Top 10 Favorite Godzilla Movies (Part 1)

May 12, 2014 at 8:16 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment

In light of the upcoming Godzilla release (just a few days away) I thought I’d try to make a post about my favorite Godzilla films. It’s actually quite hard to come up with a top 10 list for me, partially because ranking them is difficult. At different points in my life certain films have meant more to me. But while I can say I have seen each of the Toho films (and the 1998 TriStar film), I have only seen some of them once. I’ve tried to go back recently to watch a few specifically to freshen up my memory, and it’s helped me complete the list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I change my mind again after the new film comes out.

Nonetheless, I’m happy to say that I was able to create a list — and while I debated about having them in no specific order, I decided to give them a placement for the top 10. And while you’re at it, go read my good friend Brett Cook’s post about his top 10 favorite kaiju films. (Part 1 & Part 2)

It should go without saying, but just to clarify — I’m not saying these are the best films in the same sense that every film should be judged, but just the ones that I like the most (right now), and I’ll give my reasons in more detail below.

I should also say that Godzilla, as a genre in itself, is quite unique in the sense that I think most Godzilla fans love the idea of Godzilla more than any actual film. What I mean is, Godzilla himself is so iconic that even when I was young and could only see the same 3 or 4 films on VHS tape over and over again — and I know in my heart some of those films aren’t worth watching again and again — I still loved Godzilla. I just loved his appearance, his presence, his roar, his potential — everything. He could be a hero or a villain. On the surface, my love for Godzilla and all of his movies was just that he looked so cool, and seeing a giant monster fight another giant monster is just a fun formula for a child of any age.

I guess what I’m saying is — sometimes, it’s hard for me to go back and watch certain Godzilla films, because all I find myself doing is just skipping through the human drama and only watching the scenes featuring Godzilla or another giant monster. Is that the case all the time? For all the films? Absolutely not — but most people watch Godzilla films because of the King of Monsters himself, so I think it’s only natural to feel the way I do. Maybe I’m just justifying my feeling that as I get older, watching some of the films isn’t quite as fun as it used to be — or I find myself wishing for more, but I think part of the reason is my expectation for the new film is quite high.

But I digress, I’m getting off track again. I’m a lifelong Godzilla fan. I was born into the fandom, thanks to my older brother who was popping in the VHS of Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster when I was a newborn in diapers fresh out of the hospital. Just as my little brain was growing and learning, some of the first images I saw on the television screen were Godzilla and Ebirah playing tennis with giant boulders. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Ebirah

Unfortunately, that film didn’t make the cut, but it definitely has a special place in my heart and I would love to watch it again soon.

Now — onto the top 10.

10. Godzilla 2000

G2000

While technically the second Godzilla film I was able to see in theaters (counting the TriStar 1998 film), this was the first REAL Godzilla film I ever had the chance to see in theaters. And that’s not just a dig at the American film, because I don’t hate that one, but this was a Toho produced piece of work, and it was so cool. Personally, I love this Godzilla design over all the others. It’s so extreme — it just represents that time period so well. The end of the 90s were so edgy and over the top, I loved the way he looked. His dark green skin. His massive purple fins. His bright orange atomic breath. And he had slimmed down compared to the bulky Heisei (80s/90s) Godzilla, but was still a muscled up threat compared to the creature that eventually came to be known as Zilla or GINO (the TriStar Godzilla, of course).

The film mostly puts Godzilla front and center, with a lot of iconic images taking place every time he hits the screen. The film was such a response to the American film, and while it does fall short in other aspects of what makes a traditional film good, this just easily is one of my favorites just because of what it represented. The American film had made quite a lot of money for Toho — enough so that some of that money went on to help produce the films in the Millennium series. But it just wasn’t what fans wanted, and Godzilla 2000 (released outside of the US — which was incredible when you think about it) really tried to establish who the real Godzilla is.

Even the human drama is quite bearable, revolving around a father and his daughter,  plus the research about Godzilla’s regenerative abilities. The film doesn’t take itself as seriously as it could have, but that’s just another reason I love it. Orga (Godzilla’s foe in this film) doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but I applaud Toho for creating a new villain to work with in this reboot that would launch the Millennium series of films.

9. Godzilla vs. Destroyah

GD2

The final film of the Heisei series has been well received by Godzilla fans, and was a proper sendoff to the series of films that ended up being Godzilla’s most critically acclaimed run. This film especially embodies what made the 90s films so great. Godzilla looked especially menacing as he entered his burning state, glowing hot red and orange as he was apparently about to self destruct and do damage on a massive scale.

Destroyah — as an enemy kaiju — is a great threat on so many levels. It’s origins tie back into the original Godzilla film as it came from the Oxygen Destroyer — the original invention that killed Godzilla a decade before — and it has reemerged in a sense to take out Godzilla again in his final days. It looks so evil and terrifying, like a foe that would really give Godzilla a lot of trouble — and it definitely does. The story in this one has so much more to do with the monsters rather than some human plot. That seems like such an obvious choice, but you’d be surprised at how many Godzilla films almost play side-story to something the humans are doing, but this film feels like everything is focused on Godzilla.

Godzilla and Destroyah have an incredible battle in Tokyo in the final act of the film, also involving Godzilla’s son — who is killed in action by Destroyah. Godzilla keeps taking down Destroyah again and again, but Destroyah continues to come back bigger and stronger. Godzilla — seemingly so overcome with grief at the loss of his son — unleashes hell on Destroyah with his most powerful atomic blasts. Destroyah is finally taken down, and Godzilla begins to self destruct in his final moments. With some help from the G-Force, his reaction is contained, but nonetheless he still dies. However, the radiation in the area is all drawn into one point — Godzilla Junior. Junior – as an adult, reborn and renewed, and in seemingly with the spirit and energy his father had.

It’s a rather beautiful ending that sends off a message that Godzilla will never truly die. Like it has been stated it so many of his films, he is a force of nature, and it will always find a way to take course.

8. Godzilla vs. Megalon

This film is special for a number of reasons. While it’s not so necessarily a favorite of many kaiju fanatics, it holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first Godzilla films I had seen when I was so young. For whatever reason, this film in particular’s VHS release managed to circulate well — and I would daresay that when people say they saw a Godzilla film when they were growing up, there’s a good chance it could be this one. For myself, my friend Brett had also seen and loved this film when we were the same age, so it was an element of our friendship, and while we could both admit it had flaws, it has a charm about it.

Godzilla had basically taken the role of “hero” unquestionably by this point in his film career, and this film culminates that. I think of all the films where Godzilla is supposed to be a protector of the people, this one might do the best job in portraying that.

The plot introduces a new kaiju, Megalon, worshiped by a cult from an undersea civilization, who rises onto the surface to wreak havoc. Megalon just starts to tear everything in site apart. And Seatopia (the name of this undersea civilization) contacts Gigan to come and help Megalon in his path of destruction. Megalon and Gigan begin to cause chaos like never before, teaming up to bully Jet Jaguar — a newly introduced Ultraman-look-a-like who is the creation of a Japanese scientist (the best kind). JJ manages to contact Godzilla — who is off just chilling and minding his business — and asks him to help not get his ass kicked anymore. Godzilla and Jet Jaguar team up in the tag team of the century to take on the dastardly duo of Gigan and Megalon. But Godzilla takes his sweet time swimming so JJ gets beaten all to hell for a while, which is so entertaining.

Gigan Megalon 2

Rock Stars. If you don’t put the tag titles on them, it would be the biggest disgrace in booking history.

I could summarize the plot, but honestly — if I could recommend any Godzilla film in particular from the Showa era, it would be this one.

A lot of people use the term “fun” to describe watching a film, but it is absolutely true in this case. This film is just so much fun.

7. Godzilla (King of the Monsters / Gojira)

G Train

Putting a film this fantastic so high (or is it low) on a top 10 list seems criminal — I know. Don’t get me wrong, I love this film and I realize its significance. This changed everything. This basically revolutionized the giant monster movie franchise, and I say that realizing the significance of films like King Kong as well. While the original Japanese release is certainly the most meaningful, I personally like the American version with Raymond Burr. That may be because — well — I am American, and out of all the foreign actors to show up in a Godzilla film, Burr’s Steve Martin character is without a doubt the best one. He really ties it all together, and the version without him is just as special, but if you put both copies in front of me, I would go with the US version.

There’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t been said much before. To be honest, only recently did I realize that when this film was made, the Japanese government had placed a censorship on the media of talking about the nuclear bombings. Anyone can see the obvious relationship this film has with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I wasn’t aware it was basically illegal to make a film about the issue. That just makes it that much more special.

It’s an absolutely terrifying film that really just drives home what a threat Godzilla is. There wasn’t such a reaction from the military in this film, or at least in the sense that Godzilla was absolutely unstoppable. This was all about destruction, and even when he had taken care of all potential threats, he just kept burning and stomping.

This film certainly means a lot to me, but in some ways, I feel like comparing this particular film to some of the others is like comparing night and day. And I don’t meant that as a negative thing, either. This film is a classic, and out of all the Godzilla films, this can stand right next to some of the greatest movies of all time — without question.

6. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (II)

This was a film I wasn’t able to first see until a few years ago. Even though I grew up as a passionate Godzilla film, sometimes finding the DVDs or VHS tapes of the films wasn’t always easy. Only within the past 10 years or so have all of the films become widely accessible, and this was a film I always wanted to see.

I love all of the films from the Heisei era because of how well-connected they are, and there’s a certain level of quality to them. The films from that era are often complimented by giving Godzilla the proper recognition he deserved. They all (to a degree) took themselves seriously, and Godzilla’s role was well established.

G MG R

Out of those 90s films where Godzilla pits himself against another monster, this is my favorite. I’m not sure where to start.

From a visual standpoint, I just really appreciate how clean and gorgeous this movie is. There are so many memorable fight scenes. The scene of Godzilla and Rodan fighting in the ocean and on the island where Godzilla Junior is born is one of my favorites. And I loved the initial fight between MechaGodzilla and Godzilla.  It just seems so well choreographed. MechaGodzilla really takes it Godzilla, just cleaning house — but Godzilla manges to paralyze MechaGodzilla by reversing the energy from the cables piercing Godzilla’s body. Then — the fight of MechaGodzilla against Rodan, where Rodan gets blasted into the upper portion of a skyscraper.

I’ve only seen this movie a handful of times but I can recall the fights so well. I think I really wanted to love this film, and I just did.

And the soundtrack is another great point. In particular, the theme that plays during Godzilla and Rodan’s interactions, which is really nothing more than a well-timed mixture of Godzilla and Rodan’s individual themes, but somehow the odd mixture turns out great.

Considering how good ALL of the films from the 90s really were (even SpaceGodzilla was quite good, even though his film is my least favorite from the era) — I think everyone who has seen them all has their own particular favorite, and you could make the argument that each one of them is stronger than the other in certain categories. For me, this one is my personal favorite, and it still feels relatively new and special to me.

That’s it for first half. I’ll have the second half up relatively soon — I’m sure!

 

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