It Came From Beneath the Ice To Destroy the World!

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Monsters and supervillains come from a lot of places, but a perennial favorite is the frozen depths. Defrosted Big Bads have been rampaging through books and movies for almost a century, and here are fifteen of the freezingest.

The Thing

There are two movie versions of The Thing, which is itself based on a short story by John Campbell called "Who Goes There," but every iteration shares the same basic structure. An alien beneath the ice of Antarctica gets thawed out by a lonely group stationed on the continent during winter. It slowly picks off members of the group, perhaps most spectacularly in John Carpenter's movie version, which is packed with terrific, gory effects of alien/human slaughter.

"At the Mountains of Madness"

This classic short story by H.P. Lovecraft is about a group of explorers who discover an ancient city buried beneath the ice in an Antarctic mountain range. Within the city, they find evidence that Earth's earliest inhabitants were aliens who took up residence in the once-temperate South Pole. They lived in a state of advanced civilization, occasionally having problems with other alien groups (like Cthulhu's spawn, which live in the sea). But finally their city descended into decadence, and the polymorphous slave beings known as Shuggoths began to take over. Eventually it emerges that some of the Shuggoths still live, and the human expedition may have released them upon the world.


The X-Files movie

The 1998 movie that came out of the popular alien-paranoia TV series includes a final set of scenes that take place in a secret underground lab in Antarctica, where aliens are being studied. We know the aliens are dangerous, and are associated with the black oil that has been mind-controlling several humans in the show. As the movie ends, a spaceship beneath the lab rises up and takes off. More black oil to be unleashed on the world? Aliens finally freed from prison? We may never know.


Alien vs. Predator

A group of explorers travel to Antarctica (this plot is starting to sound familiar, isn't it?) to investigate a mysterious heat signal in an ice field. They discover a vast, underground structure that looks sort of like a temple. It turns out to be a holding tank for aliens, and a group of predators have awakened them in order to have a fun hunting expedition. Unfortunately the human explorers are caught between the predators and aliens, and some of them get used as alien-hatching vessels so the predators can have their fun. When things get out of control, the humans have to decide whether to ally themselves with the dangerous predators if they're going to escape alive – and prevent the aliens from being unleashed all over the Earth.


It's possible to claim that the original 1970s Alien movie is about ice-bound creatures awakening to kill, kill, kill. The aliens that Ripley's vessel stumbles across are on what seems to be a frozen planet.

"A Colder War"

In this short story by Charles Stross, a Cold War-era nuclear submarine finds a Cthulhu-esque creature beneath the ice. It's an even greater threat than nuclear war, and makes the cold war pale by comparison.



Perhaps one of the greatest kitchen-sink monsters ever created, this movie's eponymous creature is discovered frozen whole in the arctic ice. But when the ice melts and (of course) the mammoth escapes, we discover that not only is it a reanimated paleolithic beastie, but it's also controlled via wireless by a group of hostile aliens and it's got the power to suck people's lifeforce out using its trunk. So it's an alien-controlled vampire dinosaur. And it's pissed. Watch the alien vampire mammoth wreck havoc among drunken teens, including Summer Glau (!) at a rave in the forest!


In the first Transformers movie, evil Deceptacon leader Megatron is found deep beneath the ice, and as he thaws, his evil world-destroying powers grow.


Demolition Man

In the movie version of Demolition Man, set in the near future, supercriminal Phoenix is thawed out of deep freeze to face trial. Unfortunately he kills everybody in sight and escapes, to engage in a zillion acts of crime in a city unprepared for such a dangerous criminal. Luckily the city is able to defrost our cop hero too, whose skills dealing with violence were honed during Phoenix's era.



In this flick from 1960, a team constructing a harbor on a Carribbean island accidentally unearth two dinosaurs, a T-Rex and a brontosaurus. Of course the kaiju are struck by lightning and brought back to life for a mega-rampage – though sadly they aren't controlled by aliens or capable of sucking people's souls out. A caveman is brought to life with them, and serves as is the friendly defrosted foil to the dinos.


The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

This classic 1952 Ray Harryhausen movie basically started the giant atomic monster genre. A "Rhedosaurus" is awakened in arctic circle by atomic bombs, and unleashes monstery, claymation madness upon the world.

Doctor Who, "The Ice Warriors"

A new ice age is sweeping over the world, and a team of scientists and maniacs is desperately trying to find a way to roll back the glaciers. And then they find a weird Viking warrior-esque figure trapped in the ice for millions of years... and when the ice defrosts, the figure awakens!



At the end of last season's superhero soap Heroes, Tracy uses her freeze-ray powers to freeze . . . herself! She goes mega-icy and then shatters into a million pieces to save the son of her dead, ultrastrong mutant genetic clone "sister" Nikki. But she'll be back this fall in the new season, all thawed out and healed up and ready to engage in all kinds of evil.


Frankenstein's Monster


In this early-70s comic from Marvel, the Frankenstein monster emerges from an arctic glacier twice: Once to battle Dracula, who injures him; and a second time in the modern world, aided by Frankenstein's distant, gothy relative Victoria Frankenstein. Though revenge and killing were among his goals after his first thaw, by the time he thawed a second time he was ready to fall in love (with Victoria) and fight for great justice (with Iron Man). Frankenstein's Monster teaches us that taking a second ice nap can be redemptive.


Terminal Freeze

In this novel by Lincoln Child, a group of explorers living in "Fear Base" underneath "Fear Glacier" encounter – surprise – something they need to be afraid of. It's a frozen, catlike creature that they plan to defrost when they return to civilization. But unfortunately it defrosts before the group makes it home, and people start dying. This is yet another tale in the sub-sub-genre established by "Who Goes There," the short story on which The Thing is based.