Movie monsters take a lot of different forms, from the vicious to the tragic, the evil to the merely misunderstood. Some monsters are creepy while others you root for; some are threatening only because of their great numbers, while others are some of the strongest movie monsters of all time. Whether they're good guys or bad guys, world-ending threats or just trying to make their way in a world that doesn't understand them, these are some of the most powerful, deadliest, and just downright most awesome monsters ever to stomp, fly, crawl, or burrow their way across cinema screens.
You'll find kaiju here, naturally, but also things that are smaller than you might think. You'll find ones that go bump in the night, ones that topple buildings, and everything in between. One thing they all have in common: They're mighty powerful. Remember to vote up your favorites.
When it comes to giant, powerful monsters, Godzilla is king of the hill. In fact, the big G has been the star of not one but two films with the subtitle "King of the Monsters," suggesting that Godzilla is just that. Across nearly 40 films spanning more than half a century (not to mention video games, comic books, and even a cartoon series), Godzilla has gone toe-to-toe with dozens of the most fearsome monsters around, and always seems to come out on top.
Origins: Godzilla made its first appearance in the 1954 film that bears its name, where it was suggested that Godzilla was a sort of living fossil, having been disturbed by underwater hydrogen bomb tests and having evolved to resist radiation. Over the course of numerous subsequent films, Godzilla's origins have been retconned and retooled in a variety of different ways, but in its original appearance, Godzilla is usually seen as a walking metaphor for the fear of nuclear annihilation, which was a very immediate specter in 1954 Japan.
Why So Powerful? With the imminent release of Godzilla vs. Kong, a meme has been making the rounds in which Godzilla basically says to King Kong, "I'm a walking nuclear power plant." And that's about the size of it. While Godzilla's height has changed considerably over the years - it was only a little over 150 feet tall when it first appeared back in 1954, and was most recently seen towering to a height of nearly 400 feet in 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Godzilla is always quite large and very strong. But deep down, the fact that Godzilla is essentially a walking nuclear reactor has always been central to what made the character so imposing, and never has that power been showcased as devastatingly as in 2016's Shin Godzilla.
Any Weaknesses? Precious few. While Godzilla has been on the ropes a few times, notably by the experimental "Oxygen Destroyer" weapon in the 1954 film, most of the big G's defeats have been temporary, at best.24244Monstrously powerful?
It's a flying, three-headed gold dragon from outer space - what's not to love? Oh, did we mention that it breathes lightning (actually gravity beams)? Yes, from all three heads.
Origins: Like its frequent nemesis Godzilla, Ghidorah is a kaiju hailing from the long-running Toho series of Godzilla films. In this case, Ghidorah came to Earth for the first time in 1964's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, after having first laid waste to a civilization of aliens living on Venus. Subsequent films have both clarified and complicated the back story of King Ghidorah, but its extraterrestrial origins have remained intact all the way up to 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Why So Powerful? Did we mention that Ghidorah can fly and shoot lightning? It's also huge, weighing in as one of the largest foes that Godzilla ever battled across nearly 40 films. What really earns this guy a spot as one of the most potent monsters around, however, is that Ghidorah is pretty much always the "bad guy" in any movie where it shows up. Meaning that Ghidorah has not only fought Godzilla to a standstill multiple times, but it's also been on the receiving end of numerous monster tag teams, beginning all the way back in its first cinematic appearance, when it battled Godzilla, Rodan, and a larval form of Mothra.
Any Weaknesses? In many of its iterations, Ghidorah has been controlled by other forces, usually aliens bent on using the giant monster to conquer Earth. In these instances, Ghidorah is reliant on orders from those controlling it, leaving the monster confused when those communications are cut off. In the 2019 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ghidorah's three heads are shown as being somewhat independent, leading them to occasionally get in one another's way. Guess three heads aren't always better than one...11727Monstrously powerful?
Every trope has to begin somewhere, and the giant monster on film goes all the way back to a big ape in Merian C. Cooper's 1933 classic King Kong.
Origins: Kong has been the oversized star of a lot of movies over the years, but his origins have pretty much always been shrouded in mystery. He's a huge ape that is venerated as (and just might be) a god, living on a remote and uncharted island where dinosaurs, in one form or another, still exist. In just about every version of the story, he gets picked up and brought back to "civilization," where tragedy ensues.
Why So Powerful? Okay, so in the 1933 original (and Peter Jackson's 2005 remake), Kong is pretty impressive compared to a human (or even some biplanes), but he stands only around 25 feet tall. Even then, he can put the hurt on a T-Rex or two and scale the tallest building in New York (at the time). Later films increased Kong's size considerably, and he's even gone toe-to-toe with Godzilla once before, fighting the big G to a standstill in 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla, where he grew more powerful when struck by lightning.
Any Weaknesses? Just about anything that could take out a regular ape seems to more or less work on Kong, you just need a lot more of it. He's also got something of a weakness for the ladies, which has led to his (literal) downfall more than once.17064Monstrously powerful?
As surprising as it may be, given the massive popularity of Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" fiction, the big C himself has appeared on film only a couple of times over the years.
Origins: Originally created by famed pulp scribe H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu was part of a pantheon of cosmic entities that peppered Lovecraft's weird tales. First introduced in "The Call of Cthulhu," which appeared in Weird Tales magazine in 1928, references to Cthulhu can be found throughout the works of Lovecraft, his proteges, and his imitators over the years. Lovecraft writes that Cthulhu came to Earth from "the stars," and that he now lies "dreaming" in his house at R'lyeh, a sunken city on the bottom of the sea. At the end of the 2020 film Underwater, a deep-sea drilling operation appears to have stirred Cthulhu from his slumber, where he is attended to by a host of other aquatic monsters. (The film never says the C-word, but it's a giant monster on the bottom of the ocean with a face like an octopus and protrusions on its back that could be wings. No one has to say Cthulhu.)
Why So Powerful? The exact nature and extent of Cthulhu's powers are never fully spelled out, but in "The Call of Cthulhu," Lovecraft writes that Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones like him are "not composed altogether of flesh and blood" and that they can never truly perish. When the stars are right, they can "plunge from world to world through the sky," but at other times they sleep a deathless sleep. And when they are awakened? All the world will "flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom," at least according to the cults who worship Cthulhu.
Any Weaknesses? At the end of "The Call of Cthulhu," some survivors manage to escape by ramming Cthulhu with a ship. At the end of Underwater, some escape when others detonate the nuclear core of the deep-sea drilling operation. While the latter case appears to have destroyed Cthulhu, as well, Lovecraft's story implies that Cthulhu cannot be slain, and is only "recombining" into its "hateful original form."12237Monstrously powerful?