The original Godzilla had blatant but effective social commentary, although its sequels resulted in a very different kind of tone. Even though the titular character was a clear representation of misused nuclear technology, he also had a terrific design. As if kids weren’t already fascinated with dinosaurs enough, Godzilla also harnesses atomic power and has an iconic roar. He’s a pop culture staple, and his series has been going strong since 1954. While Godzilla has played both antagonist and hero, Toho has created a pretty inspired rogues gallery for him. They frequently draw from animalistic features and wield very distinct abilities. Here are ten of Godzilla’s best enemies, ranked by design, quality, and strength.
Well, this was the beginning. Anguirus, which basically resembles a giant Ankylosaur, was the first enemy of Godzilla. He was the first indication that Toho realized a new monster mash attitude could actually be quite lucrative. So, even though he’s just another riff on dinosaurs, Anguirus will always be an important enemy. Unfortunately, he generally loses the majority of his battles, even when Godzilla plays the antagonist to humans as well. In fact, he isn’t very effective even when he aligns with Godzilla. He’s just too iconic to ignore, actually appearing in various comics and video games, as well.
9 King Kong
Although Kong: Skull Island welcomed Kong into the Kaiju universe of today’s Godzilla, it isn’t the first time. These two iconic creatures have battled it out before, and it was just plain terrible. Which is unfortunate, because Kong is actually one of the best monsters ever put to film. He has conquered his terrifying island, which is full of a variety of vicious, prehistoric creatures. Kong’s story is thematically neat, and being an ape, he’s more personable than most monsters. He was more villainous in the original film, but has since become a sympathetic character. So despite a disappointing history, we look forward to seeing two of our favorite monsters share the big screen with today’s technology.
Godzilla has fought some pretty silly enemies, from a giant plant to—literally—smog. We get the sentiment there, but it doesn’t really work. So, you would think that Godzilla could easily just squash Megaguirus like, well, a bug. However, the insectoid enemies are surprisingly used for some great horror. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the giants that simply go about trashing all the miniatures in sight. In fact, some earlier scenes are somewhat reminiscent of Cloverfield. And eventually, when Megaguirus itself enters the ring, the lengthy battle is pretty brutal.
The film which introduces Orga, Godzilla 2000, is probably somewhat underrated. It was the introductory film to the Millennium period, and had some pretty decent visual effects for the time. Full of family-friendly camp and a brisk pace, it’s a lot of fun that Orga starts out as a UFO. It really leans into the science-fiction elements of the franchise. Also, that UFO comes in handy when Orga finally comes head-to-head with Godzilla. Literally. Orga actually eats Godzilla, for a hot minute. But what makes this villain even more fun, is that he was a ribbing of Roland Emmerich’s disastrous 1998 adaptation of Godzilla.
It’s difficult to imagine Mothra as a threat to anyone. That’s because, by design, it looks pretty friendly. However, the original Mothra film actually establishes the monster as a serious threat. She’s extraordinarily popular, and definitely leans into elements of fantasy more so than most kaiju. This is because of the annoying twin fairies that always accompany her, who gradually became more objectified over time. It’s hard to count Mothra as an enemy, since she’s usually an ally. She often plays the martyr, assisting Godzilla. However, whenever Godzilla’s an enemy of humanity, she consistently helps the forces of good.
This particular kaiju has the unfortunate circumstance of claiming a hilariously wonderful design, and ending up in very poor movies. This is probably because of his origin story being linked to an alien race. And, sadly, the majority of those plots end up being pretty tacky. However, his extraterrestrial origin also freed him from any form of animalistic design inspiration. His iconic buzzsaw weapon has caused some serious damage, as well as those giant hooks. He’s had some of the most damaging fights with Godzilla, making him an important addition to this list.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was—spoilers!—literally the death of Godzilla. It was also the last film to be scored by Akira Ifukube. This was truly the end of an era, and although the enemy has a dreadful name, he was a proper sendoff. Destoroyah resembles a dragon, thanks to his Godzilla-like appearance and giant wings. So, it isn’t the most original design.
However, his origin is connected to the Oxygen Destroyer, and the rivalry gets seriously personal. After the man-sized Destoroyahs all combine into the familiar giant, they kill Godzilla Junior. This is awful for Godzilla, and warns fans that this continuity has no hope of survival. The final battle is appropriately epic.
Another one of the more famous kaiju, the original Rodan film was both inane and poorly made. However, its ruthless camp makes it a great guilty pleasure. And there is no denying how much people love dinosaurs. Our favorite irradiated pteranodon has been a staple of the Toho kaiju series. Unfortunately, he hasn’t always been allowed the best effects. However, his turn in the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters was definitely visually appealing. And Rodan’s shriek is also pretty neat; effective enough for Toho to remix the sound for subsequent monsters.
Of course, the only appropriate response to Godzilla is to make a giant robot version of him. After his introduction as an alien threat in the 70’s, Mechagodzilla has consistently been man-made. And given how great Godzilla’s design already is, the mechanical look was an ace in the hole. Mechagodzilla has actually been featured in some of the best Godzilla films available. And without him, we wouldn’t have anything like Guillermo Del Toro’s fun blockbuster Pacific Rim. Mechagodzilla allows humans to legitimately stand against the antagonistic Godzilla, raising the stakes. It also gives writers the freedom to arm it with any new weapon they can possibly imagine. It’s gotten pretty crazy, and inventive.
1 King Ghidorah
Like the Joker, King Ghidorah has a variety of origin stories. And he’s also Godzilla’s greatest foe. Although Ghidorah’s design is simply that of a three-headed dragon, can there be anything better? Like Rodan, it was partially inspired by Greek Mythology. This made Ghidorah’s design more elaborate and threatening than the Earthly influences of other kaiju. Also, Ghidorah’s abilities are both iconic and countless. He can definitely fly, and always breathes gravity beams. But he’s also been known to defy physics, generate winds with the force of a hurricane, regenerate his body, and sap energy from his enemies. Ghidorah is easily the most ruthless, powerful force to ever oppose Godzilla, and that reputation continues in the MonsterVerse.