Top 15 Movies Like The Thing (1982)

RJ Macready (Kurt Russell) points his flamethrower at his group. That fire in the foreground isn't a campfire while they sing kumbaya

John Carpenter’s The Thing has stood the test of time as being a master class of paranoia, tension, and body horror that rivals any movie that has come forth or before its release back in 1982. Set in Antarctica where a shapeshifting parasitic alien wreaks havoc on an American research team, it creates an atmosphere of distrust and eeriness where even the viewer cannot trust if the character they’re watching is human or the eponymous “thing”. Since its release there have been numerous movies that are similar to what The Thing brings to the table and I am going to list them down for you. Whenever you feel like watching a human head open up vertically or you wanna see a good dose, or pints, of onscreen blood, then these are the top 15 movies similar to The Thing (1982).

15. Night of the Living Dead (1990)

I don't think glaucoma meds are gonna fix that glassy eyed stare, girl

The 1990 remake of the 1968 classic by the father of modern zombies, George A. Romero, is an updated and better looking retelling of the movie that started off zombies in popular culture. The story follows a band of survivors over a period of one night where they try to fend off an army of the living dead. The screenplay of the original was rewrote by George A. Romero himself for this movie with Tom Savini, known for Dawn of the Dead (1978) and From Dusk till Dawn, taking the helm.

The infection for the zombies in this movie started out from a space probe returning from the planet Venus where it contained an unknown kind of radiation that brought back the dead on Earth. Though I don't think that that's how radiation works in real life, in this movie, it does, and similarly with The Thing, an unknown force from outside the planet ravages a small band of survivors.

Although different from an alien terror, this movie mimics what The Thing brings by creating a feeling of distrust and conflict not just with the zombies but also with the characters trapped inside the farmhouse they picked as their stronghold. To make the zombies in this movie look realistic, the special effects team used real autopsy photos, forensic pathology textbooks, and Nazi death camp footage which is as morbid as it sounds.

14. Cloverfield (2008)

Lady Liberty has seen better days, let me tell you

Set in 2008 where a giant monster emerges and attacks New York City, a group of friends try to escape Manhattan before the monster destroys everything. Released back in 2008 and directed by J.J. Abrams, it is the first installment in the Cloverfield universe where it is followed by 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and The Cloverfield Paradox (2018).

Similar to The Thing, an alien terror is the villain in the story with a difference. Clover, which is the name of the giant Godzilla sized monster in this movie,  is the main antagonist where it’s seen destroying New York and fighting the military while constantly hounding the survivors.

It's filmed in a found footage style of cinematography similar to The Blair Witch Project. According to the lore connected to the franchise, Clover is only a baby in this movie but since it's already big enough to tear off the head of the Statue of Liberty and already 300 feet tall at its infancy, a full grown Clover monster is big enough to poke its head out of the clouds. If that ever happens in real life I don't think the military can do much about a mountain sized monster.

13. The Mist (2007)

The wildlife in Maine is crazy

The Mist revolves around a group of survivors trapped in a grocery store where a thick mist envelops their whole town with eldritch monsters hiding in wait. Released in 2007 with its premise based on Stephen King’s novella of the same name, it was directed by Frank Darabont, who produced the first season and the first half of season 2 of The Walking Dead.

The Mist offers up to horror hounds a healthy dose of lovecraftian monsters with religious fanaticism heavily emphasized throughout. From tentacled anomalies to spider monsters that lay their eggs inside human bodies, The Mist has no shortage of variety in terms of creatures and the terror that they bring. 

Like The Thing it also follows a group of survivors isolated while monsters and otherworldly entities try to eat them. With an insane religious fanatic further worsening the fear of most people trapped in the store with religious mumbo jumbo. This tension divides the store between her “followers” and the actually not insane people. It creates a sense of distrust with who you can trust and can’t trust.

Greg Nicotero, who was in charge of the special effects in the movie, teamed up again with Frank Darabont to helm the first seasons of The Walking Dead with most of the cast of the film being main characters of the series. Fair warning though, this movie will crush your soul and you’ll see why when you reach the end

12. Predator (1987)

The Predator calls out its most dangerous prey yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Happening in the jungles of South America in 1987, Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, with his paramilitary team are tasked to save hostages in a hostile jungle while being hunted by a technologically advanced alien hellbent on killing every member of his team to make hunting trophies out of their dead bodies.

Directed by John McTiernan, it was released 5 years after The Thing where it explored another type of alien. Although both are stealthy, the Predator utilizes its brute strength and high tech weapons to pick-off its prey one-by-one not necessarily for survival but for glory.

The film is an action packed take on the extraterrestrial genre with  high caliber rounds being fired, lots of gunsmoke, and shirtless guys screaming into the woods. Predator is widely regarded as a classic due to its great story, phenomenal creature design, and overall lore behind what the Predator is and why it does what it does.

The Predator was voiced by Peter Cullen, the same voice of Optimus Prime who is the leader of the Autobots in the Transformers franchise. Kinda strange to know that behind one of the most heroic sounding voices in pop culture is also behind the voice of a trophy hunting alien.

11. Alien (1979)

Just a huge nope moment in cinema. I mean look at that thing it looks disgusting

“In space, no one can hear you scream”. That's the tagline that launched a media franchise that resulted in one of the most culturally influential movies of all time, which was even preserved in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” Alien takes us on the commercial space tug called the Nostromo where its crew encounters a hostile and parasitic alien species.

Released 3 years before The Thing hit theaters, it was directed by Ridley Scott and follows similarly to what The Thing offered to viewers, an atmosphere of paranoia as the alien itself, also called a xenomorph, which was entirely black, could hide in the darkest corners of the ship without being seen.

Even a full 43 years after its theatrical release, it still holds up visually and still conjures up the same feelings of dread and terror viewers would of witnessed back then goes to show that Alien deserves the right to be called one of the most significant and important films of all time. Alien won the Academy award for Best Visual Effects after its release and even has multiple crossovers with the Predator franchise.

10. Annihilation (2018)

Me and the girls going on a camping trip while being higher than a kite

A meteor falls in a forest and eventually, over the course of 3 years, creates a closed ecosystem called “The Shimmer” where an alien presence mutates plants and animals. Directed by Alex Garland, it was a live action adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name. The story follows 5 women led by Lena, played by Natalia Portman, who venture into The Shimmer to learn more about the meteor that caused the creation of The Shimmer and the animals and plants that have changed because of its presence.

The story deviates from the body horror and suspense that The Thing brings to more on science fiction and psychological horror, but still brings about disturbing creatures that the group encounters which ranges from a giant albino alligator to a mutated bear. If you want to take a bit of a break from all the horror and suspense but still be satisfied in terms of the creatures with a different iteration of an alien  then Annihilation is the movie to watch.

The initial cut of the movie was different from what the theatrical cut was because the producers deemed it to be “too intellectual” to be appealing to the general audience, because admittedly after watching this movie it is a bit of a mind-boggler with themes of depression and grief being sprinkled in this movie, but overall it still makes for a good watch.

9. Species (1995)

Natasha Henstridge plays Sil as the eponymous alien SPECIES in the movie. Get it? Cause it's titled SPECIES?

If a smoking hot alien woman would come up to you and tell you that she’d like to mate with you, would you do it? Now imagine that you don't fit her standards cause you're diabetic or have any kind of physical impairment that makes you not a suitable candidate, then you're dead with a punctured throat by way of sharp alien tongue. That’s Species in a nutshell. Events of the movie go into motion after the government receives a transmission from an alien race about an alien DNA and how to splice it with human DNA to create an alien-human hybrid. Which is as campy as it sounds but trust me it gets better.

After hundreds of different test subjects, the government creates a hybrid named Sil, played by Natasha Henstridge. Eventually Sil grows up super fast, maturing into a 12 year old in only 3 months and develops violent night terrors in her sleep. The government sees her as a threat because of this because apparently night terrors are a sign of evil rather than just normal night terrors so they eventually try and kill her, but of course she escapes. Further maturing into a grown woman in a short span of time. Her instincts take over and tries to mate with a healthy human male to further her species bloodline.

Although differing in tone and pacing from The Thing, it's similar in terms of the creature design and in the aliens capability to disguise itself and blend in with humans with only one goal, multiply and take over the world. Species was a box office success racking in $113 million dollars amidst a 35 million dollar budget. This success was brought upon with news of Natasha Henstridge’s nude scenes advertised by tabloids and magazines of the time before the film's release. That's the 90’s for you.

8. Leviathan (1989)

That does not look like taffy

Leviathan is what a movie would look like if The Thing and Alien had a baby. Set in an underwater geological facility, Beck (played by Peter Weller from Robocop), and his crew try to survive a mutating organism that kills anyone it comes across. Released back in 1989 and directed by George P. Cosmatos with creature designs coming from Stan Winston, the same visual effects artist for The Thing. 

Leviathan is an underrated classic and a great alternative for The Thing fans. The body horror and transformations in this movie are top notch and easily comparable to The Thing with how visceral and gory it all looks with the tentacles, claws, and slime forming out of places where it should not grow. 

You’ll be treated with scenes of bodies fusing together, still alive and conscious people being dragged around and absorbed by a lamprey looking monster while they plead for help. You will not be disappointed with the creature effects in this movie. Although the story lacks the kind of horror and tension that The Thing provides, the creatures and claustrophobic setting of the movie is more than enough to suffice and satisfy the fans.

Creature designs were conceived by Stan Winston and George P. Cosmatos after looking through a reference of marine life photos and medical reference books where they eventually came up with the idea of combining human and marine anatomy to create the mutating monster seen on film.

7. The Faculty (1998)

The most 90’s looking highschool kids you’ll ever see

A group of highschoolers in Ohio encounter an alien parasite that infects their whole school and the responsibility of saving their school, and possibly, the whole world depends on them and a homegrown drug that they have to snort to kill the aliens. Yup, that's the plot. The Faculty was released back in 1998 with Robert Rodriguez directing. Since its release, it has garnered a cult following and is considered as an underrated classic from the 90’s.

In comparison with The Thing, the group in this movie have to fight off an alien parasite that takes over human bodies, similar to The Thing, and basically leaves the infected human indestructible unless their bodies are dried out since the parasites need moisture to survive. It features an ensemble cast with Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor, 30 Days of Night), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2), and Famke Janssen (X-Men).

Similarities from The Thing stem from the alien parasite that takes over the whole school with sufficient body horror in this movie being given. There's a scene where a tentacled head crawls on the road while its headless body aimlessly looks for it to be reattached and Jon Stewart from the Tonight Show barfing alien larva to infect other people in the movie, so proper body horror and alien invasion tropes all around.

It evokes a similar atmosphere of distrust with the characters where they may not be sure if people they interact with are infected or not as there are no telling signs until they start vomiting alien larva. A certified underrated classic from Robert Rodriguez and a definite must watch for fans.

6. Life (2017)

“Don’t let go, Jack”

Life follows the exploits of a group of scientists aboard the International Space Station as they uncover the first signs of alien life on Mars. Upon discovery they soon find out that the alien life they discovered is more than just a single celled organism but a whole new and aggressive predator that hunts them down one by one.

Set entirely in space, the movie creates a sense of claustrophobia where none of the characters can escape since its setting is in a literal space station, and also brings forth an overall feeling of fear, a fear of the unknown and of the alien creature lurking in the space station. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dr. David Jordan who acts as the main character of the movie where it's up to him and his team to try and destroy the alien before it kills all of them and stop it from having any chance of reaching Earth.

Drawing comparisons with The Thing, the characters have to contend with a creature that is not of this world and grows by the minute as it consumes and kills members of the space station. Creature design for Calvin in this movie is similar to what a squid would look like but more ferocious and alien like where it can transform its body at will to accommodate its survival in any type of environment, in this case in zero gravity where it glides through the hulls and hallways of the space station like it is swimming in water. Life was inspired by the original Alien movie and evidently so with its settings similar to that of the Nostromo and having to contend with, well, an alien.

5. Body Snatchers (1993)

Me after every minor inconvenience

The third film iteration of John Finney’s 1955 novel of the same name, Body Snatchers is an outstanding adaptation of the source material. The plot centers around a family in Alabama after discovering that the people working at a military base are replaced by aliens posing as perfect imitations of the people they copied after gestating in a plantlike pod while they sleep. The copies are indistinguishable physically except for a total lack of emotions from their speech or facial expressions.

Released in 1993 and directed by Abel Ferrera, it was received positively by critics and has become yet another underrated classic from the 90’s. The feelings of paranoia and distrust it evokes from the aliens disguising themselves as ordinary people is palpable as with my experience in watching this. Though from the outside looking in, it's easy to distinguish which one is an alien and which ones are not as the blank stares and monotone voices are a dead giveaway of an imposter.

It draws comparison to The Thing as it also brings in a sense of distrust among the characters and viewers especially during the first few scenes of the reveal of the invaders where the characters and viewer are left wondering which ones to avoid or trust. There has been another iteration of this movie released with The Invasion (2007) starring Nicole Kidman but in terms of horror and overall sense of dread, Body Snatchers is the more preferred watching for fans of The Thing that will leave you with a feeling of distrust long after the credits roll.

4. The Blob (1988)

Killer bubble gum from outer space

The Blob follows the exploits of Meg and Brian, which sounds like they came from Family Guy but no they did not, which are portrayed by Shawnee Smith and a young Kevin Dillon respectively, as they try to combat a hungry and destructive growing amoeba from outer space as it consumes and destroys everything in its path.

Released back in 1988 and directed by Chuck Russell, it received mixed reactions from critics upon its release but since then it has garnered a cult following up until today. The eponymous blob is a gelatinous mass that closely resembles bubble gum but make that bubble gum to be purely made of acid and able to grow exponentially depending on how much it consumes.

This movie pulls no punches in terms of the gore and brutally that it shows on screen. Literally no one is safe in this movie from main characters to children being dissolved completely. The body horror in this movie stems from the dissolved victims that the blob consumes shown on screen in gruesome detail with melted skin, grotesque half eaten bodies, and bodies being pulled in through sinks or door holes.

Similarities from The Thing can be attributed to the creatures themselves as the aliens from The Thing and The Blob are formless and able to shapeshift into any form that suits them. For The Thing it's organic beings while The Blob is just a gigantic mass of killer space taffy that grows and grows.. The Blob is a certified classic and will be thoroughly enjoyed by The Thing fans.

3. Superdeep (2020)

ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING but i think that's what we’re all here for, right?

Superdeep takes place in 1984 soviet russia in a secret underground research facility where reports of an unknown disease is spreading throughout the facility. They eventually find out that the disease is a mutating mold that transforms and changes humans into grotesque monsters and absorbs them into one hulking monstrosity.

Released in 2020 and directed by russian director Arseny Syuhin, it's based off of the very real Kola Superdeep Borehole whose main mission is to dig as close to the earth's crust, but thankfully there are no black molds being unearthed in that facility… or is there? The story follows a russian epidemiologist named Anna as she is called into the superdeep to help and figure out the spreading disease and stop it from ever reaching the surface. The creature behaves in a way as to what a mold or fungus would look like, crawling and consuming anything it touches. 

Humans who have been infected develop growths on their skin that look like molds you'd see on 2 week old bread after which it spews spores into the air to infect more humans that come into contact within its area. It changes and contorts their bodies into an indiscernible monster of Thing-esque proportions. I mean just look at the photo for this entry, it's absolutely disgusting. Thing fans will not be disappointed with the utter body horror this Russian film brings to the screen with the monster designs guaranteed to gross out the hardiest of stomachs

2. The Fly (1986)


An absolute masterclass of a film that sets the standard for slow and stomach churning transformations in movies, David Cronenberg brings us his masterpiece with The Fly. Creature effects were made by Chris Walas who won the Academy Award for Best Makeup. The story follows Seth Brundle, an eccentric scientist who invents a teleportation pod that goes wrong when he accidentally mixes his DNA with a fly that flew into his teleportation pod during one of his trial runs. 

Released back in 1986 to great fanfare from critics and audiences alike, the performance of Jeff Goldblum was widely praised with the creature effects and the absolutely disgusting and vile transformation of Goldblum’s character slowly turning into  “Brundlefly”, the amalgamation between his DNA and a fly. It was a box office success earning a total of $60.6 million dollars against its $9 million dollar budget.

The Fly is an absolute must watch for Thing fans as the body horror in this movie harkens back to scenes of the Dog-Thing or the Palmer-Thing but make it so that the transformation doesn't happen in a violent explosion of blood and guts but a more painful and truly grotesque fate of slow transformation from one creature to another with falling hair, teeth, and skin peeling off strip by strip. Another masterclass in body horror filmmaking and a story that delves into the existential, Thing fans will not be disappointed in terms of creature effects and story that The Fly brings.

1. Harbinger Down (2015)

You can see why this is number 1

The most faithful adaptation to the original The Thing from 1982 (the 2011 prequel does not count, that movie just isn't worth it), Harbinger Down is the closest thing to a sequel that we will ever get. Funded by a kickstarter campaign back in 2013 and released in 2015. Harbinger Down follows the story of a group of college students on a crab trawler in the Bering sea to monitor the effects of global warming on a pod of beluga whales. During their research they stumble upon a soviet spacecraft encased in ice and upon thawing, let loose mutated tardigrades that attack and infect members of the Harbinger, which is the name of the ship they are in.

The movie was directed by Alec Gillis with creature effects by Tom Woodruff. Both of them are fans of The Thing and actually provide the animatronics and creature designs for the 2011 Thing prequel. Relying mostly on animatronics and practical effects for the monsters featured in the movie, it's a carefully crafted love letter to the creature effects of the 1982 original. 

With transformations in the movie happening similarly to how it was in The Thing where tentacles sprout from the bodies of the infected or a pair of legs running down a corridor to catch its prey, Thing fans will not be disappointed by what Harbinger Down brings. Having a movie that was released as recently as 2015 and still being inspired by the terror and horror that what The Thing brought, it goes to show that the passion for movies that mirror what it brought to our screens is still alive and squirming inside the collective desire of fans of the genre and franchise.

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