Let’s celebrate the life and legacy of the late Ray Harryhausen with a look at his 10 Best Movie Monsters.
Ray Harryhausen passed away this week at 92 years old.
Kids today who are used to CGI might be hard-pressed to name his work, but for those of my age or older, he’s the name synonymous with stop-motion animation and holds a special place in pop-culture.
Harryhausen is responsible for some of the most indelible images in sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking from the 1950’s through early 1980’s. There’s something bewitching about his work, and as dated as it may look now, it still holds a tangible charm that somehow seems more authentic than CGI.
The animator admitted as much saying “There’s a strange quality in stop-motion photography, like in ‘King Kong,’ that adds to the fantasy”…“If you make things too real, sometimes you bring it down to the mundane.”
So let’s look back at his 10 Best Movie Monsters. I’ll have YouTube and Amazon links for each movie.
10. Mighty Joe Young (1949)
[amazon_image id=”B000B7MX7A” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mighty Joe Young[/amazon_image]
Harryhausen was inspired to enter FX work by Willis O’Brien, who gave stop-motion life to the original “King Kong.” He worked with O’Brien for this tale of another giant ape, helping to forge his career and eventually surpass his mentor.
9. Ymir-20 Million Miles To Earth (1958)
[amazon_image id=”B000QGEB1W” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition)[/amazon_image]
Taking another cue from Kong, this alien beast is misunderstood, imprisoned and sadly mistreated. It shows Harryhausen’s skill as an animator that you can empathize with the creature despite his destructive demeanor.
8. Cyclops-The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
[amazon_image id=”B001DB6J4Q” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
This one-eyed menace is where many of us learned what a cyclops was. He still looks pretty damn cool.
7. Pterodacyl Fight-One Million Years B.C. (1966)
[amazon_image id=”B00018D3ZA” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]One Million Years B.C.[/amazon_image]
Not even prehistoric creatures could resist the sensual charms of Raquel Welch, inspiring this epic fight of the massive winged creatures.
6. The Beast from 20,0000 Fathoms (1953)
[amazon_image id=”B002SHN2OE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms[/amazon_image]
Beating Godzilla to the silver screen by one year, this tale of a dinosaur revived by an atomic blast was a clear inspiration and Harryhausen’s attention to detail and grace with movement made for another classic monster. Check out this scene where its terrifying the Coney island amusement park:
5. Talos-Jason And The Argonauts (1963)
[amazon_image id=”B003HTSJ9A” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Jason and the Argonauts [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
The ominous living bronze statue is an elegantly sculpted brute, and an iconic image in fantasy filmmaking.
4. The Kraken-Clash of The Titans (1981)
[amazon_image id=”B003L7DK60″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Clash of the Titans [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
For generation X, ‘Clash of The Titans‘ was ground zero for learning about greek mythology. Clearly inspired by Star Wars (the robotic Owl Bubo owed more than a little to R2-D2) it showed Harryhausen at the height of his craft, specifically with his monstrous Kraken. It helped make “release the Kraken” a pop-culture catch phrase.
3. Kali -Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (1973)
[amazon_image id=”0767847431″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Golden Voyage of Sinbad[/amazon_image]
The multi-limbed, dancing Indian Goddess is one of his most distinctive creations.
2. Medusa-Clash of The Titans (1981)
Another “Titans” creature, Harryhausen’s beastly gal’s head must be severed to help kill the Kraken. But that proves easier said then done in this suspenseful scene.
1. Skeleton Army-Jason And The Argonauts (1963)
I don’t think you can think the name Harryhausen without the image of the battling skeleton army from Jason And The Argonaut’s. Check it out:
So that’s my list of the Top 10 Harryhausen Movie Monsters. Which ones make your list? Chime in below. And if you haven’t given these movies a look before, I hope I’ve given you impetus to do so, because they’re a lot of fun and a testament to a master craftsman.
RIP Ray Harryhausen and thanks for all the great childhood memories you’ve inspired.
You might also enjoy my lists of weirdest kid tv shows from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, best Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episodes, my list of best Apocalyptic thrillers.
And here’s a great L.A. times piece which goes into the behind the scenes of Harryhausen’s work.