15 Movies to Watch After You See ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

We recommend 15 movies to watch if you like the final installment of the 'MonsterVerse' franchise.
movies like Godzilla Vs Kong

Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1994)

I’m going to admit something that I never do in this column (even though it’s a common thing): I haven’t seen this pick. I’m not that well-versed in anime, and while I have seen bits of Robotech cartoons, I can’t properly say I’m familiar with the Macross franchise save for maybe whatever was repurposed. But given what Wingard told Matt Patches at Polygon about the general and specific anime influence on Godzilla vs. Kong, I couldn’t leave the stuff out. And while I personally would probably start at the start with the early ’80s series, it’s best to go with what Wingard names explicitly here:

“I have a lot of influences in anime. The more obvious ones in this movie are the way that we approach the HEAV, the antigravity vehicles. When they fire missiles off, we tried to always make those look like the missiles in ‘Macross Plus’ or ‘Robotech,’ where it’s like 1000 missiles. And anime came up a lot, just the style and the color of it.”

Macross Plus is a four-episode anime OVA that was originally written as a feature and edited and released as such theatrically in the UK and on home video in the US, so I’m able to count the “Movie Edition” for this list. I don’t know what Robotech works would fit Wingard’s reference, so I didn’t dare recommend Robotech: The Movie (1985), which I believe doesn’t represent the Robotech cartoon anyway. There’s one more very famous anime movie that Wingard mentions in the interview: Akira (1988). But I didn’t want to go with the seemingly easy intro-to-anime pick. Here he is on that and more:

“The big Hong Kong backdrop at the end of the film was obviously very inspired by Neo Tokyo in ‘Akira.’ It’s interesting, I remember specifically a couple of moments in pre-vis that were even more anime, and they got scaled back a little bit because once you start putting it into reality, some things go a step too far. Like for instance, there’s one shot in the movie where Godzilla fires his nuclear breath at Kong, Kong blocks with the axe and it pushes him backwards. And the way that we originally showed it was a close-up on Kong’s feet as they skid through the frame. It was such an anime kind of moment. But once we started building that into more of a reality, it was just a step too far. But the DNA is always in there.”

Die Hard (1988) and Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Two iconic action franchises influenced the making of Godzilla vs. Kong, and I’m going to let Wingard and Borenstein explain how. First, here’s what Wingard told The Hollywood Reporter about his movie’s connection to the first Die Hard:

“I always saw Kong in this film as an ‘80s action hero or an early ‘90s Shane Black action hero. I’m a big fan of that style of action where the action hero is this guy who’s down on his luck. Godzilla is way more powerful than [Kong]. And then on top of that, we’ve put Kong on the ocean. This is Godzilla’s element. So the stakes and the danger level are already high for this character, but then you want to amplify that. And the inspiration for that really comes from ‘Die Hard’ more than anything. That’s why the movie has a ‘Die Hard’ reference here and there from a visual standpoint.”

Of course, that mention of Shane Black brings us to Lethal Weapon. But more than the 1987 original, it’s Lethal Weapon 2 that has the greater significance for Godzilla vs. Kong as Kong pops his dislocated shoulder back into place a la Mel Gibson’s character Martin Riggs in the sequel. Here’s what Wingard told Daily Dead about the homage:

“There are a lot of ’80s and ’90s action hero moments and references within the movie, and the ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ was one of my favorites. There used to be more ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ movie references, if you can imagine, in the film, but we ended up cutting those. [Alexander] Skarsgård used to actually be wearing a Japanese ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ t-shirt in one scene that was cut from the film. His character actually had a monologue about ‘Lethal Weapon 2,’ too, but as you can imagine, that was a step too far [laughs].”

Wingard revealed another one the reference on CinemaBlend’s Reelblend podcast:

“If you look at the end credits, there’s still a reference — at the very end of the credits, it kind of mentions a lot of stuff that we had to give thanks to for copyright reasons. And we had to give a thanks to, or a credit to, ‘Lethal Weapon 2.’ I can’t remember if it’s still in the film, or if they had to leave it in for legal reasons, but Skarsgard’s character used to drink out of a ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ mug in the movie.”

And finally, here’s Borenstein admitting his own Lethal Weapon 2 fandom and also explaining more of what Skarsgard’s character’s monologue entailed to CinemaBlend:

“[Adam Wingard] is obsessed with it, it happens to be one of my favorite movies too. I don’t know how many made it in. A lot of the ones I remember most being in the script didn’t make it in. It was a lot with Alex Skarsgard’s character where he was obsessed with the film and he gave this exposition at a bar before Simmons arrived, and it wound up on the cutting room floor, but he talked about sequels and how some sequels, like maybe ‘Godfather II,’ people who like II [think it’s] actually better than the original. And I think it was was a kind of meta thing having to do with the ambitions of this film and the franchise, fun stuff like that.”

Koko: A Talking Gorilla (1978)

This is a super-sized list fit for such super-sized characters, and that means I get to feature two documentaries rather than the one obligatory pick. For my second doc recommendation, I’m looking to the fact that in Godzilla vs. Kong the latter titular character has learned to use sign language to talk to people and how it’s become a stereotype, thanks to Hollywood movies from Project X (1987) to the Planet of the Apes reboot film series (2011-2017), that great apes easily and truly learn to communicate using American Sign Language.

But in the 1970s, scientists thought it was not only possible but believed it was happening — and some would still argue that the various apes were and are learning and using “language” as they define it. While the chimpanzee called Nim Chimpsky was an earlier subject for this research and his doc, Project Nim (2011), is an excellent film, Koko the gorilla came very soon afterward, is closer in species to Kong so a better link to Godzilla vs. Kong, and got a much earlier documentary showcase in the form of Barbet Schroeder’s Koko: A Talking Gorilla. I highly recommend watching both docs, but this one comes first.

Rocky (1976)

Although giant monster movie fights are more inspired by and more similar to wrestling matches, I’ve got to include the Best Picture-winning boxing movie Rocky. Not because it’s about fighting but because it’s about an underdog in a fight. Also because Wingard has referenced it while discussing Godzilla vs. Kong. Sylvester Stallone’s titular character is, in the director’s mind, similar to Kong (this invites jokes at Stallone’s expense), and their narrative arcs parallel each other to a degree. That makes Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed aligned with Godzilla. From our own interview with Wingard (linked above):

“Kong is also the underdog. He’s at a severe disadvantage in terms of this fight. Nobody wants to watch Rocky and have it be about Apollo Creed because he’s already ahead. What even is that movie? It’s just [Apollo] relaxing, having fun, being confident. Then he fights this guy at the end of the movie, and he’s kind of surprised that the guy’s pretty good? You want to follow the character that has the most to prove and has the most odds stacked against them.”

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Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.