Top 10 Movies Featuring Slime – Part 1
Slime is one of my most favorite things in the world. It’s gross. It’s sciencey. It feels nice in between your fingers. It has secret sexy undertones.
Slime also has an amazing, multi-layered ontological nature. Just like Adam Savage considers there to be four conceptual Maltese Falcons, there are four conceptual types of slime.
First, there is the literal, biological slime: a biofilm of microorganisms which exhibits self- and general adherence. Actual, real slimes include slime molds, dental plaque, and the stuff that clogs your plumbing. This entity is the “spiritual model” to all other types of slime and serves as the creative jumping-off point. This is Savage’s “Object In The World”.
Then there are slimes (a.k.a. “gunges“) which are artificial viscous compounds that mimic biological slimes in many ways, but whose purpose is entertainment. This is the type of slime that you are most likely to have come in contact with at some point in your life. This slime is hilarious and hypnotically engaging. This might be you call “everyday slime”.
Third, there are movie props which are used to portray the slime that has been called for by the screenplay. These are usually some chemical relative of the Type 2 slimes that we see on Nickelodeon but engineered with the needs of movie-making in mind: color, reflectivity, safety, propensity to stain, etc. Type 3 slimes are created to serve Type 4 slimes.
At the highest spot in the ontological stack is the slime made of words and light. This is the “idea” of slime which is employed by screenwriters and directors (and other artists, but this is a film blog) as a storytelling tool. These slimes are usually defined within the film’s mythology as having some specific origin and properties (which may or may not be based on real science). This is slime in its purest form, unadulterated by projection into reality but yet somehow still able to induce more of an emotional response than the three other, more “real” kinds of slime.
Slime is used in movies to impart a sense of “cryptoscience”, those aspects of nature (especially biology) which are bizarre, hidden, or mysterious. And slime of course must display a certain (intuitively known but rarely explicated) set of slippery, viscous, or gelatinous characteristics.
However, to qualify as “slime” (in our minds), a given substance must be separated from normally understood categorizations by a certain “artistic distance”. For instance, human mucous may be “slimey” but it is far too familiar (in most contexts and quantities) to be worthy of being called “slime”. Platypus mothers ooze a glutinous white liquid from belly pores to nourish their young, which certainly qualifies as nightmarishly gross and, again, slimy, but it takes very little cognitive effort to slot that phenomenon right next to the one that we think of as “milk”.
True slime is both an object and an attitude, wrapped together in a single conceptual package. It requires certain material and behavioral characteristics, and its presence must herald a descent (or perhaps ascent) into realms of dark science that make us feel equally repulsed and excited.
Here are the top ten movies which feature slime in some way, ranked by the Flickchart global rankings.
#10. Ghostbusters (2016)
Global ranking: 6470
Wins 49% of its matchups
605 users have ranked it 7,268 times
2 have it at #1
16 have it in their top 20
The concept of ectoplasm came into being during the Spiritualism movements of the late 19th century. It is typically defined as a viscous or gauze-like substance which the medium’s body emits as a byproduct of communion with the other side. I’m still unclear on how or why this counted as proof of the spirit world, but nevertheless, ectoplasm became inextricably linked with the movement from early on.
Ectoplasm is an interesting special case of slime, in that it is a fictional (well, unsubstantiated) substance which had a long, rich history out in “the world” before anyone thought to use it in actual fiction, such as in a movie. So unlike several of the slimes that we will talk about, ectoplasm’s nature is somehow “more real” than straight up made-up, even though the actual “reality” of ectoplasm consisted of whatever a medium was willing to cram into her vagina.
Like many aspects of the new Ghostbusters, the use of slime here is woefully underwhelming. The previous franchise entries established the existence (and hinted at the nature) of “ectoplasm” as some generically weird aspect of the Other Side’s natural systems, and certainly it would have been notably, egregiously absent if Paul Feig had not allowed it to make an appearance.
But expected slime is no slime at all. Slime’s emotional impact depends on it being part of what clues us into the otherworldliness of the film’s universe. If we’re sitting and waiting to tick the “slime” box based solely on intertextual assumptions, then the filmmakers have wasted its storytelling power. Simply upgrading its “edge” by saying it’s now something that ghosts spew from their mouths (for some reason) does not re-embolden the artistic choice.
Global ranking: 3581
Wins 30% of its matchups
4,102 users have ranked it 33,593 times
0 have it at #1
23 have it in their top 20
I love this example because it plays even more deeply with our intuitive definitions of slime and how it interacts with the real world.
In this (flawed but underrated) telling of this tale, one of Dr. Frankenstein’s key technical decisions is that the body to be reanimated should be fully submerged in a sarcophagus full of amniotic fluid. The good doctor obtains the stuff by the bucketful from welfare hospitals, and when the newborn Baby Boy Frankenstein (who would of course bear his father’s last name) rides the lightning in the world, the poor bastard nearly drowns in it.
A fairly good case could be made that my including normal, healthy amniotic fluid in a list about slime is an aggressively misogynistic act. As I said before, slime always means something weird and gross, and surely, Mr. Fancypants Blogger, you’re not saying that one of the normal, nay, beautiful functions of the female body is weird or gross, are you?
This situation is one where a normal, everyday viscous fluid achieves slimehood through volume and context. Normal amniotic fluid in its usual settings (inside Mommy, in an obstetrician’s office, on the floor of a McDonald’s, etc) and in its normal amount (one woman’s worth) does not qualify as slime. But scale it up to sarcophagus quantities and make it a component of a mad scientist’s quest to spit in the face of God, now we’re talking slime.
#8. Alien Nation
Global ranking: 2770
Wins 39% of its matchups
1,286 users have ranked it 10,592 times
1 have it at #1
18 have it in their top 20
Jabroka was a drug given to Newcomers as an incentive back when they were a slave race on Tencton. When they came to Earth, they almost immediately began to manufacture the drug, as well as a black market for it, in which to exploit the weak and enrich the human-Newcomer underworld.
The drug is a thick, syrupy substance, dispensed in convenient little vials, and it is a brilliant, brilliant blue. In single-vial doses, it produces a narcotic effect, improving mood, pain tolerance, and sexual appetite. In higher doses. . . well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.
It is hard enough to assimilate your bald-headed, sour-milk-drinking, flying-saucer-landing race into the serrated mainstreams of American society. If it were to come out that your race (through no fault of your own) was essentially all recovering drug addicts, you’d be in an internment camp, or worse, before you could say Crab Nebula.
Despite your heroic escape from the interstellar nightmares of your past, all of your sins still cling to you, like the remnants of a dose clinging to the sides of a little glass vial. From a rational point of view, the fact that your drug is a slime is no different from it being a rock or a leaf or a powder. But you picked a planet where we associate slime with everything that we want to keep at arm’s length, and in your case we are just looking for an excuse. Your drug, just like everything else thing we learn about you, makes you alien to us.
#7. The Blob
Global ranking: 2330
Wins 44% of its matchups
1,495 users have ranked it 20,330 times
2 have it at #1
14 have it in their top 20
I have to admit that this is a bit of a grudge inclusion.
The Blob is one of the earliest film examples of a gooey, slimy substance being associated with the strange, dangerous, and otherworldly. It is undoubtedly a progenitor of many of the slime tropes found in this list and throughout our culture. It taught us all to be afraid of this kind of thing, and that fear has viralized and mutated in our art, like Psycho and showers.
But I do not consider The Blob to be a slime. It is not the fact that it has sentience per se, but has more to do with the fact that it is not a true liquid, in the physics sense. It will not necessarily fill the container that it is put into; it will only do so if it wishes. It has control over the dispensation of its outer surface area and locomotion, and as such is more like a land-based jellyfish from space.
But in many of its scenes in this remarkable movie, it is shown behaving in classic slime patterns: oozing, covering things, running downhill, so much so that the film deserves mention as a showcase of sorts of these behaviors. This combined with the cultural significance of the film in the history of slime, plus the fact that I was afraid of being called out for not remembering it if I excluded it, earns it a place in this list.
What a color, though, right? I could stare at it all day.
#6. Ghostbusters II
Global ranking: 1043
Wins 40% of its matchups
47,471 users have ranked it 313,806 times
99 have it at #1
2,578 have it in their top 20
Ghostbusters 2 did with slime what Ghostbusters 2016 should have: it played with our expectations.
I can’t think of a single circumstance where an audience having any expectation of any kind is a good thing for a filmmaker. Expectations limit and distort the filmmaker’s palette, and it puts unpredictable tectonic pressures on the audience’s reception and interpretation. The ideal moviegoing experience, for the filmmaker, would be to catch the audience member on the sidewalk on their way to Walgreens, throw them into a van with a bag over their head, and then point them at a screen containing no recognizable faces or tropes whatsoever (remove the bag first). The audience would then have no choice but to accept the storytelling at face value using only the information provided by the lens.
The masterful use of slime in Ghostbusters made such an indelible mark on the popular consciousness that Reitman et al knew that they would be expecting it in the sequel. What that stupid audience doesn’t realize is that if you simply give them more of the same (which they think they want!), they will be disappointed. The brain, in an attempt to modulate neurotransmitter flow (just like it does with hard drugs), has adjusted the number of dopamine receptors on the slime circuits in their neural pathways. The same dose of slime will literally cause less pleasure than the one before.
The solution is to find a brand new twist on slime: it’s still slimy, it’s still supernatural, but now it can contain and transmit feelings of positive or negative affect. It can be weaponized by both the protagonists and the antagonists. And there’s a river of it flowing underneath your feet right now.
To be continued in Part 2. . .