Who doesn’t like a good star-crossed love story? The timeless appeal of impossible love has given us ancient myths like Cupid and Psyche, classic dramas like Romeo and Juliet, and a few more that fall into the “don’t think too hard about” category — think The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. But like most things, horror storytellers took one look at this classic trope and thought, “We can make it weirder.” And thus, one of the most timeless standbys of genre storytelling was born. Today, let’s talk about love-struck monsters. They’re those sympathetic baddies who only really wanted to live happily ever after with their soulmates. Or maybe their version of love is more deadly than their abnormally sharp teeth? Whether it’s a good or bad romance, here are the top ten monsters who only wanted love.
10. David Kessler in An American Werewolf in London (1981)
David Kessler (David Naughten) might not have been looking for love when he embarked on a backpacking trip in England with his doomed friend Jack (Griffin Dune). But he wasn’t looking to get attacked by a werewolf either. Unfortunately for David, he found both. After falling for Alex (Jenny Agutter) the nurse who helped him recover from his attack, David resists the urging of Jack’s ghost to kill himself in order to prevent more deaths and free his friend’s soul. David has a new love to live for, so why let the inevitable full moon ruin it? Sadly for David, those transformations and murders catch up with him eventually. Like many an unwilling monster before, love and happily ever after just weren’t in the cards for An American Werewolf in London.
9. Erik in The Phantom of the Opera (1925, 2004)
Whether you’re looking at the 1925 universal silent film or the 1986 musical and its 2004 adaptation, one thing is certain, the Phantom did not have the healthiest approach to love. Erik, as our masked maniac is actually named, might have really cared for Christine. But he loved the idea of her as the perfect muse, rather than who she actually was. Then he proceeded to lie, pretend to be her dead father, kidnap her, and murder in her name. Don’t get me wrong, I know almost every word to the musical that made Erik every theater nerd’s embarrassing crush. But when you step back, he doesn’t really earn the sympathetic ending offered in most versions of the story. Yet The Phantom of the Opera still lives on in the tragic romance horror category, earning our obsessive musician a spot on this list.
8. Mothra in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
In the Toho monster universe, Mothra has always been a benevolent giant moth, whether she’s defending the earth, her island, her eggs, or her priestesses. But in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, she joins her other half to form a full-blown monster power couple. Yep, it turns out Mothra is the Queen of the Monsters to her King Godzilla, and she’s ready to defend the earth and her other half with the power of love. Right out of the cocoon, she’s off to commune with the wounded Godzilla, then joins her recovered monster beaux to assist him in his fight against the Titans. She defeats Rodan and finally sacrifices herself while shielding her injured lizard soulmate from King Ghidorah. How romantic! Mothra may have battled Godzilla in several previous iterations, but in King of the Monsters, she had nothing but love for the big lizard.
7. Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
There was always a glimmer of the sensual to Dracula, from the undeniable subtext of Victorian sexual repression in the original novel to the fact that the 1931 Bela Lugosi classic was intentionally released on Valentine’s Day. But in 1991, Francis Ford Coppola went full romance with his take; Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Despite what the title would lead one to believe, the central plot point that Mina (Winona Rider) is the reincarnation of Dracula (Gary Oldman)’s long dead wife is not present in the original novel at all. In fact, it’s rather directly lifted from another Universal classic, The Mummy (1931).
This overtly romantic take on Dracula flips the role of Mina, who becomes a resourceful half-vampire in the novel — gamely employing her powers to help the heroes kick some undead butt. In Coppola’s bodice-ripping version, she’s pretty clearly falling for Drac even as she helps the heroes. But the whole time it’s made clear that Dracula is our sympathetic romantic hero. As a fan of the original badass Mina and evil Dracula, I find it a bit of a letdown. But it’s certainty perfect for the fans who always carried a torch for the famous vampire. Dracula’s enduring heartthrob status certainly speaks to that and earns him a lovelorn and bitey spot on this list.
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6. Kong in King Kong (1933, 2005)
Sure, it wouldn’t have worked out. Even if those money-hungry exhibitionists from New York hadn’t tried to capture the giant ape who ruled Skull Island, Kong was a massive monkey, and Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) was a normal-sized human woman. And despite their relationship being pretty one-sided — with lots of screaming on Ann’s part and lots of picking up and carrying on Kong’s — the star-crossed love theme was pretty clear in the story, right down to the fairytale-inspired final line “‘T’was beauty killed the beast.”
When Peter Jackson fulfilled his childhood dream of remaking King Kong in 2005, he made Kong (Andy Serkis) and Ann (Naomi Watt’s) relationship more emotionally poignant and mutual, though much more platonic than the pre-code 30s film implied (at least from Kong’s point of view). This is definitely one of those classic monster movies where it helps not to think too hard about it, but our lovestruck monkey still earns a spot on this list.
5. Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger (1983)
Vampires are a repeat presence on this list for good reason. Immortality is bound to get lonely, so it’s no wonder that after a few centuries, you’d start looking for a companion to ride out eternity with. In the 1983 new wave vampire film The Hunger, Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) spends her stint as a vampire cycling through a string of undead lovers, including John (David Bowie) and eventually Sarah (Susan Sarandon) only to see them eventually whither into decrepit mummies after centuries of youth and beauty. It’s clear that Miriam wishes she could keep her lovers young and by her side, but her shallow desires are revealed when we discover she locks all her aged lovers in coffins before picking out a new consort. It’s definitely the most brutal breakup of all time. Miriam only wants love, but she loves her companion’s looks more than anything, earning her a coldhearted spot on this list.
4. Gill-Man in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Shape of Water (2017)
In the original Creature from the Black Lagoon, Gil-Man is quite smitten with Kay (Julie Adams) the scientist who is menaced by the monster for the length of the film. But it’s difficult to call it a true love story, save for its superficial similarities to the King Kong dynamic. But don’t tell that to Guillermo Del Toro. The director’s childhood yearning that Gill-Man and Kay might end up together was ultimately the inspiration for his Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water. That film, the best remake (unofficial or not) of a classic monster movie yet, transformed how we perceive monster romances for good. In doing so, Del Toro wrote a love letter to the worthiness of all the weirdos and misfits of the world, with the happy ending they always deserved.
3. Louis and Lestat, and Everyone Else in Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Welcome to the hot mess love fest that is Interview With The Vampire, where every immortal soul is looking for love in all the wrong places. In fact, the driving motivation of every character in the film is their need for a companion to face eternity with. Lestat (Tom Cruise) wants Louis (Brad Pitt) to stay with him forever — and he’ll do any violent or manipulative thing he needs to make that happen. His idea of love isn’t healthy or reciprocal, but it’s the force behind everything he does.
Louis wants a familial love, agreeing to stay with Lestat to raise Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) as their daughter. And Claudia? She wants companionship too, though the form of her needs evolves as her soul ages throughout the film. Even Armand (Antonio Banderas) wants Louis to be with him forever, though it’s not quite clear why all these vampires think the morose Louis is such a catch. Even our modern, mortal interviewer (Christian Slater) wants a piece of the action. Maybe it’s because he’s Brad Pitt? No matter the reason, Interview With The Vampire is just a big gothic relationship soap opera, earning it a dysfunctional and dramatic spot on this list.
2. Imhotep in The Mummy (1932, 1999)
Poor Imhotep. He really did go through a lot for his beloved Princess Anck-su-namun. Of all the ill fated monsters on this list, he’s definitely one of the easiest to feel sympathy for. After being mummified alive for the blasphemous act of attempting to resurrect his dead love, he’s eventually resurrected himself. And what does he do with his second chance at life? He works tirelessly to reunite with his true love yet again.
In the original film from 1932, Boris Karlolff’s Imhotep discovers the reincarnated soul of his princess in a modern woman named Helen (Zita Johann). In the 1999 remake, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) finds no such reincarnation, but he’s still ready to kill, sacrifice, and release as many plagues as he needs to get his Anck-su-namun (Patricia Valasquez) back. You can’t fault him for devotion. In the ‘32 film, he confesses to his reborn soulmate “My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you.” And even though he’s intent on killing the modern version of the Princess to free and then resurrect her soul, it’s hard to argue that Helen’s current boyfriend (David Manners) would go through as much for her sake. In the end, Helen chooses her current life over the lover of her ancient past, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for our main mummy.
1. Frankenstein’s Monster in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Kaloff) only wanted love in the truest sense of the word. He didn’t care if it was romantic, platonic, or familial. He just wanted to be loved and accepted by someone. It’s why the creature has endured as the sympathetic monster supreme in our cultural memory. We can all relate to his loneliness in some way, and it’s difficult to blame him for lashing out at a world that denied him even the most basic understanding. In horror cinema, The Bride of Frankenstein is the most iconic example of a lovelorn monster, with a clear queer subtext imbued by openly gay director James Whale. Through each tragic encounter the monster experiences through his quest to be loved, Whale criticized a world that denied love and acceptance to members of society for unjust, prejudiced reasons. For its timeless relevance, Frankenstein’s monster takes the top spot of tragically heartsick monsters.
There you have it, the top ten heartsick, lovestruck, and mostly tragic monsters in horror. Did we miss your favorite lovelorn creature? Which monster would you happily swipe right on Tinder for? Let us on our Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and at The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!