There is only one, undisputed, king when it comes to Kaiju movies. No, it’s not freaking King Kong you damn Americans. That title belongs to Godzilla. Godzilla, or Gojira, is a legendary Kaiju created by Toho Studios way back in 1954. There are thirty-six movies currently with the Big G starring in them and, like all series, there have been some good and some bad films. As the first in my series of Worst to Best, I chose Godzilla because of two reasons. One is the longevity of the series. The Godzilla series has spanned 67 years to date. There really aren’t many film series’ with that kind of longevity or number of films to their name. The other reason is that I’ve been a huge Godzilla fan since I was five years old. I remember staying up for days watching the old Godzilla marathons on TNT back in the day.
Let’s get back to our list, starting at #30! You can find the previous article here.
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) – Number 30
So, this film could have been great, much like the previous entry. It had a good concept and then they absolutely blew it by making another one of Godzilla’s most memorable foes into a freaking city. It’s not a giant mechanized Godzilla, no, it’s been turned into a city. That’s right folks, they made MechaGodzilla into Mechagodzilla City. Naoya Fujita from IGN gave the film a 4.5 rating, indicating a “bad” rating, stating, “Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle takes some promising ingredients, but cooks them into an unpalatable meal. We never really understand what the protagonists are fighting for, and there’s not even a satisfying scene of urban destruction (a Godzilla staple). It fails both emotionally and viscerally.”
James Grebey from Inverse called the film “bleakly pointless”, stating the film is “extremely self-serious, depressing and fairly light on fun” and called the film “the biggest bummer in Godzilla’s filmography.” James Perkins from HeyUGuys gave the film 3 stars out of 5, stating the film is “neither the best or worst iteration of the Godzilla franchise but is most definitely made with the intention of trying something new but adding a heavy sci-fi and futuristic element to the famous monster.” I agree with the majority of critic statements, but I do love the animation of the films and that is really the only redeeming thing about it.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) – Number 29
Brian Ashcraft of the Kotaku website felt that the characters “aren’t all that interesting” but did state that the “anime version of Godzilla is surprisingly effective and frightening” and that despite his complaints, the “overall experience was good” and “It’s not a perfect picture, but it was a powerful proof of concept: Godzilla works as an anime.” Matt Schley from The Japan Times praised the film’s CG animation, stating, “even skeptics will admit the 3-D version of the king of the monsters looks pretty darn cool” but felt the film wasn’t “nearly as thematically ambitious as its predecessor” and concluded by stating, “But still, with its impressive 3-D animation and action sequences, ‘Planet of the Monsters’ has the makings of something interesting.”
Callum May from Anime News Network gave the film an overall B+ rating, calling the film “not for the uninitiated”. May criticized the character of Haruo as being “grating”, as the film didn’t allow audiences to connect with other characters but praised the animation, call it Polygon’s “best-looking CG title yet” and concluded that the film “is a thrilling film that lives up to the reputation of the franchise and delivers on its science fiction premise.”
I’m more in the camp with Ashcraft on this one. The CGI and Animations used for the trio of films was top notch and I love the attempt but for me, the films as a whole just fall flat on their faces. They’re far from being as bad as Godzilla 1998 but they’re still not great. That said, I’ll watch these three movies over G-98 any day of the week.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) – Number 28
A fun little tidbit about this film is that during its development, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep was intended to feature King Kong, but the character was replaced by Godzilla. This 1966 film is far from my favorite of the series, but it was the first film I actually saw of the Godzilla franchise. Therefore, despite it’s short comings it holds a special place in my heart. Toho had decided to set the film on an island to cut back on special effects costs.
Sadamasa Arikawa has cited the film as a frustrating experience, stating, “There were major limitations on the budget from the studio. Toho couldn’t have made too many demands about the budget if Mr. Tsuburaya had been in charge. The studio knew I was also doing TV work then, so they must have figured I could produce the movie cheaply.” You can tell the movie was shot on the cheap and there really isn’t anything special about it. I bet this could have been a pretty decent Kong film, but we got Godzilla instead and it ranks where it does among them all.
Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965) – Number 27
Godzilla on an alien planet, yay! All kidding aside, this is the second film featuring King Ghidorah and it is nowhere near as good as the first. It’s a pretty decent film, I’m not gonna lie, but it gets a bit… out there. Here’s a little snippet of the plot.. In the year 196X, two astronauts, Fuji and Glenn, are sent to investigate the surface of the mysterious “Planet X”. There they encounter advanced and seemingly benevolent human-like beings called the Xiliens and their leader the Controller.
The aliens usher the astronauts into their underground base, and moments later the surface is attacked by a creature that the Xiliens call “Monster Zero”, but which the astronauts recognize as King Ghidorah, a planet-destroying monster that had attacked Earth once before.
The monster eventually leaves, but the Controller states that King Ghidorah has been attacking repeatedly, forcing them to live underground in constant fear. He requests to borrow the Earth monsters Godzilla and Rodan to act as protectors to fight it once more (since 1964), in return for the cure for cancer (the English dub says that the formula can cure any disease). Pretty out there, right? There’s a whole twist and other stuff going on later in the film and it can be a bit hard to follow. Not a terrible film, but far from the best.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) – Number 26
Final Wars coincided with the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and as such, the film features a variety of actors and kaiju from previous films. The monsters included were Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gigan, Monster X/Keizer Ghidorah, Anguirus, Hedorah, Manda, Minilla, Kumonga, Kamacuras. Ebirah, King Caesar and Zilla (Godzilla design from 1998 film).
It is a fun film with lots of short monster fights and a killer soundtrack. This film has one of my favorite Godzilla moments in it too.. It’s where Godzilla smashes Zilla into the Sydney Opera House and then destroys him with an atomic blast. Such a fitting end to such a deserving creature.. That aside, the film was received well in Japan but not as well abroad.
Film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 55% rating, based on 12 reviews with a total score of 5.75/10. Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique called the film “utterly fantastic” and “a rush of explosive excitement.” Jim Agnew of Film Threat gave the film four and a half stars out of five, saying “the good news for kaiju fans is that Godzilla: Final Wars is a kick-ass giant monster flick.”
Drew McWeeny of Ain’t It Cool News remarked, “Godzilla: Final Wars earns a special place in my heart. It’s fun. Pure lunatic fun, every frame.” Sean Axmaker of Static Multimedia said, “Directed by a true fan of the old school, it’s lusciously, knowingly, lovingly cheesy.” It is super fun, I agree, but it is nowhere near the top of the list for Godzilla movies and that’s why it ranks in today at number 26.