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I love HBO Max. Besides getting all those wonderful Studio Ghibli movies, it’s also my go-to place for giant monster movies! And when it comes to giant monsters, there’s no monster I love more than Godzilla. And thankfully, the King of All Monsters has a slew of great movies on HBO Max, many of which you’ll find on this list.
But he’s not the only giant monster on HBO Max. If you love King Kong, then you’re in for a treat, since HBO Max has a good selection of the big ape, too. No doubt about it. If you love giant monsters, then HBO Max is the streaming service to have. So, in preparation for Godzilla Vs. Kong which is set to release in theaters and on HBO Max on March 25th, I’ve compiled a list of great giant monster movies that you can binge on to get ready for the battle of the century. Let them fight!!!
Directed by Ishiro Honda (who was good friends with Akira Kurosawa) the original, Japanese Godzilla (Or Gojira) is the greatest Godzilla movie ever made. Period. At its heart, the story is about the folly of man. The big G is awoken from underwater hydrogen bomb testing, and he wreaks havoc all across Tokyo. And in a lot of ways, Godzilla himself is a parable for the atom bombs that wreaked havoc on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, so it’s deadly serious stuff. There’s no Godzilla sliding on his tail in this movie!
If you’ve never seen a Godzilla movie, then definitely start with this one. It’s one of the few Godzilla films where Big G is clearly the villain, as he’s destroying people’s lives and homes. He doesn’t fight any other Kaiju, and it’s in stark black and white. So, yes, definitely watch the original Japanese version. But, HBO Max also has the American version as well. Titled, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Sound familiar?) The American version features Raymond Burr and it’s nowhere near as good as the original since Raymond Burr was brought in to dictate everything Godzilla is doing. So, in other words, it’s dumbed down for Americans. It’s like the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 compared to the American Super Mario Bros. 2. And if you understood that reference, I love you.
From HELL it comes! Also directed by Ishiro Honda, Rodan is better than 1954’s Godzilla in a lot of ways, visually at least. The plot takes a while to get going, but once it does, it kicks ass. Rodan is yet another monster that’s been awoken by nuclear bomb testing, but this one can fly! So, he has that going for him.
And if you remember the recent, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Rodan had some of the best moments in that movie as he swooped over villages and totally demolished them just by flapping his wings. That’s all here, too, but much more impressive since it was done with miniatures and rubber suits rather than CG. No question about it, Rodan still looks amazing today, and it’s one for the ages.
The War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Directed by—you guessed it—Ishiro Honda, The War of the Gargantuas is a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers The World, though you can watch this film without seeing that one. The film is about Frankenstein’s monster and his clone. One of them is good, call him Sanda, and the other is bad, call him Gaira. Gaira and Sanda work together for a while, but then Sanda realizes he shouldn’t because Gaira eats people, and then they fight. The end.
What sells it though is that it’s really fun. The pace is quicker than most other films in the medium, and it’s cool to see monsters working together before beating each other to a pulp.
Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964)
Following the original King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Mothra is one of the most beloved characters in the Godzilla universe, and this film is an absolute gem as it marks the last time Godzilla was a bad guy for a while. The plot is about a giant egg that belongs to Mothra that hatches, and then the larva fight Godzilla. Believe me, it’s much cooler than I’m making it sound.
This film feels like it’s for children, and it is. Its director, Ishiro Honda, wanted it to be geared more for kids, but it still doesn’t lose its Godzilla edge. So, make sure you check it out!
Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972)
When talking about Godzilla’s enemies, Gigan might be my favorite. And Godzilla Vs. Gigan is definitely one of my favorite films in the Showa era. It’s about these insect aliens that pretend to be human to take over Earth, and they send Gigan and King Ghidorah to kill all the humans. But Godzilla and Anguirus aren’t having it, and they show Gigan and King Ghidorah that Earth is for humans. Not insects!
The movie is ridiculous, and Godzilla is no longer a villain, but a hero. It aligns a lot more with the MonsterVerse Godzilla than say, 1954 Godzilla, or Shin Godzilla, but that’s okay. There’s room for more than one Godzilla!
Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973)
Coming out one year after Godzilla Vs. Gigan, Godzilla Vs. Megalon is just as crazy. This one concerns an underwater civilization that’s getting pissed off from all the nuclear testing, and they send Megalon up to get mankind to stop it already. The aliens from the last movie even return to help guide Megalon to destroy Earth.
But nope. Thwarted again, this time with a goofy-looking robot named Jet Jaguar. This is the movie where Godzilla slides on his tail. So yes, any hopes that Godzilla would return to being an intimidating foe again would need to be shelved for at least a whole decade.
Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Godzilla is on the loose in this one, which is strange. Godzilla has been so heroic lately. But uh oh, that’s not Godzilla. It’s Mechagodzilla! And it’s his first appearance in the series. But don’t worry, Godzilla has this covered.
This film is also pretty boss since it features King Caesar, who is really lame, but I love him. The follow-up, Terror of Mechagodzilla might be the better movie. But if you want the first appearance of Mechagodzilla, then look no further than this Kaiju masterpiece.
King Kong (1933)
Okay, enough about Godzilla, let’s talk about King Kong! “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” King Kong is just as, if not more, iconic as Godzilla. And like Godzilla, the first movie is the best in the series. The plot concerns a filmmaker bringing a giant monkey back to New York, and then the monkey gets pissed and goes on the loose. But why am I telling you this? You’ve seen King Kong. You love it!
But then, what if you haven’t seen King Kong? What if you don’t love it? Well, then thank Heavens for HBO Max, because you can watch it and love it for the very first time. It’s an American classic that I’d put right up there with The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. And yes, I’m dead serious.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kong: Skull Island is like no other King Kong movie before it, and I mean that in a good way. Taking place in the 70s, Kong: Skull Island follows a team of scientists and soldiers as they travel Skull Island only to be trapped there with the giant ape. Great action scenes ensue!
In my mind, Kong: Skull Island is the best movie in the MonsterVerse thus far. It’s fun, funny, and full of fast-paced action. Definitely check it out before Godzilla Vs. Kong, to see why the Big G might have a problem when dealing with this particular King.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
And last but not least, before you watch Godzilla vs. Kong, you might as well watch the most recent movie in the MonsterVerse saga with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Directed by Michael Dougherty, King of the Monsters also features Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. The plot involves mankind needing Godzilla to save them from King Ghidorah, which never sat well with me since I much prefer Godzilla as the villain, but whatever. At least the monsters fight in this one.
Some of the characters from this movie will also appear in Godzilla Vs. Kong, so definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. It may not be the Godzilla movie of your dreams, but hey, at least it’s Godzilla. And Godzilla is always awesome.
As I said in the intro, HBO Max is the service to get if you love giant monsters. But what do you think? Out of the films listed here, which one do you think somebody new to monster movies should watch first? Sound off in the poll down below!