These are the fifteen greatest killer plant movies!
We did it! We made it through winter, daylight saving has passed us by, and the days are finally longer and brighter. Venturing outside, one can see grass growing, trees budding, and flowers beginning to bloom. To celebrate the arrival of Spring, we’ve decided to round up the best killer plant movies for you to enjoy. Man vs Nature has been a theme in storytelling since we could tell stories.
In terms of the horror movie genre, stories surrounding Man vs Nature can exemplify themselves as people against natural predators, an unforgiving environment, natural disasters, and sometimes all three at once. Killer plant movies take something that is often perceived as calm and docile then quickly subverts expectations to create something creeping and deadly.
We’ve curated a multitude of genre classics to underrated indie terrors all in one list for you to enjoy. Get ready because these are the ghastliest and greenest killer plant movies unearthed!
The Girl With All the Gifts
The Girl With All the Gifts (2016) seemed to escape a lot of viewers’ attention and flew relatively under the radar. This is a shame given the caliber of performances from Glen Close, Paddy Considine, and, of course, Sennia Nanua as Melanie, the film’s primary protagonist. The setup is simple; this is post-apocalyptic England, where a small band of humans tries to survive in the face of a zombie outbreak.
This film has several great twists on what has become a rather tired genre: the zombie film. First, we’re introduced quickly to the “2nd generation” of the “Hungries” (what the human characters call the zombie’s in this film).
This 2nd generation is composed entirely of children, children who we later learn probably ate their way out of their pregnant mothers. These kids, however, retain their higher mental functions, being able to speak, learn and follow directions. They are also of no interest to the first generation of zombies, being able to move amongst them freely. They do still, however, hunger for flesh.
The next fascinating deviation from the regular zombie explanation, or lack thereof in many pieces of media, is that the “hungries” are the result of a fungal infection that has taken over their nervous system. Eventually, the zombies wear down and sprout stalks and pods.
In London, our remaining few survivors come upon a massive “tree” comprised of hundreds of zombie corpses that have essentially filled a high-rise with branches and seed pods. Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) reveals that luckily the pods are unlikely to open on their own due to a genetic flaw. She claims that if that many pods were to open, the disease would go airborne, and it would be “the end of the world.”
The Girl with All the Gifts excellently explores a concept that many zombie movies share, but few do so well, namely who are really the monsters in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world. To survive, monstrous things probably need to be done. What TGWATG brings to the conversation is the framing of the conflict, posing it not as a moral battle between the remaining humans and monsters but instead as an evolutionary struggle which the humans are losing.
Arguably the best moment of this killer plant movie is when Melanie tells Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) that she’s used fire to release the fungal spores and cause the infection to go airborne. Sergeant Parks gasps as the infection sets in, “it’s all over.” To which Melanie delivers the magnificent line, “It’s not over, it’s just not yours anymore.”
The Girl With All the Gifts isn’t your typical killer plant movie but it gives us a complicated and fascinating protagonist. A lead who we pity, who we root for, and who retains her complexity even as she dooms the remnants of “humanity.”
Little Shop of Horrors
Is Little Shop of Horrors (1986) a horror movie? Who knows? But if what is ostensibly a zombie movie can make this list, then Little Shop deserves a spot towards the top. Despite its horrifying content, like dismembered bodies, blood-thirsty killer plant life, and a dentist who’s a genuine sadist, this film will leave you in stitches. Combining the comedic powerhouses of Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, John Candy, and Steve Martin, Little Shop of Horrors continues to be immensely entertaining.
The root canal scene with Bill Murray is one of the most laugh-out-loud comedic moments of the ’80s, and Rick Moranis’ transformation from hapless flower shop clerk to killer plant slayer is fantastically fun to watch. The entire film is suffused with zany energy that carries the viewers all the way through with fantastic set pieces and musical numbers from everyone, especially Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey.
Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) is easy to sympathize with, despite the dark path he begins to edge down. Honestly, at the end of the day, we’d probably all be willing to make some questionable moral choices if it meant financial and romantic success. Can we really blame Seymour for keeping Audrey alive longer than he should have?
Alex Garland’s Annihilation (2018) is a stunning visual experience that will leave you awed and horrified. Possessing some of the most beautiful visual effects in recent memory as well as one of the most chilling creature concepts, Annihilation easily earns its spot towards the top of the killer plant list.
This film follows Lena (Natalie Portman) as she joins an all-female team sent on a mission to explore the “Shimmer”, an expanding zone of mutated life, named for the distorted field that marks its boundary. Multiple people and teams have been lost within The Shimmer, including Kane (Oscar Isaac), Lena’s husband. He was presumed K.I.A., but when he inexplicably returns home after being missing for a year, Lena learns that he was on the previous team and his time within The Shimmer has changed him.
Within the “Shimmer”, the group finds a myriad of mutated plant and animal life that gets stranger as their journey continues. Lena describes what’s happening to the life within The Shimmer as being “stuck in continuous mutation.” We later learn that the “Shimmer” acts as a giant prism, refracting not just light but radio and audio frequencies and even DNA. The implications of this are frightening enough but reach a terrifying apex in the form of a mutated bear.
Not only is its countenance truly gruesome but during what is probably the most harrowing sequence of the film the bear creature attacks while screaming in the voice of a party member it has already devoured. It’s later revealed that its victims’ DNA may have been spliced into it even as she died.
The final scenes of this film are stunning and elevate the horror of the film to the existential and surreal. Like many of the other films on this list, the final scene of the film leaves us with plenty of questions and the sense that even more horror awaits after the films end.
If none of these other killer plant films have creeped you out yet, it’s time to have a seat. Little Otik (also known as Greedy Guts) is based on a fairy tale of a couple who can’t have a baby and decide to instead, adopt a tree stump. The stump is raised as a normal baby grows into a horrid monster. Little Otik is a Czech surrealist dark comedy directed by Jan Švankmajer and Eva Švankmajerová.
This list of killer plant movies is extremely bizarre but it doesn’t get any more bizarre than Little Otik.
Godzilla vs. Biollante
Godzilla vs. Biollante is perhaps one of the most unique on this list of killer plants and for good reason! The main creature of the film is a genetically altered version of Godzilla mixed with the genes of a rose petal. Besides its captivating story, Godzilla vs. Biollante is a unique film among the plethora of Kaiju movies just in creature design and special effects alone.
The film itself is yet again a warning to men who meddle with nature. The tale goes back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and for whatever reason, humanity can’t seem to learn its lesson. If you’re looking to delve into the realm of Kaiju cinema and still crave some brilliantly executed practical effects, then look no further! Biollante hands down is queen of the killer plants.
The Evil Dead
There are a couple of films on this list where the killer plant in question is more so a scene rather than the entire focus. But damn we would be remiss if we ignored THE scene from The Evil Dead (1981). Like any horror fiend, at some point or another, you’ll delve into the realm of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead universe. His first film is truly disturbing and continues to bring shivers to horror movie fans everywhere. For those who have not watched it and are squeamish we advise you to skip this one. If you do decide to watch the film, be ready to be terrified.
Little Joe (2019) is an unnerving and beautiful psychological thriller revolving around a newly created, genetically modified flower. The flower is being billed by its creators as the flower that will make you happy and has been specifically designed to illicit an oxytocin response from those who smell its scent. They may have overdone it, however, as those who have been exposed to its pollen then begin exhibiting extreme behavior towards those who seem to threaten the flower.
Little Joe is a stunning visual composition with colors and framing used to both move and unnerve the viewer. We join the characters of the film in this, being simultaneously taken by Little Joe’s beauty and distrustful of what we are witnessing as well. Ultimately this killer plant movie ends with plenty of question marks but leaves its viewers with a sense of helplessness and foreboding that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The Thing From Another World
Every self-proclaimed horror movie fan has had to have seen John Carpenter’s The Thing! But what about the film that initially inspired it? Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951) is a masterclass in sci-fi horror and needs to be enjoyed by every filmgoer. In Carpenter’s version, the “thing” acts like a virus of sorts but in the 51′ version of the film, the alien is more akin to plant life. The way it grows and evolves is similar to how a plant would.
The film still features a dreaded sense of paranoia and the atmosphere is the film truly is chilling!
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) features Donald Sutherland, Christopher Lee, Roy Castle, and Peter Cushing in one of the first anthology horror films to be made for the silver screen. The film itself is okay, nothing to stand out within the genre, but the featured botanical kill of the movie is gruesome. The film takes place aboard a British train with a mysterious fortune-teller known as Dr. Schreck. He utilizes tarot cards to read the terrifying futures of five fellow passengers.
The main segment in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors question focuses on a man who discovers an overgrown plant in his garden. The plant is growing so intensely that it begins to kill anything in its way. It’s a short ten minutes but it’s so striking and because of it, the full feature deserves a modern reappraisal.
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors wasn’t going to be the only anthology film on this killer plant list! With Creepshow making its modern return on Shudder, it’s a great time to revisit the original by horror masters Stephen King and George Romero. There are so many phenomenal films in the original anthology but perhaps my favorite is The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill starring the king of horror himself.
A meteorite lands on Earth, once touched it grows like weeds everywhere, even on people! It’s silly, campy, and just the right amount of horror to keep the thrills and chills going. This plays like a silly on-purpose version of The Day of the Triffids, another killer plant movie that may have just made this list…
The Ruins is a silent but strong contender among this outstanding list of killer plant films. A group of friends finds fun during a Summer holiday in Mexico. Not all is what it seems though when carnivorous plants try to trap the group of friends alive, forcing them all to fight for survival. The Ruins is among a myriad of middle-class-focused vacation films where things go topsy turvy. Needless to say, the premise alone is worth the watch!
Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the only killer plant movie released in 2008. The other one we have in mind is a little more infamous…
The Day of the Triffids
Based on the novel by John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1963) follows a series of meteors that land on Earth. In the process of coming into Earth’s atmosphere, a majority of the population become blinded. To make matters worse plantlike creatures known as Triffids emerge from the meteors and begin to take over. The Day of the Triffids is a sci-fi classic that belongs to the great subgenre of alien invader films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet! There’s a remake of the film but of course, we have to recommend starting here.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is a classic for a reason and it holds up across the board. The opening shots of this film are ethereal, beautiful and haunting. Both simultaneously and immediately setting the mood of dread that will pervade this film. Philip Kaufman gives us a perpetually forbidding film, masterfully using the setting and background to increase the level of paranoia and fear experienced by the characters and ourselves. Kaufman’s lonely cityscapes are charged with menace; a dark and lonely urban setting in which danger could lurk just out of sight. And that’s exactly what Kaufman communicates to us, that more than we can handle is happening just out of sight.
This is further confirmed by tracking shots that consistently leave behind main characters to focus on obscure or unsettling background characters. Add to this the occasional moment of chaos; people running from who knows what, the hint of the iconic body snatcher scream in the distance, a man dying under unclear circumstances, and Kaufman perfectly captures the helplessness of the main characters.
Despite their best efforts, horror has been unfolding around them and they have been powerless to stop it or see it. And as the shots of the city become more crowded, it actually heightens the sense of loneliness and isolation. The characters we are following are no longer safe in a crowd; unbeknownst to them, but known to us, they are surrounded by the enemy.
The final scenes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are fraught and chilling. The incredible performances from Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and Veronica Cartwright make one feel the helplessness and isolation of the characters. The finale is one of the greatest final scenes in horror movie history and perfectly captures the loneliness of the film, as well as leaving us wanting to know more about this new, infiltrated world we find ourselves living in.
Any kid from the 80s knows the scene in question. It made kids terrified of rainstorms again, and brought a whole new horrifying context to trees! Though the tree is technically possessed, as it was in The Evil Dead, it still makes this list for the impact it had on children’s nightmares alone! Poltergeist balances, whimsical and horrifying like a game of tug-of-war, and this scene is definitely in the horrifying camp.
Sighs and groans ensue. The Happening as of late has fallen into the so-bad-it’s-good category of films and for good reason. We had to include this film as an honorable mention. One could argue that a film’s purpose is to entertain, and how could you not be entertained in this goofy mess of a movie?
Killer Plant Movies at Their Roots…
Although the nights are getting shorter, if you’d still like to spend them getting frightened, these eerie films are sure to do the trick! There’s plenty on this list for horror newbies and lifelong fans alike. Join us in celebrating Spring the spooky way and let us know what your favorite killer plant movie is!