Welcome to Giant Week at The Ringer. To kick things off, I figured we should decide who the best giants are, and what makes them the best. It turned out to be a more daunting and profound task than expected, so I recruited Shea Serrano—a master when it comes to this sort of thing—to help. —Andrew Gruttadaro
Gruttadaro: Hi, Shea. I wanted to talk to you about giants—which ones are good, which ones are bad, and which ones don’t live up to the billing. As an expert in your field, do you think you can help?
Serrano: Let me answer your question with a different question: What makes for a good giant?
Gruttadaro: I think that’s a question whose answer has multiple parts. The first part is: Giants are big. But at the same time I don’t think it’s fair to say that being big is a requirement. Is there a better qualification we can point to?
Shea: Giants mostly have to be big, yes, but the one main exception is that if the actual word “giant” appears in the name of whatever it is you happen to be talking about, then that’s a giant that can be included in this conversation. For example, none of the players on the Little Giants were big—in fact, they were all children—but they should absolutely be considered when talking about the best giants.
Gruttadaro: And so the stratification of giants really becomes more a conversation about essence, doesn’t it? Slapping “giant” on your name gets your foot in the door, but that’s about it. It’s like Becky “Icebox” O’Shea said in the movie you just brought up, Little Giants: “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” Shea, how do we, as assessors of giants, separate the giants who walk the walk from the giants who talk the talk?
Shea: I like “essence.” Let’s go with that. Let’s arrange giants by order of “giant essence,” because if we do it that way then when we’re done with the list it will be clear what makes a good giant good. We’ll go from 29 to 1, with 29th place being a giant that has the least amount of giant essence and first place being a giant that has, in totality, the greatest giant essence.
29. Young the Giant
Gruttadaro: Here is Young the Giant guitarist Jacob Tilley explaining the band’s name: “I don’t know. It means nothing.” It feels like Young the Giant isn’t at all committed to the whole giant thing, which is very un-giant-like.
28. The New York Giants
Shea: These Giants finished all the way back here in the ranking because of the ODELL MIGHT GET TRADED rumors.
27. They Might Be Giants
Gruttadaro: I’m sorry, but I just can’t be a favorable judge to a rock group of potentially normal humans going through an identity crisis. You … might be giants? Giants know they are giants. Get back to me after the test results come in and maybe then we can reconsider this placement.
26. Goliath from the story of David and Goliath
Gruttadaro: Goliath is an iconic giant, but for really bad reasons. He’s the giant who lost a seemingly one-sided battle to David, who was much, much smaller than him. (Goliath, my guy, what was your aerial strategy here? Did you really not account for the possibility that the very small David was going to throw things at you rather than fight straight up? Really, you had one job: to not get hit in the head. And you got hit in the head.) Now his name is invoked every time an underdog competes. The Miracle on Ice? That was a David-and-Goliath situation. When the Giants (whoa) beat the Patriots in 2007? David and Goliath. Loyola-Chicago’s run in the NCAA tournament this year? A bunch of mini Davids and Goliaths combining to tell one big David-and-Goliath story. Goliath was the biggest flop in giant history.
25. The giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk”
Shea: Both Goliath from the story of David and Goliath and the giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk” were giants who who were killed by regular-sized men, which is probably the worst way for a giant to die. BUT, the giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk” finishes one spot higher than Goliath because, as you alluded to in your Goliath blurb, Goliath has been shit on the most by history. It’s a defeat he just hasn’t ever been able to live down. His loss to David probably gets talked about in Giant World the same way people in Regular World talked about the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986 before the Red Sox finally broke through and won the World Series in 2004.
24. The giant Jay-Z didn’t mention when listing mythological beasts in “Monster”
Gruttadaro: Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, the Loch Ness monster, a goblin, a ghoul, a zombie (specifically one with no conscience)—they all get nods from Jay-Z in Kanye West’s “Monster.” That a giant was left off that list can only be considered a negative thing. Or maybe it means that Jay-Z does not consider giants to be monsters; maybe he is an advocate for giants’ rights.
23. The big, friendly giant from The BFG
Shea: A curious thing about giants is that there seem to be only two types: They’re either (a) extremely mean and deadly and can smell blood while it’s still inside a human’s body, or (b) exceptionally nice. Where are all the giants of average temperaments? Where are the giants who, when you ask someone about them, they go, “Steve? Steve the Giant? I mean, he’s OK, I guess. He can be a dick sometimes, but he’s never tried to, like, grind my bones to make his bread”?
22. The movie Facing the Giants
Shea: Back when I was a teacher and coaching middle school football, I came across the clip from this movie where the coach has one of his players (Brock) do a death crawl during a practice. (A “death crawl” is when you crawl on your hands and feet like a bear while you carry another person on your back.) Brock tells the coach he thinks he can make it to the 30-yard line, and the coach says he thinks Brock can make it to the 50-yard line. Brock says he’ll try, and the coach says he’ll let him try, but only if he gives his best effort. Brock accepts. There’s a twist, though: The coach makes Brock wear a blindfold while he does the death crawl. As Brock death-crawls his way down the field, the coach walks with him, and the more Brock expresses that he wants to quit, the louder the coach yells at him to pump him up. Eventually, the coach drops down to the grass with Brock, screaming his fucking lungs out at him, demanding that he goes 20 more steps, 10 more steps, five more steps. Finally, after Brock is entirely and totally spent, his arms give out. He’s still wearing his blindfold, and he’s completely gassed, and he’s crying out over and over again, “That’s gotta be the 50, that’s gotta be the 50. I don’t got anymore.” The coach tells him to take the blindfold off, and when Brock does he sees that he’s crawled past the 30, past the 50, past the other 30, all the way to the end zone.
It’s this really great, extremely motivational scene. And so the other coaches and I would play it for our teams once a season because that’s the kind of clichéd thing you have to do when you coach middle school football. But here’s where it gets weird: I’d never actually watched the whole movie; I’d only ever seen that scene. So one year, sometime near the end of May when school was effectively over, I decided I’d play the whole movie for my class as a way to kill time. And that’s when I found out that it was a super-religious movie. It’s straight up a GOD IS THE WAY AND JESUS WILL LEAD US kind of movie. It was playing and someone in the movie said something like, “Let me talk to you about Jesus,” and I was like, “Oh no.” (You’re not supposed to show kids anything that has to do with religion in public school.) Anyway, I never forgot that moment, or that scene.
21. The San Francisco Giants
Shea: I don’t know a great deal about baseball, but I do know that the Giants have a pitcher named Johnny Cueto, and “Cueto” is very close to “cuete,” which is Spanish for “gun” or “pistol,” and I really like the idea of there being a pitcher named something like Johnny Pistola.
20. That time Ant-Man turned into a giant in Captain America: Civil War
Shea: It was a really clever trick when they played this card. It’s probably one of my favorite single moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (I also really liked when they were all fighting each other in that hangar and Ant-Man referred to Hawkeye as “Arrow Guy.”) (Ant-Man is surprisingly great.)
19. The 50-Foot Woman
18. WWE’s the Big Show
Shea: This is the part of the ranking that I had difficulty with, because I don’t figure there’s any way that the 50-Foot Woman has less giant essence than WWE’s the Big Show, who, by his own admission, is merely “big.”
17. Gas giants
Gruttadaro: Allow me to take you to school for a moment: Jupiter is a gas giant; Saturn is a gas giant. Uranus was a gas giant, but then the scientists realized it was an ice giant (still pretty boss). These are upper-echelon planets (sorry, Venus and Mercury, y’all are weak), just behind Saturn (which has awesome rings), Mars (which is a really cool red color), and Earth (which can sustain human life, thank the lord).
16. Karl from Big Fish
Shea: In Big Fish, which is a surprisingly endearing movie about a liar, Ewan McGregor happens into a meeting with Karl, a giant, and they become fast friends. They are hanging out one night when they come across a circus. When McGregor walks into the tent, they’re introducing the circus’s Giant Man. They reveal him, and he’s at least a good 3 feet shorter than Karl. McGregor sees him, scoffs, then says something like, “That’s not a giant man. THIS is a giant man,” and then Karl walks in. It was a total flex, and I was extremely happy that it happened for Karl.
15. The giant from Twin Peaks
Gruttadaro: Two things I know about the giant from Twin Peaks: (1) He haunts my nightmares, and (2) he’s never wrong. When he says, “It’s happening again,” it, indeed, is happening again. The giant from Twin Peaks may be the best prognosticating giant on this list.
14. The baby in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid
Shea: In a darker (possibly better) universe, the baby from Honey, I Blew Up the Kid gets gianted and the recalibration of his atoms turns him exceptionally angry. I would be very excited to watch Honey, I Blew up the Kid … and the Baby Is Fucking Pissed.
13. Hagrid from Harry Potter
Gruttadaro: I asked my friend and noted expert on everything, Mallory Rubin, to explain the greatness of Rubeus Hagrid. Here is what she said: “His heart is bigger than his body. He was orphaned young. Expelled [from school]. Dumbledore took him in, and that generosity and protective instinct became ingrained in Hagrid, and he blessed Harry with that paternal spirit time and time again. He’s probably the most loyal character in the books (to Dumbledore and Harry). He’s also handy in a fight! Also he loves animals! Fang, his boardhound, is dope.”
Mal is correct about all of that. Unfortunately, Hagrid is explicitly half-giant, so we can give him only half credit.
12. The giant Kanye talks about in the song “Big Brother”
Shea: The line: “Have you ever walked in the shadow of a giant?”
11. Paul Bunyan
Gruttadaro: You know why Minnesota has 10,000 lakes? Because of Paul Bunyan’s huge friggin’ footprints. You know why the Grand Canyon exists? Because Paul Bunyan was dragging his huge friggin’ ax across America. You know what Mount Hood is? Paul Bunyan playing with huge friggin’ stones. This guy is a topographical maverick. But he’s also a chill lumberjack who just wants to chop trees and kick it with his blue ox. What’s not to like?
10. The Jolly Green Giant from those cans of peas and corn
Shea: This, I would suspect, is the highest that “peas and corn” have ever finished in any ranking, assuming there has never been a Let’s Name Tiny Things That Are Gross ranking.
9. Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind”
Shea: What were some other things that Neil Armstrong considered saying when he first got down on the moon? Because there’s no way the “One small step for man” line hadn’t been prepared and rehearsed ahead of time. I just don’t think NASA would’ve risked spending all that money and time to get a guy on the moon, only for the guy to put his space boots on the moon’s surface and say something like, “Bad news, boys. It’s not actually made of cheese.”
8. Anytime someone is referred to as a “gentle giant”
Shea: [Please see entry no. 23.]
7. The Little Giants in Little Giants
Gruttadaro: The Little Giants—led by the aforementioned Icebox and Junior, a dreamboat quarterback with golden hair and a toilet-paper-hurling cannon for an arm—were underdogs against the Little Cowboys, who were a team full of total jerks run by Kevin O’Shea with the same level of ethics as Rick Pitino had when he was in charge of Louisville. And through pure grit and determination, some farting, a little cheating in the form of Stickum, and an impressive display of athleticism by Johnny Vennaro as he ran through the end zone because he so badly wanted to connect with his absent father (Jesus, that was dark), the Little Giants won. That means they were both David and Goliath. The Little Giants were very well rounded. We’re obviously getting closer to capturing the essence of what it means to be a giant.
6. Wun Wun from Game of Thrones
Gruttadaro: Wun Wun—full name Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun—fought at Hardhome. He punished the Night’s Watch after it betrayed Jon Snow. He supported Jon’s mission of uniting the North against the Boltons. (The scene where he says only “Snow” will make you tear up.) He decimated part of the Bolton army and ripped soldiers in half during the Battle of the Bastards. He took an arrow to the eye and died for the cause in that same battle. He gave his last breaths so that Jon could beat the living hell out of Ramsay Bolton, the worst villain Game of Thrones has seen, and reclaim Winterfell. He is one of the very best giants to ever exist.
5. Wendy’s Giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburger
Gruttadaro: Wendy’s Giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburger—a limited-edition menu item available for six glorious weeks in 2017—was the same as Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, except giant. What did that mean? Literally, it meant that all of the ingredients were doubled: two patties and two helpings of bacon and cheese. Metaphorically, it meant that a perfect harmony in the world was possible, that equilibrium could be achieved. The Giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburger was both aspirational and inspirational. It showed us what we could be, if only we tried to think a little bigger.
4. Clifford the Big Red Dog
Shea: The two things they never really address in Clifford the Big Red Dog: (1) how catastrophic all of Clifford’s poops had to be, and (2) what the family is going to do when it’s time to get rid of Clifford’s giant body after he passes away.
3. The time Kendrick Lamar referred to himself as the 5-foot giant
Shea: Kendrick finishes higher than Kanye here because Kanye’s line is about a giant who is not him, whereas Kendrick is referring to himself as a giant.
2. Gheorghe Muresan in My Giant
Gruttadaro: I mean …
That’s elite giant work right there.
1. Andre the Giant
Gruttadaro: No other giant on this list so confidently and so comfortably has “the Giant” attached to their name. Young the Giant tried, but as we covered, they failed. It works for Andre, though, because he truly embodied giantness. He had all the qualities of a good giant: astounding, imposing physical stature; the sort of presence that expands the limits of human imagination; and the warmth that makes a good giant a great giant. And he made Hulk Hogan cry one time.
And he made beer cans look like dollhouse props:
Andre the Giant was otherworldly—they said he hailed from the French Alps, but he might as well have been from a fairy tale, because no one had ever seen anyone like him. Big John Studd was a 7-foot-1 wrestler in the ’70s, and he didn’t come close to matching Andre’s commanding presence.
Giants exist in our imaginations because the people before us needed a way to explain the unexplainable. The existence of rivers, or the Grand Canyon, were so unfathomable that we invented a being who could be capable of creating such phenomena. For that reason, all giants carry a sense of mysticism, and everyone else marvels in their presence. Andre the Giant isn’t a mythological creature, though—he’s not Paul Bunyan or the BFG. He’s human—and it’s that incredible truth that makes him the most essential giant.