Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Giant Monsters

Kong may be king, but he’s far from the only oversized beastie to stomp across cinema screens over the years. As we watch the big ape clobber the box office in his new reboot, let’s also remember some of our other favorite giant monsters from movies, TV and other media.

Just because they’re far too obvious as choices, I’ve asked the staff to exclude both Kong and Godzilla from their responses. Feel free to mention them in the Comments if you want, though.

Luke Hickman

One of my earliest movie-going experiences was ‘Godzilla 1985’. My dad and his childhood friend took me and my two older brothers. Once the lights dimmed, my dad’s buddy opened his backpack and revealed a smorgasbord of snacks and drinks. It was full of convenient store candy, chips and a six-pack of Budweiser – which, of course, wasn’t for the kids. Since that experience, I’ve enjoyed big monster movies.

I was quite surprised by the J.J. Abrams-produced ‘Cloverfield‘. Although it’s probably the shakiest of them all, I have a great love for this particular Found Footage movie. It captured the spirit of the monster movies of old and added a fun modern flair. It introduced us to T.J. Miller who, despite being the most present of the ensemble, is the least-seen cast member. The first ten minutes build three-dimensional characters quicker than I’ve probably ever seen.

Then the fun begins. More often than not, the Found Footage style is needless, but ‘Cloverfield’ uses it as it should be used. It places us in the middle of the action, giving the impression of being in New York City during a massive monster attack. In addition, ‘Cloverfield’ led to one of my favorite movies of 2016: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’.

Brian Hoss

Endless sequels aside, ‘Tremors‘ is probably my favorite non-Godzilla, non-robot, giant monster feature. A decent cast and character combination helps, but the isolated feel of the town lets the narrative unfold at a great pace. The movie also nails a slight tone really well. It’s very comedic, but it’s played straight. ‘Tremors’ is also a great example of when to outright ignore a movie’s sequels.

M. Enois Duarte

Since we’re excluding the classics, one of my favorite monsters of recent memory are the giant trolls in ‘Troll Hunter‘. The movie is also one of the more ingenious uses of the handheld, shaky-cam style of the Found-Footage genre. Shot like a documentary with film students tracking a possible bear poacher, the amateur filmmakers soon discover that the woods are filled with creatures far more dangerous. When they find that their suspected poacher is actually a seemingly crazy man obsessed with monsters, the real fun begins. The movie is an awesome blend of fantasy, comedy and horror with better than expected CG visual effects. Best of all, for all the bass-heads out there, the Blu-ray’s lossless soundtrack will test the limits of your subwoofer!

Shannon Nutt

Although an argument can be made about whether it really qualifies as a “monster” or not (since they actually existed at one point in history), has there been anything scarier than our introduction to the T-Rex in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park‘?

Using a combination of puppetry and CGI, the dinosaur’s assault on the SUV with young Tim and Lexi inside will go down as one of the most exhilarating sequences the acclaimed director has ever put on film. It’s also arguably the best scene in the movie. I know I can never see a water ripple anymore without looking around to make sure there isn’t a T-Rex bearing down on me.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Why Gamera wins this Roundtable:

  1. Gamera is really neat.
  2. Gamera is filled with turtle meat.
  3. Gamera is friend to all children.
  4. Gamera has the most infectiously catchy earworm of a theme song.

I genuinely love Gamera’s design: a gigantic, tusked, bipedal turtle with claw-like fingers. Visually, he ranks behind only Gigan as my all-time favorite kaiju. Gamera eats and breathes fire. After retracting into his all-but-impenetrable shell, jet blasts empower him to spin around and fly through space. As wildly uneven as the many films starring Gamera have been, I would rather watch ‘Gamera vs. Guiron’ than any Godzilla sequel/reboot/whatever. You’re treated to two little boys accidentally spirited away in a spaceship, a pair of cannibalistic space women, an otherworldly planet, a monster with a gigantic knife for a head who can shoot throwing stars, an oversized turtle doing gymnastic moves on a parallel bar, and a level of graphic violence completely out of step with what’s ostensibly a kids’ movie.

Josh Zyber

It goes without saying to anyone who has ever read this blog that the sandworms from ‘Dune‘ are among my first picks. That’s more a reflection on it being my favorite movie than the worms actually being my favorite monsters, though. To be honest, the animatronic creature effects in the film look good in individual shots but never quite integrate properly with the live-action footage.

For their narrative, thematic importance, I’m fond of the Angels from the anime ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion‘. However, for sheer coolness and hilarity, no giant monster beats the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from ‘Ghostbusters‘.

What are your favorite giant monsters? Tell us in the Comments.

13 comments

  1. My heart belongs to Ray Harryhausen’s poor Venusian in “20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)”. He didn’t ask to be brought to Earth as an egg, he harms no one and seems vegetarian, but everyone keeps shooting at him.

  2. I was going with Gamera, but Adam beat me to it with the MST3K reference. I’m going with the crazy creatures from the feel good movie of the year 2007… “The Mist”. That was some freaky creatures. When I was a kid, “Tarantula” scared the be-jeezus out of me.

  3. Csm101

    I can’t not mention Godzilla or King Kong when discussing giant monsters, and I love them both. Besides those two, I have an unhealthy obsession/love/fascination with Pacific Rim, both the jaegers and kaiju. Since the topic is monsters, I’ll have to go with Knifehead, Leatherback, and Otachi. Knifehead’s grand entrance was epic in scope and scale. Leatherback, which is like a reptilian version of Kong and gets a lot of quality screen time in the movie and the best death. Otachi, the nastiest kaiju in Pacific Rim, taking a beating from four jaegers and dishing it right back with tons of nasty surprises like spewing acid, hidden wings, and even after death, an aborted baby Otachi, which causes its own bit of mayhem in just a few seconds. Truthfully, I love all the giant monsters in Pacific Rim. They are truly inspired in their design and I could watch a standalone movie about any of them.

  4. Bolo

    Mothra cracks me up. You see Godzilla beat down some mean-lookin’ mofos, but then this big cuddly thing that looks like a kite made out of pipecleaners comes out of the sky and whoops him. The psychedelic colours, the serene theme as sung by her personal fairies, it’s all just so funny.

    I’ll also say that I also think Talos from ‘Jason & The Argonauts’ is brilliantly brought to life. That’s a great sequence.

  5. Guy

    As a child of the early 90s, it should be of no surprise to anyone that my introduction to giant monsters was Megazord battles at the end of Power Rangers episodes. So much so that my grown self couldn’t buy into Pacific Rim because of the CGI. Stunt folks in suits smashing model buildings is how I like my robots fighting monsters. Picking a favorite would be hard (Mechagodzilla is cheating right?), but I can point to where it all really began.

    One of the very early episodes had the Rangers fighting a monster named King Sphinx. He was everything that name suggests he should’ve been. I got to witness a giant bear-dog dressed like a pharoah team up with regular gilded villain Goldar – also a bear-dog of sorts strangely enough – to fight the Rangers in their samurai-silhouetted mech. It was and is great. I’ve gone back to watch some original Power Rangers as a nostalgic adult and the cheesiness is off the charts, but the choreography, shooting and design work in those monster fights imported from Super Sentai were amazing from a technical standpoint (same goes for Ranger fights). That’s appreciation as a grown-up; little preschool-aged me was absolutely bowled over by the awesomeness.

  6. DarkMonk

    The Red and Green Gargantuas from the 1966 Toho extravaganza WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.
    I’m sure a remake is on the drawing board.

    *Luke Hickman: Cloverfield did not beget 10 Cloverield Lane. 10CL was produced as a stand alone low budget drama, and was “juiced” with the Cloverfield name (and slight allusions) at the Eleventh hour.

    • Well, yes and no. 10 Cloverfield Lane was conceived as a non-Cloverfield movie movie, but by the time it began shooting, the screenplay included the Cloverfield aspects. So it wasn’t exactly “tacked-on” – it was changed during development of the concept after Paramount bought the rights to the original script.

  7. Thulsadoom

    Giant monsters seem to be ten-a-penny these days, so you have to go back in time for the classics… I’d probably go for Harryhausen’s Talos, Kraken and the Ymir as well. Stay Puft and the Rancor are also 80s classics. 🙂 I do love the Sand Worms from Dune, but somehow, to me, they never feel like giant ‘monsters’ in the traditional sense (though that’s exactly what they are).

    In recent years I’d have to go with Pacific Rim, for outright fun!

    • Barsoom Bob

      Totally agree, well said ! You left out Ray’s Cyclops from 7th Voyage, probably the most iconic of his creatures. The first time I saw Dune, I was slightly disappointed because the middle of the story was condensed and montaged over, but I was buzzed by the worms, they were all I could think about for several days.

      For modern day big monsters, I would offer up the creature from The Host. It was unique, scary and pretty well executed.

      Saw the new Kong this weekend, story falls apart in the middle, every one is a charicature, but it was hell of a lot of fun.

      • Thulsadoom

        I should’ve remembered the Cyclops! On the other hand, I don’t know if he’s quite big enough… He’s probably like the Rancor, who I’m not sure should be on the list, as they’re not quite in the ‘giant monster’ league… Then again, if a T-Rex is, then they should be. 😉

        As for Dune, when I was younger, it was the film that got me into reading the book, so I never felt quite the same way as most people who read the book first. To be honest, I was disappointed in the book, at some of my favourite things in the movie not being there. 😉

        Took me a minute to realise you didn’t mean the The Host directed by Andrew Niccol, and wondered if I’d missed something! 😉 I’ll have to check out the other one some time. The trailer makes it look fun!

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