10 Great Sci-Fi Movie Villains Who Only Appeared Once

Slippery alien invaders! The implacable melting man! That mutant bear monster!

Terminator 2 T 1000
TriStar Pictures

Is there anything more frustrating than an under-utilized villain?

Come on—Shelob may be the most impressive giant spider in film history, but that only makes it more frustrating when her entire role is just another brief set piece in a sprawling, otherwise-unrelated story.

At least Peter Jackson has an excuse, though—whether it’s the original Lord of the Rings trilogy or (sigh) the inexplicably long Hobbit trilogy, he’s adapting source material which already decided how much of a role each individual villain would have.

But even more conventional monster movies, particularly those in the creature feature-friendly genre that is sci-fi, often create impressive, unforgettable monsters—only to criminally underutilize them when it comes time to create the next flick. The sci-fi genre is filled with incredible ghouls and vile villains who were barely seen onscreen, and it’s deservedly infamous for abandoning monsters with stellar potential after only a lone onscreen appearance.

With that in mind, we’re counting down ten of the best sci-fi villains who only made a single appearance onscreen.

10. Those Spiders - The Mist

Terminator 2 T 1000

Monsters in the eponymous pea-souper are, in fact, the least of our protagonist’s worries in this bleak Stephen King adaptation from 2007. Frequently and rightfully listed as one of the decade’s best underseen gems, The Shawshank Redemption helmer Frank Darabont’s dark psychological horror proves to be more concerned with the dangers of groupthink, small town prejudice, and herd mentality, as well as nihilism and its attendant pitfalls, than any actual beasties creeping through the titular mist.

Despite this, we really wouldn’t want to walk into any of this film’s sparsely seen creatures on the way home from a night on the town, and we really wish we got another chance to see their impressively creepy design onscreen. Some viewers were most impressed by the skyscraper sized thing encountered near the tail end of this flick, but for our money it’s the acid-web spewing giant spiders which got the furthest under our skin.

Massive but not too big to seem utterly unbelievable, these once-glimpsed monsters are also shown to lay eggs under the skin of the unfortunate—and still living—victims, leaving their offspring to eat them from the outside in as they are paralysed in place.

Yeah, on second thought maybe we’ve seen enough of them.


Cathal Gunning hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.