‘Cloverfield’ Is (Still) the Best Monster Movie Ever Made (2023)

Fifteen years ago today, some thing attacked New York City. No, I don’t mean Lady Gaga at the start of the first year of her meteoric rise to fame, though that certainly caused its own type of colossal destruction—to my bank account! (Finish throwing your tomatoes, then we can continue.) I’m talking about the four-legged, 25-story-tall beast that rampaged through Manhattan in the movie Cloverfield, which landed in theaters Jan. 18, 2008.

If you’re a colossal monster movie nerd like myself, 1-18-08 is a hallowed date, and it has been since before Cloverfield even made its theatrical debut. It seems like several lifetimes ago, but try to think back to when Transformers was the biggest film in the world and Shia LaBeouf wasn’t a flight risk. Audiences packed themselves into theaters for the first Transformers film in early July 2007. But before the movie started, they were first treated to a mysterious teaser trailer.

Scenes of a surprise party in New York City, filled with hipster yuppies talking to a handheld camera, were spliced together over late-aughts pop hits: friends wishing some guy named Rob good luck in Japan; Lizzy Caplan appearing in a major motion picture for the first time since Mean Girls infiltrated the cultural lexicon forever. Suddenly, the floor shakes, the lights go out, and a thunderous roar permeates the air. The partygoers make their way up to the roof just in time for an explosion of fireballs to come hurtling toward them. A frantic rush down the stairs and into the street is met with familiar scenes of New Yorkers running in one direction before the Statue of Liberty's head is thrown, crashing into the frame. The teaser ends with no title, only a release date: 1-18-08.

The trailer instantly lit up message boards (remember those?) with speculation. What the hell was this movie, and what the hell was happening in that trailer? Just shy of six years post-9/11, Cloverfield’s teaser ingeniously rode in on the fumes of fear that still permeated American culture.

That short preview replicated the effect of repeatedly seeing footage of fiery explosions and collapsing buildings after 9/11, to a macabre but intriguing effect. It was the first piece of one of the best and most innovative marketing campaigns of the millennium so far, which hooked millions of people into its viral alternate reality game (“ARG,” for short) and brought the film unprecedented success for a January theatrical release. Cloverfield didn’t just give American millennials our own iconic monster, predicated on cultural history and anxieties. It created an experience that has to be seen to be believed, a love story and monster movie rolled into one horrific package.

‘Cloverfield’ Is (Still) the Best Monster Movie Ever Made (1)


(Video) Movies That Should Be (And Might Be) Part of the Cloverfield Universe

It was four months after its teaser trailer’s release before the public even knew Cloverfield’s title, when a full trailer hit theaters ahead of Beowulf. In that time, self-appointed sleuths had already dug up strategically placed websites around the internet (most of which are now defunct) and MySpace profiles that contained clues toward the film’s backstory and character traits. The sites were regularly updated by the film’s campaign managers until a few weeks following its theatrical release, and audiences could use them to fill in the story if they wanted more answers—they certainly weren’t going to get them from the movie itself.

Because Cloverfield is a found-footage film, what we see is what we get. The only exposition comes in the form of the film’s opening scenes, which depict its central characters, close friends Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Annable), filming each other the morning after a hookup. The film then cuts to months later, when Rob’s brother, Jason (Mike Vogel), begins accidentally taping over the footage to capture Rob’s goodbye party that night. There are only 18 minutes of footage before the monster emerges from the depths of the Atlantic, and the night goes haywire.

By bucking the conventions of your standard monster movie, producer J.J. Abrams, director Matt Reeves, and writer Drew Goddard thrust audiences directly into action in a way that hadn’t been done before on such a grand scale. Your average monster movie is going to fall back on 45 minutes of storytelling before anything interesting starts happening. But Cloverfield’s found-footage style allows the film to be free of any obligation to explain things to the audience using a normal narrative structure. Instead, we feel like spectators on the ground, witnessing all of the events firsthand, just as confused and terrified as all of the characters.

    The moment the first attack happens, Cloverfield becomes a nonstop, pulse-pounding ride. There are no moments of reprieve, not a second to compose yourself and check in on some tertiary character somewhere else. Even the occasional, brief cuts to the footage of Rob and Beth on their date months prior—selectively placed to give the film its emotional edge—are tinged with terror knowing what we’ll cut back to. There’s nothing so sad and grisly as risking your life for love, and that’s what Rob decides to do when he and his friends traverse from downtown Battery Park to Columbus Circle to rescue Beth in the face of certain death.

    One by one, they’re picked off amidst a well of confusion and discord. As the death toll rises, so does the number of monster shots. “Clover,” as fans so affectionately named the monster, is teased out slowly. Its massive tail destroys the Brooklyn bridge during an evacuation; its roaring face soars through army gunfire and dust as Rob’s crew ducks into subway tunnels. Hints of its massive scope are briefly seen on televisions being looted from electronics stores.

    (Video) Cloverfield - The BEST Monster Movie Ever

    But it's the two scenes in the film’s final act—a grand, full-scale shot of Clover moving through Midtown seen from a helicopter, and a direct close-up in Central Park—that remain the most haunting. These shots are where it becomes clear: Clover isn’t just a monster, it’s an apocalypse.

    (Video) Cloverfield - teaser [HD 1080p]

    With a country’s greatest fear playing out on the big screen, Cloverfield captured a society on the precipice of major change. Social media and civilian digital video were about to become the premier source of unfiltered news in a post-9/11 world, triggering a cultural reckoning and inescapable political division. If the original Godzilla was created as a way for Japan to grapple with the atrocities thrust onto the country in World War II, Cloverfield was the culmination of the collective American anxiety that bore into our consciousness when 9/11 made a new generation realize that safety was simply an illusion.

    But the reason Cloverfield stands out as a distinct competitor to Godzilla’s iconic stature is the way it capitalizes on the way love interacts with fear as part of human nature. Godzilla—in both the 1950s and 2010s—focused heavily on creature origin stories and military responses. But Cloverfield shirks all of that to appeal to the viewers’ base-level emotions. Fear and love have been the catalysts for the greatest art ever made, and the same is true here.

    ‘Cloverfield’ Is (Still) the Best Monster Movie Ever Made (2)


    Viewers showed up to see the terror of a deep sea creature rampaging through New York and were left pained by Rob and Beth’s doomed love story. The film’s final moments are a gut punch of sadness and startling humanity, imbued into the exoskeleton of a film that would otherwise be a straight-up creature feature. If you could see the person you love and look them in the eye, in what you think will be your last moments together, what would you say? The movie’s finale is unforgettable in its bleak heartache. Cities can be rebuilt, but lives are gone forever. It’s rare that a monster movie can make you give even half a shit about the human characters within it, and Cloverfield runs laps around the attempts from similar genre offerings with ease.

    In just 85 minutes and on a $25 million budget, Cloverfield did what other monster movies spend two hours and millions more trying to do. It created something iconic in no time at all, and elevated our shared anxieties to the silver screen. And while its anthologized continuations have ranged from great (10 Cloverfield Lane) to horrible (The Cloverfield Paradox), the original 2008 feature still has a solid foundation to build upon. A direct sequel was announced last year, and if it ever does see the light of day, diehard fans like myself will be hoping that it can come anywhere close to replicating the first film’s intuitive scope.

    (Video) What Are Cloverfield Monsters – Where Did They Come From?

    Occasionally, on a gloomy January day like today, I’ll look up from the street level in Manhattan and wonder, “What if?” Of course, it seems impossible. But who knows what’s lurking out there, beneath the surface? A good monster movie scares you in the theater, but a great one makes you spend the next 15 years planning your escape. And I’ve already got the getaway routes all mapped out.


    Is Cloverfield 2008 a good movie? ›

    Cloverfield is quite a stunning, fresh use of the found footage concept which cleverly updates the Godzilla-concept. February 16, 2021 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review… Predictably, the monster itself is one of the film's only weaknesses. November 28, 2020 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

    What was the movie Cloverfield about? ›

    Was the Cloverfield monster a baby? ›

    According to film producer J.J. Abrams, the creature is officially "...a baby. He's brand-new.

    Will there be a 4th Cloverfield movie? ›

    That makes this week's news that Paramount is now developing a fourth Cloverfield movie stand out, as it is designated specifically as a Cloverfield movie right from the start. The fourth Cloverfield will be directed by Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow) for producer J.J. Abrams and production company Bad Robot.

    What animal is Cloverfield? ›

    Clover is the production name given to the giant monster in the 2008 film Cloverfield. The creature was originally conceived by producer J. J. Abrams and was designed by artist Neville Page.
    Clover (creature)
    AliasCloverfield Monster
    TypeUnknown giant animal
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    Is Cloverfield the biggest monster? ›

    Clover is even taller and much larger then Slattern and Mega Kaiju from Pacific Rim, making him the largest terrestrial kaiju in the world.

    What is the bite in Cloverfield? ›

    Human Scale Parasites (HSP) are monsters who appear in the 2008 Bad Robot film Cloverfield. Initially attached to Clover as it began its rampage in New York City, over 2,000 of them descended into buildings and subways to hunt humans.

    Why was it called Cloverfield? ›

    So we started using all these names like Slusho and Cheese. And people always found out what we were doing!" He said that "Cloverfield" was the government's case designation for the events caused by the monster, comparing the titling to that of the real Manhattan Project, though the government did not originate this.

    How did Cloverfield monster get to Earth? ›

    The Cloverfield Monsters are a species of extra-dimensional and extraterrestrial evolving lovecraftian monstrosities demons entities and life forms who had originally came from a unknown universe that were brought to our universe through a malfunction of the Particle Accelerator in the Cloverfield Station orbiting ...

    Why did the girl explode in Cloverfield? ›

    Marlena Was Bitten By A Parasite & Exploded

    While they are traveling by subway tunnel, T.J. Miller's Hud gets attacked by a monster. Marlena beats the creature off of him, but unknowingly gets bit in the process. The group stumbles upon a makeshift army base, and Marlena rapidly starts feeling worse and worse.

    Was Cloverfield a Godzilla movie? ›

    Godzilla/Cloverfield is a crossover film featuring Godzilla and Clover. It is followed by a sequel, Godzilla/Cloverfield/Pacific Rim.

    Is The Cloverfield Paradox possible? ›

    If Weiler's hypothesis is correct, then it seems possible that interdimensional travel, as depicted in Cloverfield Paradox, could be possible, though his model really only accounts for the Higgs singlet particle's ability to time travel.

    Is Cloverfield a multiverse? ›

    Abrams consisting of three films, viral marketing websites linking the films together, and a tie-in manga to the first film titled Cloverfield/Kishin (2008), all set in a shared fictional universe referred to as the "Cloververse".
    Cloverfield (franchise)
    Box office$281 million (2 theatrical films)
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    Were there 2 monsters in Cloverfield? ›

    In the movie Cloverfield, a giant monster attacks the city. As stated by J.J. Abrams, it is a baby. However, some believe it is not the only monster in the movie.

    Is Cloverfield a kaiju? ›

    Clover (クローバーフィールド?, Kurōbāfīrudo) is a kaiju created by Paramount Pictures that appeared in the 2008 film, Cloverfield.

    Who is the villain in Cloverfield? ›

    Howard to Michelle. Howard Stambler is the main antagonist of the 2016 psychological science-fiction thriller film 10 Cloverfield Lane. He is a survivalist, former sailor, conspiracy theorist, and the kidnapper of Michelle. He was portrayed by John Goodman, who also portrayed Ocious P.

    Is Cloverfield bigger than Godzilla earth? ›

    While the adult Clover is probably somewhere in between the two extremes, he's at least 7.2 times as tall as Godzilla Earth's 984-foot frame and at most 47 times taller.

    What is the tallest monster in the world? ›

    At his biggest, King Ghidorah came in at 500 feet tall, making him the largest monster on this list.

    Is Super 8 in the Cloverfield universe? ›

    Abrams Says SUPER 8 Has No Connection to CLOVERFIELD. J.J. Abrams has debunked the rumor that his upcoming film, "Super 8", is related to "Cloverfield".

    Did Cloverfield make people sick? ›

    Many people who experienced the "Cloverfield illness" felt so sick that they had to leave the theater. Cinematic motion sickness isn't unique to the J.J. Abrams movie. Audience members have reported similar symptoms for other found footage movies.

    Is Cloverfield based on 911? ›

    Set in the geographical and ideological aftermath of 9/11, Cloverfield addresses Sontag's imagination of disaster, Bather's spectacle of evil and Landsberg's notion of prosthetic memory by providing an apocalyptic sci-fi with explicit allusions to 9/11 that challenges notions of the real and traditional conceptions of ...

    Who survived Cloverfield? ›

    After Marlena's death, Lily is determined to help rescue Beth. Once they secure Beth from her toppled apartment, they make a run for the evacuation point. When the group arrives, Lily is the first to be taken up on the helicopter which saves her life. She is the only known survivor of the group.

    Was The Cloverfield Paradox good? ›

    Critic Reviews for The Cloverfield Paradox

    February 9, 2018 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review… The fastest turnaround from must-see event to disappointing dud in history. A kluge of bad science and worse science fiction clichés, it tries to be atmospheric and scary but succeeds only at being frustrating and tedious.

    Is Cloverfield inappropriate? ›

    Excellent, but very dark. This is a dark, dark movie. Not quite horror, but is right between PG-13 and R. I would have rated this PG-3, but it still isn't necessarily appropriate for younger teens and preteens.

    Are all 3 Cloverfield movies connected? ›

    All three pictures are standalone films with no direct connection. The first proper sequel to Cloverfield, Cloverfield 2 was announced in early 2021. Cloverfield, the first film in the series, is a found footage monster film released on January 18, 2008, which was well received by critics.

    Is Cloverfield a sequel to Super 8? ›

    Abrams told New York Magazine that his new project, Super 8, is not a Cloverfield sequel or prequel — despite the fact that it reportedly has a similar amateur-footage, non-human-creature premise.

    Is Howard a good guy in Cloverfield? ›

    Howard Stambler is the main antagonist of 10 Cloverfield Lane. He was a former US Sailor who worked with satellites, but he discovered alongside his teammates a terrible secret. After that he became an insane and paranoid man and began to prepare himself for an unknown threat of some kind.

    Can a 7 year old watch it? ›

    Great film, but not for kids under 13

    I recommend this film to everyone who loves slightly disturbing films and TV shows like me but for anyone under the age of 13 you really should not watch it. It's very gory and contains adult language.

    What is the most inappropriate rating? ›

    Rated G: Suggested for general audiences. Rated M: Suggested for mature audiences - Parental discretion advised. Rated R: Restricted – Persons under 16 not admitted, unless accompanied by parent or adult guardian. Rated X: Persons under 16 not admitted.


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