Godzilla is an icon.
Over 65 years and through 33 movies, the creature has come to define the kaiju subgenre, while mining potent metaphors from rubber-suited destruction. The big guy even earned himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along the way.
From his origins as a specter of the atom bomb to the lovable defender of Tokyo from hosts of malevolent monsters and everything in between, Godzilla is almost always at his most entertaining when the destruction ramps up and the fighting begins.
As Godzilla vs. Kong roars into theaters and living rooms to reunite the legend with his famous friends and foes, here’s how all of the live-action films stack up against one another.
33. All Monsters Attack (1969)
It turns out even Godzilla is not immune to the preposterous filler usually offered by the clip show episode of your favorite television sitcom. Ichiro is a young boy who’s frequently bullied by his classmates. To escape from this, he frequently imagines what life would be like hanging out on Monster Island with Godzilla’s son, Minilla, who also suffers from bullying from some of the island’s inhabitants. All Monsters Attack was made for the children, and for those who love stock footage.
32. Godzilla (1998)
How bad does your Godzilla movie have to be that even Toho has to turn its back on it? This bad. A Godzilla* surfaces from deep in the ocean before heading to New York to cause utter destruction. Lackluster performances from Ferris Bueller and Leon the Professional do nothing to aide this dumpster fire, which killed any notion of an American franchise until 2014. Try the animated TV series that spawned from it instead, and thank me later.
*It’s a T-Rex.
31. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
When will humans learn? Nuclear testing near Monster Island causes problems when two of Godzilla’s friends, Anguirus and Rodan, tumble into a fissure caused by the blast. The bomb also razes the capital of Seatopia, an underground civilization which sends the drillbit arm-bearing giant cockroach that is Megalon in retaliation to destroy those responsible. Jet Jaguar also appears. It speaks to a film’s quality when it makes an appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000 like this one did.
30. Son of Godzilla (1967)
Scientists try to build a weather-control device with the goal of improving the climates of harsh landscapes where crops could not previously grow, and hopefully end world hunger. Naturally, things go awry and their system causes some of the local praying mantises to become kaiju who stumble across an egg that contains Godzilla’s son, Minilla, in it. Godzilla is at his most paternal in this installment. Together, the two fight off more giant insects after Minilla’s abilities grow, thanks to the power of Godzilla’s corporal punishment.
29. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Aliens from a dying planet come to Earth to rebuild their civilization, disguising themselves as humans. Their goal: to gain employment at a Japanese theme park and utilize its central radio tower to control Gigan and King Ghidorah, who will be instructed to destroy humanity. Godzilla and Anguirus get in the way, of course, and for some reason can kind of talk to each other in this one.
28. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
A group of five people who have stolen a yacht run into the giant lobster Ebirah while at sea, before eventually washing onto the shores of an island that happens to be the home of the terrorist group Red Bamboo. The terrorists have been manufacturing a radioactive form of water, utilizing slave labor from the denizens of Mothra’s home, Infant Island. Godzilla and Mothra team up to fight Red Bamboo and Ebirah, but not before making a movie poor enough to also appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
27. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
After the 1954 Godzilla left Tokyo in ruins, Japan embraced atomic and plasma energies to aide in its reconstruction. Each of these ultimately attracted Godzilla, who feeds off their reactors. In the present day, the anti-Godzilla task force has developed a satellite that can shoot miniature black holes meant to imprison Godzilla. Naturally, there’s the unintended side effect of opening a portal to another dimension that releases Megaguirus, a monstrously large dragonfly.
26. Godzilla 2000 (1999)
After the satisfying conclusion to the Heisei Series that ran from 1984-1995, Godzilla returns after a brief hiatus to serve as a metaphor for relentless forces of nature like weather and tsunamis. A UFO comes to Earth and happens across some pieces of Godzilla’s flesh that he lost in a battle with the Japanese Army. That flesh manifests into Orga, a lumpy, potato-like creature that has some of Godzilla’s abilities and a shoulder cannon capable of shooting a plasma ray.
25. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
File this one under the “so bad, it’s good” section; it’s utter insanity from start to finish. After Godzilla emerges from his ice prison in Godzilla Raids Again, the next logical step to take would be to fetch King Kong from a nearby island to fight him. The suits for both Godzilla and King Kong are hideous, but add to the wacky charm that has a surprisingly good score from the original film’s composer, Akira Ifukube.
24. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Toho sought to capitalize on the success of the original film, and quickly churned out this sequel that pits Godzilla against Anguirus. There’s a subplot about some Air Force pilots and a traffic controller they love for different reasons, but much of the film centers on the horrifying realization that kaiju are more common in the world than humanity once thought.
23. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Humanity is slowly destroying the planet through pollution and global warming. Eco-terrorists kidnap a scientist who’s created a mind-link device that can awaken the Earth’s titans and unleash them to restore the natural order. This Godzilla still suffers from the underdeveloped characters of its 2014 predecessor, but it ramps the monster action up to 11 while doing a service to deeper fans of the series with homages and references to the entire catalog of Godzilla titles.
22. Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla (1994)
Cells from Godzilla have found their way into space. When they combined with cosmic energy, they created Spacegodzilla, who comes barreling toward Earth to destroy everything. He first encounters Regular Godzilla on arrival, and imprisons him in a jail of crystals he summons from the ground. They also act as a power source.) Being the good father he is, Godzilla sets off for revenge with the help of Mothra and the human-controlled robot M.O.G.U.E.R.A.
21. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Nothing speaks to the dangers of pollution quite like the ham-fisted metaphor of a monster made out of actual smog and sludge. A resilient foe, Hedorah is immune to many of Godzilla’s trademark powers. One of the more watchable entries from Godzilla’s campiest era, it’s notable for Godzilla using his heat ray to fly through the air like a jetpack.