We all love a good creature feature. The bigger the better. And luckily, giant monsters are back in style. In just the last few years we’ve had Pacific Rim, Godzilla and now Kong: Skull Island. With the already massive success of the great ape’s return to theaters, there’s no better time to look back on some monster movies that might have gone overlooked.
Some of these titles are overshadowed by more famous entries in their franchise. Some aren’t even thought of as giant monster flicks because they shouldn’t be. There are movies on this list that should never have had a giant creature in them and became ridiculously entertaining just for the inclusion of one.
These films are just meant to put a smile on your face. Not all of them are genuinely well made, but they’re popcorn movies. With a giant creature, sometimes going for absurdity is the best route.
Leviathan is pure deep sea aquatic monster fun. It’s weird, it’s campy, There’s an element of confined body horror to the film, but when the creature appears in full, it pushes it into pure kaiju territory. It’s a great design, a lot of fun, and more of a tense movie than it’s given credit for. Over time, Leviathan has garnered a bit of a following, but it’s a widely overlooked feature.
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest
What the hell is this doing here? No, really. That’s my point exactly. The most entertaining Corn sequel fixes some of the inherent franchise problems by not even holding back a little bit and being the goofiest movie it possibly can. The original gets a lot of flack for revealing He Who Walks Behind the Rows as an animated fiery cloud. Urban Harvest completely tops it by going even more extreme and showcasing a giant stop-motion corn monster.
Jaws 2’s only real crime is that it’s not Jaws. It’s a perfectly good movie on its own that just not as great as the original masterpiece. This one’s also more fun in some ways, because it’s a pure early slasher where the killer happens to be a shark. The focus on the young cast helps to make it feel like something more than just a retread. And the fact that the main characters are stranded and waiting to be picked off by a giant shark adds a real sense of dread. It also allows for Brody to be reinterpreted as a sort of Dr. Loomis character.
Lake Placid is a ridiculously fun movie. It’s genuinely well made, hilarious and boasts a great cast. But it also has a terrific monster at the center of it all, in the form of a giant crocodile dwelling beneath the surface of a lake in Maine. It’s an absurd and impossible premise, but that only adds to the high camp charm and makes the feature that much more fun. It was followed by an unfortunate slew of SyFy sequels, but even they don’t tarnish the joy that is the original.
Carnosaur is a silly, campy, B-Movie about rampaging dinosaurs unleashed in the 20th century. It was released the same summer as Jurassic Park. But even if it’s cheesy as hell, it’s got some truly enjoyable practical FX work—and it’s even got something to say, too. There’s a bit of intriguing food industry commentary in Carnosaur that only makes it that much more of an endearing little monster movie. Easily one of the best Roger Corman-produced flicks of its era.
The Return of Godzilla
Also known as Godzilla 1984 and Godzilla 1985, this is my favorite Godzilla film on the grounds that it was the one I watched most often as a kid. I loved the combination of the monster suit with the animatronic puppet head. The effects took a similar route to what I would come to love so much about the ‘80s horror movies I was just starting to get into at the time. Something about it feels bigger, grander, even darker than many of the Godzilla features that preceded it. It plays like a direct sequel to the original, but also manages to hit many of the same notes, making it the Halloween H20 of its own franchise.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
I caught this one when I was very little and loved it almost as much as I loved Godzilla and King Kong. Why did this never seem to get the same kind of acclaim? It’s a perfect 1950s atomic age monster movie, one of the best of its era, but it never seemed to resonate as well with audiences over time. It’s largely forgotten now and that’s too bad, because it’s really, really enjoyable. It’s got a monster that’s just as great and could easily have spawned a franchise as big as Kong, or at least close to it.