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.

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