This is a list of classic Godzilla films that I fear many Americans in particular may have missed. It probably goes without saying that the original 1954 masterpiece that started it all is an essential watch.
Most fans have seen or at least know of the original Ghidorah and Mothra films from the 1960s. While all the films in the Godzilla franchise have their charm, the ones in this list often go unseen by the casual American movie fan, but are absolutely not to be missed.
SHIN GODZILLA (2016)
If you ignore the rest of this article, so be it, but please walk away knowing you should watch Shin Godzilla. Hideaki Annohe the anime legend that created Neon Genesis Evangelion did more than just make a Godzilla remake for a new generation of Japanese fans, he created something fresh and awe inspiring from an age old property. This realistically ominous film showcases political satire that moves at the speed of an action movie. More importantly it brings us a version of Godzilla that is genuinely awe inspiring, an ever-evolving mountain of blood and fire. I was lucky enough to catch this one during its criminally short theatrical run in 2016 and I will never forget the cheers that erupted during the films light show of a climax. No, it is probably not streaming anywhere. Go to the library or something.
GODZILLA VS. BIOLANTE (1989)
Biolante for my money is the most visually stunning beast Toho ever produced. She has a million teeth and at her full height makes makes Godzilla look like a li’l baby. She is also one of the few female monsters in the whole Zilla franchise, so heck yeah! You go, girl! Biolante is created from a fusion between DNA taken from a scientist’s dead daughter, and a plant mixture he developed to basically turn deserts in the middle east into meadows (yeah, the plot is pretty insane). There is also a really weird secret agent intrigue going on. Why not?
GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH (1995)
This is truly Godzilla’s Ragnarok. Godzilla is dying. Something is causing the king of monsters to turn red and “melt down.” The creature who was created through the testing of atomic power has finally himself become a ticking time bomb that if fired upon might explode and end the entire world. On top of all of this, there is a gigantic beast aptly named Destroyah, who is basically Satan, actively trying to make Godzilla explode. This is a surprisingly emotional epilogue for the king of monsters that is not to be missed.
GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001)
Dig that crazy title! This is perhaps the only film where Godzilla is truly a downright devilish villain. The film gets even weirder when ultimately King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s usual arch nemesis becomes earth’s savior. It’s a well made thrill ride that at long last, dares to throw out the formula and make something daring and new.
GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971)
By far the weirdest Godzilla movie ever. Not only is is it basically Godzilla vs pollution, it has bizarre, animated interludes that would seem lifted from a surreal manga by Junji Ito or a Japanese horror movie like House (1977). Godzilla even flies in this one. I still don’t understand what happens during the final battle sequence, it’s that weird. Far out!
GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991)
You could go insane trying to make sense the time travel “logic” that this film’s plot gets tangled in. Rumor has it that this stems from the fact that Toho apparently felt the need to keep up with the American popularity of Back to the Future. There is also a hilariously silly android character who I assume is in here because of Terminator: Judgment Day. Really this one only gets elevated by having too much stuff crammed into its 90-minute runtime. It’s a blast. The final battle between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah is by far one of the best of the series. An amazing example of the power that practical effects can have.
GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973)
The one that launched a thousand gifs and memes. Shin Godzilla showcases the best the series has to offer when it comes to dark, brooding commentary, but on the other side of the spectrum is Megalon. It’s a celebration of the campy cartoony nature of the series. It’s got a Power Ranger knock off character, two probably/definitely gay roommates, Zilla flashing a peace sign, and of course the infamous scene where our hero slides around his tail! It’s all here, folks! Highly recommended it for some laughs with friends on a Friday night.
GODZILLA: FINAL WARS
Honestly, this one is straight up dumb, but so are a lot of fun things. Nearly every single Zilla villain is in this movie. It features hilariously over the top Matrix type kung fu gun battles. It’s basically the film I would have dreamed up at age six. One of the big highlights is a scene where Godzilla goes up against the version of himself from the 1998 American Godzilla film, in all his bad CGI glory!
GODZILLA VS GIGAN
Godzilla speaks! The brief conversation in this one that takes place between Godzilla and his buddy monster Anguirus is bizarre and if nothing else, makes seeking out this flick worth while. They both sound like angry old ladies. Gigan is my personal favorite villain of the franchise so I am a little biased toward this film. I mean look at him (the one on the left)! Also they fight a giant Godzilla robot thing at an amusement park. What more do you want?
ALL MONSTERS ATTACK
It is not surprising that the film in the franchise that gets the most hate from adult viewers is the one that anyone under ten would undeniably choose as their favorite. I know All Monsters was mine at that age. It is indeed a cheap mess. It’s basically a Frankenstein’s monster of stock footage taken other previously released Toho flicks. Kids don’t care! Not only is this a greatest hits reel, it also stars a little boy who gets to hang out with Godzilla’s weird son. Any kid would understandably choose this one over the “artsy” darkness of Shin Godzilla, and that’s fine. At the end of the day, what do us adults really know about green monsters?
Author: Seth Troyer
Seth is a Columbus Ohio based writer, musician and filmmaker. He earned his BA for communications and creative writing at the University Of Akron. He has written for Dread Central, the Maddwolf film site, and has contributed to various writing anthologies such as Between The Lines, and Purpled Palm Press.
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