In honour of Pacific Rim opening today… these are my TOP 5 Giant Monster Movies. This of course refers to movies that have creatures of immense size. The first film was 1925’s The Lost World which featured dinosaurs as the giant monster. However Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954 is what many think of as the beginning of the genre. It’s a fair point because this film is what started the Kaiju craze around the world.
Here are the rules that I follow…
- The monster(s) is greater than 4 times the size of human being
- The monster(s) must be the main threat in the story
- The skeptical population/authority
- The reluctant hero(s)
- The expert(s)… could be a scientist or specific “animal” expert or crackpot expert – “the town know-it-all”
Sadly while many of these films are made, only a few are worth watching. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some films that are of the genre.
When it was released back in 1953 it was a modest success at the box office. But over the years, it has become a classic of the genre. This is the first film to use the classic giant monster trope of the nuclear testing either releasing or causing the giant monster. It is also the film that allowed Godzilla to happen, he takes his nuclear fire breath from the Beast.
The film also had something else working for it. The Ray’s. The movie is based on Ray Bradbury‘s story and had Ray Harryhausen doing the special effects for the Beast, helping establish the rules of the genre for the next several decades. Plus it features a young Lee Van Cleef who helps save the day.
Considered one of the best sci-fi films of the 1950’s, it was the first of two genres that appeared shortly after: giant bugs and giant irradiated creatures. It established the template for the genre going forward. It’s solid tale of how giant ants try to take over the world starting from one nest in Alamogordo.
The film also boasts what I call the Jaws (and YES, I know Hitchcock is usually credited with this) effect. Building suspense by not showing the creatures until the beginning of the second act and using the creepiest sound effect ever created to convey their presence on & off screen. It really is an amazing film. It’s too bad the imitators couldn’t be as successfully creative.
While other films over the past 36 years since Them! have progressively gotten more and more serious & gory, Tremors remembers it’s roots. It’s a comedy at heart but has excellent sci-fi elements relating to the Graboids. It uses the basic story of a small group trapped with no way out and danger all around to great effect during the film’s running time.
The movie also sports an excellent cast of “characters”. I use that phrasing because that’s what these guys are, “characters”, whether it’s Kevin Bacon‘s Val, Fred Ward‘s Walter or Michael Gross‘s Burt Gummer. Everyone individually is okay at best in their careers but together, here, they excel in telling a fun & exciting giant monster story.
The Host (2006)
This movie was a pleasant surprise when I checked it out shortly after it’s release. An Asian giant monster movie not set in Japan. Yep, South Korea’s movie scene has exploded over the last decade and The Host was one such success. It really helped open my eyes to the great work coming out of South Korea.
The movie mixes a lot of old school US giant monster movie goodness with Kaiju and even some pointed political commentary about the environment and US involvement in South Korea. It also sports a really cool original monster that you get to see quite a bit during the film’s running time, something it does different from it’s predecessors in the genre.
Super 8 (2011)
Okay this one was a no brainer for me as it is one of my top movies of the last 5 years. Not only does it follow the old tropes of the genre, it does so with a new twist by adding in the kids adventure element ala The Goonies. This is important because it’s what really drives the film throughout. Elle Fanning leads the way in the performance department. While all the other kids do great work she really helps elevate the film.
While I know some complain about the J.J. Abrams style with all its lens flares, which yes can be too much, the film hits all the right marks. The one thing this film does to get it right is a focus on the story itself and not letting big action scenes ruin the pacing. It does a great job of showcasing the genre but also bringing it forward for new generations to enjoy.
So there it is, my list. There are so many more that I could have added but I wanted to go with what I think of as the best representatives of the genre. If you are looking for something to watch this weekend give one of these a try.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!