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Top 5 Kaiju Movies/Series to Watch Before the New Godzilla Movie
5. Power Rangers Series
This is number 5 on the list due to the fact that many would argue that the Power Rangers series does not fall under the "Kaiju" category. In this case, it does, and it is a great example of a "Monster of the week" type of show and just about everyone between the ages of 12-30 has a favorite Power Rangers series.
The monsters themselves may not be that memorable, but the characters and giant robots are timeless and have become icons themselves. Since just about any fan of the genre has seen at least one iteration of the Power Rangers series, I recommend watching a season of Power Rangers that you may not be familiar with, to see how the series has changed. This series is recommended to any fans of kaiju and Mech series.
4. Godzilla: The Series
Possibly the only good thing to come the 1998 Roland Emmerich Godzilla film, the Saturday morning animated series was everything the movie should have been and more. The show featured mostly all new Kaiju and aliens for Godzilla to face off against and it took place in New York City so it was a bit of a departure from the traditional Godzilla formula. Regardless, the monster fights and animation are great and even the returning characters from the movie are much better than their big screen counterparts. The show even does a good job of making Zilla (Roland Emmerich's Godzilla) a redeemable Godzilla design despite it being so drastically different.
The Kaiju in the series are very memorable despite being completely original creations and only ever appearing in this series. The show itself is only 40 episodes long, which is surprising for a show based on a universally panned film. Overall, the show still holds up as a great animated series, and one the better Godzilla animated features.
3. Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris
The last Gamera film to be released in recent years; Gamera 3 is a fantastic Kaiju film and possibly one of the best Gamera films of all time. Gamera as a movie monster is second only to Godzilla and anyone who is a fan of the big G has at the very least heard of Gamera. The Gamera films progressively stray from Godzilla's campy style and go for a more realistic and action intensive approach. Gamera 3 is no exception, as it sticks to a more action driven plot and relies more on special effects than rubber-suit monster fights, which is both good and bad since some Kaiju movie fans prefer classic rubber suits over special effects and CGI.
Gamera is a very popular movie franchise, however the more recent films have been overlooked for the 1990s Toho Godzilla films. Which is a shame considering the last few Gamera films have been some of the best Kaiju films in recent years. Fans of classic Kaiju films should definitely give this movie a chance, as Gamera has become an icon in his own right.
2. The Ultraman Series
If Godzilla is the Beatles of Monsters, then Ultraman is the Rolling Stones. Ultraman is a television series created by Toho, the same studio that brought us Godzilla, although the two have never met on screen. Ultraman is a franchise deserving of such high praise not only due to his long career of Kaiju crushing, but because his shows and movies are just as, if not more, entertaining than some Godzilla films. Ultraman is the story of Shin Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (SSSP) who receives the "Beta Capsule" that allows him to transform into Ultraman and fend off the monsters that threaten the Earth.
This series has everything a devoted Kaiju fan could want. Giant rubber suit monsters, plenty of cheesy action and dialogue, and not to mention a new Kaiju every episode. That's right, the Ultraman series used a brand new Kaiju in each episode. Since it was a weekly series, the studio wanted to keep things fresh and made a new monster for every episode, and in some cases it really shows. While some Kaiju look great and are really memorable parts of the series, others are either goofy or literally borrowed and re-purposed suits from Godzilla and Gamera films. This doesn't take too much away from the show since the monster fights are still great to watch and just as fun today as they were 50 years ago.
1. Pacific Rim
This is the best Kaiju/Mecha film that has come out in the last decade, and is a must watch for any fan of the genre, or a fan of action movies in general. Pacific Rim is the brainchild of Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro, and takes place in the near future where Kaiju have emerged through a breach deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, humanity's response is to build giant robots to fight the Kaiju. Not only is this a fantastic movie in its own right, but the film pays homage to Kaiju movies, mecha anime and shows like Power Rangers and Ultraman.
The film has fantastic visual effects and action pieces as well as a great cast including Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba. The Kaiju and Jaeger (giant robot) designs are all spectacular as well and feel fresh while simultaneously calling back to the rubber suit monsters and stiff robot suits. The monster fights in this movie are some of the best in any film of its kind and do a great job of conveying a feeling of weight and massive scale while not being too slow or lumbering. Not only that, but the movie boasts a large variety of Kaiju and Jaegers that each feel unique and keeps the action fresh and interesting. The dialogue is about what you would expect from a big dumb action movie and then some. It's cheesy on purpose, but doesn't take anything away from the film as a whole. The world that the movie has built also feels very fleshed out and realized, and this movie has become a true classic in its own right, holding its own with the giants of the genre.
Which of These is Your Favorite?
King Kong is a staple of cinema (the 1930s version) and a great monster movie, but the movie isn't in the spirit of the other things on this list. The film is more of a love story than anything else, although it does have the monster fights to qualify it as a Kaiju movie, it's not enough. The Peter Jackson version does come quite close however.
Cloverfield is, for all intents and purposes, a Kaiju film. The monster has a good design and it has all the makings of a good monster flick, but it leaves much to be desired for fans of the genre, and traditional movies in general. There just isn't enough monster in the movie for it to make the list.