As we bid farewell to Halloween and all its ghosts and goblins, we turn our attention to the warmth of Thanksgiving. Sitting around a dinner table, surrounded by loved ones, chatting monster movies. What, your family talks about other things? We’re not ones to judge the conversations of others, but if you’re looking for something to spice up your holiday socializing, this is the list for you.
We scoured the internet and picked our brains for the most family friendly of kaiju films; movies that are sure to bring a smile to your face, melt your frosty heart, or even challenge what it means to be “family friendly”. Toho favorites certainly make the cut, along with other towering kaiju from Japan and beyond. Hollywood studio, Walt Disney Pictures makes the strongest impression on the list; from animated features like Monsters, Inc. to live action adventures such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Disney is uniquely adept at the family-centric monster movie.
Whether our choices are mainstream or diamonds-in-the-rough, we hope you appreciate each for what they offer the genre. Beauty and the Beast (1991) may be one of the more commercially successful offerings here, but don’t let that distract you from the themes of identity and isolation it contains; classic motifs in the monster genre. Likewise, pay attention to films that may have flown under your radar until now. Three of my personal favorites include Czechoslovakia’s Journey to the Beginning of Time, 1953’s sci-fi staple Invaders from Mars, and the weirdly charming Gappa: The Triphibian Monster.
New or old, classic or cult, any of these films are worth your time this November. If you find yourself visiting friends or family, offer one of these to watch. Adventure, thrills, laughs, and tears are all guaranteed no matter your pick.
1. Son of Kong (1933)
2. Spirited Away (2001)
3. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
5. DragonHeart (1996)
6. Rebirth of Mothra (1996)
Rebirth of Mothra leans more toward family friendly content than Toho’s concurrent Heisei Godzilla series. Children serve as the protagonists; they encounter fairies who warn that the logging company their father works for threatens to awaken an ancient monster. Naturally that monster is nonetheless disturbed and it is up to Mothra and her son “Mothra Leo” to save the earth. There is nothing groundbreaking about the story and it delivers the kind of didactic environmental themes one might expect from a kid’s movie. Where Rebirth truly excels, however, is its reinvention of the Mothra legend, expanding the possibilities of the Queen of the Monsters. Mothra Leo, for example, is a revelation.
Not only is his creature design slick and colorful, but he is given fighting abilities such as energy beams.
A common (but perhaps misguided) criticism of Mothra is the kaiju’s apparent weakness. She flaps, she flies, she can grab hold of monsters twice her size, but is often defeated in the end. Mothra Leo, however, is an upgrade in this realm; he can clearly go toe-to-toe with any enemy. In Rebirth that enemy is Desghidorah, a more bestial version of King Ghidorah. Like the space dragon, Desghidorah quickly establishes itself as a memorable force to be reckoned with. The fights between it and Mothra Leo are a dazzling spectacle of lasers, rays, and explosions. Grade-A kaiju action. Additionally, however pedestrian the human story may be, it is serviceable; the inclusion of an evil fairy adds substantial conflict and fun camp. Rebirth of Mothra makes a strong impression for fans of the genre. If you don’t mind the family-friendly tone, then you will enjoy a colorful, campy film that gives Mothra the credit she deserves.
7. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
8. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
9. Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)
10. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
11. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
12. Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955)
13. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2016)
14. Son of Godzilla (1967)
15. Pinocchio (1940)
16. Casper (1995)
17. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
18. Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)
19. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
20. Jumanji (1995)
21. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
22. 20,0000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
23. Toy Story (1995)
24. The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)
25. Invaders from Mars (1953)
26. The BFG (2016)
27. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
28. Luca (2021)
29. The Iron Giant (1999)
30. Gappa: the Triphibian Monster (1967)
Gappa, gappa, gappa!