Rank All Godzillas! – A Definitive Ranking Of The King of Monsters' Movies [Part Two]

Yesterday, we began our journey of ranking every single Godzilla movie from worst to best. Today, we reach the grand finale: the 15 best movies starring the King of the Monsters.


15. Godzilla 2000 [1999] 

The first entry into the Millennium Series is awesome spectacle, if still a standard Godzilla movie. Godzilla 2000 scores big points for showcasing one of the weirdest opponents Big G has ever faced: Orga. The thing from another planet starts the movie as a UFO, before swiping DNA from the King of Monsters' skin and transmuting into its own oversized kaiju form (seriously, this thing is MASSIVE). Possibly cooler is Godzilla's upgraded design, as he's all scales and spikes, ready to decimate anything that crosses his path. After the abomination that was Roland Emmerich's American remake, Godzilla 2000 was a breath of fresh air for fans, as Toho was willfully rejecting the perversion of their greatest icon, leaning into the destructive nature of his design.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction:Orga tries to eat Godzilla! It's one of the craziest scenes in any kaiju movie, as the alien deploys an orifice that expands and then wraps around the head of a bewildered Big G. Thankfully, Godzilla charges up his atomic breath, and manages to scorch his way out of his opponent's new mucus-painted opening. Talk about burning your mouth on a hot piece of food.shin godzilla review

14. Shin Godzilla [2016, AKA Godzilla Resurgence]

Here's the thing about Shin Godzilla: it's a great f***ing movie, but (like the '14 American Godzilla revival), it's not necessarily the best Godzilla film. Where Edwards' Godzilla was concerned with human egocentrism in the face of a global, ecological disaster, Shin Godzilla focuses on the bureaucratic behind the scenes workings of a government trying to deal with the same ecological calamity. It's funny, when paired together, the two make for fascinating flipsides to a coin, while almost making the actual monster attacks an afterthought. The main difference between Shin Godzilla and Edwards' Godzilla: the onscreen destruction is some of the best and most realistic the franchise has ever seen. This red-chested mammoth is a shocking force, ready to level all structures in his path. Even better, the evolution of this iteration of Big G is a marvel, going from aquatic terror to biped beast before our eyes.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction:Godzilla's atomic breath in Shin Godzilla progresses in one scene from city leveling holocaust to building cutting laser beam, and its an amazing mixture of scale and SFX, making you truly believe that this modern Godzilla is the scariest possible version of the kaiju. There's nothing cute and cuddly here, as his dead white eyes roll over, and Hell is unleashed from his belly.H5nwI

13. King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962] 

In terms of vs. episodes, this should've been the one to top them all – a meeting of two iconic forces from opposite sides of the planet, ready to maul one another for supreme domination and the title of King Kaiju. Their throw down does not disappoint, as the battle is extended and brutal. Godzilla is presented as an evil harbinger of death; King Kong his primal adversary. Funnily enough, neither win, as they go tumbling off the side of a cliff, only to see Kong swim away. Why there was never a rematch is beyond this writer, and a longstanding myth has maintained that there's a lost Japanese cut somewhere, sporting a retooled ending where the King of Monsters retains his titled. I call bulls***.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: King Kong is dropped in by balloon, tumbles down the side of a hill, and knocks Godzilla out at the knees. Knowing he's in trouble if he doesn't get to higher ground, Kong scurries up the slope's side, stomping a series of small huts as he goes. All the while, he looks back over his shoulder, knowing Godzilla's coming, and he's not pleased.VPl8y

12. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero [1965, AKA Invasion of the Astro-Monster] 

Probably the most straight up science fiction entry from the early years, Monster Zero involves full on space travel for King G. Godzilla is also positioned as the good guy, as he and Rodan are summoned to a recently discovered planet to help ward off the indigenous people's oppressor, who turns out to be none other than Ghidorah. But the tables are turned when it's discovered that these extraterrestrials were not in danger at all – they summoned two of our favorite kaiju as part of a nefarious plot to destroy earth. They psychically control the three monsters and unleash them on humanity, hoping to wipe us all out. Do they succeed? Of course not. But it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch them try.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction:Godzilla dance so good! That's right, after launching himself at Ghidorah, tackling him to the ground, and doing enough damage that the three-headed golden god flies away, King G does a silly jig, hopping up and down, alternating his hands behind his big green head. You'll want to integrate his moves into your repertoire for the next wedding you attend.Web8T

11. Terror of MechaGodzilla [1975] 

The direct sequel to Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla is real hero's journey for the King of Monsters, allowing him to square off against multiple enemies on his quest to vanquish the robotic clone of himself. Even better is the introduction of a brand new amphibious kaiju, Titanosaurus. Controlled by Professor Mifune (get it?), Titanosaurus is meant to rid the world of Godzilla, towering over our favorite creature with his overly long neck.  Honda's return to the series is a triumphant affair, letting the now iconic kaiju he created with the original become a source of inspiration for all sitting in the audience. This is best viewed through the lens of "Godzilla as game show contestant"; as Toho continued to toss more adversaries at Big G, he bested them all.

Best Instance of Utter Destruction: Godzilla's entrance in Terror of MechaGodzilla is legitimately godlike, as he blasts Titanosaurus from stage left. Honda then cuts to Big G, cuing his theme up and giving him an introduction like a beloved character on a hit sitcom. He's back everybody, get ready to cheer and be amazed.jLtxv

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.kitax

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.Xy1Zo

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.sUIR8

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.FabAA

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.yq8ol

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 motherf***er again, all mean-faced and ready to tear s*** 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.li6lr

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 s*** 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.c8JHg

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.4EFrH

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 s*** 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.x5iWi

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.