Them! (Gordon Douglas, 1954)
We watch through binoculars as a giant ant drops a human rib cage. It tumbles down the anthill. For me, the horror of this moment is exceeded only by the joy of recognition, for I’ve spent many a slow morning squatting near the dens of harvester ants and watching them clear out their own dead. Giant bug movies proliferated like cockroaches in the 1950s. It’s a famously cheesy genre, but it did produce some gems, like Jack Arnold’s beautifully photographed Tarantula. Them! is the best of the buggy bunch.
No one who has ever studied ants has failed to imagine the premise of this movie—the sizes of our two social species somehow evened. We humans would win if we were allowed high-tech weapons—the people in the movie use flamethrowers. But the harvester ant has a mighty sting, among the most painful in North America—as I can personally attest. In a fair fight, we’d have no chance. Of course, harvester ants probably wouldn’t be interested in hurting us without provocation. They prefer seeds to meat.