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5. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack [2001] 

Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is such a great, huckster title – its guaranteed to put butts in seats. Thankfully, the movie’s also good enough to live up to the hype-man moniker. Godzilla is again re-invented as the bad guy here, and Mothra, Ghidorah and Baragon are now “Earth Guardians” who must defend Japan from his latest path of destruction. What this means is that Godzilla is a legit motherfucker again, all mean-faced and ready to tear shit to shreds. Giant Monsters All-Out Attack gives you the best of both kinds of Godzilla films: a serious marauding creature feature mixed with a Showa wrestling match. There’s even a decent amount of human drama happening on the ground that you care about while Godzilla mangles his opponents. A lot of fans count this as possibly the very best sequel, and it’s difficult to argue with that stance.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: At one point, it seems as if all optimism is lost for the humans and their kaiju hopes of defeating Godzilla, as the King pivots and incinerates Mothra, standing amidst the rubble of Tokyo triumphantly. But the particles of Mothra’s being shoot across the landscape and reinvigorate a defeated Ghidorah, who roars back to life and takes it to Godzilla’s ass. It’s a mystical moment that’s super cool in its fist-pumping strangeness.

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4. Godzilla vs. Destroyah [1995] 

Throughout the years, Godzilla went through several design changes; beginning with the B&W lizard who ripped trains from tracks, before evolving into the cartoonish Showa creation, the spiky scary monster of the later years, and the CGI glob of most modern movies. In Godzilla vs. Destroyah, Godzilla looks like a living volcano, his torso lit up a flaming red (which would seemingly influence Shin Godzilla’s apocalyptic iteration of the monster). Destroyah is another “serious” take on the creature, and might be the movie that works just as well as a legitimate drama as it does a kaiju film (no, really, why are you looking at me like that?). The reason he’s red is because his radioactive heart is melting down, and the battle with the big bad becomes a moving meditation on mortality, as King G passes on his legacy to a son (no longer known as Minilla, mind you) so that he can carry on the family name. This is an oddly affecting motion picture, considering it features a bunch of men in creature suits beating the shit out of one another.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: The death of Godzilla, which feels so real on screen you almost want to cry. Godzilla rarely dies, even when he’s defeated, but here the toll of his existence is too much to bear. As choral music rises, and rockets are fired from nearby tanks, the King of Monsters slowly disintegrates before our eyes, succumbing to the human waste that led to his creation. “Godzilla’s gone,” one onlooker says, but the toll on the city has also turned Tokyo into a ghost town. It’s a reiteration of Honda’s original themes: the madness of man’s invention, leading to his own demise.

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3. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla [1974] 

The introduction of MechaGodzilla during the Showa Series is one of those rare instances where an initial appearance of a character has yet to be matched or bested. A monolithic weapon, it really shouldn’t ever be beaten by Big G, who has his green tail massacred by the walking tank. Thankfully, there’s a new ally who helps Godzilla take this metal machine down: King Caesar, a giant lion/dog/man that packs possibly a bigger wallop than our hero ever could in his weakened state. Together, they send the aliens who are controlling MechaGodzilla packing back to their home planet; a chance to regroup and rethink their ways. As this list has already proven, there would be several other iterations of the industrial clone, all of which are entertaining in their own way. Unlike Ghidorah, the first is still the best.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: The initial reveal of Mecha’s hand missiles leads to Godzilla being totally dumbfounded before the rockets put him flat on his back. There’s always something wonderful about how the actor inside the kaiju suit was able to convey surprise on the big beast’s face, and here Godzilla looks legitimately confused by what’s happening.

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2. Godzilla vs. Biollante [1989] 

There are a few prominent ways that humans, aliens and everyone in-between tried to combat the towering force that is Godzilla. In the Mecha movies, they obviously constructed massive robots to act as weapons against King G. The other primary method of contesting the kaiju nuisance was swiping a bit of the King’s DNA and attempting to grow a new sort of creature, which usually ended in the recently birthed beastie running amuck and wreaking its own sort of havoc. Biollante is the first of the latter in the Heisei Series, as the source is used to cultivate a Lovecraftian cross between a rose and a Venus Flytrap, looking like a more frightening version of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. The monster design in Biollante is some of the best in filmic history, as rows of butcher’s knife-sized teeth are bared at Godzilla, scaring the shit out of him. The climactic fight is one of the most memorable in the franchise, trading in horror show brutality for the usual ringside theatrics.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: When Biollante deploys its multiple tentacles, each of which possess tiny heads with rows of their own needle teeth, Godzilla quickly finds himself in a fresh universe of pain. Snaking up out of the water and wrapping him in a tangle of green death, we’re convinced he might actually lose this battle, as the current foe just has too many strange, snaky tricks up its biological sleeve.

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1. Destroy All Monsters [1968] 

To put this in modern cinematic parlance (you know, for the kids): Destroy All Monsters is the Avengers of kaiju movies. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Anguirus, Gorosaurus, Kumonga, Manda, Varan and Ghidorah; they’re all here, and ready to throw down in a royal rumble. Originally intended to be the last entry in the Showa Series, a ton of money was thrown at this picture, which turned out to be the brightest, poppiest monster wrestling match ever committed to celluloid. While it takes a minute to get going – to gather the squad, if you will – by the time these massive gods are all sharing the screen together, it’s a creature fan’s utter delight. The pastel colors and trademark finishing moves are present, leaving the grim beginnings of Gojira well in the past. This is the movie that pretty much solidified what kaiju films look like in the minds of the genre’s fans, and for the very best reason: it’s metric tons of unadulterated fun.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: The climactic monster brawl is an extended set piece that brings all your favorite “hero” kaiju together to take down Ghidorah. While this writer has never been a fan of wrestling, this is the closest I’ve ever come to fully understanding that sort of show. You know its all set up, and who’s on the side of good vs. evil. The rest is just raw force and impressive physicality; talented performers becoming characters, all in the name of thundering violence. Roar like Godzilla, ladies and gentlemen, this is peak cinema.

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