SPOILER WARNING AHEAD for some of the films mentioned below, but for the most part, I will try to be vague.
To celebrate the release of Toho's newest kaiju film, Shin Gojira/Godzilla: Resurgence, I list 10 of the most terrifying, influential, and all-around jaw-dropping giant monsters in movie history. Before making the list, I explored every corner of giant monster/kaiju films to minimize the appearance of Toho creatures. I also avoided creatures that are known to protect humans (sorry Mothra!) and giant robots (so no Mechagodzilla, Jet Jaguar, and Jaegars). Check out the trailer for Shin Gojira/Godzilla: Resurgence below:
Before we begin, I want to give an HONORABLE MENTION to Gareth Edwards's Godzilla:
No surprise, I already added a different version of Godzilla on the list, but I've decided to omit Legendary's Godzilla to avoid repetition. I want to mention that I think this version of the popular kaiju was done very well and he looked both terrifying and awe-inspiring. The production crew did a fantastic job in scaling this enormous creature and I'll always remember the sky-diving scene as one of the best Godzilla moments.
So, let's kick off the list with:
10. King Ghidorah (Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster)
It shouldn't come as a shock to see this (mostly) villainous three-headed monster appear. His name is King after all. Ghidorah is (usually) Godzilla's equal in terms of power and he often reappears in later films to challenge the giant lizard. His most notable case for his destructive power is in Destroy All Monsters, where Godzilla and his pals have to team up to beat Ghidorah. Scary to look at and often times over-powered, there's a reason Toho made him one of their staple kaijus in the franchise.
9. The Kraken (Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest)
Even though the sea monster was killed off rather anti-climactically (and off-screen) in the third film, I still find the destructive nature of the Kraken in the second Pirates film to be absolutely terrifying. Accompanied by a spine-tingling orchestra whenever it appears, this gigantic sea monster rips apart ships like paper and has no qualms in devouring our hero, Jack Sparrow, which is why it beat Ghidorah by a small margin.
8. Gwoemul (The Host)
Although it is our smallest monster on the list, its size does nothing to diminish how terrifying it is. Fast, wild, and bloodthirsty, this South Korean monster can devour humans whole and chase them down like a cheetah hunting gazelles. It's serpent-like tail grabs anything in its reach, including small children, and will cause widespread panic throughout the small country. When it's not hungry, it just spits us up in its little nest to save us for later. And when it's time to digest...
7. Giant Squid (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
One of the most popular undersea creatures that may or may not exist in real life (I'm leaning towards the former), the giant squid in Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attacks our heroes during their underwater adventure by effortlessly attaching to their submarine. This creature alone sparks a lot of fear of the unknown depths and is quite influential in its appearance.
6. Trolls (Trollhunter)
These giant monsters appear in this Norwegian comedy-fantasy film about a group of college students that document unusual bear sightings in the woods, which leads them to tail (you guessed it) a giant troll. While the appearance of these monsters are pretty minimal, there is one particular bone-crunching scene that earns them the sixth spot on the list. I'm also a fan of their design and their behavior.
5. Slattern (Pacific Rim)
Pacific Rim is the childhood-fantasy movie that I've always wanted. I absolutely loved the kaiju designs in this film and how they varied, so it was difficult to choose which one to put on the list. I ultimately decided to place Slattern, the only Category 5 kaiju, on the (ironically) No. 5 spot. It's gigantic size, tenacious behavior, and (somehow) quiet movements make it a nightmare for our heroes as they try to cancel the apocalypse. Other kaijus I considered putting on the list were: Knifehead, Onibaba, Leatherback, and Otachi.
4. The Monster/Clover (Cloverfield)
As you've already seen with Gwoemul, I don't really care much for size when it comes to this list because to me, it's all about the monster's destructive capabilities. Say what you want about this found-footage horror film, you cannot deny that Clover is a grotesque, nightmare-fuel monster that you pray never appears in real life. Not only does Clover tear down buildings (and the Statue of Liberty), it devours us like candy and spawns disgusting parasites that bite and infect us. To make it worse, this monster is actually A CHILD.
3. Kong (King Kong)
If we're talking about giant monsters, there are always two moviegoers immediately think of and our giant ape is one of them. Whether it's the original or Peter Jackson's remake, Kong's appearance caused all sorts of chaos in New York as well as being an influential icon of Hollywood. Whether he's taking down fighter-planes on the top of the Empire State Building or breaking the jaw of a T-Rex, Kong is an incredible beast with a tragic story. Check out the trailer for Kong: Skull Island below and check out how much bigger the apocalyptic ape has gotten:
2. Godzilla 1954 (Gojira)
I couldn't decide which version of Godzilla to add. There are so many different versions that all deserve this spot, but ultimately (and not to sound like a total elitist) it has to be the original. Before he became the staple Toho kaiju that fought other monsters and breathed fire, Godzilla was a horrifying nightmare akin to a natural disaster. He destroyed small Japanese cities and desecrated Tokyo at the climax of the film. The creature is analogous to atom bombs and his appearance is more grotesque than cartoonish. And if it wasn't for Godzilla, we wouldn't have such a vast list of giant monsters to gawk (and sometimes laugh) at, which leads me to my No. 1 kaiju:
1. Zilla (Roland Emmerich's Godzilla)
1. Destoroyah (Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah)
I admit (and this is pretty obvious) there were some personal biases when I made this list. So why is Destoroyah my (personal) No. 1 kaiju? Well, first of all, he horrified me as a kid. His devil-like appearance, enormous size, and the fact that he has multiple forms make him the ultimate giant monster to fear. Second, he killed Godzilla Junior and nearly killed Godzilla himself if he hadn't gone all nuclear, a feat that's difficult to achieve. And finally, the kaiju was born out of the Oxygen Destroyer, the bomb that (supposedly) killed the original 1954 Godzilla. If Godzilla was born out of atom bombs, then Destoroyah was born out of a much stronger bomb. Just take that in for a second. This highly destructive monster did all sorts of damage in his appearance and I consider him to be the greatest kaiju of all time. (I also had a tough time beating him in Destroy All Monsters Melee.)
Excited to see Godzilla: Resurgence when it makes it over to our theaters? Was there a giant monster that I missed completely? Or if you just disagree with everything above, then feel free to comment and discuss below!