Sharks, alligators, bears and wolves — these are some of the predatory animals that have thrilled audiences on the big screen over the decades in Hollywood cinema.
With the upcoming Idris Elba-starred “Beast” arriving this August 18th, let’s take a look at the 10 Gripping Man vs. Beast Movies Worth Checking Out.
1) Jaws (1975)
This movie may have been nearly 50 years ago. But guess what, Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” remains the quintessential example of how to craft a thrilling horror movie about predatory beasts. Or more specifically, a shark movie. And in this case of “Jaws”, it’s a great white shark terrorising the (fictional) Amity Island.
The movie famously featured one of John Williams’ most iconic scores and the then-young Spielberg has already proved himself the master of escalating tension and suspense. Many similar movies involving a shark (or sharks) have since tried to replicate the success of “Jaws”. But frankly, none of this comes close to what Spielberg did so well the first time around.
2) Jurassic Park (1993)
Well, we got another Spielberg here and he did it again in “Jurassic Park”. The then-groundbreaking CGI and animatronic effects that bring the dinosaurs to life are no doubt an unforgettable cinematic experience. And more so, if you happened to watch them on the big screen back in 1993. This is Spielberg’s territory and he knows well how to stage a thrilling set-piece one after another. Besides, who could forget the T-Rex wreaking havoc the first time around?
3) Crawl (2019)
Alexandre Aja knows a thing or two about directing a creature feature, given his past experience in “Piranha 3D”. And here, he did it again in “Crawl” — a taut 90-minute of suspense, close calls and near-death experiences involving Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father (Barry Pepper’s Dave) trying to survive the night during a Category 5 hurricane in Florida.
If that’s not enough, they have to deal with hungry alligators too. The movie made good use of its tight space — crawl space, to be exact — to evoke enough dread-inducing tension and as expected, Aja doesn’t shy away from depicting graphic violence and gore. It also helps that the computer-generated alligators look surprisingly realistic for an otherwise low-budget movie.
4) The Grey (2011)
Liam Neeson has made an illustrious career from becoming a Jedi to stopping kidnappers and terrorists to training Batman. And let’s not forget “The Grey”, where he plays an expert marksman leading the survival of a group of old workers following a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness. The sub-zero temperature is the least of their problems here as they face a bigger threat in the form of hungry wolves.
“The Grey” features a typically engaging lead performance from Liam Neeson while director Joe Carnahan deserves equal praise for staging some of the movie’s thrilling moments. And interestingly enough, the movie also digs deeper into a surprisingly metaphorical take about man vs. nature, where it raises questions about morality and faith.
5) The Edge (1997)
Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin in the same movie? And what’s more, it turns out to be a thriller about how a billionaire (Hopkins) and a young photographer (Baldwin) find themselves stranded in the Alaskan wilderness following a plane crash. But that is not all, as they face a giant grizzly bear as well.
It’s pure testosterone-driven stuff and the two leading men each deliver engaging performances. Then, there’s the star of the show — the grizzly bear. You’ll be surprised the bear is hardly a CGI or animatronic creation but actually portrayed by Bart the Bear. And no, we do not mean a man dressed like a bear. The bear has several film credits too, namely “On Deadly Ground” (1993) and “Legends of the Fall” (1994) apart from “The Edge”.
6) The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
Way before Idris Elba is forced to deal with a rogue lion in “Beast”, there was a movie called “The Ghost and the Darkness”, a 1996 adventure-thriller about a lieutenant colonel (Val Kilmer) and a hunter (Michael Douglas) who join forces to take down the lions.
Director Stephen Hopkins of “Predator 2” fame knows well how to stage gripping lion-attack scenes. Not to forget his impressive knack for building tension and ominous dread. The movie also benefits from stunning cinematography shot on location in Kenya and South Africa.
7) Deep Blue Sea (1999)
It’s no “Jaws” but it was still an effective shark thriller, thanks to Renny Harlin’s genre know-how in meshing a high-concept premise. And that a cross of “Die Hard”-like setup with super-smart (mako) sharks terrorising the remote underwater facility. “Deep Blue Sea” combines the effective use of CGI and animatronic effects and these sharks sure look menacing enough. Harlin delivers some good action sequences here. And not to mention an unlikely death scene involving one of the characters that caught me by surprise the first time I watched this movie.
8) Anaconda (1997)
“Anaconda” is nothing more than a straightforward B-movie creature feature that truly belongs in the ’90s era. The kind that you will be better off not taking it seriously while watching the movie. It’s absurd and campy but it’s fun too, notably the giant 40-foot anaconda using the combination of animatronics and CGI. The CGI itself is pretty spotty even back then.
But this movie manages to compensate for it with some vicious kills. The titular anaconda may have been the star of the show but the human cast is no slouch either. The latter is especially true with the young Jennifer Lopez leading the cast and of course, Jon Voight pulling off a slimy antagonist role.
9) Razorback (1984)
Two years before Russell Mulcahy made “Highlander”, he was responsible for this little creature feature called “Razorback”. The title in question refers to a vicious wild boar terrorising the Australian outback.
“Razorback” was made at a low-budget cost but Mulcahy and his team deserve praise for combining effective shots of the animatronic wild boar with technical know-how in both gore and suspense. It was a shame the movie didn’t do well back in 1984 but it has since become a cult classic.
10) Piranha 3D (2010)
Sure, Joe Dante and James Cameron may have their own takes in the first two “Piranha” movies. But Alexandre Aja deserves mention here for levelling up the stakes and making it his own in “Piranha 3D”. It’s sleazy, campy, and gory with a capital “G”. And here, Aja goes all-out in offering the horror fans a sheer amount of graphic violence and extreme brutality. The movie also featured a better-than-expected cast ranging from Elisabeth Shue to Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd and even Richard Dreyfuss.
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