Nature Strikes Back! 10 Eco-Terror Classics

The month of Mad As Hell Horror is here and we’re continuing our celebration with a list of 10 favorite Eco-Terror Classics (JAWS not included). What exactly is Eco-Terror you ask? Well, this is a subgenre of both Horror and Science Fiction that deals with animals that have turned on the human population due to things like environmental changes and/or side effects from scientific experiments gone wrong. These movies thrive on the basic fear that humans have when we’re faced with wild, furious things coming after us with fangs, claws and paws. There’s been lots of these kinds of films made over the decades and our list is just a taste of what they have to offer. We’ve also included some links to our sister site GCDb for more info on our picks. Enjoy!

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Tarantula (1955, Dir: Jack Arnold)

A scientist (Leo G. Carroll) develops an experimental super food nutrient formula from an atomic isotope and injects several animals including a tarantula with it. Several of the test subjects perish but unfortunately the spider grows to gargantuan size and begins wreaking havoc across the Arizona desert. This entertaining giant creature feature has some stunning visual FX for its time. Co-starring John Agar, Mara Corday and an early cameo appearance by Clint Eastwood as an air squadron leader.

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Them! (1954, Dir: Gordon Douglas)

Following atomic bomb testing in the desert of Alamagordo, New Mexico, a colony of ants are mutated to an enormous size. As they go on an ant-attack, FBI Agent Robert Graham (James Arness) is sent to investigate the situation with myrmecologists Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter Pat (Joan Weldon). One of the greatest sci-fi films of the 1950s that even inspired the name of a rock band!

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Alligator (1980, Dir: Lewis Teague)

A young girl’s pet alligator is flushed down the toilet into the sewers where it continues to live and thrive. While in the underground, the gator feeds on dead bodies of animals injected with a secret experimental growth formula. 12 years later, “Ramon” has transformed into a 36 ft. long killer that begins feasting on the city’s unsuspecting residents. As the bodies begin piling up, a police detective, David Madison (Robert Forster) is put on the case to seek out and destroy the creature. Co-starring Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Henry Silva.

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Kingdom of The Spiders (1977, Dir: John ‘Bud’ Cardos)

A small Arizona town is under siege from a horde of terrifying tarantulas due to a potent insecticide wiping out the arachnids usual food supply. William Shatner plays “Rack” Hansen, an affable veterinarian who, along with a beautiful entymologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) tries to help stop the creepy crawlers from destroying their country folk filled community. This film has a ton of great spider attack sequences and nicely designed SFX. Co-starring Woody Strode, Lieux Dressler, David McLean.

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Piranha (1978, Dir: Joe Dante)

At the Lost River Water Park vacationers frolic away not knowing that a strain of man-eating piranhas created during the Vietnam War have entered the area. Soon the entire place becomes a chaotic bloodfest as the ravenous fishies munch away on their human prey. This rip off of Jaws which substitutes fish for a giant shark is one of the best Eco-terror movies ever made. Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele and Dick Miller.

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Frogs (1972, Dir: George Cowan)

Sam Elliot stars as Pickett Smith a freelance photographer who’s on assignment to document enviromental damage and pollution in and around Florida. While out snapping pics in a canoe he’s nearly run over by a drunken motorboater Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) and his sister Karen (Joan Van Ark). To make amends, the Crockett siblings invite Pickett back to their estate for some refreshments and relaxation. While enjoying the social gathering, Pickett meets their curmudgeonly father Jason (Ray Milland) who has been using various chemicals to keep the many amphibious indigenous creatures from disturbing his property. These circumstances cause an army of killer frogs to lead their fellow forrest dwelling friends in a war on The Crocketts and their guests who become victims of their natural vengeance. Co-starring Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam.

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Squirm (1976, Dir: Jeff Lieberman)

In this “Citizen Kane of Killer Worm Films” Don Scardino stars as Mick a happy go lucky guy from the big city who has traveled all the way down south to spend time with his new girlfriend Geri (Patricia Pearcy). Mick’s freewheeling vacation with his new country gal soon gets thrown into turmoil when a rainstorm that’s knocked power lines into the soil turns the normally peaceful local worms into raging slimy killers! This movie has it all: romance, thrills, humor, awesome makeup FX by Rick Baker and a tidal wave of worms! Co-starring R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean, Fran Higgins.

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The Pack (1977, Dir: Robert Clouse)

Jerry (Joe Don Baker) his wife and two sons move to Seal Island where a group of wild dogs run together and terrorize the residents. Jerry and his neighbors are forced to fight back against the mad as hell mutts by any means necessary. An edge of your seat eco-thriller that makes Cujo look like Lassie. Co-starring Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull, R.G. Armstrong.

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Razorback (1984, Dir: Russell Mulcahy)

G’day err B’day mate! There’s shocks aplenty in this Ozploitation cult thriller about a giant, maneating wild boar that goes after the local folks of the Outback. The film was shot in the area of Broken Hill, New South Wales and was based on the novel by Peter Brennan. Starring Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Chris Haywood, David Argue.

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Day of The Animals (1977, Dir: William Girdler)

A group of hikers (Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Richard Jaeckel, Ruth Roman, Walter Barnes, Andrew Stevens, Susan Backlinie) in Northern California come under the wrath of crazed animals that have been affected by depleted ozone and solar radiation in the atmosphere. Not only do these poor souls have to contend with deadly mountain lions, bears, wolves and various killer birds, one of their own (Leslie Nielsen) is exposed to the elements and goes on a furious rampage.

Do you have any Eco-Terror favorites you’d recommend? Let us know in our comments!

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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4 Responses

  1. Debby says:

    One that is missing from your list is Grizzly (1976) which was one of the highest grossing independent films that year. A ‘Jaws With Claws’ low budget classic with Christopher George.
    Another was Food Of The Gods ,also released in 1976 with Marjoe Gortner and Ida Lupino based on the HG Wells novel. A low budget eco terror ‘classic’.

  2. Debby says:

    Also missing is Tentacles (1977) with Shelley Winters and Henry Fonda about a giant squid.

  3. Debby says:

    And also Empire Of The Ants(1977) also based on an HG Wells novel about giant mutated ants. A REAL ‘classic’.
    And Bug (1975) about fire starting cockroaches.

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