Stephen King’s It enjoyed a monstrous opening weekend, and a big part of what makes it work is the thing of the title, the titular it — the “tit,” if you will. (You won’t? We understand.) Audiences know it best in the form of Pennywise the clown, but the It in It takes multiple shapes that build terror by latching onto a person’s specific fears. So how does this It rank against other Its referenced in movie titles? We’ll show you. To be clear, we’re not comparing the actual movies, just the relative fearsomeness of their titular its.
10. From Hell It Came (1957)
This creature feature follows in the footsteps of Gojira (aka Godzilla) by featuring a beast birthed, at least in part, by the release of radiation through mankind’s messing around with atomic bombs. It differs, though, in that instead of a giant lizard the monster here is a tree-man with a puckering anus on his “face.” It’s a creature built on the evil backs of science and a native curse, and while it waddles very slowly in pursuit of some of its victims it catches one by standing perfectly still and waiting for a woman who can’t see the tree-monster for the forest.
9. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
You’d think a Frank Capra film would be the least frightening on this list, but the lesson there is don’t make a horror movie about a slow-moving, butt-faced killer tree. James Stewart stars here as a man who thinks his life is garbage before having his eyes opened to its beauty. Honestly, his first clue should have been the presence of the lovely Donna Reed as his wife, but hey, he got there eventually.
8. It Waits (2005)
You can’t help but expect something special from the combined talents of Richard Christian Matheson (Three O’Clock High) and Stephen J. Cannell (1980s television), but you’d be wrong to do so here. A flying humanoid snatching prey from the forest floor may sound cool, but the reality feels like a poor man’s blend of the beasts from Jeepers Creepers and 1972’s made-for-TV Gargoyles.
Cheerleaders aren’t inherently scary, and if my browser history is any indication they’re actually more interested in spreading joy than terror. The ones here, though, are a fierce bunch delivering a bad-ass challenge complete with intense glares and intimidating moves. The It they threaten to bring should not be underestimated.
While it’s not direct source material for Ridley Scott’s Alien, it’s pretty damn clear that this late-’50s flick was a major inspiration. A spaceship crew faces off against a creature that’s boarded without an invite and taken up residence in their air shafts. The movie manages some thrills along the same lines as 1951’s The Thing From Another World, but the alien monster itself feels like a stiff, charisma-free riff on The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Fun fact, John Carpenter remade The Thing and always wanted to take a crack at Black Lagoon. Anyway. What were we talking about?
5. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Look, sex can be scary whether it’s done right or wrong (I’m assuming), but the sex at the center of this Spike Lee film is almost exclusively of the fun and liberating variety. (The exception is an act of violence.) The themes of the film go well beyond simple sex, of course, but it’s still a big part of what she’s after — and that in turn is what scares her three boyfriends. What I’m saying is this It is only frightening if you’re put off by the idea of women who enjoy sex.
They say when God opens a door he closes the other exits and lets you die a violent and painful death. (I’m paraphrasing.) To that end, while monsters and killers are all well and good, sometimes the most terrifying “creature” around is our own mind. The things we imagine, the motives we ascribe to others, the doubts and paranoia we can’t help but feel rising in our souls — but then again, sometimes an open door is just an open door.
Virginity. We’re all born with it (and a select few of us are born from it), but for many people virginity becomes a terrifying badge of dishonor. What if my friends find out? Hell, what if satanists find out the day before a sacrificial bonfire? What if no one ever wants to do the sex with me? If nothing else you used to have the single positive of being the last person standing in a slasher movie, but even that’s no guarantee these days. So yes, this is the closest Tom Cruise has come to starring in a horror movie. (Sorry, The Mummy.)
Forget the crappy 2008 remake and ignore the sequels where the toothed infants buy an island and open a resort or something. This Larry Cohen original is a creepy, goofy, bloody romp that sees the already stressful act of childbirth turn into a nightmare involving a homicidal, sharp-clawed baby with built-in GPS. The little shit slaughters the doctors and nurses after exiting the womb, escapes through the ceiling, and heads home! Babies are already unsettling beasts, and this flick takes that idea and crawls with it.
There’s a fuzzy It at the center of our number one pick, but Its unclear nature makes for a pretty terrifying experience at times. A literal supernatural STD? The ethereal sense of being haunted by regret? The horrifying reminder that all of our life choices stay with us until the end? Whichever interpretation you choose, the bottom line remains. This is a spooky tit (still no? Sorry).
Runners up: I Give It a Year, It Happened at Lakewood Manor, A River Runs Through It, You Can’t Take It With You, It Could Happen to You, As Good As It Gets
Rob Hunter lives with it in California.