15 unsettling insects in movies

Creepy, creepy crawlies

With Ant-Man due to hit cinemas on 17 July, it seems we're being encouraged to look at insects as our friends cute, helpful and eager-to-please little critters that we've been misjudging all our lives. But no, we beg to differ! Insects can be friendly, yes (The Rock even flew on the back of a bee in Journey 2: Mysterious Island, and we won't forget that in a hurry), but they're also horrible, bitey, sting-y, ravenous creatures who deserve our hatred and fear! In the spirit of all things anti-insect, we've rounded up some of cinema's best examples of them being man's worst friend...

1. The Brundlefly

The movie: The Fly (1986) The insect: This hulking, gooey, trembling, pulsating insectoid is probably fairly similar to what we'd see if Ant-Man was quite literally spliced with an ant good thing the film chose to go the kiddie-friendly route, eh? Jeff Goldblum's determined scientist, Seth Brundle, accidentally mixes up his own DNA with a random fly's inner workings after a matter-transporter accident, thereby providing one of the most fondly remembered gross-out movies of the '80s jaws were, quite literally, dropped. His slow transformation from man to mutant ensured that while every person on this planet wants transporter technology to be a reality, we also... er, don't.

2. The Halloween mask cockroaches

The movie: Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982) The insects: A torrent of scuttling cockroaches (plus a few snakes, clearly thrown in to gross out those who don't find roaches that terrifying) come tumbling out of a kid's Halloween pumpkin mask, having, presumably, just turned the little boy's head to mush under all that orange latex. Naturally, it's all part of an Evil Plan by the manufacturers to kill off millions of people by activating a secret computer chip embedded in the mask that mysteriously prompts flesh-eating bugs to burrow into innocent kiddies' heads. And they say Halloween's too commercial these days; back in the '80s it was positively killer.

3. Siafu ants

The movie: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008) The insects: Siafu ants are real although the film places them in Brazil, rather than their natural home in Africa and Asia, and also increases their size. They are, however, nasty buggers, although they wouldn't devour a human with quite such relish as they do in this scene... which is, by the way, really disturbing. It's not surprising they're angry, mind you: Cate Blanchett's Spalko has crashed her car into one of their anthills, resulting in ant-anarchy and general carnage. Fun fact: ants emit a pheromone when they're attacked or killed which then attracts other ants to pile in to find them; it's a defence mechanism so that they can defeat a potential predator. Although we prefer to think that they're actually avenging their fallen comrade. Think about that the next time you rid your lawn of a nest with a kettle full of boiling water, eh?

4. Atomic mutant ants

The movie: Them! (1954) The insects: So horrific they can only be referred to as Them! (or so the hysterical trailer voiceover guy tells us), these monstrous ants are the result of atomic testing in the American desert which instantly places this B-movie in the ranks of those '50s and '60s films which tried their best to convince us that radiation was going to end our planet in some hideous way. We have to admit, giant ants are certainly more impressive than this whole "global warming" nonsense we ended up with instead. The worst thing about these radiation-boosted ants is their ability to breed while the military runs around killing them left, right and centre for much of the film, they're always popping up somewhere else, and in greater numbers. Eventually they're all burned to death, but not before they've ruined more picnics than all the ants in the history of the world. What? You think we'd make it through this without making a picnic gag?

5. African killer bees

The movie: The Swarm (1978) The insects: I never thought it would be the bees, says Michael Caine's expert in all things yellow and stripy in this piece of '70s schlock one of his least favourite roles. They've always been our friends! Well, not any more. There's a swarm of killer African bees heading for Houston and all hell's about to break loose. We see bees attacking innocent picnickers. We see bees killing children (who die clutching lollipops, so we know our heartstrings are supposed to have been tugged). We see bees downing helicopters. We see giant bees hallucinated by victims who've managed to survive their attacks. Basically, and it helps if you read this in Caine's voice, this film has lots of bloody bees. Eventually the buzzing hordes are blown up by missiles, because that's how you kill bees, apparently. And Caine? He bought a house for his dear old mum with his paycheque.

6. Venezuelan spiders

The movie: Arachnophobia (1990) The insects: Okay, we know spiders are actually arachnids and not insects, but this is our list and we wanted to mention a few memorable spidey-flicks, so you'll have to forgive us. Ahem. First up is this caper starring Julian Sands as an entomologist who, after losing a member of his team in the Amazon rainforest, accidentally sends his body back to the US with an aggressive spider who then breeds with the locals and causes mayhem in California, much to the horror of Jeff Daniels' spider-phobic resident. Cue: eight-eyed monsters freakin' everywhere. For the record: when your film features a spider being picked up by a crow, who then thunks to the floor after dying in mid-flight after the spider bites it, you know you're onto a winner. Or possibly a loser. Actually, Arachnophobia is somewhere in between; at least Eight-Legged Freaks, released 12 years later, had a bit more fun with the concept than this does.

7. Alien bugs

The movie: Starship Troopers (1997) The insects: Relentless waves of bugs from outer space who have decided that they want Earth, dammit, and no pesky human is going to stop them. Consequently war is fully underway as we join this action-packed film, which aside from being an explosive examination of what happens when bugs and humans kill each other in as many gory ways as possible has a message. War makes fascists of us all, said director Paul Verhoeven of the script by RoboCop scribe Edward Neumeier, and, interestingly, the fascists here aren't the insects. In fact, one of the aliens' "brain bugs" ends the film captured by the humans and we're told that it's afraid of us much cheering ensues. Wait, what? Are we the bad guys here? Are the insects the goodies? This is confusing... But regardless, it's fun watching the creatures being blown sky-high. Mandibles and legs everywhere!

8. Ticks on 'roids

The movie: Ticks (1993) (Also known as Infested) The insects: As anyone who walks their dog through long grass in the summer can tell you, ticks are a bloody nuisance. Once they've clamped their jaws onto skin they refuse to let go so hard that you practically need a nuclear bomb to remove them. Which is why a film about ticks that have been infused with steroids is such a gut-clenching idea because they really don't need to be stronger, do they? These ticks soon start attacking humans (that's Ron Howard's little bro, Clint, in the pic) and cause all sorts of hideous malformations and pustulant creations. To sum up: go away, ticks. Nobody likes you.

9. Cockroaches

The movie: Creepshow (1982) The insects: Cockroaches are, famously, the bugs that will rule the Earth after a nuclear apocalypse, or so the experts claim and anybody who's tried to remove an infestation will probably agree. They're tenacious little feckers, and nowhere more so than in this segment of the Stephen King pulp-picture Creepshow entitled They're Creeping Up On You. Upson Pratt (EG Marshall) is a recluse who suffers from a crippling fear of germs. Locking himself inside a hermetically sealed apartment, he's in for a night of horror when a blackout and a swarm of cockroaches make his life a living hell. If you suffer from kastaridaphobia (a fear of cockroaches) then this won't be pleasant viewing at the very least, you'll check under the blankets before going to sleep at night...