Insects have been a part of movies for as long as movies have been a part of American culture. The roles these insects play vary widely, from giant mutant predator (Mothra) to a casually swatted house fly, and from the part-human/part-insect monstrosity in The Fly to the wise, friendly Jiminy Cricket.
The "rules" of insect movies
According to entomologist James Mertins, insect flicks generally follow these guidelines:
The quality of insect movies is usually not the greatest, either, Mertins says. Exceptions have been made, though, especially in the last few years.
"Except in nature magazines, insects are shown mostly in an unfavorable light as 'bad organisms,' " Mertins wrote in 1988. "However, one hopes the recent trend continues, wherein arthropod features are of higher quality, more realistic, and more intelligent than in the past."
If the films of the late 1990s are any indication, the upwards swing is continuing. Microcosmos, a documentary-style film that takes viewers into the world of insects, was released nationally to great success (relatively speaking). It earned about $2 million at the box office, a remarkable feat for an 80-minute bug movie with only a minute of spoken dialogue. But even that film resorted to anthropomorphizing its arthropod stars in an effort to interest mass audiences.
To learn more about Microcosmos, or to take a look at several other influential films featuring insects and arthropods, follow the arrows through this site or jump directly to the film that interests you.
For more information, please check out the list of sources for this project.