We’re still suffering nightmares from that one Godzilla reboot—we all know the one— where basically everything good and holy about the famous kaiju was mutilated into unrecognizable slop. It was so bad that the monster was later officially dubbed Zilla, and then killed off in one of Godzilla’s most one-sided battles. So you can imagine our apprehension when learning that a new Godzilla reboot was coming down the pipeline. Was this going to be yet another Hollywood thrashing that didn’t understand the source material? Thankfully, no. Hollywood’s latest Godzilla reboot is out in theaters today, and it’s actually pretty darn good.
Godzilla has been around for longer than a lot of people have been alive; the first movie was released in 1954, and is considered one of the most influential monster classics ever. Since he first appeared onscreen, Godzilla has featured in more than 30 films (counting the 1998 and 2014 reboots)—even more than James Bond. During that time, Godzilla has faced off against some really great enemies (and teamed up with some cool friends along the way), so we thought we’d take a look at our five favorite.
There have been a ton of great Godzilla battles throughout the years—Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Megalon—and choosing just five monsters was always going to be difficult; our picks might differ from your picks, and that’s just fine. But we took a look back at the Godzilla archives and came away with our very favorite. Godzilla has had a pretty stellar film career spanning 60 years. But these monsters are every bit a part of his charm and fascination as his famous roar.
Probably Godzilla’s most famous foe—and later friend—Mothra first appeared on film in the 1961 movie Mothra, and has featured in several films since, the most notable of which is Godzilla vs. Mothra. The moth-like kaiju had a brightly-colored appearance and was typically portrayed as a benevolent creature, which only fought when provoked, or to protect her eggs. She was typically accompanied by twin fairies who often spoke on her behalf. Mothra is seen as a Phoenix-type character, with the monster often dying only for its larvae to hatch. Her powers included divinity, the ability to create dangerous gales of wind with her wings, and the ability to spray a devastating stream of silk in her larva state.
Ghidorah made his film debut in 1964, the same year Mothra vs. Godzilla was released. Often under someone’s control, Ghirdorah was an unpredictable three-headed dragon-type monster with enormous bat-like wings and golden skin; his powers included flying at Mach 3, shooting gravity beams from his mouths, and the ability to create hurricane winds from his wings. The three heads supposedly all thought for themselves, though the middle head was considered to be dominant. In his movie debut, Ghidorah was portrayed as an ancient evil from outer space that was intent on destroying entire civilizations and planets. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ghidorah managed to destroy much of Japan before being repelled by the joint efforts of Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan.
Speaking of Rodan: Rodan is a pteranodon creature that first appeared in the film Rodan, which was released in 1956. While the monster is initially painted as evil, Rodan winds up teaming up with Godzilla on numerous occasions; though, in other movies, Rodan wreaks havoc while under mind control. Besides Rodan’s speed and agility, the creature is capable of creating shockwaves with its wings and possesses a powerful beak and talons for fighting close up. Rodan later evolves into Fire Rodan after exposure to radioactive waste, gaining the ability to emit a heat beam from his mouth.
Destroyah is a recent character that first appeared in the 1995 Godzilla film, Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Originally starting out as a microscopic crustacean, Destroyah eventually grows into a juvenile stage, and then combines with other Destroyahs, turning into the monstrosity you see above. Out of the many Godzilla monsters in existence, Destroyah is perhaps one of the most terrifying (at least appearance-wise), looking kind of like a giant king Gremlin. Often considered Godzilla’s ultimate foe, Destroyah had regeneration capabilities, the ability to fire an oxygen-destroyer ray from his mouth, and a giant horn (in his final form) on his head that could do incredible damage.
One of the most recognizable and popular kaiju, MechaGodzilla was first introduced in 1974 in the film Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla. Essentially Godzilla in robot form, MechaGodzilla was one of the monster’s most worthy adversaries, and came equipped with an enormous arsenal, including an optical beam and body made out of “space titanium.” In addition, its head was capable of hilariously rotating 360 degrees, giving it the advantage to see opponents approaching from behind; spinning its head also allowed MechaGodzilla to raise a temporary forcefield. In the film Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, Godzilla eventually defeats MechaGodzilla with some Magneto-esque power, and then ripping off his head.
There have been dozens of monsters in the Godzilla universe, and those were but a few we’ve seen over the years. We didn’t even mention Gigan, Orga, Varan, Irys, Puff Daddy or Ebirah. Oh, and Monster X. Monster X is another good one. Kaiju has become a term more and more people have become familiar with over the past few years, thanks in part to the release of Pacific Rim. But these kaiju mentioned above are what started it all, and why Godzilla is so darn popular today. Of course, nothing beats the King of the Monsters himself, who is once again back in theaters to do battle with other mysterious kaiju (we won’t spoil it for you).