Nine Films About Ants

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There's a line in Zoolander in which idiotic supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) looks at a scale model of a learning center and says, "What is this? A center for ants?" This is not a list for ants, though it is a list about ants. That is, movies about ants. Grab the Raid and read on.

  1. Ant-Man (2015). The inspiration for this list. The Marvel cinematic universe expands, with Paul Rudd playing the weensy superhero who has dominion over the insect world (including, naturally, ants).
  2. Antz (1998). One of two computer animated features about ants in 1998, this DreamWorks entry boasted the bigger names in its voiceover cast (including Woody Allen, starring as the unsurprisingly neurotic ant "Z"), but was not as well-received as...
  3. A Bug's Life (1998). Pixar's answer to Antz is by all measures the superior film. Dave Foley voices Flik, a bumbling ant roped into hiring a gang of "tough" bugs to save his colony from grasshoppers. The visuals seem almost rudimentary today, in light of the many advancements in CG rendering, but the story holds up.
  4. Them! (1954). That exclamation point in the title, along with its plot about giant radioactive ants terrorizing New Mexico, makes this sound like typical 1950s B-movie junk. In fact it is an expertly plotted thriller with first-class special effects. Them! is worth your time.
  5. Phase IV (1974). Now here's a real curio. The only feature directed by legendary title designer Saul Bass, Phase IV is a low-budget sci fi drama about two scientists studying an Arizona ant colony that, thanks to some cosmic interference, has become hyper-intelligent – and potentially able to destroy mankind. The film's macro photography of ants is impressive, and there are plenty of creepy moments within its brisk 84 minute run time.
  6. Empire of the Ants (1977). Whereas Them! and Phase IV are serious films made by people with genuine ambition and talent, Empire of the Ants is the hokey garbage you're looking for. Here, huge mind-controlling ants pursue Joan Collins across a tropical island. What more do you need to know?
  7. The Ant Bully (2006). Back to the animated world we go for this family film that could very well be called "Ant-Boy". A bullied young lad gets shrunken down to ant size by an ant wizard (yes, really), and joins the colony. The movie, based on a children's book published in the wake of A Bug's Life and Antz, fizzled at the box office, despite its pedigreed cast (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti).
  8. Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants (2013). No, I never heard of it before either. This French feature, which combines CG character animation with live action backgrounds, was adapted from a series of short TV segments. The dialogue-free plot concerns a ladybug befriending some friendly black ants who are harassed by some unfriendly red ants.
  9. The Naked Jungle (1954). This entry stands out for its big-name stars, Charlton Heston and the now-forgotten Eleanor Parker (best known as the Baroness in The Sound of Music). The bulk of The Naked Jungle consists of dull melodrama, so if you're, um, antsy, skip ahead to to the climactic battle against billions of killer Marabunta. These swarms of real live ants will make your skin crawl.