Your Ultimate Guide to Godzilla Movies: A Comprehensive Ranking

by Tara Price

2nd April, 2024

Your Ultimate Guide to Godzilla Movies: A Comprehensive Ranking

Since its debut in 1954, the Godzilla franchise has captivated audiences worldwide, bringing the King of the Monsters to life in over 30 films. Originating as an atomic monster, Godzilla has maintained a prominent place in the kaiju genre, wreaking havoc and battling other monsters like King Ghidorah, Rodan, Mechagodzilla, and Mothra for over 65 years. This comprehensive guide aims to explore all Godzilla movies, including the best Godzilla movies, and provide a chronological order of Godzilla movies for both new fans and seasoned aficionados of the genre.

Structured around the significant eras of the Godzilla saga—the Showa era (1954–1975), the Heisei era (1984–1995), and the Millennium era (1999–2004), this article delves into the evolution of the Godzilla franchise, including its foray into the Monsterverse with Hollywood adaptations and iconic battles on Monster Island. As we rank Godzilla movies and highlight the monsters from Godzilla movies that have become cultural icons, readers will gain insights into why these films have become a staple of monster movies and how many Godzilla movies there are in total.

The Dawn of Godzilla (1954–1975)

Godzilla (1954)
Godzilla (1954)

The Dawn of Godzilla (1954–1975) marks a significant era in the Godzilla franchise, showcasing the evolution of Godzilla from a solitary destroyer to a defender of Earth, fighting alongside and against a plethora of monstrous adversaries. This era is characterised by its pioneering storytelling, the introduction of iconic monsters, and the thematic exploration of contemporary issues through the lens of monster battles. The following is a detailed exploration of key aspects of this era:

Iconic Battles and Monsters

  • Godzilla vs. Anguirus (1955): The inception of the monster-versus-monster format, setting a precedent for future Godzilla films.
  • Introduction to Mechagodzilla (1974): Marked by explosive battles, Mechagodzilla emerged as one of Godzilla’s most formidable opponents, showcasing advanced alien technology.
  • Environmental Themes: ‘Godzilla vs. Hedorah’ (1971) introduced Hedorah, an alien lifeform thriving on pollution, reflecting contemporary environmental concerns.

Notable Films and Their Contributions

  1. ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla’ (1962): A groundbreaking crossover featuring Hollywood’s King Kong, blending Eastern and Western monster mythologies.
  2. ‘Mothra vs. Godzilla’ (1964): Pitted Godzilla against Mothra, emphasising themes of protection and the balance of nature.
  3. ‘Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster’ (1964) and ‘Invasion of Astro-Monster’ (1965) introduced Ghidorah and featured intergalactic battles, expanding the Godzilla universe.

The Showa Era’s Cultural Impact

  • The Criterion Collection (2019): Released a comprehensive set of 15 films from this era, accompanied by a hardcover book and artwork, highlighting the era’s significance and enduring appeal.
  • Evolution of Themes: Transitioned from Godzilla as a symbol of destruction to a more nuanced character, sometimes serving as Earth’s protector against external threats.
  • ‘Godzilla for Kids’ Era: Films like ‘Son of Godzilla’ (1967) and ‘Godzilla vs. Megalon’ (1973) targeted younger audiences, incorporating lighter themes and messages against pollution.

The Dawn of Godzilla not only laid the foundation for the Godzilla franchise but also significantly influenced the kaiju genre. Through its exploration of themes such as environmentalism, the consequences of nuclear power, and the clash of civilizations, this era resonated with audiences globally, cementing Godzilla’s place as a cultural icon.

A New Era: Heisei (1984–1995)

The Heisei era (1984–1995), also known as the “VS Series” due to the ‘VS’ in most of the film titles, represents a significant shift in the Godzilla franchise, introducing a more serious tone and delving deeper into the biology and nature of Godzilla. This era follows a different continuity from the Showa films, acknowledging only the original 1954 Godzilla movie and featuring a technologically advanced humanity combating a second Godzilla along with other giant monsters.

The Return of Godzilla (1984)
The Return of Godzilla (1984)

Notable Films and Their Impact:

  1. The Return of Godzilla (1984): Serves as a direct sequel and reboot, disregarding all past events except for the first two films. It concludes with Godzilla being lured into a volcano, marking a dramatic end to the movie.
  2. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989): The first movie in the Heisei continuity to feature Godzilla fighting another giant monster, Biollante, a hybrid creature representing bio-engineering uncertainties.
  3. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991): Revives King Ghidorah with a new origin story and showcases the fight between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah, highlighting human-made technological advancements against monstrous threats.

Key Monsters and Battles:

  • Biollante: Created from plant cells, Godzilla cells, and the cells of a scientist’s deceased daughter, adding an emotional depth to their confrontation.
  • Mecha-King Ghidorah: A human-made cyborg version of King Ghidorah, showcasing advanced alien technology in battles against Godzilla.
  • Destoroyah: Featuring a creature with a failing nuclear reactor heart, posing a significant threat to Godzilla and humanity in “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” (1995).

The Heisei-era films are celebrated for their consistent quality, ranging from 4/5 to 5/5, and are known for dealing with nuclear threats and other serious themes while maintaining the classic Godzilla monster action. This era redefined the Godzilla saga, setting a new standard for Kaiju films and leaving a lasting impact on the franchise.

The Millennium Series (1999–2004)

Spanning from 1999 to 2004, the Millennium series, or the New Century series, introduced audiences to a fresh and innovative phase in the Godzilla saga. Unlike its predecessors, this era is characterised by a unique approach to continuity, with most films standing alone rather than following a sequential timeline. This distinct narrative choice, except in the cases of “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla” and “Godzilla: Tokyo SOS,” allowed for creative freedom and the exploration of various themes and scenarios within the Godzilla universe.

The Millennium series is comprised of six films, each contributing its own story and set of characters to the Godzilla franchise:

  • Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
  • Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
  • Godzilla Final Wars (2004)

Among the notable monsters introduced during this era were Orga, Megaguirus, Meganula, Kiryu (a new incarnation of Mechagodzilla), Zilla, Monster X / Keizer Ghidorah, and the unmade Deathla. These new adversaries and allies brought fresh dynamics and challenges to Godzilla, showcasing the franchise’s ability to evolve and surprise its audience.

Several key battles and developments stood out in the Millennium Series:

  • Tokyo as a battleground: Godzilla’s presence in Tokyo was a recurring theme, with the exception of “Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack,” where the action was diverted to Yokohama.
  • Kiryu’s dual nature: “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla” introduced Kiryu, a cyborg built from the remains of the 1954 Godzilla, whose soul awakens, causing it to momentarily turn against humanity during its showdown with Godzilla.
  • Memorable confrontations: The series was not without its lighter moments, such as the quick defeat of Zilla by Godzilla in “Godzilla: Final Wars” and more epic showdowns like the battle against Kaiser Ghidorah in the same film.

The Millennium series, with its blend of stand-alone stories and a few linked narratives, offered a refreshing take on the Godzilla mythos. Its innovative approach to continuity allowed each film to tell its own unique story, contributing to the enduring appeal and versatility of the Godzilla franchise.

Entering the Reiwa Era (2016–Present)

The Reiwa Era, commencing with the release of Shin Godzilla on July 29, 2016, introduced a new chapter in the Godzilla saga, marked by its anthology format where each film stands alone, offering unique narratives and interpretations of the iconic monster. This era is distinguished by a mix of live-action films, anime, and short films, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the Godzilla franchise.

Key Films and Achievements:

  • Shin Godzilla (2016): A critical and commercial success that reimagines Godzilla in contemporary Japan, addressing national and global issues.
  • Godzilla Anime Trilogy: Comprising Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017), Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle(2018), and Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018), these films explore futuristic and interstellar conflicts involving Godzilla and other kaiju.
  • Godzilla Minus One (2023): A landmark achievement for the franchise, becoming the first Godzilla movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture, highlighting the series’ enduring appeal and innovation.

Monsters and Continuity: The Reiwa era is notable for its expansive roster of monsters, including both classic and new kaiju such as Godzilla Filius, Servum, Mechagodzilla, and King Ghidorah, among others. Despite each film’s standalone nature, the era maintains tighter continuity than previous series, with recurring characters and plotlines, particularly in the Godzilla anime trilogy and Godzilla Singular Point TV series.

Distribution and Reception:

  • Available Platforms: Films from the Reiwa era can be found on Crunchyroll with Prime Video Channels, Netflix, and in theaters, making them accessible to a wide audience.
  • Ratings and Reviews: The movies have received various IMDb ratings ranging from 5.1 to 8.9 and Metascores from 42 to 67, reflecting a diverse reception from fans and critics alike. Despite this, the era is celebrated for its thematic depth, including environmental messages and explorations of survivor’s guilt.

The Reiwa era has not only expanded the Godzilla universe with its innovative storytelling and introduction of new kaiju but also solidified Godzilla’s status as a multifaceted cultural icon capable of adapting to changing times and audiences.

The Monsterverse: Godzilla’s Hollywood Adventures

The Monsterverse, initiated by Legendary Pictures, marks a significant chapter in the Godzilla saga, blending Hollywood storytelling with the iconic Japanese kaiju genre. This shared cinematic universe intertwines the fates of Godzilla, King Kong, and other legendary monsters, offering a modern take on these classic creatures. Below is a detailed exploration of the Monsterverse’s key elements:

  • Timeline and Key Titans:
    • Prehistoric Events: The Monsterverse lore starts with ancient battles between Titans and the existence of a hollow earth, setting a foundational mythos.
    • Primary Titans: The universe features Godzilla, Kong, Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah as central figures, each embodying different aspects of nature and humanity’s interaction with it.
    • Film Order: The chronological release of the films are Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (2023), and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024), providing a narrative that, while not strictly linear, is easy to follow for audiences.
  • Cinematic Achievements and Reception:
    • Box Office Success: The Monsterverse has grossed $1.955 billion worldwide, a testament to its global appeal and the enduring popularity of monster movies.
    • Critical Reception: Generally positive reviews from critics highlight the franchise’s ability to adapt and evolve the Godzilla and King Kong legends for modern audiences.
    • Expansion: Beyond the five films, the Monsterverse has grown to include two television series distributed by Netflix and Apple TV+, further exploring its rich universe.
  • Themes and Symbolism:
    • Nature vs. Humanity: The Titans, especially Godzilla, symbolise the forces of nature, with narratives often focusing on humanity’s need to coexist with, rather than dominate, these ancient powers.
    • Cultural Reflections: The inclusion of Mechagodzilla and the portrayal of Titans like Ghidorah and Mothra delve into themes such as the impact of technology and pollution on the environment, mirroring real-world concerns.
    • Mythology and Identity: Kong’s journey mirrors humanity’s quest for identity and belonging, while the ancient Titan War reflects the destructive potential of endless conflict, both in the Monsterverse and in the real world.

The Monsterverse stands as a contemporary homage to the Godzilla franchise, successfully merging classic Kaiju elements with new narratives and themes. Its exploration of humanity’s relationship with nature through the lens of monster mythology continues to captivate and engage audiences worldwide.

Iconic Battles and Memorable Monsters

In the vast pantheon of monsters that the Godzilla franchise has introduced, few stand as uniquely intriguing as SpaceGodzilla. This extraterrestrial doppelgänger of Godzilla not only shares the King of the Monsters’ formidable traits but also brings its own cosmic menace to Earth. The encounter between Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla in “Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla” (1994) is a highlight of the Heisei era, showcasing a battle that spans the depths of space to the heart of our planet. Here’s a closer look at this iconic confrontation:

  • Origins and Abilities:
    • SpaceGodzilla: An alien clone of Godzilla, possibly created from Godzilla’s cells being exposed to black holes and intense cosmic rays. This origin story adds a layer of sci-fi intrigue to the Godzilla mythos.
    • Unique Powers: Unlike its terrestrial counterpart, SpaceGodzilla boasts telekinetic abilities and can generate a crystal fortress, amplifying its cosmic energy for devastating attacks.
  • The Battle:
    • Setting: The confrontation takes place on Earth, with SpaceGodzilla’s crystalline structures wreaking havoc on the landscape, setting the stage for a climactic showdown.
    • Tactics and Strategy: Godzilla, known for its brute force, faces a challenging opponent in SpaceGodzilla, which not only matches its physical strength but also outmanoeuvres it with psychic powers and strategic use of environmental manipulation.
  • Impact on the Franchise:
    • Expanding the Universe: The introduction of SpaceGodzilla pushed the boundaries of the Godzilla universe, introducing fans to the concept of extraterrestrial threats beyond the traditional Kaiju Earth faces.
    • Fan Reception: While the film itself received mixed reviews, the character of SpaceGodzilla has become a fan favourite, appreciated for its unique design, powers, and the existential questions it raises about Godzilla’s origins and the potential for other cosmic entities.

This encounter not only provided audiences with an epic battle but also expanded the narrative possibilities within the Godzilla franchise, blending classic kaiju action with space opera elements. The clash between Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla remains a memorable moment, showcasing the franchise’s ability to continually reinvent and deepen its mythology.


Reflecting on the sprawling epic that is the Godzilla franchise, we journeyed through eras hallmarking the evolution of cinematic storytelling, from the dawn of Godzilla’s creation to the latest Reiwa era and the vivid landscapes of the Monsterverse. Each segment of this expansive universe not only introduced a litany of memorable monsters and iconic battles but also echoed themes ranging from environmentalism to the consequences of technological hubris, threading a narrative that resonates universally. The journey from Godzilla’s initial atomic horror roots to its current standing as a multifaceted cultural icon underscores the franchise’s ability to adapt and remain relevant across different generations and cinematic tastes.

The significance of Godzilla transcends mere entertainment; it serves as a powerful lens through which we can explore complex societal issues and the human condition, often reflected through the monstrous metaphors that dominate its screen time. As the franchise continues to evolve, with new stories waiting on the horizon to unfold, it beckons fans and scholars alike to delve deeper into its lore, appreciate its craft, and perhaps imagine what the future holds for Godzilla and the myriad of characters within its realm. This exploration reaffirms not only Godzilla’s place in cinematic history but also its enduring legacy as a story of resilience, reflection, and rebirth.


What is the top-rated Godzilla movie?

The Godzilla film with the highest rating is “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” (1995), with a perfect score of 100%. It is followed by “Godzilla Minus One” (2023) and the original “Godzilla” (1954), with ratings of 98% and 93%, respectively. Other highly rated Godzilla movies include “Shin Godzilla” (2016), “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964), and “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” (1974).

Why does Godzilla appear pink in some scenes?

In “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” Godzilla’s power changes colour from blue to pink. This shift is explained in the ninth episode of “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.” It is revealed that while the Hollow Earth energy source pursued by APEX in “Godzilla vs. Kong” is blue, the Hollow Earth contains various energy types, including pink.

Is Godzilla characterised as a hero or a villain?

Godzilla’s role varies throughout the series. Although he is often the main protagonist, he has also played the antagonist in several films. Godzilla is known for destructive behaviours such as levelling cities, fighting against humanity, and causing global chaos.

Which Godzilla film is considered the most frightening?

For those seeking a terrifying Godzilla experience, “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla” (2002) is recommended. This film is recognised for its successful combination of Toho’s traditional Godzilla style with the excitement and intensity of a contemporary monster movie.

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