The Best Big Monster Movies

Hollywood sure does like to destroy cities and there's nothing quite like the sight of a skyscraper crumbling down projected onto the big screen when said skyscraper is for entertainment purposes and not a real life shot of terrorists flying into the World Trade Center.  Unfortunately, there's only so many ways to bring down a city:  You have natural disaster films like San Andreas, alien attacks, or giant monsters.  With Jurassic World opening this summer, About Action and War Movies thought it would be a good idea to look at the best big monster movies of all time.  (For the worst big monster movies of all time, click here.)

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Them! (1954)

Old movies that might not stand the test of time nonetheless sometimes deserve inclusion for being first.  And Them!, released in 1954, was the first big monster movie.  (It opened the same year as the first Godzilla in Japan.)  Yes, it's cheesy in retrospect, but it's also still a lot of fun to see button down 1950s America flee from giant radioactive ants!

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Godzilla (2014)


The 2014 Godzilla was everything the 1998 version was not.  For one, it brought back the classic Godzilla look.  But taking a cue from the long ago classic Jaws, the filmmakers also realized that you get a lot of bang for your buck if you keep the monster shrouded and hint at the disaster that's awaiting before revealing it all.  And thus, the audience doesn't get to see Godzilla until the second half of the film, but when they do get to see him, it's destruction on a scale previously unseen in cinema before.  This film reminded us why Godzilla is such an iconic character and reminds us how much fun a monster destroying a city can be.  This was Godzilla done right.

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Cloverfield (2008)


Cloverfield is basically a Godzilla movie, but filmed from the first person perspective of someone filming with a camera.  That's right, Godzilla finally got the "found home video footage" treatment works!  Too often in these sorts of films, the audience is allowed into the Pentagon's war room and the Presidential office as important decisions are made.  But this film keeps the experience entirely within the view of your average man on the street.  The audience is as clueless as to the how the military leaders are fighting the monster as the protagonists of the film are.  And again, as with the 2014 Godzilla, the filmmakers use shadows, sounds, and vibrations to show the monster is near, rather than showing us wide angle shots of the monster from a distance (at least until the last third of the film).  Cloverfield works for the same reasons the 2014 Godzilla worked.

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Tremors (1990)


This 1990 Kevin Bacon classic about giant man-eating worms underneath the New Mexico desert has become something of a cult film.  Not only is it exceedingly well done, and somewhat frightening, but the film has a great sense of humor and never takes itself or it's extremely odd monster too seriously.  It was followed by a half dozen direct to video sequels.  Plus, the film gets point for creativity by crafting an underground monster - we hadn't seen one of those before (or since).

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Troll Hunter (2010)

Troll Hunter is a small little seen 2010 arthouse film from Norway.  It uses the "found footage" technique to follow a bunch of college students as they embark upon a quest to find an illegal bear hunter in the icy northern Norway forests and instead find...giant trolls!  The film is well done, funny, and strangely creepy!

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King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson's King Kong is a visual feast for the eyes - from the cannibal natives, to the dinosaur infested island - Jackson's Kong is a thrilling lush cinematic experience.  This entry is for King Kong what the 2014 Godzilla film was for our favorite giant lizard.

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Monsters (2010)

What makes this little seen 2010 entry worthy of inclusion on this list is that it was made for just $15k but looks as if it had a budget of $20-30 million.  The director Gareth Edwards hired his friends as actors and went down to Mexico where they used guerrilla filmmaking techniques (meaning they skipped permits and all the rest) to make this story about a man and a woman trying to transverse a quarantine zone in a future Mexico where giant monsters roam.  The film's special effects, all done by Gareth at home on his computer, are actually quite good.  Yes, the film is far from perfect - the pacing is off and the characters aren't fully developed - but did I mention it was made for only $15,000?!  This film is proof positive that Hollywood doesn't have to spend $200 million on a film.  (Gareth Edwards is now listed as one of the directors for the upcoming standalone Star Wars films!)

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Jurassic Park (1993)

The first film in the Jurassic Park franchise remains the best.  Computer generated special effects had just come of age, and Spielberg seized on the opportunity to make a movie about dinosaurs, the first that would look semi-realistic.  The plot is entirely predictable:  Dinosaurs escape enclosures at a zoo on a small island and chaos reigns, but the first time it sure was fun.  (The subsequent times, not so much.)

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Jaws (1975)


And the number one best big monster movie of all time?  Jaws.  Released almost 40 years ago, this tale of a super sized shark and the men who take him on remains a classic of both cinema and the modern blockbuster.  This is the film which paved the way for Jurassic Park and Godzilla to make a trip back to the silver screen.  So here's a question for you:  Velociraptor or Jaws?  Who would win?

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Rico, Johnny. "The Best Big Monster Movies." ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2017, Rico, Johnny. (2017, March 1). The Best Big Monster Movies. Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "The Best Big Monster Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).