Godzilla, the god of lizards, is the originator of all cinematic monsters, whether they are Large Scale Aggressors, Kaiju, or Titans. There has never been a more important period in the contemporary history of Godzilla than now, with this summer’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong looming.
We must, of course, examine Godzilla’s illustrious past and his countless encounters with colleagues of all shapes and sizes in order to truly comprehend the future. We decided it was a good moment to revisit Toho’s legendary invention and rank its top ten most memorable adventures on film, in light of this backdrop.
10. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
In the absence of Godzilla, how would the world change? In 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the Futurians, a group of beings known as the Futurians, attempt to solve this question by using time travel to prevent his existence.
Is there a way of discussing this film without mentioning that it has been accused of having anti-American sentiments? The Futurians’ goal of keeping Japan from becoming an economic superpower that surpasses the rest of the world has been cited as an example of anti-American bias.
Despite this, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah’s creatures shine, especially when the audience is shown what its titular monsters look like before their changes. We’ve seen Godzilla’s ambivalence toward humans in recent Godzilla pictures, and this time around, he gets to play both roles.
For the best, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah would have set the bar high for the series’ production in the ’90s, notably with the introduction of the fan favorite Mecha-King. Though it’s considered one of the canon’s craziest entries, Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah isn’t necessarily a trend-setter in terms of the Godzilla franchise’s overall budget.
9. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
If you think about it, King Kong is an epic narrative of human-versus-animal conflict. Since Godzilla would be captured in order to boost Japanese TV ratings, the plot of King Kong vs. Godzilla had to be retold twice. In spite of the fact that Godzilla is awakened from his frozen slumber, he eventually takes on his fellow Titan, in a fight that we will see modernized in the forthcoming Godzilla vs Kong film.
When Toho got involved and decided that they wanted Kong to meet one of their monsters instead of Frankenstein, the premise of King Kong vs. Frankenstein completely changed. For a time in 1962, there were only two Godzilla films to choose from—the popular original and the underwhelming follow-up to it, Godzilla Raids. The series was once again in need of a rescue. Because of this, it was time for Godzilla to pack up and prepare for his showdown with The Great Eighth Wonder of the World.
However, King Kong remained the most popular monster of the time, even after over 30 years. As a result, he was elevated to the role of movie star and protagonist. If King Kong vs. Godzilla hadn’t been a huge hit, we wouldn’t have had the many “Godzilla vs. X” sequels that followed.
While still a lesser Godzilla film, and the plot is mostly based on the original King Kong, with Godzilla added in, the producers’ affection for both monsters shines through in this ambitious crossover film.
8. Invasion of the Astro Monster, aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)
A sequel to 1964’s Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, this film recycled footage from that film and numerous others from the Toho monster universe in order to construct a new story.
As a traditional tale of aliens stealing monsters for their own evil purposes, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is one of the best examples of the genre. To put it another way, the evil Xiliens want to blackmail the Earth’s leaders into either handing up the globe to their control, or destroying it through their power over Godzilla.
For those that like something a little more unusual than the standard monster-versus-monster combat, there is enough of cosmic espionage and assassination to be found in the mix. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is a delightful ride for all ages, complete with Godzilla dancing a jig!
7. Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975)
Terror of MechaGodzilla borrows heavily from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974), a classic Toho film. Godzilla’s mechanical doppelganger was first presented in the previous picture, which unfortunately suffers from a plot that feels forced on and a notoriously extended musical number.
Aside from the musical sequence, the film does an excellent job of tamping down some of its predecessor’s over-the-top craziness. We have Shinzô Mafune, a mad scientist bent on wiping out all life, in its place. It’s back to “Spies vs. Aliens,” this time with Titanosaurus and another MechaGodzilla at war, leaving the OG Godzilla to clean up the mess and save civilization from destruction.
MechaGodzilla’s second head allows it to evade the same method of annihilation Godzilla used against it in the previous film in Terror of MechaGodzilla, which has some fun with its storyline. It doesn’t matter if the footage is recycled if aliens don’t fall for the same trick twice.
6. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
When Godzilla took a three-year break in 2004, it was the longest break in the franchise’s history. Godzilla: Final Wars was a final opportunity to use our hero to save the planet one battle at a time before the franchise was put on hiatus until 2014’s Godzilla returned.
There are no exaggerations when we state that this picture utilized every single creature. “Zilla,” the featured monster from Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disasterpic starring Matthew Broderick, faced combat (and won!) against the one authentic Toho Godzilla in this flick!
Two superheroes, one with a mustache and the other with a superhuman ability to run on walls while firing laser guns, are the stars of this film. There are a lot of lasers to be fired in this movie, no doubt about it.
You need to know that there are two kinds of dumb movies. You can either pretend you’re not dumb or accept the fact that you are dumb and just go with it.
Godzilla: Final Wars is not one of the films. Instead, this movie breeds a new kind of beast: a foolish movie that stubbornly locks your eyes and then cackles maniacally because it knows there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
The final act is an extended montage of Godzilla destroying everything and everyone in the world. Sure, it’s stupid, but neither it nor us seem to mind.
5. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla vs. Biollante begins as a story about the Japan Self-Defense Force experimenting with Godzilla’s cells in order to create a method of defeating him, with some of the most ambitious special effects in the franchise. As if that wasn’t enough, this time Godzilla is up against a genetically developed plant that he has to destroy for the good of the planet.
Biollante is more than just a giant flower, which may sound like a bad matchup for a monster that exhales radioactive fire. While most of the monsters in the series have been humanoid, Biollante introduces a non-humanoid creature that is larger than Godzilla.
One of Godzilla vs. Biollante’s greatest contributions was the introduction of the creature’s most recognizable design. Even though the suit evolved slightly over the course of the next two films, the basic design debuted in this film was retained until Godzilla vs. Destroyah in 1995 and has since been a mainstay of Godzilla merchandise as well as an important landmark honored at Toho’s own studios and a hotel that houses a life-sized bust of Godzilla’s head.
4. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Shusuke Kaneko was hired by Toho to direct Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack in the new millennium. Kaneko’s success with a Gamera remake in the mid-’90s was all that was needed to get him on board for this fairly fascinating take of the fabled character.
Reimagined as a spirit of revenge, Godzilla punishes Japan for forgetting its role in World War II by destroying Tokyo. Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are the only three supernatural guardians who can save the Japanese people.
He is not a force of nature or confused animal like in previous films, but rather a ruthless warrior of the gods. During his fury, he wreaks havoc on both humans and monsters. Because Godzilla hates them, this is the only Godzilla movie in which he goes out of his way to purposely murder both humans and other monsters. Godzilla has appeared as a villain in numerous films prior to this, but he is only truly malevolent in this film.
3. Shin Godzilla (2016)
Toho returned to the Godzilla filmmaking game in 2014 after co-producing the Godzilla movie with Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideki Anno.
However, compared to its predecessor 1954 Godzilla, Shin Godzilla focuses on the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima as a metaphor for nuclear proliferation. As government authorities struggle to deal with an unknown threat, the story follows their befuddled and unsuccessful response.
It’s a new ground for the Godzilla franchise to tread, but Anno handles it brilliantly. There are a number of subtle jokes that keep the audience engaged during what would otherwise be an uninteresting first act that is filled with political speeches.
While Shin Godzilla’s core kaiju may not have a unique appearance, it does have a peculiar assortment of abilities, including the ability to increase in size and reproduce asexually. It’s a shame that so few people in the United States saw Shin Godzilla when it was released in theaters.
2. Destroy All Monsters (1968)
After all of Toho’s monster costumes were put away for good, Destroy All Monsters was designed as a farewell to their whole collection. Due to the fact that this was the last time any of the suits were worn, there was no reason why the studio couldn’t use them all.
Defintion: Destroy All Monsters is Godzilla’s Avengers, since it contains a dozen monsters on a worldwide rampage, destroying cities from New York to Moscow instead of simply Japan, in a plot centered on alien invaders utilizing these monsters to conquer Earth in 1999.
Destroy All Monsters is an absolutely ridiculous movie, but the campy appeal of it is tough to resist, even down to that great title that almost always ensured you’d halt on a dime in any list that had it. Destroy All Monsters was meant to be the final chapter in the series, but it helped resuscitate the franchise and keep it going until 1975.
1. Godzilla (1954)
While putting 1954’s Godzilla at the top of the list may seem a bit cliche, there really isn’t any other choice. In addition to the obvious advantage of being the first, the picture also invented everything that we’ve grown to love and cherish about the franchise.
Rather than just a monster film, Godzilla is a melancholy allegory about the inevitable might of the atomic era and the sacrifices that would be required to survive it. Even the controversial re-edited version for American audiences, featuring Raymond Burr’s Steve Martin, was able to maintain the dismal tone that director Ishiro Honda was seeking to strike in the original Japanese version.
When Haruo Nakajima made his first appearance as Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya’s “suitimation” technique was used for the first time, and he would continue to perform the character until 1972. In fact, the music that accompanies these massive monsters has its roots in Japan, with Akira Ifukube’s timeless themes making a comeback in Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019.
A look back at Godzilla’s first appearance, and the other films that followed, shows that the original is a groundbreaking science-fiction film. There were films like King Kong and The Beast before he came along, but he followed the genre conventions that had already been established. With the introduction of Godzilla, the plot of From 20,000 Fathoms was thrown out the window.
Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, and even the newer Godzilla movies that came out in 2014 and beyond reimagined Godzilla’s strategy, but the past that preceded our current knowledge is still sacrosanct. For this reason, Warner Bros. MonsterVerse films like Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah stand as the gold standard for what audiences can expect from large monster movies in the future. The king must reign forever!