By Gary Dowell
During the ‘80s, we here at Movie Ink grew up on a steady diet of Saturday afternoon creature features, as well as giant monster movies and giant robot cartoons imported from Japan. Thus, you can fully gauge the pants-wetting excitement we felt when Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim hit theaters. Major nostalgia kicked in, and we compiled this list of our all-time six favorite giant movie monsters to ever smash a major city.
King Kong King Kong (1933)
The very first giant movie monster, Kong battled biplanes, dinosaurs, and Fay Wray’s charms in this instant classic. Willis O’Brien’s special effects for this groundbreaking classic shocked and amazed audiences in 1933, and had a lasting influence that can still be seen eight decades later. His media presence quickly became as large as he is, expanding into TV, comic books, novels, and a host of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and knock-offs including the classic arcade game Donkey Kong.
Godzilla Godzilla (1954)
The pinnacle of the giant movie monster, Japan’s mean, green metaphor for nuclear devastation has evolved over the years from a wrathful force of nature to benevolent guardian figure and back again. Tough enough to withstand anything – even a shitty Hollywood adaptation by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich – the character has endured 28 feature films, assorted animated series and features (including an encounter with Bambi), video games, novels and numerous comic books. (He even had his own Marvel comic book series in the ‘70s, in which he crossed paths with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Fantastic Four. Seriously.) The not-so-jolly green giant will return to the screen May 2014, in time for his 60th birthday.
Mothra Mothra (1961)
Yes, we know — it’s a giant space moth, the second-least terrifying insect on the planet. But still, she’s oddly fascinating, has made no less than 17 film appearances, and holds the record for the most victories against the Godzilla himself (though usually with some outside assistance); plus those tiny singing twin fairy chicks who accompanied her were kinda hot.
The Kraken Clash of the Titans (1981)
Brought to life by the late, great stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, this four-armed sea monster gave Harry Hamlin a run for his money in the ‘80s cult classic, and was later reincarnated in CGI versions that swallowed Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and trashed Sam Worthington’s career in the Clash of the Titans remake (2010). We prefer the classic Coke version here, which represented the final, crowning achievement of Harryhausen before his retirement. He also has the distinction of having a brand of 94-proof rum named after him which — like its namesake — is best kept at a distance.
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man Ghostbusters (1984)
He’s a sweet, spongy avatar of the dark god Gozer big enough to stomp lower Manhattan. Sure, he’s also a giant anthropomorphic marshmallow, but he’s a giant anthropomorphic marshmallow from hell, which makes him simultaneously hilarious and weirdly terrifying. His wholly unexpected appearance at the climax of this ‘80s classic made for an out-of-left-field sight gag with a suitably colossal pay-off.
“Clover” Cloverfield (2008)
J.J. Abrams’ ode to the monster movies of our youth was a game changer for the sub-genre. Just as Godzilla was a metaphor for the nuclear bombing of Japan, “Clover” embodied the devastation visited upon New York City by the 9/11 attacks. Like its predecessor, the relentless beast rose from the ocean and rampaged through a major city; more frighteningly, it was unstoppable, dropped dozens of voracious dogsized parasites from its body, and was utterly alien in appearance and behavior. In the movie’s most memorable scene, it announces itself by launching the head off the Statue of Liberty.