Monster movies are always best seen in the cinema. This is especially true with the highly-anticipated release of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”, an upcoming sequel set to stomp into our local cinemas this May 30th. And to coincide with the release, it’s time to look back at these 10 Monster Movies You Shouldn’t Miss Out On according to the years of release.
1) Godzilla (1954 & 2014)
This is the movie that started it all. The one which introduced the giant kaiju monster in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 black-and-white classic of “Godzilla”. It may have been over 60 years old but it’s hard to deny all the cinematic influence that Honda has successfully brought to the movie. The original particularly struck a chord among many Japanese audiences during the time of its release, capturing the harrowing anti-nuclear message and its post-World War II allegory with emotional subtlety.
Back in 1998, Hollywood has tried and largely failed to bring their own “Godzilla” movie for the English-speaking audiences. Then came Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures for taking a huge gamble by rebooting “Godzilla” from scratch. They even hired the then-unknown Gareth Edwards, whose previous feature was the low-budget monster movie called “Monsters”. It may have been Edwards’ first big-budget studio production but he proved himself to be an accomplished visual stylist after all. From utilising the power of suggestion heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking technique in 1975’s “Jaws” to the clever camera placements, Edwards gets most of the things right in “Godzilla”.
2) Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s genre classic is an impeccable mix of science fiction and horror tropes, along with H.R. Giger’s memorable creature design of the now-iconic Xenomorph alien species. The story itself is simple: A small crew of Nostromo space truckers landed on a seemingly uninhabited planet following a distress signal. But their investigation turns into something more sinister when they encounter a terrifying alien creature. Viewers who are expecting a pacey, action-packed rhythm may find “Alien” slow-moving. But those who are patient enough will be rewarded with one of the most shocking set-pieces ever made: the squirm-inducing chest-bursting scene. And who could have thought that Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley turned out to be one of the most iconic female protagonists ever introduced in modern cinema?
3) The Thing (1982)
Believe it or not, John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror classic of “The Thing” failed to connect with American audiences at the time of its release. Blame it on the release of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, which offers a more family-friendly creature feature that resonates better with the mainstream crowd. Perhaps no one at the time was in the mood to watch a gruesome sci-fi horror during the summer season. Despite its commercial failure, “The Thing” remains a prime example on how to make a terrifying monster movie. Rob Bottin’s practical creature effects are undoubtedly a horrifying sight to behold, while Carpenter’s direction captured the claustrophobic tension as well as the fear of the unknown.
4) Aliens (1986)
“This Time It’s War”. This is the iconic tagline that appeared in every poster for “Aliens” back in 1986. Instead of repeating the first movie’s deliberately-paced horror formula, James Cameron was wise enough to go full-scale action in his sequel. The result is one of the rare best sequels ever made, with Sigourney Weaver’s standout lead performance as Ripley in the centre (she even garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actress!).
5) Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to making a memorable monster movie. After all, he was the one who gave us “Jaws” along with the birth of a “summer movie blockbuster” back in 1975. He did it again in 1993, capturing public attention all over the world with “Jurassic Park”. It was the kind of summer movie that demanded to be seen on the big screen. Kudos also go to Spielberg and his special effects team for bringing all the dinosaurs to life with a then-groundbreaking combination of CGI and animatronic effects.
6) King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s big-budget remake of 1933’s “King Kong” is notoriously known for its excessive length. Get this: the 1933 black-and-white original only ran a compact 100 minutes, while Jackson’s version clocked a little over 3 hours long! Although lengthy, Jackson ensures all the time is well-spent once the movie takes place in Skull Island. From here, he doesn’t disappoint when comes to delivering all the effects-laden action set-pieces as well as the epic appearance of the giant Kong itself.
7) The Host (2006)
While the Japanese and Hollywood cinemas have their fair shares of great monster movies, the South Korean cinema is no slouch either. This is especially true with Boon Joon-Ho’s “The Host”, which centres on a fish-like monster which emerged from Seoul’s Han River and brought the city into chaos. He does a fine job executing the genre itself (the opening attack set-piece particularly comes to mind). But “The Host” is more than just your average monster movie. He also injects a subtle mix of offbeat humour and sociopolitical satire that touches everything from then-topical Asian health crisis to a straight-faced remark on how the U.S. military often cleans up their messes.
8) Cloverfield (2008)
What do you get when you mix found-footage with a monster-movie genre? The result would be something like the J.J. Abrams-produced “Cloverfield”. At the time of its release, it was a refreshing change of pace from your usual monster movie. Director Matt Reeves (“Planet of the Apes” reboot trilogy) along with screenwriter Drew Goddard successfully combined the post-9/11 paranoia and fear of the unknown with grounded realism.
9) Pacific Rim (2013)
Guillermo del Toro pays a solid homage to Japanese/American animation and TV shows from “Neon Genesis Evangelion” to “Voltron” and “Godzilla” in “Pacific Rim”. He made good use of the huge budget, delivering some of the most spectacular action set-pieces ever seen in recent memory. Watching the epic smackdown between the giant robots against the kaiju monster has been this fun. Too bad the Guillermo del Toro-less 2018 sequel “Pacific Rim Uprising” was a huge step down from the superior original.
10) Jurassic World (2015)
For decades, Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was no doubt the king of the dinosaur movie. Not even his own 1997 sequel as well as the significantly inferior “Jurassic Park III” in 2001. But thanks to Colin Trevorrow, he has successfully recaptured the magic of the once-lucrative franchise in “Jurassic World”. Trevorrow may have been relatively unknown, whose only previous credit was the sci-fi comedy called “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012). But he proved to be an ace in handling big-budget studio picture. He clearly knows what audiences really want: staging the movie with enough breathtaking action set-pieces and featuring lots of dinosaurs.