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SYFY WIRE Features

These 9 killer bug movies are much scarier than those real-life murder hornets

By Jeff Spry

As if we all needed one more thing to worry about in our lives, news broke yesterday of an imminent invasion by a particularly aggressive species of bee-eating flying insect from Asia appropriately called... murder hornets!

While we adjust to the sting of this latest fear, it's wise to remember that insects truly rule the Earth. There are an estimated 10 quintillion (that's 10 followed by 18 zeroes!) bugs crawling and buzzing around the globe at any given second. And that's not even adding in 48,000 species of spiders, which are technically classified as arachnids. That means there are nearly 1.4 billion bugs for every person on the planet, the largest biomass of any terrestrial animal.

Sure, so-called murder hornets are a far-greater threat to honeybee populations, but they can be deadly to humans too, under the wrong circumstances. And with all our off-key karaoke singing, the invention of the magnifying glass, and our irreparable harm to Earth's ecosystem, would it really be any wonder if they had a mind to take matters into their own mandibles someday and look to exterminate Mankind?

With that discomforting thought in mind, we now present to you a nest of nine invasive insect flicks (spiders included) from Hollywood, to draw attention from the fact that squadrons of murder hornets are gathering their forces at this very moment. So arm yourselves with a colossal can of Raid and step cautiously into our roundup of classic killer bug movies to temporarily swat away your insectoid anxiety.

The Swarm (1978)

The Swarm is the queen of bad killer bee movies, unleashed in the sensationalized '70s and released amid the unrelenting nightly news coverage of African bees immigrating to America to cause widespread concerns by the public. Laughable at times, it was directed by the master of disaster Irwin Allen of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno fame, and actually has a solid cast including Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, and Olivia de Havilland.

Phase IV (1974)

Phase IV stands as one of the most intelligent and provocative sci-fi films of all times. A rare combination of meditative cautionary tale and eco-survival horror movie that pits scientists in an Arizona desert dome communicating with intelligent cosmic ants bent on world domination. This trippy release was the only movie ever directed by legendary cinema title designer Saul Bass, and remains a chilling reminder that puny humans only share the planet with the rest of God's good creatures.

The Deadly Bees (1966)

Rival beekeepers, a wealthy jealous wife, a cameo by The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, and designer bees bred to instantly kill humans on command are just a few of the juicy attributes of this '60s-era British gem. The sting-happy flick was written by Psycho's Robert Bloch from author H.F. Heard's 1941 novel, A Taste of Honey, and directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Freddie Francis (Glory). Watch for the hilarious plastic flies stuck to actors' faces!

Arachnophobia (1990)

Directed by Steven Spielberg's longtime producing partner, Frank Marshall, Arachnophobia (the clinical name for a fear of spiderswas the debut feature for Disney's newly-formed Hollywood Pictures. It's a silly-but-fun horror comedy starring a spider-hating doctor played by Jeff Daniels. When he and his family relocate to a quaint California town, they discover it's being invaded by thousands of eight-legged freaks! John Goodman's turn as an over-eager exterminator is priceless.

The Nest (1988)

Based on the 1980 horror novel of the same name written by Eli Cantor (under the pseudonym of Gregory A. Douglas), The Nest is a semi-schlocky treat delivered from Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures and producer Julie Corman. Meat-eating, mutant zombie cockroaches molest a picturesque New England fishing village with the usual unthinkable results. An evil corporation, experiments gone bad, and thousands of flying roaches round out this campy video store classic.

Them (1954)

One of the all-time classic monster bug movies delivered in the prime of Hollywood's Atomic Age obsession with killer critter films. Yes, the Earth and the skies above and the seas below are infested with nightmare creatures in this senseless attack of crush-and-kill irradiated ants the size of small dinosaurs. Hide the picnic basket and run for higher ground!

Kingdom of the Spiders (1978)

Star Trek's James T. Kirk, William Shatner, stars in this sensationalized release that was filmed right before the Enterprise captain appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Kingdom of the Spiders is an oft-ridiculed "Nature Gone Wild' offering that was prevalent during the decade, and concerns armies of rampaging tarantulas attacking the humble town of Verde Valley, Arizona. Lots and lots of hairy spiders on the hunt!

Stung (2015)

Stung is an addictive horror comedy that introduces viewers to mutated wasps that transform into 7-foot-long menacing monsters. Sheer terror erupts when a posh garden party at a country estate becomes a total bloodbath as monstrous killer insects attack. It's up to caterers Paul (Matt O'Leary) and Julia (Jessica Cook) to help save the social event before the distinguished guests become lunch. Contains some truly stomach-churning special effects and gore to satisfy the appetites of horror hounds.

Empire of the Ants (1977)

Empire of the Ants actually originated as a 1905 story by legendary sci-fi writer H.G. Wells, the author who brought us The Invisible Man and War of the Worlds. Here it's legions of marauding, murderous ants on the march after munching on a meal of tasty atomic waste and growing to incredible size. This guilty pleasure has a distinct '70s vibe with bell-bottomed victims fending off massive, mind-controlling ants with road flares, boat paddles, and lots of ear-piercing screams.