tactile creation in front of the camera, rather than relying on CGI to fill in the gaps.
So without further ado, here’s our countdown of the best Man in suit movie monsters of all time.
The first thing to note about this list is that not all of the entries could be described as ‘monsters’ per se. But we have to recognise all those performances that made us believe we were watching something other than a man covered in various bits of make-up and props, and with Robbie that’s exactly what we got!
The greatest wing man (or wing wookie) who ever lived. Chewy spends most of his time as the most faithful friend a guy could have, but when crossed he becomes a badass mofo ready to take shit down and roar in the face of his enemies.
Fred Dekker’s riff on the Universal monsters was unable to secure the rights to the original Creature from the Black Lagoon. So they paid a fantastic tribute with a new creation; Gillman. Played brilliantly by Tom Woodruff Jr. (who also played an uncredited Goro in Mortal Komat), Gillman was a fantastic re-imagining of a classic, that attained a classic status all of its own.
Ok so again these guys aren’t so monstrous. But at the end of the day they are mutant turtles and they are ninjas, so by name alone they kind of fit the monster bill. Brought to life by the great Jim Henson, these suits, which housed some pretty intricate animatronics remain the best looking live action turtles we have seen (including the new CGI mess).
It will probably be fairly unsurprising that Guillermo del Toro makes this list more than once. He is, after all and unabashed lover of monsters. Aside from his attention to every detail of his creature designs, del Toro imbues his monsters with a great humanity, and that’s a trait you can easily see in Mr Wink.
Played by a 7 foot 2 Nigerian actor, the original Alien remains one of the icons of cinema. The HR Giger design has been utilised across countless items of merchandise, yet loses none of its potency when viewed in the context of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of claustrophobic terror.
When you think of man-in-suit monsters, the original Godzilla is probably the first image that pops into your head. As the years have gone by the original film is known more for its many parodies and nods in other films (including ridiculous tributes in Street Fighter and Crank 2). But whether you look upon it with a fond tongue in cheek, or a genuine respect there is no doubting the legacy of cinema this creation has led to.
Here is Guillermo del Toro’s second entry, and I’ve sneakily doubled up the monsters – though given they’re from the same film I think I’m allowed. The design and performance (by Doug Jones) of both the Faun and the nightmarish Pale Man are chillingly incredible. Easily the most brilliant monsters of the last decade, but a contender for the all time crown as well. Taking the ideas of dark fairy tales to twisted new heights.
The truly great thing about the Predator design is just how crap it could have been. In case you haven’t seen it, here is Jean Claude Van Damme as the original man in suit that the movie was going to go with.
But happily Stan Winston stepped up to the plate and knocked Van Damme’s red felt onesie about a million miles out of the park. Equal parts disgusting and terrifying, the Predator monster is the go to design for an example of why practical trumps CGI when it is done properly.
Director Jack Arnold is the key to this being my number one choice. There has yet to be a film that shoots its monster in such a way that it strikes fear whilst revealing true beauty at the same time.
As water performer (they had one guy for swimming and one guy for walking the suit on land) Ricou Browning glides through the lagoon, bolts of sun carving pillars of light around him, he is revealed as nothing less than a 100% believable creature. He moves as we would imagine him to move. It is so natural and so nonchalant as to be totally convincing, and so when he goes berserk, you fully soil your pants!