Giant monster movies are goddamned radical and I love them! Giant lizards, bugs, dinosaurs, and alien beasts stomping around a city knocking over buildings, fighting each other, and generally causing havoc just brings a smile to my face. Known as Kaiju in Japan, it’s no secret that Godzilla absolutely dominates this genre, and Toho (the company that puts his movies out) has this particular corner of the horror world right in their pocket. Given that, it would be way too easy to list off the coolest Kaiju without ever leaving that one film series, so let’s just knock that whole company out of the running right now. Otherwise this article would just look like “Top 5 Godzilla Monsters,” (which are Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Destroyah, Biollante, and Space Godzilla by the way). Instead, let’s take a look at the five coolest NON-Toho Kaiju.
Runner-Up: The Titans
The Titans in Attack on Titan are some of the coolest and creepiest giant monsters to show up in quite some time. The way that they look mostly human, stomp around silently, and eat people alive in an exceedingly gory fashion makes them something truly terrible to behold. While I love kaiju, the monsters are rarely legitimately scary, but in Attack on Titan they are. So why are they just the runner-up? Well I had fully intended on including them until I realized one small detail…the live action movies were released through Toho. While I only made that stipulation specifically to bypass the Godzilla roster I suppose I should adhere to it. It is in the title, after all.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
The grand-daddy of the modern monster movie (predating Gojira by just 16 months), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms features a massive dinosaur stomping around New York City. It’s credited as the first monster movie to utilize the growing paranoia around nuclear weapons, but to me it’ll always be remembered as the breakthrough film of Ray Harryhausen. The Beast is done fully in stop motion and it looks great, paving the way for even more impressive creatures later on (such as his sword-fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts).
The Millennium Bug
Here’s one that most of you probably haven’t heard of, but you should. The Millennium Bug starts out less like Gojira and more like The Hills Have Eyes. A group of crazy inbred maniacs kidnap a vacationing family with horrifying intentions when all of a sudden a giant cockroach storms through the movie and it takes a hard turn. This one is pretty nuts, and being a giant monster movie with a splatter film tone and plenty of gore certainly makes it stand out amongst the crowd. The beast itself is a pretty creepy looking massive bug and it’s certainly one of the most monstrous rubber suits ever. This came out in 2011 and had the balls to feature a person in a big rubber suit knocking over miniatures. That alone makes it worth your time.
The marketing for this onw was pure genius, and fortunately the movie was pretty damn good, too. Cloverfield hit just before the found footage boom really took off, and even now there isn’t much else to take the style and try something this massive with it. Treating the subject matter deadly serious and weaving a more personal narrative about the characters on the ground, Cloverfield is a really unique film. The monster itself is bizarre, and only seeing it a handful of times makes it all the more impactful when it does show up. The parasites that drop off of it and attack in the subway tunnels took the dumbest part of the first American Godzilla and made it the scariest part of this film. The only downside of this is that we still haven’t gotten a sequel.
I love giant spiders. I think they’re an amazing creature that is woefully underutilized. There’s a ton of cheap SyFy channel movies from the early 2000’s and there are titles like Eight-Legged Freaks, but there haven’t really been a lot of good giant spider movies. That’s where Big-Ass Spider comes in. Not only does it feature an absolutely nuts design for the monster, but it’s a genuinely good and entertaining movie with a buddy cop dynamic at its heart. The spider looks similar to a black widow as opposed to the tarantulas that it seems like every other movie uses, but it’s certainly not a normal black widow. Aside from the massive size, this thing looks like its had a redesign by H.R. Giger, and it definitely works.
If you didn’t see this one coming, then I don’t know where you’ve been. Gamera (friend of all children) is the big G-Man’s most notorious rival, with a filmography just about as lengthy. Mostly known in the states for his brief time on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and his completely ridiculous villains, Gamera has more recently taken a turn into being in some of the absolute best kaiju movies ever made. The 90s trilogy is fantastic and pushes the rubber suit and miniatures style about as far as it can possibly go. The beast itself is a massive turtle that can retract into its shell, shoot lasers, fly, and do pretty much anything that the filmmaker wants it to. Gamera is a legend and no matter whether you’re looking for something awe-inspiring or dumb and goofy, he’s got you covered.