With Godzilla: King of the Monsters looming on the horizon, now feels like a perfect time to reflect on the best and worst of the long history of the Godzilla franchise. Since 1954, American and Japanese studios have produced a combined 30 live-action Godzilla movies. For over 60 years, giant monster fans have enjoyed Godzilla's clashes with the military and epic showdowns with King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, and more.
The Godzilla franchise has dabbled in different genres, including time travel, eco-horror, comedy, mystery, and even martial arts. Some of these experiments have led to a great deal of success, while others didn't quite take off, either with critics, fans, or at the box office. Over the years, moviegoers have developed a deep level of appreciation for the spectacular creature designs and thrilling giant monster battles found in Godzilla movies.
Here are our rankings of every Godzilla movie ever, from worst to best. Only live-action films were counted, which leaves out Netflix's three anime films. American re-edits of Godzilla and Return of Godzilla were excluded as well. Also, TriStar Pictures' Godzilla from 1998 was left out as a point of principle, especially since Toho has retconned "Zilla" out of Godzilla canon.
#30-#26 Godzilla Movies
30. All Monsters Attack (1969)
All Monsters Attack is universally disliked by Godzilla fans, and for good reason. First of all, most of the monsters from the movie are taken from stock footage from previous films. Also, it's hard to expect audiences to care about a story when they know from the beginning that it's all just a dream.
29. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla vs. Biollante could have been a good movie. Biollante has a menacing design, and it is based on an interesting concept. It's a shame that her only movie contains a slow, lackluster story and the least satisfying fight scenes in Godzilla history.
28. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
Godzilla fights a terrorist organization and a giant crab monster in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. This forgettable, ridiculously low-budget Godzilla flick is mildly entertaining, but only during the action.
27. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Godzilla: Final Wars has the feel of a martial arts/superhero movie with giant monsters thrown into the mix. It's a weird mess of a film, but it does have its moments. Godzilla trashing an entire cast of kaiju (including the 1998 American version of Godzilla) is certainly worth watching, but that's about it.
26. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Godzilla faces off against Anguirus in his second movie, which is poorly paced and relies entirely too much on a narrator. The best thing about Godzilla Raids Again is that it introduces the idea of Godzilla battling other monsters.
#25-#21 Godzilla Movies
25. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is one of the strangest Godzilla movies ever made. It's a time travel monster movie where King Ghidorah ends up as the hero. Toho's attempt to destroy Godzilla's heroic image and return him to his villainous roots is littered with plot holes.
24. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Godzilla vs. Hedorah's has a strange tone that's psychedelic, kid-friendly, and eco-conscious all at the same time. The movie's greatest strength is its originality, in terms of the unique challenge that the Smog Monster poses to Godzilla. The biggest problem is that the only times the movie is able to entertain is when Godzilla is on the screen.
23. Return of Godzilla (1985)
Godzilla goes back to being an enemy of the Japanese military in Return of Godzilla, which serves as a reboot of the Godzilla franchise, and a sequel to the original 1954 classic. The American re-edit, Godzilla 1985, should be avoided at all costs, but the original Japanese version features a good script and stand-out performances from its cast, even if it is a bland take on the formula from the original movie.
22. Shin Godzilla (2016)
Toho's first Godzilla movie in 12 years gives the King of the Monsters a bizarre redesign and a whole new set of powers. The new Godzilla had all the power but none of the charm or the spirit of the previous versions.
21. Godzilla 2000
Godzilla 2000 updates and revives Godzilla with a fresh new design. Unfortunately, this new Godzilla's debut movie suffers from flat characters and a storyline that takes too long to unfold.
#20-#16 Godzilla Movies
20. Son of Godzilla (1967)
The King of the Monsters shows off a different side of himself in Son of Godzilla when he has to protect his son from giant insects. The childish, wacky humor is a new direction for the franchise, but in a way, it works.
19. Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
Once again, Japan tries to destroy Godzilla until they realize that an even greater threat is on their doorstep. Far from the best of the 1990s series but still enjoyable, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla lacks the same level of excitement as other films in the franchise.
18. Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Rooting for Godzilla is harder than ever in this uncharacteristically dark 2001 reboot, which turns Godzilla from a force of nature into a force of evil who feeds on tortured souls. While this malevolent Godzilla barely feels like the monster fans know and love, it at least succeeds in delivering plenty of action and a good story.
17. Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Destroy All Monsters is the Avengers: Infinity War of monster movies. A large, diverse cast of Toho monsters come together to save the Earth from evil aliens. The amazing, lop-sided battle where Godzilla and his allies gang up on King Ghidorah makes up for the long buildup.
16. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
There's nothing particularly great or noteworthy about Godzilla's encounter with a mutated, prehistoric dragonfly. Regardless, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is able to entertain from start to finish.
#15-#11 Godzilla Movies
15. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
The direct sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, which failed to match its predecessor, doesn't do a lot with its human characters, but in this case, that's not a problem. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is all about fun, chaotic monster action between Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, and Mothra.
14. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
It doesn't matter that Godzilla vs. Megalon doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The movie doesn't take itself seriously, and this is where it shines. Godzilla and Jet Jaguar's two-on-two battle with Megalon and Gigan is pure, goofy fun.
13. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
This is Toho's second time pitting Godzilla against Mothra. Adding in Mothra's evil counterpart, Battra, allows the movie to shake up the "Godzilla vs. Mothra" formula. The idea of Battra and Mothra teaming up to take down Godzilla works so well on screen that it nearly equals the splendor of the original film.
12. Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
As if Mechagodzilla alone isn't enough, Toho's final film before the 1984 reboot has Godzilla fighting both Mechagodzilla and a mind-controlled Titanosaurus with the safety of the Earth in stake. There's nothing new here, but the fight at the end (and the build-up leading to it) is a delight to watch.
11. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
King Caesar is somewhat of an underwhelming ally for Godzilla in his fight with Mechagodzilla, even though most of the movie centers on the human characters' quest to summon him, so the pay-off in the finale is a little lacking. Even so, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla provides a nice blend of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery.
#10-#6 Godzilla Movies
10. Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Mothra is the noble hero in this classic story involving Godzilla's latest rampage in Tokyo. With an interesting cast of characters and an engaging story, Mothra vs. Godzilla is a solid installment in the first series of Godzilla movies, and one of the best to come out of the 1960s.
9. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
The third Godzilla movie features an epic crossover with RKO's King Kong that leads to some spectacular --and comical -- monster fights, even though it's clear that Toho had to give Kong a massive size upgrade in order for him to go toe-to-toe with Godzilla.
8. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Gigan has no shortage of crazy moments, both good and bad. The cringe-worthy scenes with Godzilla speaking English and the alien cockroaches are perfect examples of this, but this barely detracts from the movie's entertainment value. Godzilla fans will be hard-pressed to find a Godzilla fight more exhilarating than Godzilla and Anguirus teaming up to defeat King Ghidorah and Gigan. The final battle between the four kaiju is equal parts fun and brutal.
7. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)
A trip to outer space, two showdowns with King Ghidorah, and an interesting but predictable plot twist gives viewers an action-packed, campy story where Godzilla and Rodan are the heroes that the Earth needs, but is willing to betray the monsters to ensure the planet's survival.
6. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah packs a powerful, emotional punch that audiences don't normally expect to find in a monster movie. Godzilla's fierce battles with the ultimate opponent culminate in the tragic death of Godzilla and the birth of a new King of the Monsters: his son.
#5-#1 Godzilla Movies
5. Godzilla (1954)
As the movie that started it all, the original Godzilla is difficult to surpass. Godzilla was filled with revolutionary ideas that helped shape not only the future of its own franchise, but Japanese special effects in general. With its impressive monster design and intricately detailed miniature buildings, Godzilla is a cinematic wonder to behold.
4. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
"Japan vs. Godzilla" is a recurring theme in the Godzilla franchise that is told a little too often. With each try, filmmakers attempt to perfectly capture the Japanese government's efforts to defeat Godzilla. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla does it best with several well-developed characters, each with their own motivations and reactions to Godzilla's attacks on Japan. The story is told so well that the audience is torn between rooting for the fan-favorite kaiju or the hero of the Japanese people, Mechagodzilla.
3. Godzilla (2014)
To many fans, the second American Godzilla movie finally erased the stain the 1998 adaptation left on Godzilla's legacy. Superb acting performances and director Gareth Edwards' unique take on bringing giant monster fights to the big screen proves that Toho isn't the only studio who knows how to do Godzilla justice.
2. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is a truly great film, but its biggest moment happened first in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, albeit with a different character. The movie tells a beautiful story of unconditional love where Godzilla's enemy, Rodan, is willing to sacrifice his life for his "brother", Baby Godzilla, even when he realizes that the two are not related. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II also stands on its own as a movie where the monsters are the heroes and the humans turn out to be the real antagonists.
1. Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster is remembered as the fun, ground-breaking film that made Godzilla a hero. The movie sees Mothra unite Godzilla and Rodan for their first battle ever with King Ghidorah, and it's glorious. As the quintessential Godzilla movie, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster nicely balances comedy and action, complete with a solid, cohesive story. Ghidorah hilariously reveals to viewers the monsters' perspective on their conflict with humans, and it's done brilliantly. Looking back at Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, it's no wonder why the same cast of monsters was chosen to reassemble for Legendary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019
- Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020