They are big, some gigantic, and most have bad personalities because they kill people and destroy cities and other sites. Yes, these creatures can be experienced in full glory (gory) in our big monster movies.
Which are the best of those movies? Which are the worst? Which have great ideas for monsters but the movies these monsters are in just don’t cut the mustard. Here goes:
The Best Big Monster Movies
- King Kong (1933): This movie is magical for me. Modern movie goers might sniff at the special effects but to me the seediness and fog create a truly other world. I’m sure you know the story; it’s about a giant gorilla that falls in love with a beautiful woman named Ann Darrow played by the truly beautiful Fay Wray. Robert Armstrong is the fast talking movie director who takes her on a journey to an unknown but forbidden world of Skull Island where they meet Kong, the gorilla god. Kong enjoys killing and eating the natives…until he meets her and falls in love. Kong is no match for the chloroform that renders him paralyzed. He is taken to the big city, New York, to be exhibited on Broadway and he ultimately meets his fate – to die from airplane shots as he stands atop the Empire State Building. His fall crushes him. A cop says, “The airplanes got him.” But Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) replies, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.” Wow! Magic!
- King Kong (2005): Now this is arrogance. Producer/Director Peter Jackson had the gall to think he could remake King Kong. Can you believe that? Did he really think his special effects of dinosaurs and his rendering of a 25-foot tall gorilla along with stars such as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody could bring the real King Kong back from the dead? Other King Kongs had been tried before this and what happened? I can’t even remember the names of those movies without looking them up. Jackson, Jackson, Mr. Peter Jackson – what did you do? Here’s what. You in fact created a brilliant movie that takes us back in time to the 1930’s and lays out the Kong story wonderfully. Not a false step in this movie from cinematography, direction, special effects and acting, each perfectly in its place. Jackson’s King Kong brings back King Kong!
- Jurassic Park (1993): I certainly do have a thing for dinosaurs and Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park brings us dinosaurs aplenty. How scary can dinosaurs be? Very scary! The movie equals Michael Crichton’s book in excitement and terror. I usually hate movies with children having leads (I rooted for the shark in Jaws II) but this movie puts the young ones in real trouble and we root for them to be saved. Oh there is a great fat villain (all villains are better if they are fat, right Mr. Potter?) and he screws up everything because of his greed. Terrific movie with good sequels as well.
- Jurassic World (2015): There are two separate iterations of the Jurassic Park story. We have the first trilogy ending in 2001. Then we have a second one starting in 2015 that picks up where the first trilogy let us off. This is the beginning of what will be the second trilogy and it is excellent as it introduces a manmade dinosaur called the Indominus Rex which is slightly bigger and slightly meaner than even the T-Rex. It kills for fun, not just to eat. We have somewhat tamed raptors and a great cast trying to save everything as everything falls apart again. Yes, we do have some teenagers in lead rolls but once again they do a fine job. Join the fun and excitement but don’t get eaten.
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018): This is the second movie in the current trilogy (the third movie will be coming soon) and the writers do us an unusual favor: they start with a “big bang” opening which is usually the “big bang” closing of a big-budget movie. The island where the dinosaurs live is about to be destroyed by a volcano. There is no stopping it. Our main heroes (played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) try to help out in capturing and saving as many of those dinosaurs as they can but they are betrayed by another bunch of greedy bastards. Ba-boom! The volcano blows and all hell breaks loose on the island. Some dinosaurs are saved and brought back to civilization where we see the machinations of the greedy ones in all their ill-splendor. Now, the intricate story reveals itself. Can a house – even a very large house – house so many dinosaurs? Oh, yes, and they ultimately get their chance to run rampant. And we get another new dinosaur as well. And cloning too! Join the fun as dinosaurs are let loose on the modern world in the closing scene.
- Lost World: Jurassic Park II (1997): This movie is the sequel to Jurassic Park and it ends with a T-Rex running wildly in, of all places, San Diego. Lesson to be learned is do not leave your dog tied up in the backyard. That T-Rex is looking for its offspring. Lost World: Jurassic Park II has shades of the movie Gorgo in its theme but this movie is handled well in stark contrast to Gorgo, a rotten movie. Jeff Goldblum reiterates his character Ian Malcolm, ably abetted by Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn and a great team of villains. Doesn’t have the full kick of Jurassic Park but it is still a super movie. What do you think happens to the lead villain?
- Jurassic Park III (2001): An annoying boy falls from the sky as his mother’s annoying boyfriend takes him on a parasailing trip above the dinosaur island. Shouldn’t this annoying adult know better? The annoying kid’s parents, played by William H. Macy (prior to his real-life wife allegedly bribing a college to let their daughter in) and Tea Leoni, convince Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neal) to go back to the island. He soon discovers what’s really happening. They are hunting for their annoying son. A new dinosaur is introduced, the Spinosaurus Aegypticus which kills a T-Rex in a one-on-one battle and ultimately comes after them. Also a bunch of raptors wants them because one of their company, an annoying 20-something, stole some raptor eggs. There is drama and also running galore. Fun movie which would have ended the franchise except the franchise rediscovered itself and thankfully continues.
- Mighty Joe Young (1998): Look, I like movies with giant gorillas. Maybe in some alternative earth we humans evolved into such creatures. Jill Young (played by Charlize Theron) raises a giant mountain gorilla – maybe about half the size of Kong – and she brings it to civilization because she is convinced by a zoologist played by Bill Paxton that her monstrous pet is in danger in that part of the mountain. Nothing goes right once they make it to Los Angeles as the bad guys (there are almost always bad guys when you love a gorilla) try to capture Mighty Joe Young who now escapes the zoo and goes somewhat nuts in the streets of Los Angeles. Unlike King Kong, the story ends happily so the kids can watch this, although the opening scene is somewhat scary as poachers (the bad guys) kill some peaceful gorillas.
- Cloverfield (2008): A giant monster or two from space lands on earth. How? Why? What the hell is going on here? We are not exactly sure of the answers to these questions but the monsters and their offspring wreck New York City big time. I mean these monsters knock over whole skyscrapers, It is shot with a hand-held camera by one of the characters in the movie; a filming technique that can often make the viewer sick to his or her stomach but this movie, thankfully, is done with the idea that the creators don’t want members of the audience vomiting on other members of the audience as that would hurt popcorn sales. The movie starts off somewhat slowly until wham! all hell breaks loose.
- The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953): Forget Godzilla because without this movie Godzilla and all those insects, worms, rodents, turtles, moths and other radiated creatures that grew to massive sizes wouldn’t exist. This is the first and clearly the best of those radiated beasts that is brought forth from atomic-bomb testing in the arctic to invade one of our cities and destroy parts of it and, yes, to also to creep us out. The special effects are quite good for its time period and when that monster eats the cop, oh, my god! Kenneth Tobey is the second lead and many of you who love those old movies think of him as a friend who is, sadly, almost always in danger from those things on the attack.
- Them (1954): Many of you have had ants in your house (my oldest son once had red ants in his pants – no lie). Perhaps you had carpenter ants trying to redesign your cabinets. That’s nothing compared to these rascals; radiated ants that become almost as big as houses. Future Gunsmoke star James Arness battles them in the desert and then in the sewer system of Los Angeles. Special effects are okay but the story about those miserable ants holds up well. You will need a lot of Raid to get rid of these buggers if they ever do attack.
- Mighty Joe Young (1949): The original with Terry Moore as the young Jill Young who is convinced to bring her ape to the big city by, come on, guess who? That’s right Robert Armstrong of King Kong fame. Seems this guy is always angling to make money off these immense simians. Things go wrong (yes, the always do) and Joe Young goes ape in a lavish nightclub. Just before that, the heavyweight champion, the huge Primo Carnera, punches Joe Young a few times with no effect and then the poor fighter is hurled across the nightclub. But don’t worry; this movie has a happy ending.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Truly stupid premise for the movie but the producers had to get these monsters all together in one epic monster-fighting-monster film. And the pacing and fights are great. The special effects are superb as Godzilla battles Rodan and the supremely powerful alien monster King Ghidorah. Yes, Godzilla does get some help from his friend Mothra. The fact that we accept the fact that such gigantic monsters are wrecking Boston (and Fenway Park no less!) how can a stupid moth be so strong and clever? Makes no sense. As I said, this is a stupid theme that nature needs to right itself because humans are destroying Earth and by sending us monsters that destroy whole cities everything will come out okay. Seriously? The villains are a man and a woman and soldiers constantly willing to die to push forward whatever they think they are getting paid to push. A minimum wage job would be better than this.
- Godzilla (2014): Godzilla fights two ancient monsters dubbed MUTOs for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms and he has a hell of a time defeating them. Great scenes of them fighting although we should have seen how these beasts destroyed Las Vegas as we only see what they did as opposed to watching them do it. This is the first iteration of the dumb theme of Godzilla being the beast that rights the wrongs humans have done to planet Earth. If he keeps this up humans will be back living in caves.
- Godzilla (1998): This movie has some good points as the monster, with a totally different look from the traditional Godzilla, is frightening and fast. He doesn’t breathe fire and he is pregnant. Yes, he is pregnant as this new spawn of the radioactive age is born pregnant. He is called “he” in the movie for some reason as opposed to her but that’s not my fault now is it? Matthew Broderick is excellent as the lead and Jean Reno is also excellent as the French secret-service agent who knows exactly where and how this Godzilla arose. However, Broderick’s cutesy-poo girlfriend is an awful character in the movie and detracts from every scene in which she appears. That one character almost made me put this movie into the eat-some-popcorn and you can kind-off kind-of enjoy this movie. But the flow of this Godzilla and the special effects did it for me.
What About All Those Japanese Monsters?
I did some homework for this article and I watched the original Godzilla with subtitles; it stunk. Then I watched the dubbed American version with Raymond Burr added as narrator to give an American flavor to the picture. It stunk too. I didn’t mind that the special effects were toy cars, toy tanks, toy armored vehicles and toy planes and crappy destruction of buildings but the total impact got me sneering. Sorry if I offend Godzilla fans. You may have liked these Godzilla films when you were a kid but now? Come on; grow up already.
You want a radiated monster? Go with the The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms upon which all the radiated monster films are based.
And what about Rodan and Mothra and King Kong and the rest of the Japanese monsters? All those movies stunk too. Japan made good cars but lousy radiated-monster films.
Movies You Might Enjoy with Buttered Popcorn
Your popcorn must be buttered with real, slightly salted butter. Then you can probably sit through these movies without screaming at the set: “Why can’t they make good monster movies?” The “they” in the previous sentence is anyone who makes these monster movies. I don’t have them in any order of non-greatness
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957): Alien creature keeps growing and finally fights a gigantic elephant.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955): Kenneth Tobey in this one. A big octopus or squid attacks San Francisco. I thought this was a terrible thing to happen to this city until I recently visited San Francisco and saw the hordes of the homeless.
Kong: Skull Island (2017): They (see above for who “they” are) have made King Kong really, really big; in fact, big enough to fight Godzilla in 2020. I have a theory about that fight and how the two of them become allies to fight against King Ghidorah one of who’s head remained at the end of the Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie.
Pacific Rim (2013): Loud and idiotic but big monsters fighting big robots. This will pass the time and might make you deaf.
Rampage (2018): Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has a big old time of it with his own version of a white King Kong who must fight two other giant monsters, a wolf and an alligator or crocodile because I can’t figure which is which when it comes to these animals lizards.
Shin Godzilla (2018): Yes, an actual Japanese Godzilla film that is somewhat watchable. Get past the opening baby Godzilla which looks like a toy and instead enjoy how the bureaucracy in Japan is just as idiotic as the one in the United States.
Super 8 (2011): An alien monster screws up a movie being made by a bunch of kids. Watchable.
Awful Movie with a Great Monster
There is one awful big monster movie that has a monster that is terrific. Isn’t it sad to see a great monster in a rotten movie? The blob in the movie titled, well, The Blob (1958) is wonderful.
This jelly/jello monster sucks up humans by the crateful and grows to enormous proportions. Except for seeing the future superstar Steve McQueen in an early roll – all you can think when this movie ends is “ah, blob, you could’ve been a contender instead of a tomato can.” (The remake of The Blob in 1988 is a passable picture but some of the comic sequels are so bad I don’t think you can find them to view them anymore.) The blob’s grave is somewhere in the arctic. If you see it why not place some flowers on what might have been.
The Following Movies Stink to the Seventh Heaven
In mythology the seventh heaven is where god resides. The following movies are so bad their stench wafts its way to god’s nostrils. No order to their stench in this list:
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
The Beast from Hollow Mountain (1956)
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Tremors (1990) and all its sequels
Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
War of the Colossal Beast (1958)
The Giant Claw (1957)
I’ve seen many more bad big-monster movies but these I’ve dug out of my memory. Tread carefully with bad monster movies as they can rot your brain. I have firsthand experience with that.
(All Frank’s book are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.)