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10. Mothra vs. Godzilla [1964, AKA Godzilla vs. The Thing

A pure old school classic from top to bottom, Mothra vs. Godzilla probably ignited many American kids’ love of kaiju, as it played on public access television numerous times during the ‘80s and ‘90s (that’s how this writer first saw and fell in love with it, anyway). Mothra vs. Godzilla is one of the last “serious” pictures in the Showa Series, before it transitioned to being purely kids’ entertainment, and Mothra is presented as a screeching, terrifying bird of prey, swooping in and giving Godzilla a run for his money. Even when she’s beaten, the Mothra larvae (nightmare creatures for anyone grossed out by bugs) slither in and bring the green god down. This is a cornerstone of the genre, turning what could’ve been (and, on many levels, still totally is) utterly ridiculous, and making a pure horror film out of its outlandish concepts.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: Godzilla first emerging from radioactive dirt is a strangely scary sight, as his tail pops out of the earth, and then he rises, shaking brown dust off him like water. This was when the Showa Era still treated the monster with a kind of awe, and it can be felt best in this moment.

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9. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla 2 [1993] 

The Hesei Series’ MechaGodzilla is a great example of why Mecha was one of the best villains the Godzilla franchise ever introduced, and how each generation tweaked its formula ever so slightly for the better. Here, Mecha’s actually the hero of the movie, built by the United Nations to rid the globe of Godzilla’s terrifying reign. This means that Mecha is aesthetically less threatening than he ever was before, but that’s because we must imagine it’s the David to Godzilla’s Goliath in this scenario. The angular threat of the ‘70s iteration of Mecha is gone, replaced by a grinning hero whose upper lip is always raised – a mixture of sly cunning and goofy charm. Many rank this movie much lower, but Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla 2’s cartoonish approach has always been welcomed in this writer’s house.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: MechaGodzilla’s initial assault on the King of Monsters is rather ferocious, hitting him with multiple laser beams before shooting out two electrical cords into the beast’s belly (both of which hit with a gross splat). Current is then shot into Godzilla while he’s down, zapping him like an unruly suspect being tased. It’s one of the few times you feel genuinely bad for Big G.

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8. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah [1991] 

Utterly bonkers in the best way possible, King Ghidorah establishes a tweaked mythos for the King of Monsters. Turns out he’s a “Godzillasaurus” that was mutated by atomic radiation. Then the movie tosses in aliens and time travel, to give it that Monster Zero flavor. The best part is a revamped version of King G’s greatest enemy. After Ghidorah gets his ass kicked for the first time, the beast is re-worked into a half-dragon/half-cyborg atrocity that’s ready to take revenge on its colossal arch nemesis. Really, the whole thing acts like a near perfect sample platter of all your favorite Godzilla film ingredients, mixed together into a tasty mishmash that’s quick, violent and totally out of its mind.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: During their first brawl, Godzilla gets choked out until foam starts bubbling from his maw. It looks like the end of the line for our man, but he charges up his atomic breath and lets off a little grenade that sends Ghidorah flying backward. Before his enemy has a chance to recover, the King of Monsters lets off another shot, tearing one of the dragon’s heads clean off. It’s a great little recover move that clears the path to victory.

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7. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla [2002] 

The first Mecha movie of the Millennium Series is strange in that it ignores all sequels that came after the ’54 Godzilla. That’s almost fifty years of cinematic lineage flushed down the toilet; an audacious storytelling approach that earns it points. The bones of the original Godzilla are used to build a new robotic King of the Monsters (why is never 100% clear, but just roll with it), and the soul of Big G is still contained in their fossilized marrow. That results in the mechanical monster going haywire and needing to be stopped at all costs. Easily one of the most “human” movies in the series (as they’re counted on to stop their creation in its tracks), Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla branches off and just tries to be its own bad self, introducing new weapons that are as awe-inspiring as the original city-stomping beast.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: The Absolute Zero Cannon that this Mecha is equipped with is an impressive piece of industrial artillery, able to freeze entire city blocks with one blast. This Mecha sequel is arguably about how man shoots itself in the foot via its weapons of war, and the new robot dinosaur proves that you can put a fresh spin on tired themes.

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6. Gojira [1954, Godzilla, King of the Monsters]

The one that started it all – Honda’s meditation on post-WWII nuclear fallout could also, in a strange way, be considered an act of artistic devotion to his country. The most expensive film in the history of Japanese cinema at the time it was made (at $1 million, Godzilla’s budget was ten times the average Toho Studios production), the film helped popularize the word “kaiju,” resulting in a moniker that would come to define many outsiders’ experiences with the country’s film industry as a whole. If you ask many passive film fans who their favorite Japanese cinema star is, the answer is simple. Godzilla became an avatar for an industry that, before Honda invented him, was mostly unpopular, both in its own country and especially abroad, due to its main service of military mobilization/propaganda. Through tragedy, Honda had mined identity, not only for himself, but for his fellow artists at large. The rest, as this list demonstrates, is perverted history.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: Godzilla snatching a train from the track and chewing on it like a wild puppy does a rubber toy is easily one of the best images the ‘54 film produced, as you can only imagine what it must’ve been like to witness that sort of insane spectacle sixty-plus years ago. The SFX budgets and tech would certainly help Godzilla’s antics reach much more preposterous heights, but that sight was a terrifying one for those who’d just survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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