90 second expert: Monster movies

All you to need to know in less than two minutes

Quick Summary
  • The Lost World showcases stop-motion dinosaurs before King Kong scales the Empire State Building
  • This inspires a young animator named Ray Harryhausen, who later works on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
  • Cold War concerns give American monster movies a radioactive edge in the '50s
  • Whilst Godzilla stomps Tokyo (complete with anti-nuke message)
  • After which monster movies blaze a path of destruction right up to Cloverfield
Key titles

King Kong (1933)

The original ape-escape movie unleashed a giant monkey in Manhattan, not to mention a raft of imitators. Years later, the stop-motion animation still impresses as audiences choke on that immortal line: “It wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast…”

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

Nuclear blasts unleash a Ray Harryhausen dinosaur in a seminal '50s flick. “New York's like a besieged city,” screams a radio as the beast becomes a metaphor for the A-bomb.

Godzilla (1954)

With ambiguous intentions and fiery breath, Godzilla (Gojira in Japan) kicked off a long cycle of Nippon nasties. Tokyo feels his wrath after the lizard king is awoken by American H-bomb tests. A biting comment on the fallout from the WW2 bombings.

Gamera (1979)

Chief contender for Godzilla's crown is a giant flying turtle. Released by Daiei Studios to counter Toho's success and followed by endless sequels that pitted Gamera against other monsters, it started debates about who'd win a Godzilla vs Gamera scrap.

The Host (2006)

Bong Joon-ho's taut creature feature takes broad swipes at the US presence in South Korea as a giant CGI tadpole, the product of toxic dumping in the Han river, goes on the rampage around (and underneath) Seoul. Slimy, slippery and smarter than it looks.

Cloverfield (2008)

Generation YouTube gets its very own monster mash: Manhattan is flattened by an unidentified Godzilla clone, while the terrifying carnage is caught on camcorder without the reassuring context of a bigger picture. A sequel's already in production.

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