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.
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