The King of Monsters returns to theaters this weekend…but it he really the king? Godzilla may be among the most notable names in movie monster history but he’s far from the only behemoth of destruction to get his own film. There have been a wide array of movie monsters who have brought havoc and destruction to the big screen and today I’m going to be exploring some of the best. Since the newest entry in the Legendary MonsterVerse utilizes Godzilla’s popular nickname the “king of monsters” I saw a perfect opportunity to test this label myself and explore some of the greatest giant beasts to grace the silver screen. I’ll be looking at these huge and destructive creatures to see which ones have stood the test of time. These are my picks for the Top 10 Massive Movie Monsters.
For today’s list I looked at giant fantastical monsters from big screen movies and franchises and picked ten I felt were among the most threatening, powerful, and or/iconic. These should not be confused with giant animals. Animal attack movies and their creatures are for another list and also the dinosaurs from “Jurassic Park” won’t be on here as they were meant to reflect the real life creatures. Human monsters like the 50-Foot Woman were also excluded. I decided to only stick to giant monsters of fantasy although for some of these creatures they may have real world inspiration. This list isn’t necessarily about who would win in a fight as much as it is about honoring movie monster royalty.
So, with all that out of the way I turn it over to you. What is your favorite massive movie monster? Let me know in the comments below and look for my review of “Godzilla: King of Monsters” this weekend.
10. The Mega-Kaiju, “Pacific Rim: Uprising”
Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monsters versus machine epic “Pacific Rim” served as a fun and exciting introduction to a chaotic future where humans face off against massive Kaiju, named after the Japanese monster movie genre of the same name. While the creatures shown in the original were certainly intimidating threats, it’s the inferior sequel that showcases the most impressive and dangerous of them all, the Mega-Kaiju. After the crew of heroes gains the upper hand in their mechs, three Kaiju are melded into one by surprise hero-turned-villain Newt to create a whole new threat with only Gipsy Avenger to take him on. While the Mega-Kaiju is eventually defeated it still leaves plenty of destruction and several annihilated mechs in its wake. With a cool design and concept, the Mega-Kaiju serves as an extreme example of fan service, but it’s also the full realization of the over-the-top monster action fans expected from a “Pacific Rim” sequel.
9. The Jotnar, “Trollhunter”
“Trollhunter” is a highly underrated Norwegian found footage film that focuses on a film crew shadowing a troll hunter named Hans who eliminates the giant mythical creatures in the dead of night. The climactic showdown sees the hunter take on the biggest troll around, the Jotnar inspired by the troll of legend of the same name. Throughout “Trollhunter” we are introduced to four massive monsters of legend, but the Jotnar serves as the most threatening example of what these creatures would be like in real life. Standing at around 200 feet tall, the Jotnar could flatten a human with his toe. Imagine something like that existing in our world and right under our noses nonetheless. The Jotnar proves to be a true challenge for the hunter requiring multiple attempts to kill with the use of UV lighting. Just the thought of this monster roaming the world in the dead of night in search of unsuspecting pray is enough to send shivers up your spine.
8. The Indominus Rex, “Jurassic World”
While one could argue that many of the “Jurassic Park” franchises monsters are anchored more in fantasy than reality seeing as many of their designs are now outdated thanks to scientific research the animals are still meant to represent real life creatures of the past. But there is one massive monster that never actually existed that found its way to the big screen in the 2015 reboot/sequel “Jurassic World” which further explores why a dinosaur theme park would be a bad idea. The Indominus Rex isn’t actually a dinosaur. She’s a new breed of animal designed by man to keep the park fresh and bring in new guests. She’s a 20 foot tall monstrosity comprised of the DNA and abilities of several different dinosaurs, including the T. Rex and Velociraptor, while other lizard and reptile DNA allow her to blend into her surroundings via camouflage. She’s more dangerous and destructive than any of the great lizards used to create her, killing for sport rather than food and serving as a truly terrifying reminder of how maybe a park full of prehistoric predators isn’t exactly a good idea.
7. Clover, The “Cloverfield” Franchise
Standing 25 stories tall, Clover is the massive monster that terrorizes New York City in the found footage phenomenon “Cloverfield”. Inspired by traditional kaiju like Godzilla (hell his entire movie was meant to be “America’s Godzilla”) Clover does come with her own unique design and mysterious motives for her destructive ways. A lot of the movie’s subtext and background is left open to interpretation but fans have speculated her attack was one of self defense and that she may not even be a full grown adult, but a child scared of her new surroundings. While a lot is still relatively unknown about this creature she remains a modern classic movie monster of threatening size and destructive power that helped give new rise to popularity for monster movies in the modern day. Her recent cameo in the much maligned “Cloverfield Paradox” only further solidified her place as a modern movie icon.
6. Rodan, “Rodan”
First appearing in 1956, Rodan is often overlooked in favor of his fellow Japanese monster relatives but its intimidating design and inclusion in the “Godzilla” franchise have helped it stay relevant. Often considered among the best Kaiju creatures in cinema, Rodan’s design and name were inspired by a mix of the prehistoric Pteranodon and the Ladon, a famous dragon in Greek Mythology. In fact its origins state that it was at one time a Pteranodon but exposure to radiation resulted in its transformation and massive size. Rodan is also often associated with the element of fire and at one time even took on a new form called Fire Rodan. While its on-again-off-again rival Godzilla was created to represent America’s nuclear threat, Rodan is believed to have been meant to reflect the same threat from the Soviet Union and has gone on to earn a legacy all his own as a menacing and destructive beast with the power to level cities with the clap of his wings.
5. Mothra, Numerous Franchises
While originating in her own film in 1961, Mothra has gone on to star alongside other legendary monsters like Godzilla in numerous films and is second only to the giant lizard in movie appearances for Japanese monsters. Mothra is a unique creature as she is one of the few Japanese monsters built to be a more heroic figure right from the start. While she may resemble a moth, she is more of a deity worshiped by a primitive culture which she defends. While far from the most intimidating or massive monster on this list, Mothra has earned a powerful reputation as one of the most popular Japanese kaiju often being a favorite among the female fans of monster movies. Despite a relatively simple design and adorable visage, Mothra is a true threat to those who oppose her and her persistence and ability to hold her own against much larger and more capable threats has earned her the title of Queen of the Monsters as well as a much-deserved spot on this and other lists chronicling the best monsters in cinema history.
4. The Kraken, “Clash of the Titans”
While the Kraken is a mythical massive cephalopod believed to have been inspired by the real life giant squid, it is in fact a monster of legend and the only purely sea-based creature on this list. At times presented as a squid-like creature specifically in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, its more popular form was seen in the “Clash of the Titans” movies. The original design shown above gives the Kraken a more lizard-human hybrid visage and is more inspired by the Greek version of the creature meant to be a servant of the gods. In the 2010 remake the Kraken gets an update, still retaining its human-like characteristics but looking much more massive and threatening in its appearance. As a servant to the Gods of lore, the Kraken was built to be a destructive unstoppable force with only Medusa’s stare being powerful enough to end its terror. With such a fearsome reputation there’s little debate that the Kraken has earned its place as a legendary monster, both in literature and on the big screen.
3. King Ghidorah, Numerous Franchises
One of the most creatively designed monsters on this list, King Ghodorah is one of the most famous Japanese movie monsters of all time and with good reason. This three headed, two-railed, no-armed, massive winged, golden beast first originated in its own film in 1964 before eventually becoming the main enemy for the likes of Godzilla and Mothra. At times it’s been depicted as an extraterrestrial planet-killing dragon while other stories have presented it as a genetically engineered monstrosity. It has also been depicted as a guardian of Japan. Some even assumed Ghidorah fell in line with Godzilla and Rodan as allegories for nuclear threat, in this case China, but this has since been denied and it was instead said to be an interpretation of Yamata no Orochi, a legendary 8-headed Japanese dragon. With so much lore behind its design and concept and posing as possibly the most terrifying threat against his fellow kaiju and humanity, it’s no wonder Ghidorah has stood the test of time as one of cinema’s most threatening and memorable massive movie monsters.
2. King Kong, the “King Kong” Franchise
The oldest movie monster on this list, Kong is often considered, alongside Godzilla, to be the most iconic of movie monsters. A giant ape discovered on Skull Island, this legendary creature has been the subject of numerous films and crossovers with his 1933 debut being one of the most iconic movies in history containing one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time. Kong’s size varies depending on the film with the original Kong stated to be 50 feet at full growth, Peter Jackson’s impressive remake having the creature at 25 feet tall, and the most recent adaptation in “Kong: Skull Island” standing at over a hundred feet tall and still growing. His simple design and well-developed personality have made him one of the most memorable and relatable monsters in all of film as his death is often seen at the tragic result of humanity’s intervention rather than a justified assault on a foreign and unknown threat. While often overshadowed by Godzilla in more modern adaptations, Kong is possibly the most iconic big screen monster of American cinema whose legacy spans eight decades and has inspired countless imitations along the way.
1. Godzilla, the “Godzilla” Franchise
The obvious choice for this position, Godzilla truly has become the King of Monsters in more ways than one. The most well known and popular kaiju in history and one of if not the most recognizable movie monster of all time, Godzilla has undergone many redesigns over the years and been featured in 35 big screen pictures of both Japanese and America origins. From his humble beginning in the 1950s to his more modern representation in the Legendary MonsterVerse Godzilla’s popularity has proven to be impressively resilient even with several reboots and reimaginings that haven’t panned out. Often depicted as a gigantic lizard-like creature with protruding scales and atomic breath, Godzilla has become the standard bearer for monster designs and abilities as well as destructive potential. Often imitated but never truly duplicated, Godzilla has earned a place in cinema and pop culture history as not only the most iconic monster in all of film but also one of the medium’s strongest and most dangerous creatures often overpowering its opponents to claim its crown as the true king of all monsters.