Ever since the release of Godzilla in 1954, the monstrous titan has starred in over 30 self-titled films. The series goes into polarizing thematic directions, from Godzilla rampaging like a wild animal to being the self-aware saviour of humankind.
Seemingly taking the latter approach, the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters film features classic kaiju like Rodan, King Ghidorah and Mothra. To celebrate the beauty of this franchise which pits colossal monsters against one another in fights to the death, here’s our ranking of all 33 Godzilla films from worst to best, including Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
All Monsters Attack (1969)
Notorious for its family-friendly approach to kaiju, All Monsters Attack follows Godzilla’s son, Minilla, forming an unlikely bond with frequently bullied schoolboy, Ichiro Miki. This strange friendship results in an unbearably wacky journey filled with lowbrow humor and repetitive composition. What makes this film increasingly bland is that every kaiju battle is generic, terribly shot and way too short. To top it all off, almost none of it is original. Yep, All Monsters Attack takes a surprising amount of footage from other Godzilla films like Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Destroy All Monsters and Son of Godzilla. When it’s not reusing old footage, it pans back to stale takes of Minilla and Ichiro sitting around reacting to these “fights.”
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017-2018)
Perhaps the most jarring entries in the Godzilla universe, Planet of the Monsters’ CGI monstrosities approach the franchise from an unusual angle. In this version of events, humanity has abandoned Earth after all kinds of kaiju have taken over, and most importantly, Godzilla is king. However, after twenty years, humanity return on a mission to end his reign. Although the concept sounds fun, its dull use of colors, poorly textured kaiju, flawed shading and choppy animation make it the ugliest film in the franchise. Additionally, messily composed battles, an inappropriate soundtrack and its abundance of exposition blend into perhaps the most unbearable Godzilla in decades.
Son of Godzilla (1967)
As the first film to introduce Minilla, Son of Godzilla was manufactured in an attempt to create something cute and child-friendly. Unfortunately, Minilla looks terrifying, and his tantrums are reminiscent of a sugar-infused toddler stomping around and pouting after being denied one last piece of chocolate. Considering that Minilla is half of Godzilla’s size, I can’t imagine this being seen as anything other than menacing. Most of the film has Godzilla trying to teach his son how to use his abilities, like atomic breath, and I can’t even begin to describe how jarring it is to have Godzilla teach his newborn son the how-tos of being a menacing, city-destroying monster.
The first American Godzilla adaptation is widely recognized as a nightmare, as it’s a complete misunderstanding of what the series’ themes are. This film’s greatest plunder is its attempt to turn Godzilla into a glorified dinosaur. All Godzilla does is run around on its two hind legs and smash into stuff. This could have easily been disguised as Jurassic Park, considering the film’s version of Godzilla lacks its defining features. There’s no atomic breath, extraordinary regeneration or impenetrable skin. Considering that 1954’s version of Godzilla was frequently pelted with rockets and felt nothing, having the 1998 Godzilla die in that exact way clashes with what the series has always been about and what makes the King so menacing.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
The first film to pit Godzilla against another kaiju is also the most boring in the series. Godzilla Raids Again is essentially a complete rehash of its predecessor, Godzilla (1954), except for without any of the thematic significance and no compelling plot developments. Godzilla’s battles with Anguirus are as bland as things get. The two essentially lock hands and push against one another like a poorly choreographed wrestling match. Although there are definitely worse Godzilla movies, this one could be the most useful to cure your insomnia.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Yes, King Kong vs.Godzilla has happened before. And yes, it’s awful in the best way possible. I always cite the incredible scene where Kong grabs a tree, pulling it out of its roots, and tries to shove it down Godzilla’s throat. Additionally, Kong has electricity powers for no apparent reason? If you zap him, he can redirect the current out of his palms. I’m not sure why, but I’m hoping 2020’s version has Godzilla get revenge on Kong for sticking a tree down his throat.
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Godzilla vs. Megalon suffers from what many Godzilla films do: a dull human focused plot only heightened by the hilarity of seeing Godzilla engage in silly battles with other kaiju. Considering that one of the greatest scenes in this franchise emerges from this generally bland film, it’s hard not to appreciate at least a little bit. Yes, I’m referring to the notorious flying kick, which so obviously has Godzilla strapped to a wire while levitating horizontally to smash into Megalon. It’s the sort of B-movie schlock that perfectly encapsulates these ridiculous entries in the series.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, or as I like to call it, “Godzilla’s Beach Episode,” depicts our King getting rough with a crab. I enjoyed the intimidating design of Ebirah, the dark and cool texture of the film’s colors, the joyous yet weirdly menacing lagoon music and the set design. However, its forgettable plot and painfully cliche character tropes drag it down. The most ridiculous aspect of the film is that Godzilla and Ebirah just throw a bunch of stones at each other while splashing around in water. It’s hard to imagine how high explosives can’t do anything to these kaiju yet we’re supposed to believe that chucking rocks is more than just casual seaside fun.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
Taking place in an alternate universe which has made significant technological advances, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus begins with the Japanese government’s attempt to destroy Godzilla by shooting it with a black hole gun. However, this plan fails, and instead a giant dragonfly appears and creates an army of annoying bugs. Now, humans have to face both threats while the two kaiju duke it out. This film definitely had some charm, especially in some of the clashes between Godzilla and Megaguirus, but as a whole, it didn’t do as much as it could’ve with its compelling premise.
Godzilla 2000 (1999)
Godzilla 2000 is particularly memorable because of its mostly CGI antagonist, Orga, because he looks absolutely awful; reminiscent of the digital effects from 20 years before the film’s release in 1999. Even though Orga’s CGI iteration looks terrible, his physical form later in the film is a lot of fun. Another issue is that when several characters almost certainly should’ve met their doom, they somehow came out of the wreckage unscathed. And let’s not forget the actors’ overly dramatic takes. However, it has great destruction scenes, with some awesome set and prop design.
Prequel to the recently released Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla (2014) has received a rather mixed reaction from fans. Some praise the film for taking a different approach and following a human character, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as he experiences the destruction of a kaiju first-hand. Others criticize it for the lack of Godzilla screen time. There are many scenes where Godzilla is soon to engage in an epic showdown with brand new kaiju, the MUTO, but it cuts away. This doesn’t give us a chance to experience these battles, which is pretty annoying, especially since the film doesn’t offer any interesting plot developments or characters. However, I can’t deny the visual spectacle throughout the disaster-flick moments.
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Similar to Godzilla (2014), Tokyo S.O.S. follows a group of soldiers in their battle against Godzilla, and even though the confrontations between Mechagodzilla, Godzilla and Mothra are fun, this human story is particularly trite. Fallical notions of love, overused character tropes and a romanticized view of combat and war contributes to a painfully misplaced tone. Thankfully, the way our kaiju clash like action figures being smacked together certainly makes up for it.
Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
This film is particularly strange, since Mechagodzilla, along with new kaiju Titanosaurus, are under the control of a mad genius hoping to lay waste to the world. Terror of Mechagodzilla certainly has some awesome scenes of Titanosaurus and Godzilla beating each other to a pulp, but the silly love story between the main character, Ichinose, and the seemingly evil cyborg, Katsura, fails to remain interesting for long.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
While Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is the first film to debut Mechagodzilla, this film’s iteration of the monster’s Terminator-esque clone wasn’t created by humankind to thwart attacks from Godzilla as seen in more recent entries. Instead, aliens put the devastating robot together to lure out and destroy Godzilla. And overall, it’s an enjoyable film. I personally love the scene that showcases Godzilla stomping around, causing a wave of destruction around Mount Fuji, nearly killing Anguirus (a kaiju usually meant to be Godzilla’s ally), and when a second Godzilla appears, it’s revealed that the monster causing all of that chaos was never Godzilla to begin with.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
This modern take on Mechagodzilla has the colossal machine piloted by specially trained forces in an attempt to protect the citizens of Japan from Godzilla’s rampage. What I particularly enjoyed about Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is how focused the plotline was on fighting Godzilla. Usually, an irrelevant plot filled with pointless romance and filler dialogue fluffs these movies up for additional runtime, but a majority of what occurs in this film is relevant to the battle against the titan. It also helps that the fights are a ton of fun to watch.
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
Invasion of Astro-Monster’s obsession with being as alien-y as possible gets old quick. Having one of the antagonists be a miniature UFO is way more adorable than it is menacing. But, the way King Ghidorah and Godzilla beat on each other is damn entertaining. Despite that, it’s another Godzilla film that spends too much time on pointless human plotlines, having you beg to see the titans clash again.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
While Godzilla: King of the Monsters has its fair share of major issues, whenever we get a glimpse of Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah or Rodan causing destruction and facing off, it’s difficult to not become immersed into what the series is trying to do. These epic, unbelievable showdowns provide us with a glimpse of the nightmarish yet beautiful fun Godzilla fans have always wanted. It’s unfortunate that it spends way too much time cutting back to human faces. I wish the franchise would bring the back the idea of minimally cut, drawn-out kaiju battles without interruptions.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Conceivably the most fascinating Godzilla film is Godzilla vs. Hedorah, as it takes the most unique approach the franchise has ever seen. The film utilizes silence to provide a constant sense of dread, and Hedorah, a giant pollution monster, is perhaps the most horrifying kaiju of them all. For the first time in a Godzilla film, we actually see people die in the wake of a kaiju's destruction. And on top of that, Hedorah secretes a gas that melts human skin, which is nightmarish. Perhaps the most striking scene in the film has a group of people dancing in a club when Hedorah’s slimy muck slides down the stairs, submerging a lone cat. While the film can be a tad boring at times, it’s always nice to see Godzilla tackle horror again.
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)
After Godzilla’s cells are exposed to a black hole’s radiation, a horrifying abomination is birthed, quickly making its way down to Earth on a quest to wreak havoc. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is not only notable because of its awesome designs, but the frequent, insane battles between the two kaiju are undeniably entertaining. Even though the human story is rather bland, the amount of screentime dedicated to Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla is difficult to ignore, especially since the film’s miniatures are beautifully detailed.
Return of Godzilla (1984)
Functioning as a soft reboot that removes every Godzilla from canon (besides the original), Return of Godzilla is a fascinating film in that its Japanese release is surprisingly different than its American counterpart. Godzilla (1985), which is the American version, is heavily edited with awful dubbing, misplaced product placement, useless additional scenes and the removal of anything politically significant. Because of this, many who saw the film experienced a far inferior cut, as the original is fun, compelling and does well tackling what the original did thirty years prior.
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Gigan is the most underrated film in the franchise. Its silly approach to kaiju battles is odd and notorious, mainly due to Gigan’s utterly barbaric combat tactics. The ways in which Gigan effortlessly slices through Godzilla’s hide and often pelts him with laser beams is hilarious. Additionally, how Godzilla and Anguirus team up against Gigan is plain absurd, as our titans dust off the ancient art of rock throwing. Godzilla vs. Gigan is a blast, regardless of its dull side-story.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Cheesy, flashy and oh-so-2000s, Godzilla: Final Wars is part of what makes certain Godzilla films so fun: B-movie schlock, ridiculous kaiju battles, a surprisingly over the top storyline and a questionable similarity to The Matrix. Even with the amateur live-action filmmaking, the kaiju battles made me ecstatic, providing an abundance of exciting and powerful clashes. It’s also impossible to forget Douglas Gordon, the hilariously stereotypical American captain who kicks ass with a samurai sword. Trust me, it’s awesome.
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Destroy All Monsters takes a stunning approach to Godzilla. The film follows every kaiju on Earth as they fall under the control of sinister aliens who force them to rampage around the world. The final product is an action packed kaiju ensemble depicting the glorious wrath of Godzilla destroying New York City, Rodan sweeping over Moscow, Mothra obliterating Beijing and so much more. Not only that, but we get to witness King Ghidorah face off with each of these titans, amassing into a Godzilla that’s filled to the brim with action.
Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992)
Battle for Earth’s mystic approach to our two starring kaiju is a huge part of what makes it stand out. The film's miniatures are some of the best in this franchise, akin to Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Battra, who is often considered the main antagonist of the film, lays waste to Japan in an unusually thrilling manner, zapping buildings with his alarming red lightning and laser eyes. It was also amusing to watch both Mothra and Battra join forces to beat on Godzilla.
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
In Mothra’s first clash with Godzilla, we get fights that felt tactical as opposed to kaiju simply chucking rocks at each other like a budget wrestling match. Not only that, but Mothra vs. Godzilla is one of the few films in this franchise that manages to craft a compelling human storyline, as it heavily relies upon the lore of Mothra and the significance of her existence. Instead of fluffling the runtime with irrelevant characters doing irrelevant things, our main group is likable, and their journey flawlessly compliments Godzilla and Mothra, which makes their final fight among the most memorable in the series.
Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster (1964)
Ghidorah’s introduction into this universe makes an incredibly relevant splash. It’s the first film where kaiju team up to take down a common foe (the three headed titan) and in this case the team is none other than Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. The disastrous results of their attempts to destroy Ghidorah is the ideal display of our new contender’s immense strength. Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster is without a doubt a significant entry to the franchise, as it began a trend of large-scaled kaiju battles.
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
While Godzilla vs. Biollante has a presence akin to b-movie schlock, it’s arguably one of the most enjoyable in the series with its wonderfully designed miniatures and incredible kaiju choreography make it a genuinely well produced albeit silly film. Biollante’s design is haunting, with its sharp fangs, slimy tentacles and seemingly greater-than-life aura. Not only that, but the film’s side-story is ridiculous fun. It never took itself too seriously and didn’t feel cheap or tacky either.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is absurd. The film’s time-travel oriented plotline goes places you might not expect, like giving our king kaiju the most bizarre origin story imaginable. The battles between Ghidorah and Godzilla are also pretty damn engaging, and the set design feels nearly lifelike. Additionally, it’s the film that introduces us to Mecha-King Ghidorah, because having these two kaiju who frequently fight for dominance be provided a parallel such of having mechanical versions is just awesome.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
Godzilla vs.Mechagodzilla II is a great film to watch if you’re exponentially more concerned about seeing beautiful monster fights rather than something totally plot-focused. Even then, Godzilla’s motive for being so aggressive is pretty compelling, and his little offspring is infinitely more adorable than Minilla ever was.
Godzilla GMK (2001)
Godzilla GMK, otherwise known as Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, is the perfect kaiju showdown film. It has the most impressive encounters in this series, like how Godzilla absolutely obliterates Baragon with his atomic breath, or when Mothra flies over the city and essentially carpet bombs the king titan. Even though the human story-line is kinda cheesy, it’s still among the best in the series, since it provides lively setpieces for our kaiju to clash.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah starts out a bit bland, but it quickly makes up for it with the greatest final showdown in the history of this series. There’s so much to love here, from Godzilla literally being a ticking atomic bomb, adding an incredible amount of tension in every clash, to Destoroyah’s fantastic design that’s reminiscent of an apocalyptic demon. The film also carries the most haunting conclusion the series has ever seen, which depicts Godzilla rising above the ashes of a Tokyo turned to dust.
Godzilla (1954) is an important classic not only because it’s the film that started it all, but because none have managed to be as compelling, terrifying and fascinating despite many entries in the series attempting to reach its thematic significance. What’s surprising about this film is that it really isn’t about Godzilla, and the highlights aren’t when the kaiju goes around destroying cities. It’s all about what the creature means symbolically, and how the characters in this film have to make terrible decisions in response to the mistakes humanity has made in nuclear testing.
Shin Godzilla (2016)
Shin Godzilla is the most breathtaking Godzilla film ever made. Hideaki Anno’s take on the king of monsters quickly soars itself above anything else in the series. Whether it be the nearly perfect soundtrack, the genuinely terrifying design of Godzilla or the devastating amount of damage the titan does across Japan, there’s so much to love here. Shin Godzilla is especially incredible as it focuses on an unusual group of characters, providing us with a tactical, thought-provoking and realistic approach to dealing with the concept of a giant, indestructible monster causing irreparable damage throughout an isolated country. Horrifying, ambitious and exhilarating, Shin Godzilla is king.
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