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 #25! You can find the previous article here.
25. Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000)
So we’re starting the third list with Godzilla’s encounter with Megaguirus, a giant dragonfly-like creature with a big stinger on the tip of its tail. While I enjoy the hell out of this film, I have to admit that it has a lot of flaws and that’s why it ranks so low on the list. Let’s look at a bit of what has been said about this film. Ed Godziszewski of Monster Zero said, “While not the best example of filmmaking, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus nonetheless succeeds as an entertaining film.” Miles Imhoff of Toho Kingdom said, “Run-of-the-mill, mediocre, and sterile are the three words that best describe Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.
It is a movie that attempts to be creative and edgy, but somehow fails, leaving one wanting with futility to really try to enjoy the film.” Stomp Tokyo said “the music is pretty good” but “this movie isn’t a step forward in the ways that it really should be.” Mike Bogue of American Kaiju said, “Though not the best of the post-Showa Godzilla movies, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is one of the most entertaining.” Ian Jane of DVD Talk said, “While not the best entry in the Godzilla series, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus … is still a really solid entry with some great special effects and a very memorable monster mash finale.” So this one is your mileage may vary film and one that you should enjoy, but it is definitely not a film you want to use if introducing someone to Godzilla.
24. Godzilla vs Megalon (1973)
Godzilla’s encounter with Megalon introduced the world to the human-creation Jet Jaguar while also bringing back one of the more iconic villains in Gigan. Another of the films that I personally enjoy to a degree but this film has drawn the ire of Godzilla fans for decades. The film contributed to the reputation of Godzilla films in the United States as cheap children’s entertainment that should not be taken seriously. It has been described as “incredibly, undeniably, mind-numbingly bad” and one of the “poorer moments” in the history of kaiju films. In particular, the special effects of the film have been heavily criticized. One review described the Godzilla costume as appearing to be “crossed with Kermit the Frog” and another sneeringly compared it to Godzilla vs. Gigan, stating that it did “everything wrong that Gigan did, and then some.”
However, most of the criticism is of the lack of actual special effects work, as most of it consists of stock footage from previous films, including Godzilla vs. Gigan and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, but a few pieces of effects work have garnered praise, specifically a scene where Megalon breaks through a dam and the draining of the lake. The other aspects of the film have been similarly skewered. The acting is usually described as flat and generally poor, and as not improving, or sometimes, worsening, the already weak script. One part of the film, on the other hand, has garnered almost universal praise: Godzilla’s final attack on Megalon, a flying kick. It has been called the saving grace of the film and was made famous by the mock exclamations of shock and awe displayed on Godzilla vs. Megalon’s appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000. From the end of season three to the middle of season five, that clip would be shown at the opening of each show. Despite all this, the film is also one of the most widely seen Godzilla films in the United States — it was popular in its initial theatrical release, largely due to aggressive marketing campaigns. Yet another YMMV film in the series.
23. Godzilla2000: Millenium (1999)
The first Godzilla film that I had the privilege to see in theatres, Godzilla 2000 will always hold a special place in my heart. Not to mention it has one of the coolest (in my opinion) enemy Kaiju that Godzilla has ever faced off against. The North American release of Godzilla 2000 was met with mixed critical responses. Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle said the film “taps into a now-rare and innocent sense of wonder,” and that “its action scenes are well-conceived,” summarizing it as “a lovably amusing foray into vapid plotting, bad dubbing and men in rubber suits trashing miniature sets.” Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a “B” grade, saying that Godzilla 2000 “lands on an imaginative fault line somewhere between tackiness and awe.”
Jay Carr of The Boston Globe called Godzilla 2000 “a ton of fun, and then some.” Lou Lumenick of the New York Post said “it’s great to have the big guy back.” James Berardinelli of ReelViews said the film “uses the Godzilla formula effectively” and “represents solid, campy, escapist entertainment.” Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide praised the film, saying that “fans won’t want to miss this addition to the canon.” Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today said Godzilla 2000 “may be dull, but the familiarity of it all makes it feel ceremonial, a reassuring ritual.” David Edelstein of Slate said that he “periodically tranced out,” but added that “it’s fun to see” and “it still manages to dispel some of the lingering stinks of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 remake.” Stephen Holden of the New York Times wasn’t impressed, saying that “only a die-hard fan of the long-running Japanese Godzilla series could love Godzilla 2000.” Similarly, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post remarked, “Godzilla, go home.” Among kaiju-related websites, Stomp Tokyo said “there are some pretty impressive special effects,” and concluded that “Godzilla 2000 delivers fairly well, if not spectacularly.” Toho Kingdom criticized the Japanese version, saying “it’s not hard to see why Godzilla 2000 was poorly received in Japan,” but added that “the US version … is infinitely better than its poorly paced Japanese counterpart. In all, the US version made numerous badly needed cuts from the film to tighten it up.”
22. Godzilla vs Mothra (1992)
Godzilla’s second ‘titled’ battle against Mothra introduced us to the guardian’s counterpart Battra and I absolutely loved this film, but unfortunately, I didn’t love it enough for it to crack the top 20. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes has a 75% approval rating from critics, based on 8 reviews with an average score of 6.3/10. Ed Godziszewski of Monster Zero said, “Rushed into production but a few months after Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, this film is unable to hide its hurried nature [but] effects-wise, the film makes up for the story’s shortcomings and then some.”
Japan Hero said, “While this movie is not the best of the Heisei series, it is still a really interesting movie. The battles are cool, and Battra was an interesting idea. If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend it.” Stomp Tokyo said the film is “one of the better Godzilla movies in that the scenes in which monsters do not appear actually make some sort of sense. And for once, they are acted with some gusto, so that we as viewers can actually come to like the characters on screen, or at least be entertained by them.” Mike Bogue of American Kaiju said the film “[does] not live up to its potential”, but added that “[its] colourful and elaborate spectacle eventually won [him] over” and “the main story thread dealing with the eventual reconciliation of the divorced couple adequately holds the human plot together.” So, personally, I could do without the majority of the human plots of Godzilla movies, and that is the very reason why this film ranks 22nd for me. It was just annoying to me. That said, this is one of the few lower ranked Godzilla films you can show to a newbie and it will be a good choice.
21. Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
Our last entry for today’s list is the least-attended Godzilla film in Japan and also one of only two Godzilla films to sell less than 1 million tickets. I loved the concept for the secondary villain Titanosaurus, but it just wasn’t executed well enough nor was it a believable opponent for the big G. Much like Ebirah before it, Titanosaurus can use his fan to cause winds and that’s about it. Then there’s the iconic Mechanized Godzilla, dubbed Mechagodzilla, and this being its second outing at least it put up a bit of a better fight for most of the film. Toho titled its English version of the film Terror of Mechagodzilla and had it dubbed into English in Hong Kong. The film was given a North American theatrical release in March 1978 by independent distributor Bob Conn Enterprises under the title The Terror of Godzilla. Just as Cinema Shares had done with the previous three Godzilla movies, Bob Conn Enterprises chose to utilize the Toho-commissioned English dub instead of hiring a new crew to re-dub the film. The Terror of Godzilla was heavily edited to obtain a “G” rating from the MPAA. Several scenes with violent content were entirely removed, disrupting the flow of the narrative.
Henry G. Saperstein, who sold the theatrical rights to Bob Conn Enterprises, also released the film to television in late 1978, this time under Toho’s international title, Terror of Mechagodzilla. Unlike The Terror of Godzilla, the television version remained mostly uncut, with only the shot of Katsura’s naked breasts excised. Saperstein’s editors also added a 10-minute prologue that served as a brief history of Godzilla, with footage from Saperstein’s English versions of Invasion of Astro-Monster and All Monsters Attack (the latter of which utilized stock footage from both Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla). In the mid-1980s, the U.S. television version, Terror of Mechagodzilla, was replaced by the theatrical edit, The Terror of Godzilla, on television and home video. For some reason, the title was also changed to Terror of Mechagodzilla…