The most famous monsters have become household names and worldwide icons; almost everyone knows about Godzilla and King Kong and their most frequent co-stars, and if you're reading this article, you probably love them. I know I do. There's a three-hundred-foot, radioactive hole in my heart in the shape of Godzilla's body, dorsal spikes and all. I've got kaiju in my soul.
That said, I'd be remiss if I spent all my time focusing on the monster varsity league, because there are plenty of other monsters that aren't getting big budget American remakes right now. They can be just as entertaining as the creatures that I listed above — they just haven't starred in as many movies or sold as many toys or been acted out as many times by kids on the playground stomping around through sand castles.
So this list is a tribute to those beasts, the ones you might forget about sometimes. These are fifteen monsters that deserve a tad more spotlight than they've been given, and I'm gonna deliver it to them.
When Godzilla returned in 1984's, well, The Return of Godzilla, it reignited the franchise. But that was a solo movie and audiences expected Godzilla to get back in the monster fightin' habit by the time a sequel rolled around.
Enter Biollante, the creation of a public story-writing competition and wholly different from anything that fans had ever seen. Half plant, half Godzilla, all horror — Biollante was a beautiful, monstrous creature that would shoot a vine through Godzilla's hand, douse him in acid, and never return to the series.
But she should, and she should do it with a big orchestral rendition of her theme from Super Godzilla, because it was great.
The Condor and the Kamacuras
Godzilla vs The Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla gave us two monsters that might seem underwhelming at first — a giant bird in the former and Kamacuras, a giant mantis species in the latter. They didn't shoot lasers and it didn't take long for Godzilla to flame broil them, but they provided a look into the common fauna of the Godzilla world. Not every monster needs to be a planet-destroying space god to fit in.
Packing powerful kicks, the Gorosaurus first showed up in King Kong Escapes, where he got his butt handily whipped by the giant ape. He later showed up in Destroy All Monsters, uncharacteristically burrowing up from under Paris (it was meant to be Baragon in this scene, but we'll get to Baragon in a bit), and later showing up to take part in the A Bunch vs One brawl against King Ghidorah in the finale. If we ever get another King Kong sequel, I hope Gorosaurus shows up and I hope his kangaroo kicks are just as plentiful.
Godzilla kills Baragon
The constant underdog, Baragon has never really stood a chance in any of its match ups. It first showed up in Frankenstein Conquers The World and, come on, little buddy, this isn't Baragon Conquers The World. It died by lava there. Then, in Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, it not only is the only monster not to get its name in the title, but it's also the first to take on Godzilla's new evil outlook. And though it uses digging tactics to momentarily stall its brutal demise, it doesn't stand a chance against a Godzilla that means business.
Though it got time to shine as a snake god in Atragon, Manda's never really been given a proper shot in any of its other appearances. It attacks London and Tokyo for a bit in Destroy All Monsters, but it's one of the few kaiju that never gets to participate in a brawl. It later shows up in Godzilla: Final Wars, but it gets obliterated by a warship there. To put it simply, I don't think Manda would be my first choice for kickball.
That said, it does get a meaty little chunk in Marc Cerasini's Godzilla novel At World's End. That one was pretty rad. But still, where are the Give Manda Another Chance petitions? Someone get on that.
Gabara bullies little kids. No, I'm not kidding. When we first see him in All Monsters Attack, he's using his electric shock-y hands to torment Godzilla's defenseless tadpole lookin' kid, Minilla. Then Godzilla himself shows up and puts a stop to Gabara's hyena-like laughter by basically using Gabara's spine to flatten the land of Monster Island.
Gabara would show up in a few other Toho tokusatsu shows, but he needs to be in more. Because no other monster gets as satisfying of a beatdown as Gabara.
I must admit, when I first saw Godzilla vs Megalon, I wasn't very impressed. But it's grown on me with time and so has the titular beetle villain Megalon. Megalon's got a laser-shooting crest, drill hands, and the ability to burrow around underground and pop up under other monsters. And while that tactic doesn't really work out past the second time it attempts it, it was a great way to annoy people in the fighting game Destroy All Monsters Melee. That move and that move alone made you the equivalent of a chaotic god. When you play as Megalon, the rules become random.
When you play as Megalon, anarchy becomes the only law.
There was a one-two punch of awesome MechaGodzilla movies that ended the Showa era run of Godzilla films in the mid-70s. But in the latter, the big metal doppelganger was joined by Titanosaurus, a monster with an infectious roar and a fin on its tale that it can use to blow away entire cities. And because the movie it's in is so awesome (Really, Terror of MechaGodzilla is fantastic and is famed director Ishiro Honda's last Godzilla film), you'd think that Titanosaurus would be in most movies after it. No, I didn't leave out the word "Godzilla" from that last sentence. Titanosaurus should be in most movies.
Okay, I know what you're thinking, maybe: "Battra is just evil Mothra. That's not very creative. Also, the movie it's in isn't very good. Also why are the french fries at Wendy's so underwhelming when the chicken nuggets are so good?"
But Battra's awesome design makes up for the lackluster film it's introduced in. And after watching Mothra be the bringer of hope and niceness and good feelings for thirty years, seeing Battra take the form of bad-guy-with-a-goatee Mothra was super satisfying.
Honestly, when Godzilla ended up fighting another mean bug in the form of Megaguirus, I wish they'd just brought back Battra instead.
Okay, now we're leaving Godzilla films and moving onto other Japanese monster movies. And to start this journey off, I'm gonna go with the vastly underrated Daimajin. A giant demon god that takes the form of a statue, Daimajin spent a trilogy of movies making sure that no one was a jerk around him. That's kind of his whole deal: Nice people encounter trouble in the land surrounding Daimajin and Daimajin beats that trouble into the ground. It's a timeless story, and it should be told more times than it has.
Before the original Gamera series would slip into shoddiness and silliness due to decreased budgets and increased focus on the children characters shrieking for Gamera, Daiei Studios released Gamera vs Barugon, a surprisingly moody movie that actually feels lavish as far as Gamera films are concerned.
And the rival monster, Barugon, is a mean lizard that actually seems to be a threat to both Gamera and Japan at large. It's one of the last times that the original Gamera series took itself very seriously, and I know that these films are about a giant, friendly turtle beast, but sometimes that seriousness can help. #bringbackbarugon
I know that we have the very popular Yokai Watch video game series, but I hope people don't forget about the trilogy of Yokai Monsters films from the late 60s. Produced by Daiei Film, they were basically parades of different monsters, some portrayed by people in costume and some by puppets. Considering its basic premise (An evil spirit gets conjured aka Let's get as many of these monsters on screen as possible), we should be on our 100th Yokai Monsters film by now.
I know that, at first glance, it doesn't seem like the Criterion Collection would have that many awesome Japanese science fiction films, but oooooooooh, you'd be wrong. Not only does it have an awesome release of the original Godzilla, but it also has the box set When Horror Came To Shochiku that contains a few of the cheesy, amazing, and sometimes genuinely unnerving sci-fi/horror films released by the film studio Shochiku.
One of them is The X From Outer Space, with the monster Guilala. Now, I know that Guilala looks like a chicken mixed with a martian and a very sad toad, but X is an amazingly fun movie. And considering that even the worst monster flicks from that era seemed to get at least a sequel, it's a crime that we didn't get something like Guilala Strikes Again or Guilala vs Gorbazor or whatever.
Okay, I'll be moving back to Toho for these last two, but can you blame me? When it comes to making monsters, they're incomparable. And Dogora is a creature with so much untapped potential. A ghostly, alien jellyfish monster, Dogora appeared in 1964's Dogora and would later show up for a split second in the Netflix anime film Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. It's such a cool looking, haunting monster, and I think that if any Toho film is deserving of a spooky remake right now, it's Dogora.
The Mushroom People
Okay, you know the last sentence of that last entry where I talked about Dogora being most deserving of a spooky remake? Well, I lied. It's actually a tie, because Matango, a film about a ship's crew that stumbles upon an island with poisonous mushrooms that mutate your flesh and warp your mind, is haunting to this day. With extremely effective special effects, a great score by Sadao Bekku, and a mood of intense paranoia, Matango is amazingly rewatchable. And the creatures from it, the "mushroom people," deserve another run at the top.