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Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Top 10 Best Giant Monster Movies

Due to my extreme love for “Cloverfield,” I’ve been thinking a lot about the giant monster movie genre as of late. Looking through my collection and memories of monster greats I decided to compile my list of the 10 greatest monster films.

Many of these movies have been considered mindless trite, but there also seems to be a gross misconception about them. While I don’t deny that “A*P*E,” “Reptilicus” and “Godzilla vs. Megalon” are awful flicks, I don’t think they should represent the genre. There are some very well made, and legendary, films in this genre that have inspired a host of great movies and filmmakers that we love today.

So lets forget about the lesser movies of this genre and focus on, what I believe, best represent the giant monster films. I give you the top 10 greatest giant monster movies:

10. “Mothra” (1961)

Perhaps the second most popular monster to come from Japan, “Mothra” left behind the science fiction aspect of the giant monster genre and made it even more fantastical than before. A story of greed and commercialization is leaked from the subtext of this film and the movie is often quoted as one of the first where the giant monster is “good.” She attacks for a reason crucial to the storyline and doesn’t kill. (Also a first.)

9. “King Kong” (2005)

Peter Jackson’s take on the legendary Kong expressed more sympathy for the monster and as a result gives the audience more to be sad about. Once again the tale of beauty and the beast is told with sheer passion and some fun, updated effects. The film may just be a remake, but the vision captures the soul of the 1933 original film and opens this beautiful story to a new generation of audiences.

8. “20 Million Miles to Earth” (1957)

This time a giant monster arrives from another planet. When first seen, the creature is quite small, but as the movie progresses so does its size. Ray Harryhausen does some of his very best stop-motion work in this slightly different take on the giant monster. The alien creature eventually becomes enormous and decides to pick on the city of Rome.
The effects are wonderful and the concept was fresh enough to keep the movie from looking like a clone of “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.” Great flick.

7. “The Host” (2006)

Released in America last year, “The Host” is like a socially competent indie flick parading as a monster movie. The characters are lovable, the comedy is well timed and the message speaks louder than any political speech. On top of that, it’s beautifully filmed.
Ultimately the movie is really about a family’s determination to rescue a loved one and how the arrival of this giant monster has affected their lives. It is anything but run-of-the-mill.

6. “Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris” (1999)

Once upon a time Gamera, the flying turtle and defender of earth, was so absurd no one could take it seriously. While the concept is still insane, director Shusuke Kaneko made it in to a compelling trilogy that ended with a film so good that you forget you’re watching a giant flying turtle. Almost 10 years later, “Gamera 3” is the very best modern Japanese monster film and a bar many movies of the genre should aspire to hit. The visual effects are mind-blowing. The age-old story of revenge is extreme. And by the end of the movie, you will believe a turtle can fly.

5. “Godzilla vs. Mothra” (1964)

When one tries to speak of one of the “Godzilla vs. ________” movies, normally the first monster they think of is Mothra. And for good reason. “Godzilla vs. Mothra” is often considered the second greatest Godzilla film of all time. It’s a movie all “monster vs. monster” movies should aspire to be. It maintains a serious atmosphere while flawlessly blending the sci-fi aspects of Godzilla with the fantasy elements of Mothra for a socially sound and epic film.

4. “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” (1953)

An epic monster movie from the mind of Ray Bradbury, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” is a very straightforward monster flick—But it’s done exponentially well! The effects are top notch and the very idea of this movie is so iconic that it seems to represent the entire cinematic genre as a whole.

3. “Cloverfield” (2008)

Redefining the giant monster genre for the digital age is J.J. Abrams’ intense “Cloverfield.” The movie acts as a contemporary “Godzilla” that takes a look at modern day American culture and plays on the fears that mirror recent events—Specifically September 11th, 2001. Intense with fun characters, a fresh take on the genre and a sense of being something more than just “dumb fun.”

2. “King Kong” (1933)

I’ll probably get some flack for putting it at #2 instead of #1, but it’s a great movie regardless. “King Kong” is one of the few monster movies that embraces its fantasy aspects and keeps anything that’s too sci-fi in check.
It is a classic tale of beauty and the beast that ends in fantastic tragedy. Today, the effects are still spectacular. The stop motion is very impressive. Meanwhile, the impact this film made on history has solidified itself as one of cinema’s greatest films.

1. “Godzilla” (“Gojira”) (1954)

Call it bias. Call it fanboy love. Call it me being honest. The original Godzilla redefined the giant monster genre. Influenced heavily by America’s own giant monster works, specifically “King Kong” and “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “Godzilla” made a much more serious movie out of the concept and has influenced nearly every monster movie since then. “Godzilla” was the ultimate metaphor for atomic war and expressed the cultural mindset of a changing nation post-WWII.
Launching a whole new genre of monster and special effects films; Godzilla stands as one of the most recognizable monsters in pop culture and is honored as the second greatest Japanese film of all time.

So there you have it, the top 10 best of the giant monster genre. Following this up will be an article on “Cloverfield” itself. Look sharp for it. While you’re waiting find the ten movies in the list above and enjoy them. That is all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice List, but I don't think the Peter Jackson Kong should be in the top 10 though. Haven't seen Cloverfield yet either.