Our 12 Favorite Bug Movies In Celebration Of Ant-Man

For those of us who aren't exactly well-versed in the more obscure heroes of the Marvel Comics universe, it was just a little bit odd to learn that the latest movie from the creators of characters like Thor and Captain America is called ... Ant-Man? Then again, we'll see just about anything with Paul Rudd, so the diminutive title doesn't turn us off too much. In this mythology, Rudd's Scott Lang dons a suit that shrinks him down to ant size while also granting him an ant's famously disproportionate super-strength, hence the name.

Hollywood has a long-standing tradition of using bugs — that's the highly scientific term we're using to include insects and spiders, by the way — in heroic, horrific, and even sympathetic roles. Arthropods, with their armored shells and sharp joints, multiple eyes and waving antennae, just look inherently creepy, and their behavior is even more alien to our human minds. So, why shouldn't they serve as scary monsters reflecting our fears of nuclear power or other scientific experimentation, as they've done in Them! and The Fly? They make really good stand-ins for interplanetary invaders in movies like Men in Black and Ender's Game. On the other hand, they're also really small, so we can accept someone like Jiminy Cricket as a wise advisor, or find ourselves identifying with the plucky misfits in Antz and A Bug's Life. And if you want to get really freaky with your metaphors, view them as murderous sex fiends, like the ladies in Invasion of the Bee Girls.

Just be warned, these films will make you think twice before you take out that fly swatter again.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Productions.
Pinocchio (1940)

If the puppet's tiny, know-it-all friend weren't named Jiminy Cricket, would you even know that's what he was? He looks more like an anemic ant, and what is up with making an insect Pinocchio's "conscience," strange blue fairy lady? Still, "When You Wish Upon a Star" is an undeniable classic, and that little guy sure was dapper. He's probably why we're OK with crickets but think grasshoppers are the worst.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Them! (1954)

When nuclear bomb testing in New Mexico accidentally irradiates a nest of ants, the earth's most harmless insects become a threat to all of mankind — ironically created by man in the first place. You may laugh at the clunky special effects of this '50s camp classic, but you will also never watch a colony of ants the same way again. There's a reason this monster movie spawned copycats for decades to come.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sequoia Pictures.
Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)

Our cinematic suspicion of science hadn't slowed down by the '70s, but it did mutate into some interesting forms, like in this beloved sexploitation flick. Perhaps we're supposed to fear the mad lady scientist who has somehow fused women with queen bees who seduce men and kill them with mind-blowing sex. Although, you may instead find yourself cheering them on.
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Photo: Courtesy of SLM.
The Fly (1986)

Director, David Cronenberg had a freaky source to begin with — the 1957 short story by George Langelaan, on which a 1958 movie starring Vincent Price was also based — and then he fused it with his own very special Cronenberg weirdness. Jeff Goldblum is a socially awkward scientist who's working on a teleportation device when he becomes romantically involved with science reporter Geena Davis. One drunken night, he decides to try the machine on himself and winds up genetically fused with the housefly that was trapped in the pod with him. Much grossness follows. Let's just say flies have a very different method of digesting their food.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Pictures.
Arachnophobia (1990)

This is, ostensibly, a dark comedy starring Jeff Daniels as a family guy afflicted with the titular phobia and John Goodman as the exterminator tasked with eliminating the hybrid killer spiders that have invaded their small California town. If you, too, are scared of spiders, the many startling moments of this movie will be nothing to laugh about, however.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Who can match the talent of Roald Dahl in the realm of bizarre tales of children exacting revenge on the terrible adults who control their lives? Tim Burton, of course. So when Burton animated this story of a boy who escapes his evil aunts in a giant peach, inhabited by an equally large spider, centipede, ladybug, grasshopper, glowworm and earthworm, things basically couldn't get better. Scratch that: The voice talents of Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, Pete Postlethwaite, and Richard Dreyfuss do make it even better. And after all of those movies that scared the crap out of us about our exoskeletal friends, this is a welcome change of perspective.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tristar Pictures.
Starship Troopers (1997)

Is this sci-fi war movie just popcorn fodder about teenagers in the not-so-distant future battling giant, vicious insects intent on colonizing the universe? Or is it, as one Atlantic writer argues, a keen satirical look at the military-industrial complex? Well, either way, it is a chance to see the likes of Neil Patrick Harris and Denise Richards in very cool armor. And yeah, a lot of icky bugs.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Men in Black (1997)

It's easy to see why we're constantly depicting aliens as insect-like creatures: Though they're also fellow earthlings, the behavior and appearance of bugs are completely alien to us. Also, this concept allows us to watch Vincent D'Onofrio impersonate a bug in an "Edgar" suit, attempt to evade capture by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as he tries to kidnap the galaxy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dreamworks SKG.
Antz (1998)

So, really, people of the '90s, what was with all the bug movies? Don't answer that. We will instead thank you for giving us the gem that is this Dreamworks picture starring (deep breath): Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, and Anne Bancroft as ants. Let's just write that sentence one more time: Anne Bancroft voiced an ant in a kid's movie. Also, Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd voiced wasps. The plot (Woody Allen is a worker who just wants to be an artist) is besides the point here.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pixar.
A Bug's Life (1998)

It's no coincidence that Disney Pixar's story about an ant (this time, Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley) came out a month after Dreamworks' — it was actually something to do with a complicated feud between Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and his former Disney boss Michael Eisner, which you can also see play out in Shrek. Never mind all that, and instead, enjoy another star-packed look at the world beneath our feet. This cast includes baby Hayden Panettiere, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, and Phyllis Diller.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lions Gate.
Bug (2006)

Ashley Judd plays a lonely waitress who already isn't doing so well — her son went missing, her ex is abusive — when she gets involved with Michael Shannon's Peter, an unhinged guy who says he was experimented on by the military. He draws her into his paranoia, which includes the conviction that microscopic insects are attacking him. Our skin is crawling just thinking about it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Ender's Game (2013)

Last but not least, here's one more alien-insect story, based on the hugely popular series by Orson Scott Card. Ender (Asa Butterfield) is one of many children being trained in a space-station military academy to prepare for war with the Formics, bug-like aliens who once attacked Earth. But even as Ender becomes more and more adept at ruthless military tactics, he starts to empathize with the enemy and their insect logic.
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