Slasher movies are where you go when you’re looking for gore and supernatural horror is excellent for jump scares, but when you’re looking for epic-scale destruction, nothing beats a giant monster movie. And when I say giant, I mean gigantic; bigger than any Bigfoot or Queen Xenomorph; I’m talking those stories-tall suckers with metropolis-leveling capabilities. We’ll adhere to what MONARCH (Godzilla/Kong: Skull Island) refers to as MUTOS: Massively Unidentified Terrestrial Organism.
Whether you’re attracted to the sci-fi themes, the scale of the antagonists, or the catharsis of massive destruction, giant monster movies scratch a particular itch. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite examples from the 21st Century. Have a read and let me know what you think in the Comments section! Did your favorite giant monster movie make the list?
Kong: Skull Island (2017, Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts)
Official Synopsis: Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they know, they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape from a primal world where humanity does not belong.
The titular Kong is the biggest and baddest yet—and by “baddest” I mean the best by a long shot! So long stupid lovesick gorilla tropes; hello nonstop monster mayhem! In addition to The King, we’ve got giant water buffalo, towering spiders, leviathan-sized squid, and reptilian “Skull Crawlers” which seem to foreshadow an impending showdown with Godzilla!
Godzilla (2014, Directed by Gareth Edwards)
Official Synopsis: Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a Navy bomb expert, has just reunited with his family in San Francisco when he is forced to go to Japan to help his estranged father, Joe (Bryan Cranston). Soon, both men are swept up in an escalating crisis when Godzilla, King of the Monsters, arises from the sea to combat malevolent adversaries that threaten the survival of humanity. The creatures leave colossal destruction in their wake, as they make their way toward their final battleground: San Francisco.
Many complained that 2014’s Godzilla was too stingy with the giant monster destruction, and there’s validity to this assessment. It does, however, accomplish the “world building” necessary to create an enduring fictional universe. The final payoff of is the leveling of San Francisco, because people can’t get enough of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge come crashing down into the Pacific!
Cloverfield (2008, Directed by Matt Reeves)
Official Synopsis: As a group of New Yorkers (Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman) enjoy a going-away party, little do they know that they will soon face the most terrifying night of their lives. A creature the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Using a handheld video camera, the friends record their struggle to survive as New York crumbles around them.
As the years go by, it’s becoming more obvious that Cloverfield is an important movie, a product and a reflection of post 9/11 anxieties. The entire movie can actually be seen as a metaphor for the infamous terrorist attack on New York City. Cloverfield is also the first major studio found-footage movie, and an attempt by Drew Goddard to give America a giant monster we can call our own.
The Host (2006, Directed by Bong Joon-ho)
Official Synopsis: Careless American military personnel dump chemicals into South Korea’s Han River. Several years later, a creature emerges from the tainted waters and sinks its ravenous jaws into local residents. When the creature abducts their daughter (Ah-sung Ko), a vendor (Song Kang-ho) and his family decide that they are the only ones who can save her.
South Korea’s answer to Godzilla, the monstrosity of The Host is the result of environmental abuse, becoming an allegory for the callous pollution of shared natural resources. The Host has a great hero who succeeds, in part, because of the combined strength of his family, thereby illustrating the power of unity. The Host, like the best of Korean horror, is at times horrifying, but ultimately it’s a story of triumph over adversity.
The Mist (2007, Directed by Frank Darabont)
Official Synopsis: After a powerful storm damages their Maine home, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head into town to gather food and supplies. Soon afterward, a thick fog rolls in and engulfs the town, trapping the Draytons and others in the grocery store. Terror mounts as deadly creatures reveal themselves outside, but that may be nothing compared to the threat within, where a zealot (Marcia Gay Harden) calls for a sacrifice.
The monstrosities lurking in Frank Darabont’s The Mist include enormous spiders, nightmarish Lovecraftian entities, hulking crustaceans, and a creature so colossal it’s described as “Impossibly Tall”. Like many films of this ilk, there’s a subtext that implies the most terrifying monsters of all are human. If you haven’t been warned about the shocking, gut-wrenching ending, please allow me: The Mist has a shocking, gut-wrenching ending!
Pacific Rim (2013, Guillermo del Toro)
Official Synopsis: Long ago, legions of monstrous creatures called Kaiju arose from the sea, bringing with them all-consuming war. To fight the Kaiju, mankind developed giant robots called Jaegers, designed to be piloted by two humans locked together in a neural bridge. However, even the Jaegers are not enough to defeat the Kaiju, and humanity is on the verge of defeat. Mankind’s last hope now lies with a washed-up ex-pilot (Charlie Hunnam), an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) and an old, obsolete Jaeger.
The neo- tinted Kaiju may utilize a bit too much CGI for many movie purists, the inclusion of super-sized robots employed to battle the towering beasts puts Pacific Rim in a class of its own. The sheer enormity of the battles waged (and the destruction wrought) is completely engrossing, and the film includes plenty of stellar performances (my favorite being Ron Perlman as the very funny and cool Hannibal Chau). Look for Pacific Rim: Uprising in 2018.
Trollhunter (2011, Directed by André Øvredal)
Official Synopsis: While investigating reports of illegal poaching, three student filmmakers encounter a man (Otto Jespersen) who slays trolls for the Norwegian government.
The concept of “real” trolls is laughable, yes, but Trollhunter delivers with some truly unique and impressive monster FX. The first trolls we encounter are big as trees, but they’re tiny compared to the mountain-sized arctic beasts we meet in Act 3. A greenlit American remake never came to fruition, but it was never necessary to begin with. And in case you didn’t know, André Øvredal also directed last year’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, widely regarded as one of the best genre films of 2016.
War of the Worlds (2005, Directed by Steven Spielberg)
Official Synopsis: Dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) struggles to build a positive relationship with his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin). When his ex-wife, Mary Ann (Miranda Otto), drops them off at Ferrier’s house, it seems as though it will be just another tension-filled weekend. However, when electromagnetic pulses of lightning strike the area, the strange event turns out to be the beginning of an alien invasion, and Ferrier must now protect his children as they seek refuge.
While the actual aliens revealed in War of the Worlds aren’t gargantuan, the bio-mechanical tripods they pilot sure are. Combined, these living tripods are effective killing machines, able to scoop up scores of humans before processing them into fertilizer: Cold, emotionless, and unstoppable; one-stop shops for the wholesale slaughter and disposal of humanity.
Big Ass Spider (2013, Directed by Mike Mendez)
Official Synopsis: A hotshot exterminator (Greg Grunberg) joins forces with the military to squash a giant arachnid that’s spinning a web of destruction around Los Angeles.
The title pretty much says it all, so there’s really no need to elaborate. In case it isn’t obvious, this one’s a throwback to the giant insect movies of the 1950s and 60s. Big Ass Spider is especially satisfying for anyone with a specific loathing for Los Angeles: That city gets tore the fuck up!
Altitude (2010, Directed by Kaare Andrews)
Official Synopsis: After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves trapped in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force.
The gigantic monster in Altitude is only seen in bits and pieces until a final “money shot”, but its lurking presence is felt throughout, making it an omnipresent source of terror. Add the fact that this beast is airborne, tormenting the passengers on a small plane, and we get a creature and film that are uniquely frightening. The monster intensifies the claustrophobic anxieties already associated with flying—and falling.
Ghostbusters (2016, Directed by Paul Feig)
Official Synopsis: Paranormal researcher Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and physicist Erin Gilbert are trying to prove that ghosts exist in modern society. When strange apparitions appear in Manhattan, Gilbert and Yates turn to engineer Jillian Holtzmann for help. Also joining the team is Patty Tolan, a lifelong New Yorker who knows the city inside and out. Armed with proton packs and plenty of attitude, the four women prepare for an epic battle as more than 1,000 mischievous ghouls descend on Times Square.
Despite the ugly social media reaction to Paul Feig’s female-fronted Ghostbusters reboot, it’s an absolutely irreverent romp, steeped in nostalgia, and overflowing with grisly specters—many of which are gargantuan! Even Before the huge character balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade come to life, the new Ghostbusters battle a sizable, smirking, demonic entity in the middle of a concert.
Attack on Titan (2015, Directed by Shinji Higuchi) [Featured Image]
Official Synopsis: Eren Yeager is determined to help save humanity when titans appear and being to feast on human flesh.
For me, 2015 was all about Attack on Titan. It was the year I discover the anime series (based on the popular Japanese manga), and the year the 2-part live-action film adaptation hit theaters. The giants of Attack on Titan are uniquely terrifying; many sport the deformities you’d expect to see in people with chromosomal disorders. They can’t speak, are almost impossible to kill, and only live to consume human flesh.
Related Article: “Attack on Titan” American Remake in the Works at Warner Brothers
Grabbers (2013, Directed by Jon Wright)
Official Synopsis: Residents of an island off the coast of Ireland learn that the only way to survive an invasion of blood-sucking aliens is to stay drunk.
Immense, Lovecraftian beings descend on a quiet Irish seaside town—and all hell breaks loose! Grabbers is a witty horror comedy, they type of which could only come from our UK neighbors across the pond. Gallows humor abounds!
Reign of Fire (2002, Directed by Rob Bowman)
Official Synopsis: In present-day London, 12-year-old Quinn watches as his mother wakes an enormous fire-breathing beast from its centuries-long slumber. Twenty years later, much of the world has been scarred by the beast and its offspring. As a fire chief, Quinn (Christian Bale) is responsible for warding off the beasts and keeping a community alive as they eke out a meager existence. Into their midst comes a hotshot American, Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), who says he has a way to kill the beasts.
Dragons escape from the land of fantasy to decimate Modern London—and the world. Decades later, humanity has devolved into a new Dark Age, cowering in fear of the fire-breathing menaces. In addition to super-sized creature action, Reign of Fire is an action film and a drama with stellar performances from A-Listers Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale. The sets are amazing, especially the ancient castle that’s become a modern refugee camp.
Jurassic World (2015, Directed by Colin Trevorrow)
Official Synopsis: Located off the coast of Costa Rica, the Jurassic World luxury resort provides a habitat for an array of genetically engineered dinosaurs, including the vicious and intelligent Indominus rex. When the massive creature escapes, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the other dinos to run amok. Now, it’s up to a former military man and animal expert (Chris Pratt) to use his special skills to save two young brothers and the rest of the tourists from an all-out, prehistoric assault.
The Jurassic Park franchise has brought us some incredible dinosaur action since it launched in 1993, but it was 2015’s Jurassic World that upped the game by creating the uber-predator Indominus Rex, an allegorical warning against humans playing god by manipulating genetics. It’s fun watching the previous films’ “bad guys”, namely the Velociraptors and good old T-Rex, team up to bring down this common threat to their existence.
Related Article: Buffalo Bill Actor to Stalk “Jurassic World” Sequel
Colossal (2017, Directed by Nacho Vigalondo)
Release Date: 7 April 2017 (USA)
Official Synopsis: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) drinks too hard and parties too much. Her boyfriend has enough of it and throws her out. Gloria returns to her hometown, dreaming of making a new start, but instead revives her childhood friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who runs a bar. After drinking a night away with Oscar and his friends, he wakes up to discover a gigantic monster rampaging through Seoul and realizes that somehow the monster is connected to her.
Okja (2017, Directed by Bong Joon-ho)
Release Date: 28 June 2017 (USA)
Official Synopsis: A young girl named Mija risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja. Shooting locations for the film include South Korea, Canada and the U.S., and is in English and Korean.