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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The Top 10 Godzilla Films From a Lifelong Fan

Annemarie Mullet

November 4, 2023, saw the sixty-ninth birthday of the Godzilla franchise which made its debut in Japan in 1954. In celebration of the newest addition to the Godzilla franchise: “Godzilla Minus One” hitting theaters on Dec. 1, and a new TV show currently running on AppleTv+ entitled “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” you will find a brief history of the scaly tyrant and a list of the top ten Godzilla films from a lifelong fan.
The first Godzilla film, directed by Ishirō Honda, was released in theaters on November 4, 1954, nearly a decade after the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Godzilla’s initial characterization was the physical embodiment of atomic destruction. Unlike the majority of the films to follow, the 1954 original took itself seriously, wearing its grim tone on its sleeve and never making light of the situation. The filmmakers wanted to capture the horrors and imagery of the atomic weapons in Godzilla’s sheer destructiveness, his power and the fires Godzilla leaves in his wake. To date, the original film remains the darkest entry in the franchise, with neither the monster nor the situation being played for laughs. As time went along, Godzilla would later turn into a superhero of sorts, going on to fight invading aliens, climate change, kidnappers and even a metallic doppelganger. Part of the beauty of the franchise and having 38 films to pick from, as there is there is no shortage of variety when it comes to plots and oddities. Some films range from great to cringey, and to just downright silly —with the newer American films falling somewhere in the middle of those ranges.

With the history lesson done, why don’t we get into my favorite Godzilla films?

10). “Terror of Mechagodzilla” (1975)

I grew up watching this film on DVD every day. It holds incredibly nostalgic value as well as my second favorite Mechagodzilla design as well. It also contains my second favorite Godzilla entrance in the franchise. The film is more on the lighthearted side, but still delivers on the giant monster action.

9). “Godzilla” (2014)
America’s second attempt at making a Godzilla film ended up being one of the more well-crafted and serious entries in the franchise. The film is responsible for not only revitalizing global interest in the character but also starting a successful cinematic universe. The cinematography and direction are top-notch. The monster and Godzilla himself have never felt more massive or powerful as they do in this film.

8). “Godzilla Final Wars” (2004)
The mega-birthday blowout bash celebrates 50 years of Godzilla in what is an action-packed joyride. While not the most well written, it delivers on the action, laughs and Godzilla. Godzilla in this film is treated like a slasher. In every scene, he is demolishing various monsters throughout his then 50-year career. If you have a favorite monster, they’re probably in this movie.

7). “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla” (2002)
This film not only sports my favorite Mechagodzilla design, it also centers its story around surprisingly compelling human drama. This entry has me hooked by its magnificent creature design, great score and even better fights. No aspect of this film falls flat.

6). “Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters all out Attack” (2001)
What makes this film stand out is the inversion of Godzilla and his foes. Whereas the monsters he fights are usually painted as the villains, this time around, Godzilla is the bad guy whom the other monsters are trying to stop. This film rocks one of the most ruthless incarnations of Godzilla. Unlike most other nuclear origins, this Godzilla has a spiritual origin rather than a science fiction one.

5). “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019)
Take all of the joy and fist pumping action of earlier Godzilla films and give it the big-budget Hollywood treatment. This film is a love letter to the Godzilla films of the 70s and 80s, going so far as to bring back old scores, but reimagined. This American made Godzilla film includes iconic foes like King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. Fitting with the times we live in, this film attempts to tackle climate change through the monsters and their fight. While it does lose some of the scale and ambiance from 2014, it retains the fun factor.

4). “Godzilla” (1954)
The classic, the one that all of the other films owe their existence to, stands as a truly iconic piece of cinema history. It is haunting and at times disturbing to watch as man grapples with a force they cannot hope to control. The ambiance of the black and white film style creates an eerie quality to Godzilla and his might.

3). “Shin Godzilla” (2016)
This film puts the “God” in Godzilla, as once again the horror and sheer hopelessness the original was imbued with is recreated in this film. Godzilla is imposing, menacing and grotesque in how unnatural he operates in this film. Not only is this a worthy successor to the 1954 film, it is also a clever metaphor critiquing the Japanese government.

2). “Godzilla vs. Biollante” (1984)
This film operates in the shadow of Godzilla. His potential return to Japan looms like a storm cloud. Each action taken by the characters from science to political espionage is all in service to preventing his return. The special effects and costuming of the monsters are top-tier. This film has a swell of energy right unto Godzilla’s most dramatic, and my personal favorite entrance in any film. The film poses philosophical questions about humanity and monsters and tries to engage the audience in more than just monster action.

1). “Godzilla vs. Destroyah” (1994)
Have you ever wanted to cry during a Godzilla film? All of what I mentioned above applies here, with the addition of a terrifying foe in Destroyah. Godzilla sports a unique, burning design, and is melting down like a nuclear reactor. Not only is it a race to defeat Godzilla, but it’s also a race to stop his meltdown. This film marked his 40 birthday and ends on a rather somber tone.

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About the Contributors
Julian Ortiz
Julian Ortiz, Staff Writer
Julian Ortiz is a staff writer with a particular focus on writing movie reviews. He is a JAMS major, creative writing minor. Coming out of Keizer Oregon, Julian loves to write, and to create. In his free-time he enjoys watching video essays on Youtube, going to the movies, writing, and talking way too much about storytelling.
Annemarie Mullet
Annemarie Mullet, Managing Editor

Annemarie Mullet is a senior from Kirkland, Wash. She is a digital arts major and creative writing minor. Annemarie also works at the Writing Center and in the digital art lab. When not working or doing school, Annemarie can be found doing art, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her ESA bunny, Mocha.

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    MatthewMay 13, 2024 at 5:32 pm

    It’s a good list but I have a question and a comment or 2 if that’s ok.
    Everyone loves shin Godzilla , and I don’t understand it . Can you tell me why it’s so popular ? I will say it’s very original, but I can’t like a movie that spends 85% of the film in boardroom meetings.

    1975 Terror of Meca is not lighthearted at all. An evil scientist and evil aliens and a daughter who was killed and made into a cyborg. It’s pretty dark and tragic.

    I think the best all time Godzilla will be Minus One. Can’t wait to see it, but it’s taking forever to get out.