I’d always assumed there were dozens of movies that feature giant squids and octopuses (OK, octopi). But there really aren’t very many giant cephalopod movies. Here are my ten favorites.
1. It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) – Hydrogen bomb tests make a really big octopus from the Mindanao Deep head towards San Francisco. Low-budget but effective and entertaining movie. Special effects by the famous Ray Harryhausen.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) – Rather loose adaptation of Jules Verne’s 19th-century novel. Captain Nemo and the crew of the submarine Nautilius try to stop war by sinking warships. From Disney. An excellent film in every respect and the battle with the giant squid during a storm was a highlight.
3. Mysterious Island (1961) – Another Jules Verne adaptation. Captain Nemo saves shipwrecked Civil War soldiers on an island that has large animals. The crew of the Nautilius encounters a giant unfriendly chambered nautilus. Special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
4. The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) – A huge octopus-like creature, the Watcher in the Water, guards the entrance to Moria. Gandalf comments, “There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.” The scene was filmed with so little light, it’s very difficult to see the creature.
5. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) – A giant octopus attacks the submarine Seaview which is on a mission to save the Earth. Luckily the Seaview is equipped with a way to electrify its hull. Huh? This movie gave rise to a 1960s TV series of the same name.
6. Deep Rising (1998) – This movie is more or less a remake of “Alien” on a cruise ship instead of a spaceship. The monster is like a huge octopus with nasty sharp teeth. Most reviewers didn’t like this movie but I think it’s pretty good — it scared me.
7. The Lost Continent (1968) – This is a strange British film where a tramp steamer becomes disabled in fog-enshrouded carnivorous seaweed. There’s a colony of descendants of pirates and a giant one-green-eyed octopus. One of my favorite movies of the 1960s.
8. The Beast (1996) – This movie is similar to “Jaws” (1975) but with a giant squid instead of a giant shark. It was actually a made-for-TV film. This movie got terrible reviews but I think it’s OK, if a bit long. Based on a novel by Peter Benchley, who also wrote “Jaws”.
9. Tentacles (1977) – The title pretty much tells you what you need to know. Giant octopus on a rampage. Intended to capitalize on the huge success of “Jaws” (1975) two years earlier. The film had big stars (John Huston, Shelley Winters, Henry Fonda) who were nearing the ends of their careers. Not a good movie but it makes my top ten.
10. Reap the Wild Wind (1942) – Starring John Wayne and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Set in the 1840s, the story is about marine salvage operations. Wayne is a diver exploring a wreck when he is attacked by a giant squid.
The Meg (2018) – A giant squid makes a very brief appearance when it attacks a minisub — and then the squid is promptly eaten by the megalodon shark.
Wake of the Red Witch (1948) – John Wayne (again!) battles a big octopus (or it might be a squid) for a chest of pearls.
Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954) – Biologists battle a giant one-eyed alien octopus off the Mexico coast.
Pearl of the South Pacific (1955) – Black pearls are stored underwater by natives in a lagoon guarded by a giant octopus.
Bride of the Monster (1955) – A mad scientist has a pet killer octopus.
Sh! The Octopus (1937) – The title is not a typo. A comedy-mystery film that’s rather famous among fans (all three of us) of giant octopus movies.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) – The ape battles a giant octopus on an island in the South Pacific.
War of the Gargantuas (1966) – There is a bad big green gargantua (a hairy giant man) and a good big brown gargantua. The good one fights a giant octopus that looks a lot like the octopus in “King Kong vs. Godzilla” from a few years earlier.
The Rift (1990) – Also known as “Endless Descent”. A team of scientists descends into a deep marine trench in a medium size yellow submarine. The sub is briefly attacked by what looks like a giant marine nudibranch or flatworm. OK, so it’s not a cephalopod but it’s an invertebrate so it’s close. This movie has very good monsters and very bad acting.
The Road to Bali (1952) – This is a comedy starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hope goes underwater to retrieve a chest of treasure that is guarded by a giant squid. Of course Hope and Crosby get the treasure, but just Crosby gets the girl (Dorothy Lamour). I think this is the same squid that appeared in “Reap the Wild Wind” (1942) — both films were produced by Paramount Pictures.