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The 6 Scariest Sea Monsters in Pop Culture

As Game of Thrones famously warned us, the night is dark and full of terrors. But you know what’s even darker and far more terrifying than the night? What lurks beneath the ocean’s depths. The nightmarish creatures skulking below the sea’s surface have fascinated mankind since time immemorial, manifesting in all manner of fictional monstrosities, critters, and tentacled murder-beasts just waiting to drag us to a watery grave. On today’s episode of The Dan Cave, which is brought to you by Kraken Rum, we’re celebrating with a rundown of the best and scariest sea monsters in pop culture history.

The Kraken

Image: Disney

A creature so fearsome they named a delicious black rum after it, the Kraken is a legendary sea monster said to lurk off the coast of Norway and Greenland, and was likely based on giant squid sightings that were exaggerated over time. Descriptions vary, but krakens are typically gigantic. As in: up to a mile long. As in: way bigger than whatever measly boat you’re sailing along in. The colossal cephalopod doesn’t really have any special powers per se, but it does have giant gnashing teeth and towering tentacles that can easily rend your boat asunder. So basically, approach the kraken at your own peril.

Scylla and Charybdis

Image: 20th Century Fox

You might argue that these two should be separate entries, but like Tia and Tamara Mowry they are inextricably linked together. First appearing in Greek myth and in Homer’s Odyssey, the sinister sea monster pairing has made its way to the big screen in films like Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and in 1997’s Odyssey mini-series.

Above is Charybdis, as seen in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which is basically what happens when a whirlpool has a baby with a Sarlacc pit. It’s a swirling, gnashing, toothy nightmare that eats ships like I eat pizza… which is to say, in a foaming, salty rage that leaves no man alive.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Jastrow

As for Scylla? Well, imagine a sea witch with the torso and head of a fair maiden, but instead of legs she has a bunch of swirling tentacles and six dog heads ringing her waist like a horrifying chunky belt. It’s the fall’s hottest fashion, and this season murder is on trend.


Image: Comedy Central

H.P. Lovecraft’s most iconic elder god remains one of the scariest parts of going underwater. Lurking in the nightmarish corpse city of R’lyeh, Cthulhu is best described in Lovecraft’s own words:

“A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, then go see a doctor because you might be paralyzed.

Emerald Weapon

Image: Square Enix via Wikia

Back in 1997, I scared the crap out of myself when I accidentally rammed a submarine into a massive green object off the coast of Junon. Unbeknownst to me, it was a creature known as Emerald Weapon, one of the mysterious and powerful superbosses in the PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII. The massive, bio-mechanical murdermonster was frightening enough in its own right, but to make matters worse it had one million hit points and could easily slaughter your entire party. To make matters worse still, if you didn’t have the Underwater materia, then you only had 20 minutes to defeat this lumbering leviathan before drowning.


Image: Universal

The ultimate reason not to go back in the water, Jaws‘ eponymous star made sharks even scarier than they they had ever been before. The mechanical terror in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws–jauntily nicknamed “Bruce”–was so effectively brought to life that it haunts viewers to this day. The scariest thing about this 25-foot, three-ton creature is that you barely even see it in the movie, but you know it’s there, swimming just below the surface or when some stomach-churning strings start playing. Even scarier than that? Jaws is the reason that we have so many crappy summer movies nowadays as it basically pioneered the idea of the summer blockbuster.


Image: Toho Co., Ltd.

Even though I typically associate Godzilla with destroying major metropolitan areas or getting dunked on by Charles Barkley, everyone’s favorite gorilla-whale is technically a sea monster. In 1954’s Godzilla, the King of All Monsters first emerged from the depths of the Pacific Ocean, using its fearsome atomic breath to rain terror on all those who crossed its path, and serving as a handy metaphor for the perils of nuclear war and attendant fears of annihilation. Even more badass is the fact that the only way to defeat Godzilla in the original was to use a device known as the Oxygen Destroyer, which obliterated all the oxygen in the water and basically disintegrated the killer kaiju. It would also make a killer band name.

And those are some of best and scariest sea monsters in pop culture history! Which is your favorite? What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).

Editor’s note: This episode of The Dan Cave is sponsored by Kraken Rum. Please drink responsibly.

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