There’s something vastly appealing, on an international scale, about giant monster movies. For nearly as long as film has existed, there’s been massive-sized beasts decimating cities and terrorizing those in its path. Time only proves that you can’t keep a good monster down, as they’ve been resurrected, rebooted, remade, and pitted against each other with no signs of slowing down.
It’s not just the monster designs, epic set pieces, and big spectacle fun that has audiences returning to the giant monster movie, but they so often serve as hefty metaphors for society’s biggest (pun intended) fears. Who isn’t a sucker for a good monster movie with layers?
This week’s streaming picks belong to the giant monster, all available to binge now.
Godzilla – Criterion Channel
A worldwide pop culture icon, Godzilla is the definitive poster child of kaiju films. Starring in a long-running franchise more than thirty-films long and counting, including the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong, it can be intimidating knowing where to start. Or even if kaiju fits your style and tastes. In this case, start with the granddaddy of kaiju; the original 1954 Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda, the film sees the residents of Odo island terrorized by ancient sea beast Godzilla after he’s awakened by nuclear testing. Meaning, Godzilla isn’t really about Godzilla at all, but a metaphorical response to the atomic bomb’s effect on nature and humanity through Japan’s perspective. Godzilla may have become a more lovable protector throughout the years, but this giant monster started as a sobering allegory. This pick is also available to stream on HBO Max.
Monsters – Pluto TV, Tubi
Written and directed by Gareth Edwards, this giant creature feature is very likely responsible for Edwards landing the gig directing the 2014 American reboot, Godzilla. His feature debut is set six years after extraterrestrials crash-landed in Central America and began to spread. The U.S. and Mexican military struggle to keep the giant creatures contained in a quarantined area, creating a danger zone in which a cynical journalist must navigate as he escorts a shaken tourist to the safety of the U.S. border. Gareth transcends the shackles of low budget constraints with great visual effects, and a story focused on the human condition. It’s innovative and ambitious.
Q – The Winged Serpent – Prime Video, Tubi
No one does guerilla filmmaking like Larry Cohen. Within days of being let go from a film being shot in New York, Cohen decided to stick around and make a movie of his own. After a mere few days of pre-production, including preparing a shooting script and pulling a cast together, he began shooting Q– a film about a Quetzalcoatl that’s taken up residence in the Chrysler building. David Carradine stars as the detective attempting to solve a string of Aztec ritual murders and Michael Moriarty stars as a crook with jazz aspirations that stumbles upon Q’s nest. Throw in impressive stop-motion animation, and you have a giant American kaiju film that shouldn’t be near as coherent as this is for coming together so quickly.
Anaconda – Prime Video
This late ‘90s Blockbuster horror movie pit Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube against a massive Amazonian snake. Or, more accurately, against Jon Voigt’s over the top villain Paul Serone, a snake hunter that forces them to assist in capturing the eponymous anaconda. It’s a big action spectacle that features a 40-foot man-eating snake that squeezes its prey to death, eats it, and occasionally barfs it back up to enjoy all over again. Look for Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Danny Trejo, and Kari Wuhrer to round out the cast as potential snake fodder.
Trollhunter – Tubi, Crackle, Pluto TV, YouTube
In this mockumentary by André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe), a group of students set out to make a documentary about a bear poacher. They soon learn that he’s a troll hunter tasked with eliminating dangerous trolls that have escaped their territory. One of the most unique entries in the found footage subgenre, Trollhunter infuses Norwegian folklore into a thrilling tale with massive creatures and dry wit. It’s highly entertaining and hilarious and makes full use of scenic Norway as a breathtaking backdrop for the adventure. It’s a breezy genre adventure that offers easily digestible escapism, but one that contains layers and Norway-specific references worth digging into after the first watch.