It’s always the perfect time to look back at the storied history of the giant monster movie icon known as Godzilla. Since 1954, Godzilla has been running amok. He’s been creating memories, starring in many movies, and becoming a pop culture staple on the way. We’ve revisited all the 30 plus movies in the series and ranked them from least good (because there’s literally no such thing as a bad Godzilla movie) to best for your reading pleasure!
33. Godzilla (1998)
Sorry Matthew Broderick, but this ’90s American take on Gojira is a bit too Hollywood for us. Still, we were really into the fact that here Godzilla is a (maybe) girl. If you like spectacle blockbusters this relatively tame CG-filled offering is still a whole bunch of fun.
32. Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2018)
Though Netflix’s series is a very entertaining trilogy of monster anime, as standalone Godzilla films they can’t compare to the men-in-suits madness of classic Toho. But if you enjoy hard sci-fi and gorgeous animation, it’s still definitely worth checking out. These are the only animated canon flicks.
31. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1964)
An epic B movie masterpiece, this was originally meant to be a King Kong film. Rankin and Bass rejected it though, so it was repurposed as a Godzilla movie. Centering on the titular sea creature, this Pacific Island-set monster movie features some bank robbers on the run who end up helping the locals free themselves from the grip of a terrorist organization and a giant shrimp.
30. Terror of Mechagodzilla (1978)
This sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla has a whole lot of good monster fun as the heroic reptile faces off with his robotic rival. Notable mentions here go to the brilliant aquatic Titanosaurus, as well as the inexplicable alien subplot.
29. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
This millennium’s take on Godzilla rewrote the monster’s history whilst paying homage to the original 1954 classic. It also has one of the coolest and most sci-fi-heavy origins for its titular antagonist. He’s spawned after a wormhole opens up and a magical ancient dragonfly appears and births the egg that will become Megaguirus.
28. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
The ’00s Godzilla movies knocked it out of the park when it came to wild plots. In this 50th anniversary flick, Godzilla is trapped under the icy wilds of the Antarctic, and humanity turns to an army of mutated monsters to protect them. This also signifies our first list appearance of Minilla, Godzilla’s beautiful chonk (adoptive) son who turns up at the end of the film to convince his dad to show mercy on his fellow Titans.
27. Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1995)
A definite inspiration for TriStar’s ’98 offering, this is the ultimate cheesy popcorn entry from the original Godzilla canon. It’s essentially about Godzilla battling a UFO discovered deep under the sea, and it’s as good as it sounds. It’s also worth a watch for fans of the MonsterVerse as it gets deeper into the concept of studying monsters and shares thematic resonance with Monarch and their mission.
26. Son of Godzilla (1967)
This one features the first appearance of the beautiful chubby baby Godzilla known as Minilla. The best part of this very lovely movie is the sequence where Godzilla tries to train his young charge on how to use his radioactive powers! It’s very cute and we will protect Minilla with our lives.
25. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
Probably one of the better known later Godzilla films in America due to its distribution on PPV by Sony, this is a prime example of a Godzilla flick delving so deep into lore and in-universe science that it becomes a little dense. But it also includes a rad Godzilla/Rodan team-up and a new baby Godzilla!
24. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
One of the darker entries in Godzilla canon, this film relies heavily on the anti-nuclear messaging that was a vital theme throughout the series, though it’s a far cry from the more colorful flicks of the ’90s. Godzilla vs. Biollante features some Silent Running-style hard sci-fi and a wild gardening/soul transference subplot.
23. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
This brilliantly entertaining entry sees a young woman, Lieutenant Akane Yashiro, made a scapegoat for the failures of the government after she fails to kill Godzilla. Years later, a remote-controlled version of Mechagodzilla is presented as an alternative to human fighters, but when the new weapon goes wild, only Akane can save the day.
22. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is emblematic of Toho’s turn towards more family-friendly movies featuring huge monster battles with iconic creatures. Here we see the reptile face down a group of mutated creatures who kill his other child, Godzilla Jr. Sad times.
21. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
With a wacky theme park-centric plot, Godzilla vs. Gigan is one of the weirder offerings from the six-plus-decade franchise, and it’s totally splendid. If you enjoy organized monsters, peaceful tourist attractions, and lots of aliens, then this is a must watch.
20. Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla (1994)
It was hard not to make this number one just because of the name and concept, as well as the fact that Spacegodzilla is just so cool. This outrageous sci-fi romp sees Mothra and Biollante mysteriously choose to take some Godzilla DNA into space where the new titular iteration is created. It doesn’t end well, as you can imagine.
19. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1976)
The introduction of Mechagodzilla is a monumental moment and offers up a super fun flick with some particularly impressive suit work. Leaning into the more spiritual and mythic elements of Godzilla lore, this entry includes priestesses, visions of the future, robot-Godzilla, and even a cruise ship. Basically, it’s very, very good.
18. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
An egg-filled extravaganza, this is a rad reimagining of Mothra lore that added a whole bunch of cool canon regarding the history of the protector of Earth and her battle against the human-created Battra. Unexpected monster team-ups abound!
17. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
An interesting addition to Godzilla canon, this film focuses on an author who, while writing a book about the beast, makes a startling discovery about his origins. Without spoiling all of its secrets, there’s also a very fun time travel subplot as well as some very good dinosaur content.
16. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1956)
The third Godzilla film to grace our screens was a crossover mashup between two of cinema’s biggest monster icons. It’s an iconic battle that was repeatedly shown on network television all over the world and is an interesting film to revisit in the lead up to Godzilla vs. Kong.
15. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Dethroning the original monster mashup, Adam Wingard’s wickedly entertaining 2021 flick is a true monster masterpiece. It’s fun, frantic, and full of action. It follows Kong as he’s sent to help stop Godzilla but quickly ends up on wild Journey to the Center of the Earth style romp. There’s also an epic final act battle that will please even the most traditional Kaiju fans.
14. Return of Godzilla (1984)
This is a rad first offering from the so-called Heisei era of the series, which sees Godzilla appear out of a volcano only to terrorize Japan once again. This is a rare later Godzilla movie where the monster is primarily an antagonist rather than a hero, and it ends with the good chonk boy back in his Volcano.
13. Godzilla (2014)
The first entry into Legendary’s MonsterVerse, Godzilla was a more serious attempt at adapting the Japanese creature feature for Western audiences. Centering on the human dynamic and teasing the more monstrous aspect until the third act, the big reveal is worth the wait and this gritty Godzilla paved the way for the studio’s crossover monster-mash shared universe.
12. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Some very good Godzilla-vs-tentacle-monster action here as a tiny sea organism feasts on Earth’s pollution and becomes a monstrous-size beast, wreaking havoc on the world with its poisonous menace. Things are looking dire until Godzilla appears.
11. Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
The fourth Godzilla film is a marvel of Japanese sci-fi and is filled with solid Godzilla action as well as a great new suit design. And, of course, the wonder of Mothra. It’s a great film to check out before or after you’ve watched King of the Monsters so you can truly understand the power of the Queen of the Monsters, Mothra.
10. All Monsters Attack (1969)
Disclaimer: this is often seen as one of the lesser Godzilla movies, but the wild story about a young boy who is kidnapped by monsters only to create an imagined scenario where he can communicate with Godzilla’s son Minilla makes this one of our top 10 faves. It’s weird, wonderful, and showcases the narrative ingenuity of the series. Plus, Minilla is the best.
9. Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
This space exploration movie sees astronauts discover an alien planet that’s being ravaged by the mysterious Monster X, who Godzilla fans will immediately recognize as Ghidorah. Lots of space monster goodness here as Godzilla and Rodan are transported to Planet X to help the inhabitants deal with their three-headed dragon problem.
8. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of King Ghidorah rather than his alter-ego Ghidorah, this ’01 entry is perfect for you. Not only is it filled with rad big boy battles but it also explains how that good ol’ gold three-headed monster gets its wings! Spoiler alert… Mothra is involved.
7. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
The dream for any Tokusatsu fan, Godzilla vs. Megalon offers up not only Godzilla fighting the titular creature who was created by a race of peaceful underwater sea-dwellers sick of humanity, but also features Jet Jaguar, a giant robot who was originally going to be a standalone hero and was designed by a kid who won a Toho art competition.
6. Destroy All Monsters (1968)
One of the key parts of Godzilla lore is cemented here with Monster Island playing a major role as the Japanese government collects the monsters and places them there for the protection of the human race. Sadly for those very humans, some hot female aliens have turned up and brainwashed those in charge of the monster-prison, leading to all-out monster fight madness.
5. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
King Ghidorah is a key part of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and he was first introduced in this mid ’60s entry that established the three-headed beast as a formidable foe for the franchise star. Just like the newest movie, here Ghidorah stars alongside Rodan, Mothra, and Godzilla, but this story focuses on his origin as well as the Japanese monarchy.
4. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
The second film in the series, this is an epic sci-fi flick that introduces one of Godzilla’s original enemies turned ally, Anguirus, as well as showcasing Toho’s talent for expansive storytelling. It also introduced the trope of freezing Godzilla as a way of stopping the marauding beast.
3. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Easily one of the best monster-mash movies of all-time, Tokyo S.O.S. shares a lot of DNA with Godzilla: King of the Monsters and is just as much fun. After creating Mechagodzilla in 1974, it’s revealed that the reason Godzilla can’t help but return to Tokyo is due to the Japanese government using his bones to create their robotic weapon. Mothra threatens humankind and basically tells them to fix up. Sadly, humans never do, so an all-out war begins.
2. Shin Godzilla (2016)
This 2016 reimagining of the cult figure was a powerful meditation on natural disaster, ecology, and trauma. Plus, it featured a badass new Godzilla design that reinvigorated the franchise and seems as fresh and vital as the first film despite being the 31st in the series.
1. Godzilla (1954)
The original and still the best. A monumental monster movie that took inspiration from the greats whilst still creating something entirely new, it’s hard to top the film that started it all. If there’s one classic film to check out before you watch King of the Monsters, this is it.
Originally published June 3, 2019.
Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.