Top 10 Real-Life People Behind Movie Monsters

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Top 10 Real-Life People Behind Movie Monsters

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
You'll be shocked when you discover who is behind these famous movie monsters! For this list, we'll be looking at the real-life people behind the masks of some of our favorite and most iconic movie villains. Our countdown includes “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, “The Exorcist”, “Frankenstein”, and more!
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Top 10 Movie Monsters Revealed


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Monsters Revealed.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the real-life people behind the masks of some of our favorite and most iconic movie monsters and horror villains.

Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments!

#10: Leatherface, Played by Gunnar Hansen

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
Gunnar Hansen frequented the nightmares of many, thanks to his iconic portrayal of Leatherface in the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Hansen actually decided to audition for the film on a whim, and never really considered acting to be his number one passion. The man who played Leatherface actually enjoyed writing and traveling, although he was convinced to return to the craft in the late eighties, starring in the minor trash classic, “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.” From there, Hansen would continue to appear in movies on-and-off (including a cameo in “Texas Chainsaw 3D”), and even directed a number of documentary films, before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 2015.


#9: The Nun, Played by Bonnie Aarons

“The Conjuring 2” (2016)
Part of the fun of researching actors who’ve appeared in horror movies is seeing what other sort of work they’ve done, and how it compares to their demonic profile in the fright flicks. In the case of Bonnie Aarons, it’s sort of a balancing act, since the talented actor has appeared in youth-oriented fare like “The Princess Diaries,” while also jump-scaring audiences with her turn as the nightmarish “bum” in “Mulholland Drive” However, horror fans likely know Aarons best from her turn as a supremely creepy nun in the “Conjuring” franchise. Although she didn’t appear in the first film, her role as Valak in the sequel, as well as the spin-off, “The Nun,” managed to make her an instant horror celebrity.


#8: The Leprechaun, Played by Warwick Davis

“Leprechaun” Franchise (1993-)
Willow, Professor Flitwick, Wicket the Ewok and the Leprechaun? Warwick Davis has certainly done pretty good for himself in the franchise department. This in-demand actor has always prided himself on delivering memorable and engaging performances every time, but the “Leprechaun” franchise was where Davis truly got to chew the scenery and take center stage. Sure, it may not be as high profile as “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter,” but the franchise went to so many wild places (including space and “The Hood”) that it created its own creative sandbox for the direct-to-video crowd. That said, it must be nice to work in both worlds, so nice in fact that Warwick Davis makes the list of the most financially successful supporting actors of all time.


#7: The Pale Man, Played by Doug Jones

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
Don’t just judge Doug Jones based solely on his fantastic work with director Guillermo del Toro. Judge him based upon all of the additional great work he’s done with countless directors! The man’s resume speaks for itself, doing character work in cult classics like “Tank Girl” and “Hocus Pocus.” Doug Jones is a contortionist and mime by trade, and this plays into the physicality of his performances big time. In addition to the Faun, his portrayal of the Pale Man in del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” earned Jones perhaps the most high-profile attention of his career, and rightfully so; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sort of performance. Never before has a pair of hands haunted the dreams of so many unsuspecting viewers.

#6: Pazuzu, Voice Acted by Mercedes McCambridge

“The Exorcist” (1973)
“The Exorcist” was one of those “perfect storm” sort of movies, a horror film where sound, music, visuals and story all collided to enter the cultural zeitgeist. Speaking of sound, it was old-school Hollywood icon Mercedes McCambridge who provided one of the voices for the demon Pazuzu, the evil entity that possesses young Regan MacNeil. McCambridge’s weathered performance is atmospheric as hell, thanks largely to her method of drinking hard liquor and chain-smoking cigarettes to get the proper effect. The fact that the actor initially went uncredited for her work was a point of debate between McCambridge and director William Friedkin, requiring a visit to the Screen Actors Guild for her to receive proper credit for what was a defining horror performance.

#5: Pinhead, Played by Doug Bradley

“Hellraiser” Franchise (1987-)
Who do you think of when we mention the “Hellraiser” franchise? The odds are pretty good that the name “Doug Bradley” is on the tip of your tongue, and rightfully so, because the man turned the villain Pinhead into a household name. Not too shabby for a character that was only referred to as “Lead Cenobite” in the original film! This speaks volumes to Bradley’s gravitas and presence as an actor. The actor has even lent his booming voice to the world of heavy metal, including recording with the iconic British black metal band, Cradle of Filth.


#4: Jason Voorhees, Played by Many, Perfected by Kane Hodder

“Friday the 13th” Franchise (1980-)
Pick a Jason, any Jason. We all have our favorite. Whether it’s Steve Dash’s creepy Baghead Jason in “Friday the 13th Part 2” or Derek Mears’s fearsomely mobile performance in the 2009 reboot, Jason Voorhees is an undisputed horror icon. For many, however, it’s Kane Hodder’s performance as Voorhees over the course of four films that cemented perhaps the most enduring run for the Crystal Lake slasher. Hodder’s work as a stunt performer allowed him to project more physicality into the role, while at the same time develop mannerisms, such as the head tilt, that helped define the character for fans. Kane Hodder and horror just seem to go hand-in-hand, while his incredible body of work simply speaks for itself.

#3: Freddy Krueger, Played by Robert Englund

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” Franchise (1984-)
The world of the character actor is often one of small parts, but big personalities. Robert Englund is one of those special sort of character actors whose career may be defined by one looming performance, but deeper research reveals a varied and intriguing resume. Englund has worked with basically everyone, cutting his teeth on exploitation flicks for industry veteran Roger Corman, and earning high marks for his work on the cult TV miniseries, “V.” Englund’s impeccable attention to detail is always on display whenever he’s interviewed, such as when he compares Freddy’s walk and style to that of an old west gunslinger, with the iconic knifed glove substituting as a pistol. It’s just one brief glimpse into the creative mind of a true craftsperson.


#2: Pennywise, Played by Tim Curry

“It” (1990)
As much as we love Bill Skarsgård’s twisty take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown, there’s just no topping the OG performance from Tim Curry. The “It” miniseries may have been developed for television, but that doesn’t mean Curry’s Pennywise didn’t scar thousands of kids back in the day. Of course, we don’t need to mention how important Curry has been to the world of fantastic cinema, from his roles as Dr. Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to the best, damn devil in the business for director Ridley Scott’s “Legend.” All it takes is a smile, turn or hand gesture from Curry to make us laugh, or fill us with fear.


#1: Frankenstein’s Monster, Played by Boris Karloff

“Frankenstein” (1931)
The world of Universal Monsters is one full of iconic monster makeup, from Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man to Ricou Browning’s Gill-man in “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” It’s Boris Karloff who gets our top nod, however, thanks to a makeup job that transcends mere horror and sends Frankenstein's Monster straight into Mount Rushmore territory. Karloff, to his credit, wasn’t defined by monsters or mummies, either, utilizing his voice in the animated Christmas classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” while also appearing in the cult thriller, “Targets,” late in his career. Playing Frankenstein’s Monster may have defined his career, but it was Boris Karloff’s longevity and versatility that made him a legend.
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