November 3rd marks the birthday, release date, and celebration of one of Japan and film’s most iconic characters first appearance on-screen in 1954’s Gojira – The Big G himself, Godzilla. 64-years ago today the nuclear radiated giant monster from the deep earned his presence in theaters across Japan, striking the relatively similar fear and paranoia that had recently been felt only 9 years prior with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, which had decimated the small nation and was still in repair at the time of the film’s release. Gojira broke box office records internationally, and introduced the world to one of the most iconic fictional creatures of all-time rivaling such American and European monsters such as King Kong, Frankenstein, and The Creature, and ensuing a legacy that would include 31 entries that put Toho Pictures on the map, two American remakes in 1998 and 2014, multiple comic and television animated productions, and an anime-inspired futuristic trilogy released on Netflix (domestically) through 2018.
Suffice to say, Godzilla has had an astronomical impact on the entertainment industry, taking a concept developed from fear and war, and evolving it into a symbol of fandom and inspiration. With that being said, FandomWire’s own Chris Nugent is taking Gojira’s 64th birthday as an opportunity to countdown the Top 10 films in the franchise, and while this will be taking a direct influence from the Toho productions specifically, the opportunity to include other canon productions is welcomed.
Here is FandomWire’s: Top 10 Godzilla Movies
10. King Kong VS. Godzilla
Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, the characters are ridiculously over-the-top. And yes, both Godzilla and King Kong look like worn-out rubber chickens. But by god, the battle is so iconic, and the legacies so legendary that I had a difficult time not counting this in the Top 10. It was one of the first Toho Godzilla films I had ever seen, and it was the only one I re-watched on a regular basis (except for 1998 Godzilla… but hey, I was just a kid) and it is still just as imprinted in my head now as much as it was back then in the early 2000’s. The plot is rather straightforward; a group of explorers and businessmen are sent to Farou Island (this version’s Skull Island) in order to retrieve a giant monster that could rival Godzilla both physically and in the eyes of the public domain, they find Kong, put him to sleep with… berry juice? And raft him back to Japan to duke it out King to King on the top of Mt. Fuji during a legendary 3rd act that will make all audiences laugh and cheer in excitement and overall entertainment. There is an interesting preproduction story behind King Kong VS. Godzilla that involved Frankenstein’s monster taking on Kong at regular sized, and a different version at Godzilla’s size. The script went through multiple drafts and rewrites and ultimately resulted in the film we have today. I would love to give an in-depth look at the history, but the basic knowledge itself would keep me here writing forever, all I can say is look it up, a huge hint to Frankenstein in the finished product is Kong’s absorbed power from lightning and electricity.
King Kong VS. Godzilla is just one of those films you have to see regardless of your attachment to the genre, and it will be even more exciting when Legendary’s Monsterverse releases their attempt at the story in May of 2020!
9. Godzilla: Planet of The Monsters
Released theatrically in Japan in late 2017, and on Netflix in North America in January 2018; Godzilla: Planet of The Monsters is the first of three animated features that takes place in a future 20,000 years from now, as the remaining survivors from Earth return home after failed attempts of interstellar colonization to discover a planet of mysterious creatures, uninhabitable environments, and ancient dormant beasts that put the entire crew at risk of complete loss. Planet of The Monsters is such an original concept for such a consistently wacky franchise, and it works. From the opening prologue showing the destruction of Earth, the desperation to defeat Godzilla, and humanities escape to the final act which is something you have to see to believe. The sequel, Godzilla: City On The Edge of Battle, tried to push the concept further, but weakly developed from a concept that was so well executed the first time. It is a short, but genuinely sweet and ever-so sharp feature that pushes the limits to what creativity lies within the Godzilla mythos.
8. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster
After Godzilla took on his very first rival, Anguirus, in 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again, another kaiju to take on the Big G would become just as iconic as him destroying a city, and this would begin escalation into the monster brawl epics that started with 1964’s Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. Godzilla had already taken on Anguirus, as mentioned, King Kong, and Mothra individually, however Toho decided they wanted to showcase their stars at the time united against a new threat, the powerful alien dragon Ghidrah, or as he would later become known: King Ghidorah. Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan were the showcase monsters, and this entry would become the classic structure for future kaiju mashups such as Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla VS. Mechagodzilla II, and Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Mothra serves as the personified protagonist, Godzilla and Rodan squabble for most of the film over territory, and humanity is struck by the immediate threat of alien invasion, a trope that would also commonly be used further into the Showa-era. But the biggest reason this film firmly holds the 8th spot on this list is for Ghidorah himself. For those new to the franchise, King Ghidorah would become Godzilla’s most prominent rival, having more appearances than any other of Godzilla’s allies or rivals. His three heads, powerful wings, and lightning abilities made Ghidorah a household name, despite never having a solo film to his name to date.
Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster is one of the most celebrated movies in the Godzilla franchise as it gave birth to many of the tropes and similarities that would carry the series into future installments.
7. Godzilla (2014)
Look, I am not going to go into complete analytical history of the American Godzilla films, as there are literally documentaries focused on the preproduction phases of these films that extend as far back as the late 1970’s, but I will say that the day Legendary announced that they had acquired the rights from Toho and were moving forward with production on a new American remake was one that excited me for a long time — and for the most part, it was damn worth it! The Gareth Edwards (Monsters) directed second attempt at bringing the Japanese icon to domestic screens won most audiences over with it’s relatively accurate depiction of Godzilla, dark undertones, and introduction of two new monsters, the MUTO’s, the 2014 installment was the success that was so desperately missing in the 1998 version.
That’s not to say Godzilla is a perfect adaption of what audiences and fans expected; the tonal shifts from subtle to comedy to drama can feel choppy, and the action confusingly cuts at times which made the spectacle feel more like tease rather than tension, and Godzilla does only posses a very limited amount of screen-time, but it still completes a narrative that most, if not all Godzilla movies lack. Lets not forget, Godzilla has very limited screen-time in essentially almost every film he appears in. The 2014 version of Godzilla is a respectful adaptation of cinemas greatest kaiju, and while lacking action and somewhat relatable characters, an incredible opening sequence and riveting 3rd-act is worth the price of admission alone!
6. Mothra VS. Godzilla
While King Ghidorah holds the crown as Godzilla’s greatest rival, there is only one monster that can be seen as a “close 2nd” to the King of The Monsters, Mothra. While ridiculous at first to those unfamiliar with the material, Mothra, usually accompanied alongside small, but powerful twin fairies, is a powerful Giant Moth that possess many powers and abilities as well as a telekinetic connection to the fairies. Mothra first made an appearance in her own film in 1961, and would see herself go up against Godzilla three-year later in 1964’s Mothra VS. Godzilla, which was originally released as Godzilla VS. The Thing. The film was later released on home video as Godzilla VS. Mothra. The story follows a group of reporters, photographers, and an entrepreneur once they discover a giant, colorful egg that had been washed-up on the Japanese shores after a hurricane, and try to use the egg as a way of attracting fame and publicity. The twins warn of the destruction Mothra’s larva may cause in the hunt for food, at this time the radiation of the beaches after the storm increases and Godzilla rises from the beaches and begins to approach the egg. The adult Mothra, still weak from the storm, attacks Godzilla in defence of the egg. Mothra is defeated, but her egg hatches two offspring which then proceed to force Godzilla to retreat into the ocean.
Mothra VS. Godzilla was the first Godzilla film since the original Gojira that was met with outstanding critical and commercial success and dawned a relationship between two creatures that would extend for the next 54-years and saw both confrontation and teamwork. Mothra will be making her highly-anticipated return in Godzilla: King of The Monsters next May!
5. Godzilla VS. MechaGodzilla
One of the most ridiculous in-writing concepts that actually works is that of a mechanized version of Godzilla to take on the original. Yes, once you wrap your head around that idea then you are ready to be introduced to another one of Godzilla’s greatest rivals, Mechagodzilla. Unlike Mothra where the role is usually good vs evil and completely dependent on her relationship with Godzilla, Mechagodzilla is always at odds with Japan’s greatest threat. Originally an alien replication, then a humanitarian relief program in future installments (Godzilla VS. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, and Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S.), Mechagodzilla has consistently been one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents, being one of the closest to actually kill the King in almost each film. Much like King Ghidorah, and franchise veteran Gigan, Mechagodzilla was sent by an alien colony in attempt to make Godzilla act as a villain through fabricating his skin to look identical. When the plan fails and Godzilla exposes the impostor, the two spar for one of the best on-screen kaiju fights ever seen.
Godzilla VS. Mechagodzilla, and it’s subsequent sequel, Terror of Mechagodzilla, closed-out the Showa-era Godzilla films by setting a new precedence in the series and pushing Godzilla’s rogues gallery to the limit. MechaGodzilla would heavily influence future installments in the franchise, and would be an interesting match to bring forth for a new generation.
4. Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
The Millennium-era was certainly an interesting one for Godzilla’s history. On one hand, you have Toho bringing back their iconic monster closely following the 1998 American adaptation and introducing new stories with monsters, and on the other, you have sequel-reboots to the original Gojira. Godzilla 2000, Godzilla VS. Megaguirus, and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla all served as individual sequels to the 1954 film, ignoring everything prior, and trying to create multiple “alternatives” to what may have happened following the use of the oxygen destroyer. While each of the movies listed above have their merits, they have nothing on the craziness that is Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
Cursed by the ghosts of fallen WWII sailors, Godzilla terrifies in this entry as his path of destruction and the consequences that follow is executed almost to perfection. While the curse of the ghosts haunting Godzilla may seem extreme; Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Toho veteran-monster, Baragon (making his first appearance with Godzilla since Destroy All Monsters) are summoned as protector’s and the final showdown against Godzilla is one of the best in the series. The action is intense, special effects are breathtaking, and the score is astonishing. GMK is one of the most well-balanced, and tonally consistent films and the best of the Millennium-era.
3. Godzilla Final Wars
Separate from all other forms of canon, and a tribute for the 50th Anniversary, Godzilla Final Wars is the culmination of all things in the franchise that came before it. Toho went insane in an attempt to close-out the series for another break by reintroducing many of the favorite monsters seen from Showa-era to even including “Zilla” from the 1998 Godzilla, and pushing the stakes to a full apocalyptic assault that includes not only the monsters battling, but also a global confrontation between man and alien invaders that ceases to slow down. Set in the near distant future, the discovery of nuclear mutated creatures also led to the discovery of mutant human beings that possessed incredible abilities as a resistance to the devastation brought on by monsters such as Godzilla. After trapping the Big G with the ice in the arctic, humanity is unprepared to handle an influx of monsters crashing in the world, and it is revealed that an alien race known as the Xiliens have been in control and the only way stop the invasion… is to re-release Godzilla. For those that have seen the film know that this is an extremely vague paraphrasing of the film, but that’s because I only just described the first half. Godzilla Final Wars is so insane that I have even shown it during house parties and it always seems to gather a crowd to enjoy. Monsters such as Anguirus, Gigan, Ebirah, King Caesar, Rodan, Hedorah, Manda, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Minilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah (known as Monster X and then Kaiser Ghidorah) all make appearances in this incredible cinematic adventure.
Godzilla Final Wars is by far the most action-packed story in the entire Godzilla franchise, and frame the opening frame to the last it keeps you engaged and having a blast!
2. Godzilla VS. King Ghidorah
To many fans it comes down between the original Gojira and Godzilla VS. King Ghidorah. The third entry in the Heisei-era, Godzilla VS. King Ghidorah is regarded as the best of the 1-on-1 Godzilla films as it contains surprisingly intelligent plot involving time-travel that expands the mythos of the Godzilla series as well as further pushing the reason why Ghidorah is such a great rival for the King of The Monsters. Visitors known as the Futurians arrive in Japan to provide a solution for removing Godzilla; by deleting him from history before the atomic bombs go off, they do so, but only by replacing Godzilla (a dinosaur in the film) with baby dragons known as Dorats, which then leads to the creation of King Ghdorah. As humanity scrambles to fend off Ghidorah, an attempt to recreate Godzilla is made by the use of nuclear subs and is done successfully. Godzilla defeats Ghidorah, but now leaves humanity with the same problem. From the future the Futurians repair Ghidorah by adding mechanical attachments and sending him back once again to fight off Godzilla for one last fight.
If you had trouble keeping up with that, I don’t blame you, the story is incredibly complex for a Godzilla film, but it actually works really. The final confrontation between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah is one of the most legendary in Toho’s history, and Godzilla VS. King Ghidorah has universally been regarded as one of the best in the entire franchise.
That, and the film has arguably one of the greatest movie posters of all-time… just sayin’.
In my opinion, Gojira is not only the best film in the entire Godzilla series, but one of the best, or at least important, films in cinematic history. Though the rest of the films did not carry the tones, motifs, and symbols that the first movie did, that does not take away from the effect it has: this film has a message. Where most films would show the aftermath of the consequences of nuclear warfare, Gojira shows the evolution of that devastation and the lack or procrastination of action to prevent the travesty. This film is not dark for the sake of being dark, there are stakes and cautions that are pronounced all throughout its very short runtime that drive home the thematic telling of destruction that was experienced by those behind and in-front of the camera.
One element that becomes immediately apparent is how incredibly well-paced the first Godzilla film is. Within less than 20-minutes the audience is given conflict, characterization, and a motive for the story to continue pushing forward. Ironically, pacing issues would become a huge plague for many of the film’s in the collection, but is done with such precision and execution in the original that remained unfortunately abundant later on.
Gojira could have been a one-off and this still would have remained as one of the best in the genre. This film is genuinely terrifying at times, and scenes involving death and the aftermath of some scenes can be rather difficult to sit through due to how powerful the scenes are how masterfully they are filmed. Two of the most important films in Japanese cinematic history, Gojira and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, were released in 1954, and their impact and influence is still greatly felt to this day in film and storytelling.
Godzilla VS. Destoroyah
Destroy All Monsters
Godzilla VS. Biollante
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla