Some Great Giant Monster Movies That Don’t Involve Godzilla or Kong

Pop quiz: name a giant movie monster other than Godzilla or Kong. I’d be willing to bet that most people can’t do it, and even if they can, they’re usually only familiar with kaiju that come from the Godzilla franchise, like Ghidorah or Mechagodzilla.

But if you’re a big fan of this subgenre, you’re going to want to broaden your horizons a bit. There’s a whole world of giant monster movies that have nothing to do with Godzilla or Kong, and many of them are just as good as the films in those more famous franchises.

And if you’re looking to delve deeper into that world, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite kaiju movies that don’t involve Godzilla or Kong—so sit back, relax, and let’s explore the amazing world of lesser-known giant monster films.

1) The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

The rhedosaurus rampaging through New York

When most of us think about giant monsters that were awakened by nuclear bombs, Godzilla is the first one that comes to mind, and for good reason. He’s hands down the most famous kaiju of all time so it’s no surprise that most people would think of him first. However, contrary to what some may think, he wasn’t actually the first giant monster to be unleashed on the world by nuclear weapons.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms beat the original Godzilla film by a full 16 months, and while it’s not nearly as well known as some of its cinematic peers, it’s one of the best kaiju movies ever made. It’s about a fictional dinosaur called a rhedosaurus, and when the creature rises from its eons-long slumber, it goes on a destructive rampage in the most famous city in the world, New York.

The film takes a somewhat Jaws-esque approach, showing the monster pretty sparingly until the third act, and this tactic works wonderfully. It allows the characters to debate the existence of the rhedosaurus and slowly discover the truth about it so the story is genuinely intriguing. On top of that, the special effects were created by stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen, so while they’re obviously outdated by modern standards, they still hold up well enough that you can suspend disbelief with no problem at all.

On their own, either of those two elements is enough to make The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms a super fun time, but when you put them together, you get an all-time kaiju classic that fans of this subgenre are not going to want to miss.

2) 20 Million Miles to Earth

The monster rampaging through Rome

Another Ray Harryhausen classic, 20 Million Miles to Earth isn’t quite as good as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms but it still holds up as one of the best kaiju films most people have never seen. It’s about an alien creature that’s captured by astronauts and brought back to earth, and when it grows to gigantic proportions, it goes on a deadly rampage in Rome.

Admittedly, the human characters in this film aren’t anything special, so the real draw here is the monster. It’s pretty unique in the kaiju world, so if you’re a fan of these creatures, I think you’re going to enjoy this one. For starters, this monster isn’t a jerk that wants to kill and cause chaos. It’s just a scared animal that’s been stolen from its home so you actually sympathize with the monster more than the people it terrorizes. This adds an extra layer of emotion that you don’t always get in kaiju movies, and it gives the film some real storytelling substance despite the bland characters.

On top of that, this monster doesn’t start out giant-sized. Instead, it’s actually really small when we first see it, and as the story progresses, it grows and grows until it becomes too big for the human characters to contain. Again, this adds another layer to the creature that most of its fellow kaiju simply don’t possess, so it’s a bit more interesting than your typical giant monster.

Last but not least, this creature just looks really, really cool. It’s a fascinating and creative combination of a bunch of different elements from a number of different animals, and as always, the great Ray Harryhausen brought the monster to life like nobody else in his era could. These three strengths come together to make 20 Million Miles to Earth an absolute must-watch for any hardcore kaiju fan. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

3) Frankenstein Conquers the World

Frankenstein looking through a window

I know what some of you are probably thinking. What in the world is a Frankenstein film doing on a list of giant monster movies? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Frankenstein Conquers the World (AKA Frankenstein vs. Baragon) is a Japanese kaiju movie made by Toho, the company that makes the Godzilla films, and it’s one of the best underseen giant monster gems out there.

In this film, Frankenstein’s heart is being kept alive in a lab in Hiroshima, and when the Americans drop a nuclear bomb on the city, the heart is presumed to be destroyed. However, it actually reforms a body around itself, and this new creature grows to Godzilla-sized proportions.

Sadly, this kaiju version of Frankenstein’s Monster never got to meet the king of the monsters, but in Frankenstein Conquers the World, he fights another giant monster that eventually did make its way into the Godzilla franchise: Baragon, a four-legged, dinosaur-like creature that can burrow underground and shoot a sort of heat ray from its mouth.

These two creatures make for a super fun kaiju romp, and the movie also incorporates just enough of the traditional Frankenstein story to elevate it above your typical mindless monster fare. It’s another one of the best kaiju films most people have never seen, so if you’re a fan of these movies, you absolutely have to add this one to your to-watch list.

4) The Heisei Gamera Trilogy

Close-up of Gamera

When it comes to giant monster movies that don’t involve Godzilla or Kong, there’s one name that stands head and shoulders above the rest: Gamera. He’s a giant turtle that flies and breathes fire (I promise he’s way cooler than he seems on paper!), and his franchise currently stands at an impressive 12 films.

He made his big-screen debut in the 1965 classic Gamera, the Giant Monster, but his biggest claim to fame is actually a trilogy of movies made in the 1990s, the Heisei era of Japanese cinema: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. These films rebooted the character, gave him a whole new backstory, and they’re often considered three of the best giant monster movies ever made.

They have great kaiju action as well as intriguing characters and storylines, so they’re head and shoulders above what most people normally expect from this subgenre. They’re great movies, not just great kaiju movies, so if you want the cream of the giant monster crop, you can’t do much better than this fantastic trilogy.

5) Rampage

Giant monsters facing off

When I was a kid, I absolutely adored the video game Rampage. I would hog it whenever I saw it at an arcade, and when I finally got the PlayStation version, I just about wore the disc out. A game about giant monsters destroying big cities was right up my alley, so when I heard they were adapting it into a movie a few years ago, it obviously shot right to the tippy top of my most-anticipated list.

Admittedly, Rampage isn’t exactly a shining example of the fine art of cinema. It didn’t contend for any Oscars, and I doubt it’ll ever be a staple of any film school curriculums. But if you’re a fan of giant monster movies, and especially if you were ever a fan of the video games this one was based on, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to like this film.

For starters, the kaiju are all brought to life with great CGI, so they move a lot more naturally than more traditional stop-motion animation or suitmation creatures ever could. As much as I love those old special effects techniques, you can’t deny that good CGI gives us a completely different viewing experience, and Rampage is an excellent example of that.

Secondly, while this movie is very different from the video games, there were a few moments that really brought on nostalgia for me. To take just one example, there’s a scene where one of the monsters eats a person, and it brought me back to the days when that was one of my favorite things to do in the games.

When you put those two elements together, you don’t get a truly great film, but you do get one of the most fun giant monster movies in recent memory. I have an absolute blast every time I watch Rampage, and if you’re a kaiju fan, I think you will too.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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