War Of The Gargantuas: The Entire Godzilla Series Ranked From Worst To Best

If nothing else, you can say this for Godzilla: he's been in a lot of films. Not only is Godzilla the longest-running film series, but the sheer number of titles a rewatch requires necessitates full weeks to accomplish. In other words, even his series is huge.

As such, ranking them all to celebrate the upcoming release of Godzilla vs. Kong is no small task. Nevertheless, here it is, a professional ranking of the Godzilla series that is sure to satisfy everyone who reads it.

33. Godzilla (1998)

Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way. America's first attempt at capturing Godzilla's magic is an utter failure from top to bottom. Godzilla looks awful. His atomic breath is added in post as a literal afterthought. We spend a ridiculous chunk of the movie stuck dealing with little baby Godzillas in an attempt to rip off Jurassic Park. Even if you haven't seen this one, you know how bad it is. Some movies benefit from reassessments in the decades after their release. Not this one. We had it right in 1998, and we continue to have it right today.

32. The Netflix Anime Trilogy

If you thought Godzilla's Reiwa era consisted only of Shin Godzilla, think again. It also includes this trilogy of anime films. The movies enjoyed an actual theatrical release in Japan, while they went straight to Netflix everywhere else. You can view them as three separate films, but it's more apt to consider them one four-and-a-half hour-long enterprise, since that's essentially how the narrative works. The premise is actually cool: humans abandon Earth to Godzilla and a bunch of other monsters. Now they've returned to take it back. And to be fair, anime Godzilla looks great. The problem is everything else. Each film offers a whole lot of talking between unlikable characters followed, finally, by a little Godzilla action. When other notable monsters appear, it's in forms that are sure to disappoint long-time fans. 

31. Son of Godzilla

After a rocky start, I assure you the rest of these films are at least a little good. And speaking of little, Godzilla gets a baby boy in this one! His name is Minilla, and he comes from a strange, anonymous egg, so get your mind out of the gutter.

At this point in the series, it's pretty clear Toho wanted to play up Godzilla's appeal to children, so they made a film where a baby Godzilla must learn the ways of being a giant monster. I'll be blunt: Minilla is not cute. Furthermore, the film's minuscule stakes also keep it from being a classic. The action stays on one remote island and revolves around giant praying mantises (Kamacuras) and a big spider (Kumonga). The humans are pretty good though, and I like how they casually invent a weather-controlling system that actually works.

30. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep

I'll tell you what I like about ol' Ebirah. Of all the things a giant crab could do, he chooses to stick close to one island and kill anyone who tries to enter or leave. Why? He's just a very specific jerk!

I also greatly enjoy the human story in this one, which starts weird and grows more and more bizarre as the film progresses. And there's Mothra! And a giant condor named Ookondoru. The problem is none of these elements end up coming together as well as you hope. Godzilla in particular feels shoehorned into the proceedings, though it is pretty fun watching him declaw Ebirah.

29. Godzilla vs. Megalon

Here's the deal: a lot of people like this entry. Only one thing can account for that – Jet Jaguar. I can't lie. Jet Jaguar is incredibly cool and is the sole reason why this ranks above Son of and Ebirah.

But take Jet Jaguar out of the equation and the film is not easy to watch. It's human story is interminable. Even at only 81 minutes long, this film just seems to drag. I also don't think Jet Jaguar and Godzilla actually make a cool team. And Megalon, while certainly a step up above the villains on this list so far, is kind of a weak kaiju, like a first pass at the much more interesting Gigan, who also shows up in this one.

28. Return of Godzilla

The first entry in the Heisei series is a visual stunner, but then every Heisei movie looks amazing. Still, it counts for something that Toho returned to the game with such an amazing improvement on the Godzilla suit. The main problem here is it's just no fun to watch an essential remake of the first Godzilla. There are only so many buildings he can knock over. While Godzilla is the film's only giant monster, he does battle with an attack ship called the Super X. The Heisei films love to pit Godzilla against ships like this, and Super X is the lamest of these by a long shot.

27. Godzilla 2000

Toho's third reboot of the Godzilla franchise starts off strong with some neat new visual tricks and Godzilla design that mark the arrival of a new era. He even gets a cool new theme song (and also the classic theme, don't worry). I don't love the Millennium Godzilla's new face design, but that's just a subjective opinion. What I do love is the care this era takes in representing the scale of Godzilla, and there's a lot of that on display here.

But you can get that from all the Millennium films, all of which have better monsters. The villain here isn't even seen until the end fight. For much of the movie it's a giant rock, and later a shiny CG UFO. Only in the final moments does it beam down Orga, a kind of generic giant monster. The film is worth the price of entry with its conclusion, though. Orga tries to swallow Godzilla whole, allowing Godzilla to blow a hole through the back of its head. And if that wasn't wild enough, he then torches Tokyo just for the heck of it. The end.

26. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

This movie should be so incredible yet somehow manages to just be okay. For one thing, SpaceGodzilla – while massively reaching to do so – does bring together plot elements seeded through the Heisei series. So that's kind of satisfying. And SpaceGodzilla is a super cool monster. He's like Godzilla but with more teeth and giant crystals coming out of his shoulders. He has some unique attacks that make his fights somewhat interesting. Plus he is mean to Baby Godzilla (yes, there is another Baby Godzilla).

Some simple things hold it back, however. The score is a real excitement-killer, but worse than that: M.O.G.U.E.R.A. This giant robot, meant to be kind of an evolution of the far superior Mechagodzilla, is a visual disaster, one the film keeps insisting is as exciting as Godzilla or his extraterrestrial counterpart. There is a lot to like with SpaceGodzilla, which is exactly what makes it such a frustrating watch.

25. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II

The predecessor to SpaceGodzilla, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (no, it is not a sequel to the Showa Mechagodzilla films, and no, the II in its title does not make sense) has a lot of elements going for it. Little Baby Godzilla is so cute and tiny. Mechagodzilla itself is great. There's a fight between Godzilla and the giant robot near the beginning that is truly a blast to behold. Plus... Rodan!

All and all, it's a pretty good time. But then its middle gets bogged down with too many characters discussing too much science, an unfortunate hallmark of the Heisei series. There are long stretches of the film where it's hard not to check out.

24. King Kong vs. Godzilla

The battle between these titans is a lot of fun and also represents only the last few minutes of the film. So get ready for a lot of business on the way there. Luckily, there is plenty to enjoy here, even if Toho's version of Kong falls quite a bit short of the majesty of his 1933 version. Also, it turns out Kong gets superpowers by electricity. Who knew?

23. All Monsters Attack

Generally people hate this movie. I love it. So I'm splitting the difference and placing it high in the lower half. Maybe that's cowardly of me, but I also do understand the complaints.

Basically, a bullied and sad kid dreams of Godzilla and Minilla fighting monsters via the magic of stock footage, and in doing so, learns lessons that help him deal with his problems in real life. I think if you're going to have three dozen Godzilla films, there's room for one to be within the imagination of a troubled kid. It's cute! And by focusing so strongly on a child, it kind of makes this the Godzilla version of a Gamera movie, which all feature kids getting into adventures.

22. Terror of Mechagodzilla

The final Showa entry introduces a new, bizarre monster named Titanosaurus who almost steals the show from Mechagodzilla. Godzilla has his hands full with the two enemies, but the real joy of this one comes from the non-monster characters. For starters, you have a mad scientist who teams up with villainous aliens simply because he hates people so much. But on top of that, you also have a doomed cyborg lady who falls in love with a handsome marine biologist. And as a cherry on top of it all, the film features a super cool Godzilla theme park. People like to say Godzilla movies never had interesting human characters, but that's simply not true, especially in the Showa era.

21. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

This movie is amazing. It starts with the normally friendly Godzilla making a ruckus and fighting the amazing Anguirus, his close ally. Fighting isn't quite the right word for it. He's sort of just tearing him up. Then another Godzilla shows up and the two Godzillas fight, revealing that the mean Godzilla is actually... a robot!

That's all pretty great, but this is also the film featuring King Caesar, a bipedal lion kaiju who sleeps through most of the film until a priestess sings a (very) long song to wake him up so he and Godzilla can battle Mechagodzilla. It doesn't get much better than this and yet somehow there are still twenty movies to go.

20. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

This is a perfect movie except for several terrible elements that keep it from being just the fun silly monster fight movie people defend it as. One, it is simply way too long. A silly monster fight movie is already on thin ice at the two-hour mark, and this one is even longer than that. Two, Kyle Chandler's Mark Russell is the single most annoying character in any Godzilla film. Godzilla films can get away with bland human characters if the action works, but obnoxious characters are a bridge too far. Otherwise it is a perfect silly monster fight movie.

19. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus takes some big swings with its special effects, many of which do not pay off and automatically cheapen the film. Putting that aside, however, this is a surprisingly fun entry, due mostly to Megaguirus. While the monster's final form is cool – he's sort of a devilish flying scorpion – he almost works better as a swarm of little monster gnats that annoy Godzilla. The human side is good here as well, simply because their big plan is to shoot Godzilla with a black hole, maybe the most metal thing ever.

18. Mothra vs. Godzilla

This is just pure Showa magic. With Mothra, you can sometimes get tired of all the hits played on repeat (the twins, their song, infant island, Mothra sacrificing herself, etc.), but it's fun to see its classic form. There's a lot of anti-greed messaging in the human story that makes humans more villainous than Godzilla (though Godzilla is still a villain to Mothra's hero), which is fun to see since pretty soon aliens will take over as series antagonists.

17. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

Listen to this insanity. Scientists find the original Godzilla's bones and build a metal body around them to create Mechagodzilla. While fighting Godzilla however, the bones kind of wake up and start breaking things because Godzilla's destructive spirit is just too damn strong. If that doesn't sound like the coolest thing ever, I don't know what to tell you. It's just one of many elements at play in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, but it does hint at the kind of fun you get with this one.

16. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

A direct sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Toko S.O.S. keeps the original story of Godzilla's fight against Mechagodzilla going but improves things by adding Mothra to the mix. At one point, three Mothras! The two films are almost equal in quality with some especially fun action sequences. Yet the addition of Mothra gives this sequel a slight edge. But c'mon, watch them both.

15. Godzilla vs. Gigan

Gigan is one of the greatest monsters ever. He looks like he was designed by a child just listing cool features with no mind for physical or aesthetic coherence. He has: a chicken head with mandibles, hooks for hands, and a table saw coming out of his torso. In addition to Gigan, this film also has Anguirus and lots of Ghidorah (though Ghidorah's suit looks rough). The reliance on stock footage keeps this one from perfection, but it still makes for a remarkably cool – and remarkably bloody – entry.

14. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

This film is so good. Ghidorah makes his grand entrance as an alien who immediately earns his place as Godzilla's greatest foe. But even before that, this film has a delightfully bonkers human plot and a scene where Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra all talk to each other (translated by Mothra's twins, of course). Mothra's trying to convince them to fight Ghidorah with her and save humanity. Their answer is no because humans have always been mean to them. That's cute and bratty and insane all at the same time.

13. Godzilla vs. Mothra

Yes, Mothra again. But this Heisei version of Mothra has a secret weapon no other Mothra movie can boast: Battra. If you don't know about Battra, it's Mothra's evil goth cousin. You'd think Battra would be the film's obvious villain, but no. Though Battra and Mothra have ancient beef, they put that aside to cooperatively beat the heck out of Godzilla. On the human side, the film stars a totally unabashed Indiana Jones ripoff, so we have high quality entertainment coming from both sides of the equation. 

12. Destroy All Monsters

It's a free-for-all! Due to its promising title and even more promising roster (Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Anguirus, Minilla, Baragon, Manda, Gorosaurus and others), Destroy All Monsters is an easy favorite for Godzilla fans, to the extent that it might be just a tiny bit overpraised. While the film is not quite as amazing as its reputation indicates, you could still do a whole lot worse. No film with Baragon can be bad.

11. Godzilla Raids Again

Godzilla Raids Again was made only one year after the original Godzilla, and yet it feels totally different. Gone is the tragedy and horror of a man-made walking disaster. In its place we have a simple fight movie. But what a fight movie it is! Godzilla and Anguirus spend most of their movies as pals. Here they're vicious enemies, fighting simply because the other is near. This first Godzilla sequel introduces the series' "vs" aspect, but does so in a way that would not last. Godzilla looks rough, and his battles with Anguirus are undercranked to feel violent and fast and unique to the series.

10. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

We're in the super classics now. And I think it's fair to say no Godzilla movie has a plot as bizarre as Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, to the extent that a mere synopsis would not do it justice. Let's just say there is a lot of time travel involved. And a robot who looks like your dad. And we might even witness the origins of Steven Spielberg's fervent imagination. Meanwhile, the film is not too wrapped up in its story to deliver amazing action (this is a Heisei film, after all).

9. Godzilla: Final Wars

The last Godzilla entry until 2016's Shin Godzilla, Ryuhei Kitamura's live-action anime is absolutely bonkers, a solid attempt at delivering a modern update to Destroy All Monsters' excess. And that's exactly what it does. There are monsters galore – including deep cuts like King Caesar and deep gouges like the 1998 American Godzilla. They all get their little moments as Godzilla quickly (for real, he moves very fast here) takes them apart one by one. Even Gigan shows up, with some much appreciated upgrades. The film also features a return of the series' greatest antagonists, the Xiliens, and throws mutant, superpowered humans into the mix because... well at this point, why not?

8. Godzilla (2014)

This film tends to divide people. I get it. The humans are on the boring side, and it's not exactly a slugfest. Instead, Gareth Edwards' film goes the Jaws route, playing with audiences' expectations and building toward a grand reveal of our new Godzilla design. Even if you don't like the film, you have to admit our boy looks good here, especially when blowing atomic breath into a Muto's open mouth. For some, putting this in the top ten will seem blasphemous. But I have to go with my heart, and my heart adores this special film.

7. Godzilla vs. Biollante

Toho bounced back from the pedestrian and conservative Return of Godzilla with a real wild one. Biollante is remarkable from pretty much every angle. The story of a botanist who creates a monster by mixing Godzilla's DNA – and the DNA of his dead daughter – with a rose is truly inspired, but not quite as inspired as the monster itself. A kind of Audrey II on steroids, Biollante is utterly unique when it comes to Toho monsters and watching her fight Godzilla is a true joy. Also a true joy: the wacky assassin character running around this whole film causing mischief. It's perfect.

6. Godzilla vs. Hedorah

Sometimes Toho hires directors who put their own spin on the franchise. At no point is that spin more outside the lines than in Yoshimitsu Banno's Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Godzilla's first foray into the 1970s is an acid trip of a film, featuring a kid who plays with Godzilla toys, animated sequences, a musical number and an ever-changing monster who will never be topped in terms of sheer disgust. For real, this movie will upset your stomach. Godzilla vs. Hedorah never entered the Paris Climate Agreement and it shows.

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

Another director who got to put their own spin on Godzilla was Gamera series genius Shusuke Kaneko, who took his penchant for great kaiju storytelling featuring great kaiju fights to the big leagues with this amazing entry. Reversing things a bit, All-Out Attack features a straight-up malevolent Godzilla. Only three ancient warriors can save us from his terror: Baragon, Mothra and the big dog himself – King Ghidorah. This film just feels heightened and special from beginning to end, with human characters that manage to improve the story rather than punctuate it.

4. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

If you define a Godzilla film by its fights, story, and monsters, this might actually count as the series' best entry. Godzilla – steamy and glowing red due to his heart's impending nuclear meltdown – looks so amazing here. As does his foe, Destoroyah, a monster made from the one thing to ever kill Godzilla, the Oxygen Destroyer from the original film. Destoroyah is a big boy, and the idea that Godzilla must fight him while suffering the worst heartburn you can imagine makes you really feel for the poor guy. Destoroyah marks the end of the Heisei series and Toho made extra sure Godzilla went out in suitably grand style...

3. Invasion of Astro Monster

...But the thing is, when we think of Godzilla films, we tend to imagine stuff from the Showa era, films with pulpy, b-movie plots and cheesy effects. With that in mind, the number three spot has to go to Invasion of Astro Monster, which brings Ghidorah back in a major way while also bringing Godzilla and Rodan to a distant planet, all in service of those dastardly aliens, the Xiliens. This is by far the best example of how fun the Showa era can be. The film is so silly that it somehow comes around to being actually cool.

2. Godzilla (1954)

The top two spots go to films that exist on a wholly different quality level. They're not b-movies, they're not cheesy, they're not even fun. Everything else in this series, you kind of need to be open to the silliness of it all to enjoy. You can't just sit a non-fan in front of Destoroyah and expect them to have the same amount of enjoyment as you.

Godzilla is different. Obviously the original film has history and an amazing legacy on its side. And it should. This is a truly amazing achievement, required viewing for all film fans. Not just for what it says about Japan at the time it was released, but because it uses the same techniques as other Showa films and yet terrifies without effort, while the rest of the series never comes close. The tonal gulf between this and Godzilla Raids Again is truly remarkable, as if they knew Godzilla's visceral attack on Tokyo could never be recreated at this level, so there's no reason even trying.

1. Shin Godzilla

Except somehow they managed to pull this off. It's bold, I know, to place Shin Godzilla above the original, but for a Godzilla film to play at this level in 2016 is absolutely incredible, so incredible that the film went completely over my head when I first saw it. And while everyone should definitely see the 1954 Godzilla, this very worthy update has greater potential to move modern audiences.

Shin Godzilla takes Godzilla back to its roots not by having the scariest monster (though it by far has the scariest monster – Godzilla is almost Lovecraftian here in terms of existing beyond our comprehension), but by using Godzilla as catalyst for an honest reaction to real-world disaster. So instead of focusing on Godzilla, the film zeroes in on the silliness, the cravenness, and ultimately the flawed greatness of government bureaucracy, one of the least Godzilla-worthy subjects imaginable. The film isn't fun, exactly, but it is funny, while also offering genuine terror as well as a hard-won optimism for the human race.