Top 10 Animal Attack Horror Films

Listen to the simple notes of John Williams’ unsettling theme music for Jaws and you’ll be reminded why you’re not going back into the water. The animal kingdom has played a frightening role in horror cinema over the years. We count down the best.

10 (Tie). Day of the Animals (Girdler, USA, 1977)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsA chemical imbalance affects a menagerie of forest inhabitants. American hiking trails are beautiful but now proven deadly. Cougars, bears, birds of prey you name it, they’re out to get you. Hinging on the ozone layer gap as a new reason for animals gone off kilter, it’s fairly 70’s accurate. Leslie Nielsen gives his most B-movie performance ever.

10 (Tie). Arachnophobia (Marshall, USA, 1999)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsFear of spiders. It’s a very common affliction, not helped at all by this feature. When a giant species is transported to America and mates with a native species it results in the disappearance of an entire Californian town’s population due to unknown spider bites. John Goodman features as an exterminator on the hunt with some scientists to cure America of the ensuing blight of terror.

9. Razorback (Mulcahy, Aus, 1984)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsAn Oz favourite, this time a disgruntled wild boar rampaging for reasons not understood. Somewhere between attacking an old man, grabbing a baby and killing a newsreader the boar has time to have a few face offs with Gregory Harrison and Bill Kerr (worth looking up their filmographies for more terrible but cult Oz films). Quoted as being the size of a rhino, the boar seems to have it in for anyone coming into it’s expanding territory.

8. Long Weekend (Eggleston, Aus, 1978)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsThese animals aren’t super-sized, they’re just evil. A long weekend away to a remote paradise soon unveils that there’s something out there that’s darker than the force of nature controlling the cute Aussie natives. Our soon daring couple try to make sense of the random attacks and solve the mysterious reasoning behind the animals’ bloodlust.

7. Food of the Gods (Gordon, USA, 1967)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsA hilarious romp of terror on a Canadian hunting island. A group go to hunt, only to become the hunted, by giant animals that have mutated in abundance. Some unknown substance that a farmer unwittingly feeds the animals is soon leaked to the fauna with dire consequences. A favourite scene is the utterly ridiculous rat attack. You have to hand it to the camera crew though, their strict attention to detail has allowed for the magic scaling of the beasts.

6. Night of the Lepus (Claxton, USA, 1972)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsAs obscure as it gets, literally giant rabbits running riot. Superimposed furry fury is unleashed on a remote Arizona ranch after the owner decides to call in researchers to help deal with the overpopulation problem. Chemicals and nature don’t go side by side as this film again proves.

5. Cujo (Teague, USA, 1983)

cujo_top10filmsDog is known as mans best friend, and here’s the film that made audiences worldwide disregard that commonly adored saying. The stuff of nightmares for dog lovers and pet owners alike. Based on Stephen King’s epitomised novel, the demonisation of a family Saint-Bernard gone mad with rabies wreaks havoc on the picket fence American suburbs.

4. Roar (Marshall, USA, 1981)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsIt’s not a horror narrative and the intention of the film isn’t to see the animals actually attack the characters, but that’s just what happened to the poor actors and crew on set. It makes perfect sense to unleash lions and other giant cats and expect that it’ll be safe enough, no? This gem has been given a recent resurgence in cult appetite. Staring Hitchcock’s muse Tippi Hedren in addition to Melanie Griffith. ‘There’s never been a film like ROAR – and there never will be again!’ as far as health and safety laws are concerned.

3. Them (Douglas, USA, 1954)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsAh Hollywood 1950’s when the atom bomb was a popular threat to civilisation. Something micro sized could cause so much destruction, the same can be said for this chemically overgrown army of ants loose in the desert. Black and white never looked so delightfully tacky and entertaining.

2. The Birds (Hitchcock, USA, 1963)

Top 10 Animal Attack Horror FilmsNo animal attack list would be complete without Hitchcock’s infamous masterpiece. Taking the island isolation and mundane-turned-nightmare themes to the dizzying heights of auteur class brilliance. This thriller-come-horror will make you take a second glance at those seagulls overhead and question if you should pity feed a pigeon in future.

1. Jaws (Spielberg, USA, 1975)

Jaws, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Stephens, Top 10 FilmsTHE shark film. A classic and cult favourite in its own right. The animal attack horror film theme probably wouldn’t be such a popular sub-genre of thriller/horror if it wasn’t for the claustrophobic tension of danger that lies beneath the tranquil waters. Featuring some of the most iconic imagery of 70’s Hollywood, the juxtaposition of the pleasure beach with death and terror never looked more perfect.

Written and compiled by Laura Shearer

Over to you: what are your favourite animal attack horror films?

About the Author
Film enthusiast and lover of all things cinema, Laura holds a BA/MA in film studies theory and lectures/tutors film students.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Love this piece. I’ve only seen four of these films. Some of them I will certainly look for. I personally think Cujo should be number two but I’m just glad you included it. The furry fury is a brilliant line. Terrific list.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    When I first saw the title for this list my immediate reactions were Food of the Gods (which I think was made in 1976, not 1967) and Day of the Animals. I saw both of them at a drive-in circa 1977, and thought they would be way too old and cheesy to be included in a 21st century top 10 list. I was proved wrong, and thank God I was. And yes, isn’t Leslie Nielsen great when his macho rapist ego leads him to his death.

    The Grey is one I would have thought was a serious contender; also, Frogs starring Ray Milland released in 1972 (where, if memory serves me correctly, a bunch of spiders causes Adam Roarke to shoot himself in the leg). Also, also – Starship Troopers?

    Great list.

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    Callum Reply

    Roar sounds like a crazy film! Never heard of it. I must track it down. Good list Laura.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I also have a real soft spot for Orca The Killer Whale. It’s an obvious JAWS ripoff but it had an excellent story about revenge from the whale’s point of view.

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    Adam Reply

    I need to catch up with some of these. I love b-movie exploitation and some of these look right up my street.

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    Dan Reply

    If werewolves were allowed I’d have a few to throw into the mix. Obviously An American Werewolf In London but I’d also suggest Dog Soldiers, The Howling and recent British horror Howl. But I know that’s stretching it a bit.

    I remember enjoying a few trashy b-movies back when I was younger such as Anaconda. Speaking of snakes, how about Snakes on a Plane!

    The reason why I like your list so much Laura is that you’ve left the obvious ones off (maybe apart from Jaws which couldn’t be anywhere other than number one). On the shark note: how about Deep Blue Sea?

  7. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Dan you have mentioned Dog Soldiers several times. I really need to see it.

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    Robert Hufstader Reply

    Eight Legged Freaks!!!!!!!

  9. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    If werewolves were allowed then American Werewolf in London and Silver Bullet might make my list.

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