Disclaimer: Please note that this article suggests Godzilla movies for non-kaiju viewers. It does not provide the list of all-time best motion pictures from the Showa, Heisei, and Millennium eras
Warner Bros. is rolling out the big guns as Godzilla vs. Kong is due to hit the big (and small) screens at the end of March, 2021. Godzilla (also known as the Big G and King of the Monsters) enjoys a non-stop popularity since it stomped its way into the cinematic realm in 1954. The legacy of the franchise is just as enormous as the titular monster, spanning 29 Japanese movies, 3 anime features, 4 Hollywood flicks, and countless video games, comic books, merch, etc. Are you new to the Godzilla phenomenon? You don’t want to stick out from the crowd as that average normie who knows nothing about the series? Perhaps you are a fresh fan at the very beginning of your wonderful journey through the franchise, but don’t really know where to start? Seek no farther, we are here to help you with a list of top 5 recommended Godzilla films for beginners. So, let’s buckle up and get ready for time warp!
Synopsis: Japan, 1954. After the mysterious destruction of freighters as well as an isolated fishing village, a paleontologist, Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura), is sent down to Odo Island to investigate the matter. At first, he encounters such unsettling things as a trilobite and radioactive giant footprints, only to discover a gigantic creature wreaking havoc! Soon after, the monster attacks the city of Tokyo. The only way to stop it is an experimental weapon known as “the Oxygen Destroyer” devised by Dr Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata).
Basically, Gojira (1954) is the movie that started everything. If you want to truly appreciate the grandeur of the Tokusatsu genre, then you need to start at the source. The original Gojira movie hit the screens on November 3, 1954. It was the most expensive Japanese production at that time (even surpassing the oversized budget of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai from the same year) and it became an instant box office success. It has to be noted, however, that the first film did not establish the conventional formula of spectacular monster fights, army counterattacks, and invasions from outer space. The original movie provides a very bleak and harrowing cinematic experience. Images of utter destruction: Tokyo in flames, people suffering from radiation, and dead bodies made the Japanese recall their wartime trauma.
What is more interesting, Godzilla is presented neither as an enemy nor as a symbol of hate. As the story progresses, human characters perceive it as a force of destiny, a metaphorical incarnation of Japanese arrogance who takes revenge on civilization. In accordance with Ishiro Honda’s vision, Godzilla was to behave like a living nuclear bomb, radiating as well as torching everything and everyone on its way.
If you can’t get your hands on the original, uncut version of the movie, then go for the 1956 American cut titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Most of the footage was reshot in order to incorporate journalist Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr) as the lead character. While visibly weaker in comparison to the original, this version is very watchable and has this distinct charm of Universal monster flicks from the 1930s.
Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965)
Synopsis: Two astronauts, Fuji (Akira Takarada) and Glenn (Nick Adams), are sent to investigate the surface of the mysterious "Planet X". They discover that the planet is actually inhabited by an alien race known as the Xiliens. The human-like beings are initially friendly towards the people of Earth, but they eventually reveal their true intentions. They unleash a planet-eating monster, King Ghidorah. Godzilla teams up with Rodan, a giant pteranodon kaiju, in order to stop the invader.
An exemplary instance of the Showa era's greatness. Godzilla duels the arch-nemesis, King Ghidorah, for the second time in the series, and there is a lot of science-fiction stuff going on. We get villainous (yet super campy) aliens, beautiful Kumi Mizuno, and lots of kaiju rumble. If you want to experience classic tokusatsu spectacle from the 1960s, then Invasion of the Astro-Monster is the go-to movie.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Synopsis: The authorities are perplexed when an unidentified flying object is noticed on the Tokyo skyline. It turns out that a group of emissaries from the Earth Union travelled back in time from the year 2204. Their aim is to wipe Godzilla from existence as it will allegedly destroy Japan in the 22nd century. A team of scientists time travels to 1944 and they do everything to prevent the creation of Godzilla. Upon their return to 1991; however, it turns out that the good guys are actually terrorists; and they brought to life none other than King Ghidorah himself in order to control the world. Mankind’s last hope is to resurrect the only true king of the monsters…
Indeed, the synopsis of the film sounds completely bonkers, but rest assured; you are in for a fantastic ride. I dare to say that Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is one of the best sequels out there. We get evil time travelers, altering the past, an android, and two(!) incarnations of King Ghidorah. Although the Heisei era has tightly-knit continuity, you do not need to watch the preceding movies (The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Biollante) in order to get the context. Just sit back and enjoy the sheer epicness.
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)
Synopsis: In the year 2000, the world has grown accustomed to Godzilla’s presence. The Godzilla Prediction Network led by Takehiro Murata (Yuji Shinoda) functions independently to study the monster and predict its landfalls. In the meantime, scientists over at Crisis Control Intelligence investigate an unidentified object found deep in the Japan Trench. It turns out a sixty-million-year-old object is from space and it takes an interest in Godzilla. The alien technology tries to replicate Godzilla’s DNA and invade the world. However, the UFO is unable to correctly process Godzilla’s genetic information and a hideous monster known as Orga comes to being. Godzilla once again will have to take a stand.
The first entry of the Millennium era was made in a rush by the team behind the Heisei movies due to the unfavourable reception of Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998). For many fans in the early 2000s, this was the first introduction into the franchise. Indeed, this movie is the most neutral with its storyline and style for non-kaiju viewers. We get a nicely written human drama and the monster fights do not feel over the top. What is more, Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Hiroshi Abe, and Shiro Sano give great performances. Definitely worth checking out.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
Synopsis: In 1999, Godzilla returns again to his playground (a.k.a. Japan) and turns the Self-Defense Forces into dust. With the nation in panic, the Prime Minister (Kumi Mizuno) orders the creation of Mechagodzilla on the basis of the skeleton remains of the original Gojira from 1954. That’s when an absent-minded scientist Tokumitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma) is invited to help the group of experts working on the project. Meanwhile, a JSDF soldier, Lt. Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku), comes back to service after the traumatic encounter with the Big G. Four years pass and she is chosen as the pilot for the newly built Kiryu (literal meaning: Machine Dragon). When Godzilla emerges from the sea to wreak havoc, Akane and Kiryu are thrown into battle against the monster.
Unlike the previous entries in the Millennium series, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla actually takes place in the Showa universe. The storyline makes references to the events of such classic tokusatsu films as Gojira (1954), Mothra (1961) and The War of the Gargantuas (1966). Still, you do not need to have the knowledge of these films in order to enjoy Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. The film lays out everything in a coherent manner and keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats with awesome fights and the character of Kiryu who is undeniably the best incarnation of Mechagodzilla ever.
These were our recommendations. Which Godzilla movie you saw as the first one? Would add any more titles to the list? Please let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!