People love New York. So, too, do movie monsters. Most often, they want to love it to death. Japanese dinosaurs want to smash it. King Kong wants to climb all over it. Genetically engineered superviruses want to turn it into their own private Petri dish. And now some mystery monster wants to rip off the head of the Statue of Liberty with its – claws? tentacles? canines? – and send it tumbling down a major thoroughfare in Cloverfield. This latest monstrosity, unleashed from the mind of J.J. Abrams, stomps into theaters Jan. 18.
If there is any fresh way to make New Yorkers run for their lives, Hollywood will find it. Aside from giant, killer rabbits – who made their stand not in Manhattan but rather in the American Southwest in Night of the Lepus -- New York has seen – and squished, and smashed, and shot down – everything.
Among the city’s most notable would-be dominators of years past:
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Technically, it’s a bunch of spirits who take their first shot at New York in Ghostbusters, released in 1984. But the lead nasty comes not from the graveyard, but straight from Dan Aykroyd’s imagination in the form of a giant doughboy that lopes through Central Park West.
Mimic. An entomologist creates a mutant breed of insect that will! Not! Die! No, not when it can shape-shift and take human form instead! Hence Mimic, a 1997 film from a then-unknown Guillermo Del Toro. New Yorkers never looked at their subway system the same way again.
The Infected. That’s what Will Smith’s scientist character calls the blood-lusting zombies in last year’s I Am Legend. One of the only movies in recent memory where the monsters, not the humans, make up the majority population in Manhattan. I Am Legend, indeed – and They Are Thirsty.
The Olsen Twins. Just watch New York Minute and tell me it isn’t a hostile action.
King Kong. Honestly, can’t a giant gorilla destroy a historic landmark in peace? How many times must he make his stand at the top of the Empire State Building (or in the 1976 version, the World Trade Center) before you people realize that he just wants to live, and make half-giant-gorilla babies with his tiny human girlfriend who can never love him in return? That’s actually not a rhetorical question. The answer is three – the number of times that the story of King Kong has been captured on the big screen.
Thundering CG Robots. The massive machines that stomp through Manhattan in 2004’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow exist on green screen only, but they’re real enough to Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, who tracked them to an island run by a mad scientist.
The C.H.U.D.s. Children of the ‘80s remember well the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, a squadron of mutant mole people shambling about in the sewers. The 1984 film has since become a cult classic.
Godzilla. Didn’t think a high-toned Japanese dinosaur would give New Yorkers the time o’ day? Wrong. He’ll take Manhattan, thanks. And he did, in a 1998 remake of the classic monster flick.
Gremlins. Space-pod critters that mutate from cute ‘n fluffy to mean ‘n scaly make a play for New York in the 1990 sequel to the 1984 hit.
The Giant Claw. A giant turkey-vulture-bird-thing comes from space sporting an antimatter shield that makes killing it rather complicated in this movie by the same name. The solution, of course: Antimatter gun. That’s how they did things in 1957.
Mean Space Junk. Asteroids and meteors hate New York, too. Hence the onslaught of death from above in Armageddon and Deep Impact, both of which came crashing into theaters in 1998.
Q, the Winged Serpent. Didn’t know that New York has defeated a winged serpent, now, did you? Well, it has. Its name was Q, and it was up to no good back in ’82. Ate people when it wasn’t flying around. Keep that in mind next time you fly into JFK.
Leslie Gornstein is a regular contributor to the
New York Post, E! Online, and
The Style Network.
Send feedback on this column to