Being a Kaiju fan wasn’t always this easy. Not only were dubbed and subtitled copies of Japanese monster movies hard to come by before the advent of online streaming and boutique Blu-rays, but it was also hard to find other cinephiles with the same taste for rubber-suits and cardboard destruction. Fortunately, times have changed, with the rise of internet culture allowing what were once niche interests to find their way into mainstream culture.
However, while general audiences are now mostly aware of Godzilla and his titanic rogues’ gallery, there’s still a whole world of untapped kaiju flicks out there, just waiting to be discovered by a new generation of fans. And with the internet making even the most obscure creature features more accessible, we’ve decided to come up with a list celebrating six Kaiju movies that aren’t Godzilla-related.
While we obviously have nothing against everyone’s favorite radioactive lizard, it doesn’t seem fair that Gojira continues to hog the spotlight when there are so many other monsters waiting for their 15 minutes of fame here in the west. With that in mind, we’ll also be avoiding other highly recognizable monsters from films like King Kong and Pacific Rim.
As usual, don’t forget to comment below with your own favorite giant monster movies if you think we missed an important one.
Now, onto the list…
6. Death Kappa (2010)
A rare example of a Japanese-American co-production, Tomoo Haraguchi’s Death Kappa is to Kaiju films what Scary Movie is to horror flicks. An oddball satire of Japanese creature features, this weird little movie relies more on bizarre humor than a massive special effects budget to keep audiences entertained. That being said, the latter half contains more than enough giant monster action to keep fans satisfied.
Sure, the crude jokes are definitely an acquired taste (and you’re more likely to enjoy the movie if you’re not sober), but there’s an undeniable charm to this batshit crazy take on giant yokai. Plus, it features cameos from future Shin Godzilla directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi!
5. Colossal (2016)
Helming absolute bangers like Timecrimes while also experimenting with smaller projects like the Parallel Monsters segment in V/H/S Viral, Nacho Vigalondo is one of the most underrated genre filmmakers out there. That’s why I was deeply excited when I heard that he would be releasing a Kaiju movie back in 2016. Of course, no one could have predicted that this proposed monster movie would in fact be a genre mash-up about an alcoholic Anne Hathaway discovering that she can manifest a giant creature in Seoul.
Equal parts drama, comedy and sci-fi romp, the introspective Colossal isn’t exactly a traditional Kaiju flick, but it contains enough homages to the genre to be worth recommending to any fan of giant monster action. Hell, there’s even a giant robot battle, and the ending is more than likely to tug on your heartstrings.
4. The Host (2006)
Long before he rose to international fame with films like Snowpiercer and the Academy-Award-winning Parasite, South-Korean director Bong Joon-ho was already crafting genre-defying experiences like his 2007 monster flick The Host. Telling the story of a father attempting to rescue his daughter from a mutant creature, The Host works as both clever satire and a genuinely entertaining example of a classic monster movie.
And if the stunning effects work isn’t realistic enough for you, the film’s fish-like Gwoemul is actually based on a real life incident, with Joon-ho reportedly being inspired to make the movie after reading an article about a mutated fish found in the Han River. The more you know!
3. Big Man Japan (2007)
The only thing better than a monster movie is a monster movie disguised as a documentary, and Hitoshi Matsumoto’s 2007 homage to classic Tokusatsu media happens to be just that. Chronicling the plight of a scientist who periodically transforms into a giant version of himself and protects Japan from deadly monsters, Big Man Japan is just as bizarre as it is hilarious.
Written, directed and starring one of Japan’s most renowned comedians and TV hosts, Big Man Japan features plenty of crazy monster designs as well as a surprisingly poignant story about a down-on-his-luck hero struggling to live up to his potential.
If you’re a fan of unconventional mockumentaries, this one is for you!
2. Shin Ultraman (2022)
From star of a cheesy Tokusatsu show to Japan’s most recognizable superhero, Ultraman has been on quite the epic journey since his debut back in 1966. That’s why I’m pleased to say that his most recent outing (courtesy of Shin Godzilla co-director Shinji Higuchi) is one of his best, compiling some of the best ideas and story-arcs from the original series into an experimental yet cohesive picture that actually improves upon its source material.
While there are plenty of thrilling Kaiju battles here (as well as homages to classic monsters of yore), the real meat of the film is in Kaminaga’s struggle to reconcile his alien heritage with the human world in a surprisingly existential story that reaches beyond its genre trappings.
1. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
The Pepsi to Godzilla’s Coke, Gamera may have always come in second when compared to his distinguished cousin, but that doesn’t mean his movies aren’t worth watching. And if you’re up for some giant-turtle-themed destruction, I’d recommend checking out the underrated monster’s 90s revival. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe serves as a loving reboot of the long-running franchise.
Featuring psychic kids, murderous pterodactyls and a rocket-powered protagonist, Guardian of the Universe celebrates all of the best and most absurd aspects of Kaiju movies, making it a must-see for fans of the genre – especially if you like some monstrous gore with your kaiju action. And if you like this one, it’s actually the first entry in a trilogy helmed by Kaneko, with each of them featuring a different monstrous villain.
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