10 Movies & Anime to Watch Before ‘Pacific Rim’

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 10th, 2013 at 12:56 pm, This is a list post.

Pacific Rim

Pan's Labyrinth. Cronos. The Devil's Backbone. Blade 2. Even if you're unacquainted with the work of lauded Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, you've probably heard of Pacific Rim, his upcoming giant monsters versus giant robots opus. Whether you're a true-blue fan of del Toro's brand of cinema magic, a general aficionado of mecha stories and kaiju pictures, or both, you probably don't need to be sold on the film's merits at all; you're just counting down the days until release.So what better way to prepare for the film's imminent rampage through American multiplexes than by having a monster/robot movie marathon? Del Toro and his crew may not have directly referenced movies or shows in either category with Pacific Rim, but they've definitely hitched their film to the kaiju and mecha genres; seems like a good opportunity to brush up on the the titles you've missed, or just to rewatch your favorites!Here's our list of 10 movies and anime worth catching up on before Pacific Rim.

The Mist

The Mist

Okay, so maybe Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's horror novella doesn't really fit under the "kaiju" banner, but monsters are monsters, and The Mist boasts a huge collection of otherworldly creatures that come in all shapes and sizes. Big spiders, mini pterodactyls, enormous praying mantises, colossal, indescribable beasts...there's a critter in here for everyone, with a huge emphasis placed on practical FX work over CGI.But it's the basic conceit of The Mist that really makes it a good aperitif for Pacific Rim. After a lot of talk about dimensional portals, it's clear that the various creepy crawlies attacking the small Maine town in which The Mist is set come from a whole other sphere of existence from our own. They're not man-made; they're natural-born aberrations brought to Earth by a rift in space, just like the interloping kaiju in del Toro's own story.

It Came From Beneath the Sea

It Came From Beneath the Sea

On the other hand, the giant octopus that serves as the big bad in Robert Gordon's It Came From Beneath the Sea can trace its origins directly to human, scientific meddling. Hydrogen bomb testing over the Philippine Trench, one of the third deepest points in the world, forces the voracious cephalopod out of its natural habitat and mutates it to gargantuan proportions; like any super-sized carnivore, it quickly begins sinking ships and devouring swimmers, leaving it up to the US Navy to save the day.It Came From Beneath the Sea is every bit as cheesy as anyone could expect to be, and maybe even cheesier, but it's a ton of fun thanks to its hopelessly dated and relentlessly (unintentionally?) suggestive dialogue. Of course, what really makes the film worth seeing is the stop-motion effects work of the legendary Ray Harryhausen. While this is no Clash of the Titans or Jason and the Argonauts, it's still a wonderful showcase for his brilliance as a visual effects artist.

Hellboy 2

Hellboy 2

Among the offerings in del Toro's body of work, it's Hellboy 2 that best shows off his gift for design and the limitlessness of his imagination. One scene in the film perfectly encapsulates both of these qualities: the infamous Troll Market sequence. In a movie peppered with awesome design work, it's the BPRD's jaunt through this crowded bazaar of the bizarre that takes the crown.In fact, there's so much neat stuff on display here that watching it once simply isn't enough. From the moment Hellboy and the BPRD enter the Troll Market, del Toro stuffs the frame with all kinds of oddities, curiosities, grotesqueries, and gonzo beauty; your eyes will dart this way and that, trying to capture the visual feast in its entirety. Fortunately, DVD players have rewind buttons, so monster connoisseurs can watch the scene over and over to their hearts' content.

Genesis of Aquarion

Genesis Of Aquarion

The first anime entry on this list, Genesis of Aquarion employs a fairly standard plot blueprint: in the distant future, humanity faces extinction at the hands of a powerful alien race known as the Shadow Angels, who besiege the planet using their monstrous Cherubim warriors. Hope for the world lies in three technologically advanced fighter planes called vectors, which can  merge together to form a giant robot named Aquarion. (Shoji Kawamori isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here.)Perhaps playing into stereotypes about anime as a genre, Aquarion is really, really weird and frequently over-the-top; creepy sibling dynamics and gender politics exist side-by-side with big-scale action brought to life with fluid, sterling animation, making for a fun but often wacky slice of mecha-romance. And just like Pacific Rim, Aquarion's pilots merge consciousness - to an extent - when assembling the titular robot, and must work in tandem to fight their enemies as a unified force.

The Host

The Host Monster

Again we have a film that doesn't technically qualify as a kaiju picture, but in a cinema landscape where men in rubber suits have become almost obsolete, The Host - not the YA Saoirse Ronan vehicle from this year, but Bong Joon-ho's 2006 creature feature - stands out as one of the very best monster movies to be released in the new millennium. If that sounds like a shaky claim, here's a shakier one: The Host may well be the modern heir apparent to Godzilla.The basic set-up may sound familiar; reckless pollution in the name of science leads to the birth of an aquatic beast that rises from the watery depths and starts wreaking havoc on the mainland. It's the details that give The Host its distinction, with all of the political subtext brought directly to the surface and every shred of humanity invested in one family just trying to survive the resultant mayhem. Despite being smaller in scale, The Host faithfully follows the classic kaiju template to a "T."

Destroy All Monsters

Destroy All Monsters

There's one flaw with Destroy All Monsters that almost kept it off of this list: it's unbelievably boring. Who knew that a film with a climax that features pretty much every major kaiju in monster iconography - including but not limited to Rodan, Mothra, Manda, Baragon, Varan, King Ghidorah, and the big man himself, Godzilla - could be so unrelentingly dull? But that's what happens when you ship all of these characters off to Monsterland and focus most of the plot on flat human characters.So why does Destroy All Monsters rank so high on this list? As yawn-inducing as the human stuff is, the monster stuff drills right down to the core of why we love kaiju in the first place. Watching Ghidorah take on Toho's whole stable of beloved behemoths is a reminder of how much fun it is to see these towering creatures go at it and incur astronomical collateral damage at the same time.

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

Think of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms as a much, much better version of It Came From Beneath the Sea; predating Gordon's film (as well as Ishiro Honda's 1954 masterclass in giant monster cinema, Godzilla), nuclear testing ends up thawing a hibernating dinosaur and stirring it from its prehistoric slumber. As expected, the thunder lizard wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and rages up and down the East coast, making stops in Maine, Massachusetts - and eventually Coney Island for a fiery finale.Where The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms differs from It Came Beneath the Sea is in spectacle. The latter happens to be lighter on havoc, while the former levels entire city streets and burns seaside amusement parks to the ground. If the monster (yet another Harryhausen creation)  isn't knocking buildings down and burying bystanders in rubble, it's infecting them with its contagious, virulent blood. Maybe the king of all monsters did this sort of thing better, but Eugene Lourie's Rhedeosaurus did it first.

Robot Jox

Robot Jox

Pacific Rim pre-gaming list wouldn't be compete without Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox, a 1990 film that's heavy on the mecha violence. Here, the entire planet has been divided into two factions: the US-themed Market and the Russia-inspired Confederation. Rather than meet in open war to settle their disputes, the opposing nations pit their champions against one another in massive robots, armed to the teeth with an array of nasty tricks and weapons. The film narrows down on the aftermath of a fight between Market champion Achilles and Confederate champion Alexander.Robot Jox is noteworthy for its backstage drama alone; Gordon butted heads with his screenwriter, sci-fi author Joe Haldeman, over their different ideas about the film's tone, direction, and even its title. But none of that says anything about Robot Jox as B-movie joyride. It's a quintessential bit of '90s cheese, boasting hammy performances and excellent stop-motion work. (Plus, this.) Crash and burn!

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion

If only two major reference points exist for Pacific Rim to riff on, Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of them, and that's why it's standing at #2 on our list. Like Genesis of AquarionNeon Genesis Evangelion - by far the more influential of the two - depicts a world under siege by a monstrous alien race known as Angels. The planet's survival rest on the shoulders of Shinji, a fourteen year old boy tasked by his military father to fight the angels by piloting a gigantic cyborg called an Evangelion.What happens when you put that weight on a teenager? Neon Genesis Evangelion primarily concerns itself with the psychological toll controlling a war machine takes; the show inherently understands that the excitement of watching Evas battle Angels is intensified the more that viewers care about the human characters. Don't let the occasional screwball gag fool you into thinking that this is light-hearted fare; the further that the series progresses, the darker it becomes.



Who better to take the top spot than Godzilla himself? Ishiro Honda's Godzilla is the real deal, one of the single most important films ever made in this niche cinema genre, and simply one of the greatest films of all time. While credit has to go to King Kong for being the progenitor of the entire "giant monster movie" tradition, Godzilla deserves all the laurels it gets for electing to put a stuntman in a rubber suit over using stop-motion animation, giving its central monster a new vitality.Plus, Ishiro Honda's film still hits like a hammer even today. Forget that you're watching a grown man in a monster costume stomping on crude miniature cities; this is a picture crafted to reflect a nation's grief and fear over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nine years prior. Honda's film is intentionally modeled to echo the horror of that joint event, and yet it blends that allegory with pure spectacle and entertainment to create something awe-inspiring and even artful.

10 Movies & Animes To Watch Before ‘Pacific Rim’

Pacific Rim

Of course, there are many, many more movies that could have made this list, from Godzilla's ancillary titles, to movies that have nothing to do with Godzilla such as War of the Gargantuas and Daimajin, to modern entries in the kaiju genre like the aptly named Monsters and popular anime titles like Gunbuster. (And let's not forget Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!) As narrow as the kaiju and mecha genres are, they're chock-full of great titles worth watching; these are just our ten favorites. So what are yours? Sound off in the comments section!Pacific Rim hits theaters Friday, July 12th; tide yourself over in the meantime by checking out some of the films mentioned here, and by taking a look at the numerous featurettes about del Toro's latest here on Screen Rant. (Also, don't forget to keep an eye out for our impending Pacific Rim review.)
TAGS: godzilla, pacific rim


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  1. Switch Evangelion with Godzilla and we have a winner

    Just saw my Bluray of Eva 1.11 last night… :3

    • It’s hard to go wrong either way. They’re both great. But I grew up on kaiju stuff, and Godzilla is one of my favorite movies. Color me biased.

  2. Not familiar with Genesis of Aquarion…. sounds great, time to speak to my importer and spend more money…. cheers SR lol

    • You could also be a total cheapskate like me and just borrow them through your local library system.

  3. What about Big O and Megas XLR?!

    • Great shows that they are (LOVE Megas XLR, I miss it) apart from being mecha they don’t directly relate to the themes of Pacific Rim.

    • Big O and Megas XLR are amazing!
      Chicks dig giant robots!
      Also Gundam, preferably Wing, should be noted as well

  4. Tickets booked for Sunday 3D IMAX Showing…. Happy, happy, happy, joy, joy, joy…..

  5. First of all, to be pedantic about it, the term “anime” is both singular and plural, so please get rid of that “S” in the article title and body.

    Second, it’s a shame that the article reads like the author either wanted to do an anime article but couldn’t come up with enough relevant examples (there are many), or was doing a movie article when someone said “Well, what about Evangelion,” with Aquarion thrown in in a last-second attempt to balance the list (which it does not).

    Third, of all the Evangelion artwork out there that could be “borrowed” for an article, why choose an image from one of the video games no one in the U.S. knows about?

    Fourth, @Jonathan, Aquarion isn’t really that good. The story is empty, the scripting is terrible, the animation is about average for a TV series but of wildly varying quality between episodes and overall poorly integrated with the CG robots that float on top of everything else. It’s only on this list because of the “psychic link between pilots” element, not because it’s worth seeing. Go watch RahXephon or Gurren Lagann or Patlabor instead, not that they incorporate that same element but because they’re just better shows.

    • @ Ethan

      Sorted Patlabor, got both the movies and the TV series releases in the States will be winging their way across the pond to me very soon.

      It was the wierd bit that got me but if it’s pants then I’ll skip it.

      What’s Escaflowne like, I know it’s old but I’ve heard good things and always fancied giving it a shot.

      • @ Jonathan

        Props for getting into Patlabor. FYI, indications are that the three movies (don’t forget about WXIII after all!) were also re-licensed as part of a bundle that landed Maiden Japan the TV series and OVA rights, so they’ll probably be getting a nice Blu-ray release Stateside sometime next year you can import over as well.

        Escaflowne is a decent show that holds up well enough for being almost two decades old at this point. It’s really more of a fantasy adventure that happens to have giant robot-esque things in it. The story’s got a few weird twists to it, but overall it’s pretty solid. There’s also the movie retelling, which has nicer animation but a bit weaker story, though I still enjoy watching it.

    • Thanks for the correction, Ethan. I should have known better – I never pluralize “samurai”, for example. Cheers.

      As far as intent, I wanted to do a list that caters to both since Pacific Rim calls on both traditions. That doesn’t mean I don’t prefer one genre to the other, though, and I don’t think I need to clarify my proclivities given that this list is chock-full of monster movies of all makes and models. (Obviously I have a big Toho bias.) I knew that a pre-gaming list for Pacific Rim would be woefully incomplete without Evangelion, and honestly? I really, really like Aquarion.

      You’re right- there are better anime titles out there worth watching. But I feel like Aquarion gets beaten up on a lot, and as cheesy and flat-out weird as it is, it’s a ton of fun and fully embraces the mecha elements, which I have to applaud. As much as I’m teasing it for being so stereotypically “anime-ish”- notably in the VERY VERY different ways the male and female characters experience the power of unification- it’s always had a soft spot in my heart. Uneven, but worth one’s time.

      I won’t deny that the thematic elements also played a part in its appearance here, but that’s the purpose of the list. If I ever run a “great anime titles worth watching” list, I’d probably put RahXephon and Gunbuster on there with Patlabor and Escaflowne. (@Jonathan: you should indeed watch Escaflowne!) But this list has a very specific intention, and I felt Aquarion fit my needs just a bit better – and I also wanted to take the opportunity to give it a little love.

      • Thanks for the reply, Andrew. That’s all very fair, and I appreciate the explanations. And thanks for the correction, too (not the end of the world, but just one of those things, y’know?).

        I have to give you credit for sticking up for Aquarion. Obviously many folks do like it, or it wouldn’t have been released on Blu-ray in Japan after the fact, and Aquarion Evol wouldn’t exist. It just fell flat for me, though perhaps at least part of that was because I got myself too geared up based on the hype and ended up doing the show a disservice for what it was. I think also I felt like Kawamori was still too sidetracked in the wake of his strange worldly journeying that resulted in Arjuna a few years prior, and trying to apply some of those ideas in a mecha context wasn’t the best decision.

        • Hey, no problem Ethan – thanks for pointing out the mistake. Like I said, I should have known better. For everything else, I’m always glad to debate movies and television, so trust me when I say that I value the comment!

          I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually seen Earth Maid Arjuna, but I’ve heard enough about that I can see the thematic similarities between it and Aquarion. Sounds like Kawamori just let too many ideas from a previous work bleed into it; who knows, maybe if I watch Arjuna, my opinion of Aquarion might change. (That is, if Arjuna is worth watching at all. Confirm or deny?)

          • I do think Arjuna is worth watching, though others do disagree, and some rather strongly.

            In 1999 or 2000, Kawamori had taken a couple of trips through east Asia and India, and became really intrigued by some of the religious and philosophical concepts he encountered, as well as ideas like the benefits of natural farming. When he came back, he decided it would be a good idea to take a lot of that and build a series around it. Thus, Arjuna.

            The show is fundamentally built around the framework of a magical girl genre show, just with things like Hinduism and naturistic philosophy as its themes and dressing. So if nothing else, from the point of view of “this is an interesting spin on a familiar genre” it’s worth a watch.

            The problem that some folks run into with the show is that Kawamori was very earnest in his presentation of the concepts therein, and so it can come across as extremely heavy-handed at times. Arjuna the character, in her capacity as mahou shoujo, is linked to the Earth, and so numerous scenes involve her reacting badly to things going on around her that we as humans do to harm the Earth, so you can see how that can start to induce eye-rolling. One notable scene involves her going to a burger joint with a friend, and as the friend is eating, she’s having traumatic visions of overfarming and pesticides and dead cattle. Point taken, but a bit overboard on the delivery.

            So, to really watch the show, you just need to not let yourself get sidetracked by the fact that Kawamori is trying too hard and too clumsily to show the audience all the neat stuff he just learned during a couple of road trips to India. You can only be talked down to if you let the other person get away with it, so to speak.

            The big disadvantage when it comes to Arjuna is that your legal options for viewing the show are limited, since its domestic licensee Bandai Entertainment was closed by its parent company a short time ago, and that the series had been out of print for a while prior to that anyway. However, we’re not talking about Evangelion or Code Geass or Fullmetal Alchemist here, so there are new and used DVDs available for very low prices in a variety of places like Amazon’s Marketplace.

            • …damn. That’s a buzzkill. You’re making Arjuna sound like a real trip – should be right up my alley – but I feel like finding and watching it is going to be a Herculean feat.

              If I can scrounge up a copy of the series, I’ll absolutely give it a shot. “Heavy-handed” is one of those things where one’s mileage may vary. One man’s heavy-handedness is another’s nuance, after all!

              • Taking a quick look, there are several used copies listed on Amazon’s Marketplace of each of the two different complete collections that Bandai released domestically (identical content between the two versions), the cheapest of which will set you back only 30-some dollars including shipping, which is pretty good for an OOP product. If you happen to be more of a collector, there are also new copies of the original four single discs available, which in total would set you back 50-some dollars.

    • Tell ‘em!

  6. What about some Sym-Bionic Titan?

    • I watched that as much as I could before it got cancelled. Looking forward to his Popeye movie.

    • That’s a new one on me, but after giving it a look on Wikipedia, I’m gonna have to check it out. It sounds awesome.

      • It was awesome, shouldnt have gotten canceled.

  7. There are a few omissions. There are shows that date back to the 60s, that are the grandfathers of all of the above mentioned shows/Movies with the exception of godzilla.

    • Well, in my defense, I only had ten spots!

      • Great list! Seriously check out Sym-Bionic Titan. It was on Cartoon Network late Sat nights but if you can’t find it there try ITunes.

        • Wherever I can find it, I’ll check it out. Netflix doesn’t have it and none of the local libraries seem to, either. iTunes, ho!

  8. Glad to see Evangelion on the list, possibly my favorite anime ever and the first thing I thought of when I saw a trailer for Pacific Rim. If it’s anything like that I just might see PR.

  9. The Host is awesome, no one does it better than the Koreans!

  10. I assumed that Gundam would be here.

  11. What about Gundam?

  12. I would put Gundam Wing on the list. Pacific Rim really, really reminds me of the Gundam Wing series. I know, not the same story, but it’s still people controlling giant fighting robots, i.e. mobile suits.

    • +46 Same here! That’s the first thing I thought when I saw the trailer!

    • My point exactly :)

  13. You guys left one of the best mech animes there is; Eureka 7. It may not be that popular but it’s definitely one of the best animes I’ve seen and has such an incredible story and writing. Definitely recommend checking it out.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, then, Bigfoot, since I definitely haven’t seen it.

      • It’s made by Studio BONES who also made FMA and Darker Than Black, and the lead writer was apart of the Cowboy Bebop team. It’s an awesome show.

  14. I would have said Power Ranger movies :)
    The power ranger had end fights with there enemies
    which have been grown to uber size after all most lose
    then the power ranger will call there robots which join in
    one big robot to combat the evil big monster

  15. I agree with Rizzle. Sym-Bionic Titan is a perfect show to watch before Pacific Rim. Fits this genre perfectly.

  16. “Pacific Rim” is gonna get a whole lotta love from Japan, China, Korea etc… It’s also great that it is an original story instead of being a version of an existing franchise. Usually they change so many things from the original source material that it often seems like they are just using the name to make whatever they want.

  17. Was actually very shocked when I read the title “The Host” but then I read the description and I gasped in gladness. I thought that Twilight-sequel movie was a kaiju movie hahaha

  18. Was about to say where the f is evangelion but its there.

  19. Wondering why they left Gundam Wing of the list?

    • Simple reason: I really wanted to watch/rewatch (mostly rewatch) every title that I put on this list. I didn’t have time to fit Gundam into my viewing schedule. Heck, I didn’t even get to finish with Aquarion and Evangelion.

      If I’d given myself more time to write, then Gundam – or Robotech or Macross, as suggested below – probably would have ended up somewhere on this list.

      • I assumed Gundam was left out because it’s not really like Pacific Rim, in that just about all of its incarnations are about humans fighting other humans within an allegorical modern war context, rather than humans struggling for the survival of the human race against mysterious creatures. Sure, there are giant robots in both, but that’s about it. I personally wouldn’t suggest Gundam as pre-viewing for Pacific Rim any more than I’d suggest Code Geass, Gun Sword or Stellvia. (Well, actually, having mentioned it, Stellvia’s perhaps not such a bad suggestion after all…)

        • They’re not particularly similar, no…I just happen to like Gundam.

          But I couldn’t in good conscience even think of putting it on here without taking a look at it again. It’s been a long time since I last watched it. I didn’t have grey hairs in my goatee then.

  20. watch G-Gundam , they are standing up inside the robot and the robot does whatever the pilot does inside. pretty similar

  21. What happened to Voltron!

    • Add Ultra-Man to the list and Shogun Warriors, which had a toy tie-in with Godzilla. Anyone who think Del Toro “borrowed” this whole idea from a few of the newer anime shows might not realize where those shows borrowed their themes from.

      • Ultraman DEFINITELY flirted with this list. I have fond memories of watching the show – in one incarnation or another – as a kid.

  22. No Robotech (Macross)? Really? Come on!! All the people I know tahat are 30 yrs old have seen ate least twice this great series, come on!!!

    • +1

  23. Where is Power Rangers, Crump? We need Power Rangers on this list. Lots of Power Rangers.

    • They’ll probably go through the dimensional rift in Pacific Rim and find Rita Repulsa shrieking, “Make my monster grow!”

      • No fair! “Shaw-Williams” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “Crump” does. (Though I’m used to that. Almost nobody calls me “Andy” these days.)

        I swear that I tried to write something out for Power Rangers as a “bonus” pick – this list goes to eleven, that sort of thing – but I found myself running out of time. So I gave it a shout-out on the post-script page.

        Maybe they’ll save Rita Repulsa for the sequel! It would be so like her to send giant monsters to Earth through a dimensional portal.

  24. How come “Ultraman” (the vintage version) didn’t appear on the list? That definitely fuelled the love for Kaiju of most giant monster fans. :(

    • i agree … saw your post right after i did my post .. lol
      Show UltraMan some love too

  25. Lets add UltraMan to this list

  26. Were is Dai-guard(old anime)that is like Pacific Rim before Pacific Rim a bit less grand but watch it and say they are not alike I DARE YOU

  27. yah, I think the author just looked up other sites or comments on youtube to cobble this list together. Godzilla, I can see, but I think that Godzilla Final Wars, which throws in every Kaiju in godzillas history would have been a better choice. Sentai shows like Ultraman or Zyuranger would have been a another good choice as well. Patlabor is another good choice for the mecha angle. Evangelion really does not bear any resemblence or bearing on Pacific Rim at all.

    • I disagree completely. Evangelion is focuses a lot on the people who pilots the mechs of the story, something that Pacific Rim does as well. It’s a prime example of how establishing the characters who pilot the robots, and exploring the psychology and danger of mech warfare, is key to making these stories work.

      And Final Wars is a mixed bag for me. The idea is great, and some of the action works, but I don’t think Kitamura is the kind of guy who should be making kaiju movies – his style really doesn’t gel all that well with the nature of Godzilla – and it’s about a half an hour too long. Destroy All Monsters might take its sweet time getting going, but it has a FAR more satisfying payoff.

  28. I don’t know if “Independence Day” was mentioned yet. From the alien’s motivations to the speech that Idris Elba’s character gives before the finale, ID4 was definitely an influence.