Shōwa Era (1954–1975)
Godzilla, King of the Monsters
(Gojira), 1954 -
The original and most serious of the Shōwa Series films, Godzilla is a strong allegory for the atomic bomb. The film is quite somber in tone as it openly displays the pain and destruction of the rampaging kaiju and the human suffering at the hands of this seemingly unstoppable force of nature. It’s stark black and white imagery is at once beautiful and apocalyptic. There are some major differences between the Japanese and American versions. Each has it’s own merit and both are worth watching.
(Gigantis, the Fire Monster;
Godzilla’s Counterattack), 1955 -
A new Godzilla rears it’s head and this time he’s got company in the form of rival kaiju, Anguirus (a four legged dinosaur with a spiky back and tail). The creatures are discovered fighting on a remote island. After they fall into the sea they show up on the shores of Osaka and wreck the place with their gargantuan battle, which climaxes at Osaka Castle. Interestingly, American distributors tried to pass Godzilla off as a completely different monster in Gigantis, The Fire Monster.
A pharmaceutical company hears of Kong’s existence and goes to his home on Faro Island to capture him. Upon bringing him back to Japan, Kong breaks free just as Godzilla appears to tear up the town. The JSDF (Japanese Self Defence Force) knocks out Kong and air lifts him to Mt. Fuji, where the two fight it out. Originally conceived as King Kong vs. Frankenstein (to be produced by Universal) with Willis O’Brien animating Kong fighting a Giant Frankenstein’s Monster! The script was then purchased by Toho and Frankenstein was scrapped and changed to Godzilla.
Mothra vs. Godzilla
(Godzilla vs. Mothra;
Godzilla vs. the Thing), 1964 -
The fourth film in the series is the last time that that Godzilla would appear in a “bad guy” role for 20 years! A mysterious giant egg washes ashore after a typhoon along with a giant radioactive reptile scale. Turns out the egg belongs to Mothra. The Shobijin (the tiny little twins from Mothra’s home island) appear to help. They convince Mothra to fly to Japan and fight Godzilla. The American version was called Godzilla vs. The Thing, with posters blotting out the monster, but adding tentacles and putting a question mark in it’s place.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
(Three Giant Monsters: Earth’s Greatest Battle), 1964 -
This film marks the Godzilla’s first appearance as a protector of the Earth. It’s also where plot lines start to get REALLY strange. This one’s got everything: A princess possessed by a Martian who ,with the gift of prophecy, foretells of doom and destruction at the hands of Ghidorah (A three headed space dragon!), who has already decimated Mars. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra arrive to fight off this new threat. There is also a subplot revolving around the assassination attempts on the princess by her evil uncle. Don’t miss the scene where the Shobijin are translating a conversation between Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra!
Invasion of Astro-Monster
(Godzilla vs. Monster Zero;
The Great Monster War), 1965 -
Ghidorah is back again for another round. This is the first time that the action is brought off planet. Planet X is discovered directly behind Jupiter and a crew is sent to investigate. There The Controller of Planet X asks for Earth to send Godzilla and Rodan to help them, as they are under attack from Monster Zero (King Ghidorah). In exchange the Xians will give Earth a miracle drug that will cure all disease. Never trust an alien. The Xians double cross us and put Godzilla and Rodan under mind control and send them back to attack Earth. Don’t miss Godzilla’s victory dance after defeating King Ghidorah!
(Ebirah, Horror of the Deep;
Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Seas), 1966 -
A somewhat disjointed film that feels a bit off. This may be due to the fact that it was originally written as King Kong vs. The Sea Monster, with Godzilla being transposed into the starring role. As a result, Big G acts a bit odd in this one, such as turning on Mothra after they’ve been established as allies. This time around he faces off against a giant lobster that guards an island for a terrorist organization called The Red Bamboo. Even though it feels a bit different, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here. Bring lots of drawn butter!
(Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son), 1967 -
The series had slowly been becoming a bit silly, but this one really shifted it into kiddie territory. On a remote island, giant praying mantis’ (called Kamacuras) dig up an egg that hatches into a baby Godzilla. Godzilla appears and adopts the baby (named Minilla) as his own and starts to teach him the ways of the kaiju. There are plenty of silly bits as Big G tries to get Minilla to use his atomic breath by stomping on his tail. There’s also a big ol’ tarantula named Kumonga that Big G and Minilla tag team together.
Destroy All Monsters
(Charge of the Monsters;
Attack of the Marching Monsters), 1968 -
Originally intended to be Godzilla’s final film, this one pulls out all the stops and features a menagerie of kaiju. All the monsters on Earth are corralled together on an island called Monsterland. They live there in peace there until female aliens, called Kilaaks, take control of the monsters and send them to devastate various cities. As usual Earth narrowly escapes total disaster and manages to wrangle control of the rampaging kaiju. That’s when King Ghidorah appears and a giant royal rumble takes place on Mt. Fuji.
(All Monsters Attack), 1969 -
This is one weird flick. It revolves around a latchkey kid who daydreams that he is on Monster Island hanging out with Minilla. Both have issues with bullies and help each other stand up to their enemies. The plot is barely there and it’s sole function is to hang a series of stock footage scenes from it’s frame. It really plays more like a Godzilla compilation package with footage being reused earlier films. The most ridiculous part, especially in the English dubbed version, is Minilla’s voice which is cartoonish and completely over the top.
(Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster), 1971 -
This is another in the series that feels slightly off somehow, though it is a much welcomed entry after the completely whacked out Godzilla’s Revenge. The film is fairly dark in tone as a creature born of pollution appears to wreck havoc on Japan. Hedorah is the first kaiju in a Godzilla film to change forms (it goes from water, to land, to air forms). Godzilla’s got some new moves in this one as well, using his atomic breath to fly! Godzilla takes quite a beating in this one, almost losing an arm!
Godzilla vs. Gigan
(Godzilla on Monster Island;
Earth Attack Command: Godzilla Against Gigan), 1972 -
Insectoid aliens from Space Hunter Nebula M take a page out of Planet of the Vampires, possessing the bodies of dead humans. They want to colonize Earth and destroy all it’s cities to make the planet more peaceful. In order to do this they want to summon the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan (A cyborg monster with a buzz saw in his abdomen!). Godzilla and (now ally) Anguirus fight them off. This is also the third and final time that the monsters talk.
Godzilla vs Megalon, 1973 -
The underwater nation of Seatopia has become angered by the use of nuclear weapons by the above ground nations and so hatch a plot to release Megalon, a giant bipedal cockroach. The Seatopians also dispatch a couple of agents to capture a super robot named Jet Jaguar to guide Megalon from city to city, kidnapping it’s inventor as well. Getting control back, Jet Jaguar is sent to Monster Island to get Godzilla. In response Seatopia contacts the Nebula M aliens and ask for Gigan’s assistance. Jet Jaguar grows to kaiju size and another tag team battle ensues.
(Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster;
Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster;
Godzilla vs. RoboGodzilla), 1974 -
Godzilla appears and starts wrecking stuff. When a second Godzilla appears, it turns out that the first is a robot imposter. MechaGodzilla is controlled by ape-like aliens from “The Third Planet from the Black Hole” who want to use the giant robot to conquer the Earth. Yep, that old chestnut. With the help of benevolent King Ceasar (A floppy eared kaiju) Big G manages to put the kibosh on the alien’s plan. This film continues the trend of showing bloodshed that started in Godzilla vs Gigan.
Terror of Mechagodzilla
(The Terror of Godzilla;
Counterattack of Mechagodzilla), 1975 -
A direct sequel to Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla, those simian aliens from “The Third Planet from the Black Hole” are still running amuck. They’ve joined forces with a mad scientist who wants to control the world with an aquatic monster called Titanosaurus. This time Big G goes it alone against the reconstructed MechaGodzilla and Titanosaurus with some help from a lovely female android created by the mad scientist.
Heisei Era (1984–1995)
(The Return of Godzilla), 1984 -
Godzilla returns after nearly a decade away and he’s not defending the Earth anymore. A return to the dark nuclear metaphor, this film is a direct sequel to the original 1954 film, completely ignoring everything that happened in between. Raymond Burr is back in his role as Steve Martin, once again watching as Godzilla trashes Tokyo. There are no other monsters to fight, it’s just human vs. kaiju. Godzilla himself has had an upgrade, no longer a kid’s matinee monster, this Godzilla is three hundred and twenty-eight feet of atomic fury.
A deranged scientist combines the DNA of Godzilla, his deceased psychic daughter and a rose together to form a new monster called Biollante. After some terrorists release Godzilla, the giant rose monster calls out to him and the two ensue in a battle. Biollante takes a few different forms in this film before meeting it’s inevitable demise. This film also marks the beginning of some interesting experiments with Godzilla’s character...in this case giving him a sort of psychic power.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991 -
It’s back to classic foes for Godzilla in this one. Instead of aliens, this time the antagonists are a group who call themselves “Futurians”, who are time travelers from the year 2204. They trick some scientists into traveling back to 1944 and preventing the original Godzilla from being created and inadvertently create the new Godzilla that appeared in 1984. After being mortally wounded by Godzilla, King Ghidorah is whisked away by the Futurians and returned with a cyborg head as Mecha-King Ghidorah!
Godzilla vs. Mothra
(Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth), 1992 -
This film once again brings back a classic Godzilla kaiju as well as introducing a new one. Battra is the polar opposite of Mothra...a jagged nasty looking larva and an ever nastier winged beast. The plot revolves around The Cosmos (taking the place of the Shobijin) being kidnapped and Mothra coming to their aid while fending off Battra as well as Godzilla. The final battle at Yokohama Cosmo World is a highlight, with Godzilla using a Ferris Wheel as a weapon!
Continuing the tradition of bringing back classic foes, yet completely ignoring all the films in the Shōwa Era. This time around the UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) finds the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah in the ocean and use the technology to create MechaGodzilla and a ship called Garuda. Scientists also take what they believe to be a pteranodon egg back to Kyoto. This attracts both Godzilla and Rodan. The egg hatches to reveal Baby Godzilla, who is sending psychic signals to Big G and Rodan. Don’t miss Garuda and MechaGodzilla combining Transformer-style into Super-MechaGodzilla!
Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, 1994 -
The JSDF are testing Project T, which would allow them to psychically control Godzilla. Meanwhile, some of Godzilla’s cell’s that were brought into space by Biollante are exposed to radiation from a Black Hole creating Space Godzilla, a Big G doppelgänger with a bad attitude and crystal structures growing out of him. The JSDF has also created Moguera, a bird like robot to replace MechaGodzilla. Moguera and Godzilla team up to drive off the space invader.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
(Godzilla vs. Destroyer), 1995 -
Toho actually announced that they would kill Godzilla in this film. It seems that Godzilla is dying as the film opens, there are bright glowing patches on his body and he wrecks havoc in Hong Kong. Scientists discover that Big G’s heart is basically a nuclear reactor and he is going to have a meltdown, die and take the entire world with him. The JSDF has created the all new Super-X III to try and stop the meltdown with freeze weapons. Meanwhile, a military created monster called Destoroyah starts to rampage. The JSDF (again using psychic powers) lure Godzilla into a fight to the death.
The first attempt at Americanizing Godzilla did not go so well. Treated more of a parody of the Godzilla films that had come before, this big budget reboot found a completely redesigned ‘Zilla (as he was officially named by Toho and put in their canon of kaiju) that was essentially a mutated iguana who comes to New York City to nest. Apparently he’s asexual and has laid a bunch of eggs under Madison Square Garden. In addition to contending with ‘Zilla’s rampage, there are now a bunch of Baby Godzilla’s running around the underground.
Millennium Era (1999–2004)
Godzilla 2000: Millennium
(Godzilla 2000), 1999 -
The series is rebooted a third time with Godzilla 2000. It seems that they are once again erasing what has come before and taking this as a direct sequel to the 1954 film. This time a group called the Godzilla Prediction Network and Crisis Control Intelligence work to predict where Godzilla will appear next when they discover a 60 million year old UFO in the ocean. The UFO reactivates when they attempt to raise it and starts to attack Japan. The UFO tries to steal all of Japan’s files on Godzilla, particularly the ones regarding his regenerative properties. Turns out the aliens (called Millenians) need Godzilla’s DNA to regrow their bodies. After absorbing some of Godzilla’s DNA, a Millenian mutates into the monster Orga, a giant bipedal creature and tangles with Godzilla.
Using a new weapon called Dimension Tide, scientists open a time portal. A large insect flies through dropping off one it’s eggs, which eventually ends up in a sewer. Turns out it’s a bunch of eggs and they react with the water, growing larger. They hatch into large bugs called Meganula. They’re attracted to Godzilla and feed off his energy, feeding it in turn to a giant larva that hatches into Megaguirus, a sort of mutant dragonfly.
(GMK), 2001 -
Things are a little different this time around, with the story taking on a much more spiritual element. First off, Godzilla is possessed by the spirit of the souls of dead soldiers from WWII. They are angry that Japan has forgotten their sacrifice and therefore now want to destroy the country. In order to stop Godzilla the guardian monsters Mothra, King Ghidorah and Baragon are awakened. Things get even weirder when a lone man equipped with a missile enters Godzilla’s body through his mouth, plants the missile and exits through a gaping wound!
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, 2002 -
This is a new incarnation of the giant mechanoid. This time around the JSDF takes the skeleton of the original Godzilla and builds a robot around it, so technicall
y, MechaGodzilla is a cyborg in this one. Kiryu, as MechaGodzilla is called (it means Machine Dragon), has memories of the original Godzilla’s death, causing him to short circuit and go on a rampage. Eventually running out of energy, Kiryu is brought back and repaired, setting the stage for the final showdown between the two. Call this an early precursor to Pacific Rim, when Kiryu’s remote controls malfunction and a pilot has to enter the cockpit of the cyborg herself to fight Godzilla.
(Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.), 2003
Kiryu, the cyborg mechanoid with Godzilla bones in it is back again to once again defend Japan for Godzilla’s rampage. The Shobijin are back as well and warn the JSDF that Godzilla continues to attack because they used the bones of the original monster. Mothra will agree to defend Japan if the JSDF will agree to send Godzilla’s bones back to the bottom of the ocean. Right on time, Godzilla attacks and fights with Mothra. Her larva hatch and come to aid her and Kiryu once again goes into battle as well.
Godzilla: Final Wars, 2004 -
The final Toho film is an all out monster brawl featuring fifteen kaiju! Those pesky aliens are at it again, this time a race called the Xiliens, who have gained control of most of the world’s kaiju, setting them on the major cities of the world. After finally entombing Godzilla under arctic ice, the JSDF’s only hope is to break him out and lead him into battle. This one’s got everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. Matrix like fight scenes, tons of kaiju battles, mutants and aliens galore. It is certainly a monster mash for the ages. If this is truly the final Godzilla film from Toho (and I hope that it isn’t), then it’s one hell of a swan song for Big G.