IT won't be released until next year but movie fans are already in paroxysms of excitement over the forthcoming film Kong: Skull Island.

The hype is so intense that a new King Kong attraction is set to open this summer at the Universal studios theme park in Orlando, celebrating one of the most memorable screen monsters ever.

Never ones to be left behind, the Sunday Herald thought we'd get in on the act too and give you the definitive list of the greatest movie monsters to ever stalk the silver screen.

As we welcome you to the world of the classic Creature Feature, be prepared for dinosaurs, predatory sharks, ruthless alien killing machines, giant ants, and walking plants that spit poison and kill.


NO matter how often the great ape falls to his death from the top of the Empire State building, he keeps coming back for more. Next year sees the release of his latest movie - Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and featuring Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson. Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray starred in a great 1933 version. There was a Dino de Laurentis Kong movie in 1976 (controversially our favourite Kong); Peter Jackson upped the ante in 2005 with a visually captivating, three-hour-long film in 2005, with Jack Black, Adrien Brody and Naomi Watts - and Andy Serkis as Kong.


FORGET the lame sequels. Steven Spielberg’s 1975 hit, based on the Peter Benchley novel, is one of the great action-suspense films. It instilled a sense of visceral dread in audiences right from the start: John Williams’ menacing score, and a young woman (played by Susan Backlinie) being dragged under the water by something unseen but clearly ravenous and lethal. The film starred Robert Shaw as salty sea-dog Quint, Roy Scheider as Chief Brodie and Richard Dreyfus as Hooper, and was one of the original summer blockbusters. Several models were made of Bruce, the shark: in January it was reported that the last surviving prop shark had been donated to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in LA.


FOR a creature that sprang from post-atomic war Japanese popular culture in the mid-fifties - Ishir? Honda’s original film, Gojira, told of a prehistoric monster being awakened by nuclear radiation - Godzilla has had a very long shelf-life, starring in numerous films, video games, comic-books and TV series. It’s often been noted that when Godzilla first came into being, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were painfully fresh in Japan’s collective consciousness. A 2014 reboot, Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards raked in $529m at the global box-office but he’s reported to have pulled out of Godzilla 2.


RIDLEY Scott’s epic film was, as one film critic Xan Brooks on its 30th anniversary, “the film that set the visual template (grungy and industrial) for any director keen to shoot a picture about monsters in outer space. It was the film that contained a grisly, chest-bursting centrepiece that tapped into the fears of the age.” It was also notable for a commanding performance by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley: she deservedly won a best-actress Oscar nomination for it. The extra-terrestrial itself, first seen bursting through John Hurt’s chest cavity, was pretty damned impressive, too. Scott said of HR Giger’s creation that it was "one of the best all-time monsters”.


"I WANT a monster movie, I've wanted one for so long,” director JJ Abrams told a US Comic-Con audience in 2007. “I was in Japan with my son and all he wanted to do is go to toy stores. And we saw all these Godzilla toys, and I thought, we need our own monster, and not King Kong, King Kong's adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense.” Insane and intense was what he delivered in his 2008 found-footage movie, Cloverfield, in which a monster and its smaller ‘parasite’ creatures terrorise New York. The film took $170,764,026 at the global box-office.


IF there’s anything calculated to make Tom Cruise lose his trademark boyish grin, it’s surely the sight of an “extraterrestrial army of killer Tripods”, to quote the film’s blurb. Steven Spielberg’s retelling of the HG Wells story had some awesome scenes - the moment where an alien war machines emerges from the ground at an intersection; a runaway train, every carriage ablaze; the cunningly crafted tension in the ruined basement when an alien probe snakes in, forcing Cruise, his young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and crazed stranger Tim Robbins to hide as best they can.


DIRECTOR Ron Underwood’s ground-breaking (literally: the plot concerns giant underground burrowing sandworms, ‘Graboids’, that emerge to terrorise a small town with the ironic name of Perfection) remains a cult classic, a quarter of a century after it first saw the light of day. The cast includes a youthful Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and country singer Reba McEntire. Website Sabotage Times spoke last November of the film’s “awesome script” and the “genuine chemistry” between Bacon and Ward, while the Graboids “are as good as anything that came from Hollywood in the early nineties.”


HUGELY popular South Korean 2006 horror flick, made by director Bong Joon-ho, about a creature that comes out of the Han river, which has been polluted with formaldehyde. “The plug-ugly monster that jumps out of a city river to scoop up and chomp down on those unlucky enough to cross its path … looks like something you might find lurking at the bottom of a Hieronymus Bosch painting or trolling the depths of a murky restaurant aquarium in the middle of a toxic dump,” said the New York Times. That’s good enough for us.


“SMALL furry creatures called mogwais prove to be immensely prolific and dangerous when wet,” ran the verdict in Halliwell’s Film Guide. “Juvenile horror comic, a kind of deliberate inversion of E.T.” Joe Dante’s cult comedy horror 1984 film, written by Chris Columbus, features gremlins - creatures that look awfully cute at first, but which turn murderous. The film is “a confrontation between Norman Rockwell's vision of Christmas and Hollywood's vision of the blood-sucking monkeys of voodoo island,” wrote the esteemed US critic, Roger Ebert, adding: “It’s fun.”


ONE US film critic dismissed Steven Spielberg’s out-of-control-dinosaurs classic as “a creature feature on amphetamines”, but the rest of the world seemed to disagree with him. The cloned dinosaurs in Richard Attenborough’s ingenious theme park look amazing: the T-Rex pounding after the jeep; the two raptors hunting down the two young kids in the deserted kitchen.The film took more than a billion dollars at the box-office, worldwide. Merchandising sales were impressive, too. To date there have been three sequels - The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, and last year’s Jurassic World.


SUPERIOR sci-fi thriller set in Johannesburg, directed by Neill Blomkamp and co-produced by Peter Jackson. Some 20 years ago, a vast spaceship materialised in the skies over the city and was found to have a cargo of alien refugees. They were brought to earth and interned in a shantytown, District 9. Nicknamed ‘prawns’ and widely reviled, they face being relocated to a new camp outside the city. Which is where the fun starts. The film’s CGI effects and action scenes are terrific, and of course, this being South Africa, it’s difficult not to think of its old apartheid policies while watching this 2009 film.


DIRECTOR Frank Darabont, whose CV had included brilliant film versions of Stephen King prison stories The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, did another fine job with this King adaptation. A mysterious mist has wrapped itself around a small town in New England, trapping a handful of local people in a supermarket. As for the monsters - as has it: “As the movie progresses, the monsters get bigger and meaner… One of the most intimidating creatures in recent memory has to be the giant mantis creatures that approach the cast near the end of the film.” It also has the most devastating ending of any mainstream movie in decades.


IF Jaws was the film that made you afraid to go into the sea, Hitchcock’s 1963 classic made you look askance at our feathered friends. Some scenes still have the power to shock after more than half-a-century: not just the frenzied attacks of the birds on humans, but such disturbing scenes as the discovery of a man’s lifeless body, his eyes having been pecked out by the birds. The sequence in which malevolent birds soundlessly assemble on the schoolchildren’s play-frame, putting the fear of God into Tippi Hedren, is classic Hitch.


A “CRAZED, lurid spectacle,” sniffed a prominent US film critic, objecting to the film's inclusion of “raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys" (as if a B movie never did that?). Many critics disliked Paul Verhoeven's 1997 spectacular, in which Earth finds itself at war with a bug planet, Klendathu. Looking back on the film in November 2013, however, Atlantic magazine got it right: Starship Troopers, it observed, "is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware send-up of right-wing militarism. The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers." Great monsters - and great mayhem, too.


PESKY flies - they get everywhere. One sneaks into a teleportation device assembled by clever-if-eccentric scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum): the result is that Brundle himself turns into a rather large man-fly hybrid aka BrundleFly - which gives him some new powers but also ends up rather putting a cramp on his relationship with his girlfriend (Geena Davis). This remains one of David Cronenberg's finest movies - "Be afraid. Be very afraid" was its tagline. Fantastic make-up and special events, and a moving final scene, too. Goldblum survived, somehow, to star in Jurassic Park.


STAN Winston, the special effects and makeup artist, with a distinguished Hollywood CV as long as your arm, was always proud of the Predator alien that he and his team devised for this 1987 Schwarzenegger epic. He once described him as an "iconic character as well known and loved in science fiction film history as any character out there." Cue lots of mayhem as Arnie and his US Army commandos do bloody battle with an extraterrestrial with extraordinary powers, and a really freaky mouth. The film led to sequels and spin-offs: of all of them, though, the original was Arnie's "absolute favourite."


FILMED in 3D, this 1954 film originated at a dinner during the filming of Citizen Kane, when actor William Alland was intrigued as a cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, spoke about amphibious beasts—half man, half reptile—that stalked the Amazon. Allan later produced The Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which an aquatic humanoid falls for the heroine, Julie Adams. Adams would recall: "I think one of the reasons films like King Kong and The Creature from the Black Lagoon survive is there's a kind of poetry in the monster - a poignancy in his longing for love, for something beyond his scope in life."


LIKE The Creature from the Black Lagoon, this 1954 film about giant irradiated killer ants is another cult classic from what has been described as the golden age of big-screen sci-fi. To quote the tagline on its poster: "A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!" You probably don't need to know any more than that, really. Them! was a huge hit and started a craze for giant insects and spiders in movies, including the arachnophobes worst nightmare, Tarantula - all influenced by the Cold War fear of nuclear war.


MARLON Brando and Val Kilmer headed the cast in John Frankenheimer's 1996 take on H G Wells' story about a scientist who bids to turn animals into people. This wasn't the first film version - there had been one in 1932 (Island of Lost Souls, with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi) and 1977 (with Burt Lancaster and Michael York). The creatures in Frankenheimer's movie (he was brought in as a replacement director) are pretty good: trouble is, the shoot was chaotic, and the film wasn't up to much. It's "so enormously poor that virtually no pity can be spared on it," says Sabotage Times.


IN which John Wyndham's 1951 sci-fi classic about walking, man-eating plants was turned into a 1962 film starring Howard Keel. "BEWARE THE TRIFFIDS," warned the film's hysterical, but brilliant, poster tagline. "they grow ... know ... walk... talk ... stalk ... and KILL!" Variety's reaction: "Basically, this is a vegetarian’s version of The Birds, a science-fiction-horror melodrama about a vile people-eater of the plant kingdom with a voracious appetite. Although riddled with script inconsistencies and irregularities, it is a more-than-adequate film of its genre."