A cryptid movie, unlike a more generic monster movie, tends to lower the stakes, as opposed to making them huge, like in Godzilla where the whole world is threatened. The best cryptid movies use that smaller scale to tell a more personal story. Cryptids are animals that cryptozoologists believe may be real but their existence has never been proven. Unlike, ghosts or creatures from myth, supernaturalism is not often subscribed to cryptids. Instead, they are simply mysterious animals, just waiting to be discovered. Cryptids are not recognized by zoologists, and folklore researchers are interested in the anthropological implications of mythological and unexplainable beasts rather than their actual existence.

A cryptid movie is often associated with supernatural horror stories, but they can show up in any film genre. Cryptids are neither as powerful nor as fear-inducing as supernatural creatures and entities shown in most scary movies. They can also admittedly be somewhat “silly”. And while they may seem niche, cryptids have a steady presence in cinema — Bigfoot is in many films, for instance. A good cryptid movie recognizes that the real story is between the human characters trying to decide what is real and understanding the world is bigger than they may have ever imagined.

Love In The Time Of Monsters (2014)

Bigfoot actors acting like zombies in Love in the Time of Monsters.
  • Rent on Amazon Video

Love in the Time of Monsters is an entertaining comedy horror film, a combination of campy scares and a cheesy love story. This cryptid movie centers on two sisters who join their friends in dressing up as Bigfoot until a virus turns many of the performers into super-strong zombies. More zombie hybrids show up until the actual Bigfoot arrives to save the day. It's a low-budget film, but the corny monster effects (which don’t include the impressive-looking Bigfoot) actually work toward the goofy camp the film is aiming for. The romance at the center feels earned as well and gives the movie more emotional heft.

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Harry And The Hendersons (1987)

Harry smiling in Harry and the Hendersons.
  • Rent on Amazon Video and Apple TV

Harry and the Hendersons is an '80s film about a Seattle-based family that accidentally hits Sasquatch with their car. Sasquatch turns out to be quite friendly, so the family takes him in and names him Harry. This cryptid movie won an Oscar for Best Makeup and is a solid family-friendly film, maybe best known for the often parodied way patriarch George (John Lithgow) has to scare off Harry so he will be out of harm's way at the movie’s finale. Its moral messages that humans can be more monstrous than beasts, that forgiveness is important, and of protecting wilderness resonates thanks to sincere acting and a strong script.

Scooby-Doo! And The Loch Ness Monster (2004)

The Loch Ness monster being revealed as a prop in Scooby Doo.
  • Rent on Amazon Video

Cryptid fans can count on Scooby-Doo to explore some of these fascinating creatures. In Scooby-Doo! and the Loch Ness Monster, the gang goes to Scotland and meets amateur cryptozoologist, Professor Fiona Pembrooke, who is staking her entire career on the fact that the Loch Ness monster exists. The Scooby-Doo franchise encompasses various TV shows and the films tend to be of an even higher quality. This is one of the best Scooby-Doo movies in part because of its unique cryptid monster but also because the villain is much more surprising and sympathetic than those who usually appear in the series.

Abominable (2019)

Everest in Abominable 2019
  • Stream on fuboTV

The animated cryptid movie Abominable is about a girl named Yi who discovers a lost Yeti in Shanghai. The Yeti gets named “Everest” and they decide to try and find its home. The Yeti’s design is exceptionally cute, as is expected of DreamWorks Animation. While the movie feels a bit like a retread of How to Train Your Dragon, it’s still incredibly animated and the music is beautiful and memorable. Abominable chooses to treat its cryptid as the victim rather than the aggressor and makes a salient point about the idea of cryptozoology — it’s not always about finding monsters but understanding why they may avoid humans in the first place.

Letters From The Big Man (2011)

Letters From the Big Man movie.
  • Rent on Amazon Video

Letter from the Big Man is a cryptid movie about Sarah (Lily Rabe), a hydrologist in Oregon who discovers Sasquatch. Unlike some Bigfoot films, it doesn't shy away from showing the creature, and this incarnation of the idea of Bigfoot looks a bit like a cross between a bear and a gorilla. Sarah befriends the Sasquatch and as their friendship grows, she must figure out how to protect him. There are no action set pieces and the “Big Man” doesn’t behave like a monster. It’s a quiet and contemplative movie about finding comfort and solace where one would never expect. The cinematography is fantastic, perfectly capturing the beautiful Oregon forests.

Antlers (2021)

Keri Russell screaming in Antlers
  • Rent on Aamzon Video

Like many horror films, this cryptid movie uses horror elements to make a comparison to a mental or societal problem many are forced to deal with privately. In Antlers, Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) returns to her hometown and discovers one of her students may be suffering physical abuse at home after seeing his drawings of a wendigo creature. A wendigo is a Native American cryptid that’s used in Antlers to show the traumatic effects of abuse, poverty, and drug addiction. The acting and dread throughout the film are top-notch, and Antlers also contains one of the most surprising jump scares in recent memory, with a terrifying creature design to match.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

John looking scared standing in the street with cars in The Mothman Prophecies
  • Rent on Apple TV or Amazon Video

The Mothman Prophecies is a cryptid movie about the Mothman, a legend local to West Virginia. The film follows John Klein (Richard Gere) who loses his wife in a mysterious crash involving a large, winged creature. Years later, odd events begin happening to John around the location of the crash, and he begins to suspect some other force is at work. While the Mothman is never actually seen, the sense of dread and tense atmosphere is well-developed in the movie. Gere’s characterization and acting as a man scared of what’s happening to him but also hopeful that he may finally have some answers is unique and riveting to watch.

Ragnarok (2013)

Sea serpent from Ragnarok attacking two children.
  • Stream on fuboTV

Ragnarok (sometimes referred to as Gåten Ragnarok) is a cryptid movie from Norway. It follows archaeologist and single father Sigurd Svensen (Pål Sverre Hagen) as he explores northern Norway for Viking-era relics. He ends up stumbling upon a legendary sea serpent and has to find a way to save his children from the rampaging beast. It’s part horror, part family film, and part Indiana Jones-like adventure. Ragnarok is brisk, fun, and tense enough to appeal to more mature audiences while still having a family-friendly message about parents and their children, using the sea serpent as a surprisingly effective surrogate for the parental themes.

Smallfoot (2018)

Yeti holding a man in Smallfoot.
  • Rent on Apple TV or Amazon Video

Smallfoot is an animated cryptid movie centered on a Yeti, but this time, it’s the cryptid who treats the humans as some scary beast from folklore. Channing Tatum voices Migo, a Yeti who discovers that the legendary “Smallfoot” (human) is real. Migo has to convince the rest of his tribe that Smallfoots are real and protect his new and old friends from each other. It’s colorfully animated and humorous in ways adults and children can enjoy. The message is even more mature, as it's about treating others with respect while making a point of how what one group may consider normal could be monstrous to others at first glance.

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Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)

The water horse looking at its friend laying on a dock in Water Horse Legend of the Deep.
  • Stream on Hoopla

While the Loch Ness Monster is not necessarily violent, it’s still considered an ominous monster. In the cryptid movie The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, that characterization is played with to create a family-friendly tale. In the movie, a young boy discovers an egg that hatches into a part-Water Horse, part-Loch Ness Monster creature who quickly bonds with him before fearful townspeople threaten to kill it. It’s a charming and nostalgic movie with fantastic performances all around including one from the narrator played by Brian Cox. And despite the movie's age, the effects of Crusoe the Water Horse still hold up.

Zach Galifianakis as Bigfoot/Mr. Link in Missing Link looking like a brown hairy cartoonish animal
  • Stream on Netflix

Coming out near the same year as animated cryptid movies Smallfoot and Abominable, Missing Link stands out. A stop-motion animated film from Laika studio, Missing Link is both a cryptid movie and a fish-out-of-water story. Missing Link stars Susan Link (Zack Galifianakis), a shy, polite, and articulate Sasquatch. Susan is found by explorer Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) and he’s introduced to London society. Like all Laika films, the animation is gorgeous, the story powerful, and the characters fully realized. Missing Link succeeds in particular because of the uniqueness of its change in tone from previous Laika films with its colorful and period-piece style story.

Trollhunter (2010)

A car driving up to a giant troll in Trollhunter.
  • Stream on fuboTV

Trollhunter is a found footage cryptid movie from Norway that follows a group of college students who set out to document a supposed illegal bear poacher Hans. What they discover is Hans secretly works for the government, hunting trolls. The students and Hans plot to expose the trolls to the general public and stop a giant Jotnar mountain troll from rampaging. Trollhunter is a funny, thrilling, and well-executed mockumentary that is a mix of biting bureaucratic satire, dry Nordic humor, and tense monster scares. The special effects are impressive, the vistas grand, and the camera work puts the audience right in a frightening position: under a troll’s gaze.

Tremors (1990)

The monster attacks in Tremors
  • Rent on Amazon Video

The Graboids in Tremors share a lot of similarities with a famous cryptid: the Mongolian death worm, a giant burrowing creature that leaps out of the sand to consume people. This cryptid movie follows handyman Val McKee (Kevin Bacon) in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When the worm-like Graboid begins eating townsfolk, Val and the townspeople have to fight to save themselves. Tremors is one of the best horror-comedy films from the '90s with an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it even launched its own film franchise. Tremors makes the correct choice of focusing on its interesting characters rather than the Graboids and gore (which there are still plenty of).