The first film, Godzilla, is an early and influential classic in the "Giant Monster" film genre and was first released by Toho Company, LTD in 1954 and directed by Ishiro Honda. It was adapted by an American company into Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, edited and with added principal scenes featuring Raymond Burr, the film was released internationally becoming a commercial success.
The original Godzilla was greatly inspired by the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong, and the 1953 success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Godzilla would go on to inspire Gorgo, Gamera, Cloverfield, and many others. The original film has also inspired many sequels along with an American reimagining and a second American reboot of the franchise. The popularity of the films has introduced the character in other media in the franchise such as television, music, literature including a series of books and comics along with video games. Its character has been one of the most recognizable symbols in Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, and was the first example of the tokusatsu genre of Japanese entertainment.
The name "Godzilla" is a romanization, by the film production company Toho Company Ltd., of the original Japanese name "Gojira" — which is a combination of two Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ) 'gorilla' and kujira (クジラ) 'whale'. The word alludes to the size, power and aquatic origin of Godzilla.
- 1 Series history
- 2 Series development
- 3 Filmography
- 4 Other media
- 5 Cultural impact
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
The Godzilla series is generally broken into three eras reflecting a characteristic style and corresponding to the same eras used to classify all 'daikaiju eiga' (monster movies) in Japan. The first two eras refer to the Japanese emperor during production: the Shōwa era, and the Heisei era. The third is called the Millennium era as the emperor (Heisei) is the same but these films are considered to have a different style and storyline than the prior era.
Shōwa series (1954–1975)
The initial series of movies is named for the Shōwa period in Japan (as all of these films were produced before Emperor Hirohito's death in 1989). This Shōwa timeline spanned from 1954, with Godzilla, to 1975, with Terror of Mechagodzilla. With the exceptions of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, and Mothra vs. Godzilla, much of the Shōwa series is relatively light-hearted. Starting with Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla began evolving into a friendlier, more playful antihero (this transition was complete by Son of Godzilla, where it is shown as a good character), and as years went by, it evolved into an anthropomorphic superhero. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was also significant for introducing Godzilla's archenemy and the main antagonist of the series, King Ghidorah. The films Son of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack were aimed at youthful audiences, featuring the appearance of Godzilla's son, Minilla. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was notable for introducing Godzilla's robotic arch foe and secondary villain of the movie series Mechagodzilla. The Shōwa period saw the addition of many monsters into the Godzilla continuity, two of which (Mothra and Rodan) originated in their own solo movies.
Heisei series (1984–1995)
The timeline was revamped in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla; this movie was created as a direct sequel to the 1954 film, and ignores the continuity of the Shōwa series. Because of this, the original Godzilla movie is considered part of the Heisei series as well as being a part of the Shōwa series. The continuity ended in 1995's Godzilla vs. Destoroyah after a run of seven films. The biological nature and science behind Godzilla became a much more discussed issue in the films, showing the increased focus on the moral aspects of genetics. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah gave the first concrete birth story for Godzilla, featuring a Godzillasaurus that was mutated by radiation into Godzilla.
Millennium series (1999–2004)
The Millennium Series is the official name for the series of Godzilla movies made after the Heisei series ended with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. The common theme to this era is that all movies use the original Godzilla (1954) as the jumping-off point. Since the films are different, the sizes are different in some cases. In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack it was 60 meters (about 196 feet), and in Godzilla: Final Wars Godzilla was 100 meters tall (about 328 feet). Godzilla was originally supposed to be 50 meters (about 164 feet) in Final Wars, but budgetary cutbacks in miniature sets forced this size change. There were five different timelines in the millennium series, spread over six films.
After the release of 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars, marking the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla film franchise, Toho declared that it would not produce another Godzilla film for another 10 years. Toho also demolished the water stage on its lot used in numerous Godzilla, kaiju and tokusatsu films. Yoshimitsu Banno, who had directed 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, secured the rights from Toho to make an IMAX 3D short film production, based on a story similar to his Hedorah film. Banno was unable to see his production through to completion, but as of January 2014, still hoped to make it.
In 1956, Jewell Enterprises Inc., licensed Godzilla and produced Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The film utilized much of the film of Godzilla, but adapted it telling the same basic story in a documentary style, narrated by an American reporter played by Raymond Burr. New scenes were filmed, the sound and soundtracks were remade and all of the dialogue was translated to English. Similar adaptions occurred for King Kong vs Godzilla and Godzilla 1985, which included a second appearance in the series by Burr.
In the 1980s Steve Miner pitched his idea for an American Godzilla production to Toho, with a script written by Fred Dekker. Toho and Warner Bros. were said to be very interested in Miner's idea, but it was shelved because its projected budget was too expensive.
In October 1992, Sony Pictures acquired the rights from Toho with plans to produce a trilogy of Godzilla films. Godzilla was released in May 1998, with Roland Emmerich directing and co-writing and Dean Devlin producing and co-writing as well. Despite being a box office success, the film was met with a negative reception from critics and fans of the franchise. Planned sequels were aborted and a weekly animated series was produced instead. Sony held on to the Godzilla license until it expired and reverted back to Toho in 2003. The following year, Toho officially renamed Emmerich's version of Godzilla to Zilla. This name-change has been reflected on official products featuring the character however, "Godzilla" continues to be used as a title on products that pre-date the name change, such as any re-releases of the 1998 film or the animated series.
Legendary series (2014–)
In March 2010, Legendary formally announced its Godzilla project after it had acquired rights to make a Godzilla film from Toho. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards and is a co-production with Warner Bros. Filming was done in 2013 in Canada and the United States and it premiered in May 2014, nearly a decade after Toho's Godzilla: Final Wars.
The film was released on May 16, 2014 and was met with positive reviews from critics and fans alike, and was a box office success, earning over $507 million worldwide at the end of its theatrical run. The film was released in Japan on July 25, 2014 where it was a commercial success. Its box office success has prompted Legendary to proceed with sequels with Gareth Edwards confirmed to return as director for a planned trilogy. The sequel is expected to be released June 8, 2018 and is set to feature other Toho properties such as Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.
Godzilla was originally an allegory for the effects of the hydrogen bomb, and the consequences that such weapons might have on earth. The radioactive contamination of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru through the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954 led to much press coverage in Japan preceding the release of the first movie in 1954. The Heisei and Millennium series have largely continued this concept. Some have pointed out the parallels, conscious or unconscious, between Godzilla's relationship to Japan and that of the United States; first a terrible enemy who causes enormous destruction to the cities of Japan such as Tokyo (Godzilla, The Return of Godzilla), Hokkaido (Godzilla Raids Again), Osaka (Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), and Yokohama (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) in different films, but then becoming a good friend and defender in times of peril.
Films have been made over the last six decades, each reflecting the social and political climate in Japan.
From 1954 through 2004, there have been 28 Godzilla films produced by Toho Studios in Japan. There have been several American productions: adaptations including "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!", "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and "Godzilla 1985", and two wholly American-filmed productions: the 1998 Godzilla by TriStar Pictures and the 2014 Godzilla by Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures.
|#||Official Toho title
(alternate English titles)
|Year||Director||Effects director||Monster co-star(s)||Godzilla
|Current US licences/media|
(Gojira, Godzilla: King of The Monsters)
|1954||Ishirō Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||None||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Classic Media
Criterion Collection - DVD/Blu-ray
|2||Godzilla Raids Again
(Gigantis, The Fire Monster)
|1955||Motoyoshi Oda||Eiji Tsuburaya||Anguirus||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|3||King Kong vs. Godzilla||1962||Ishirō Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Kong, Giant Octopus, Giant Lizard||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Universal - DVD / Blu-ray|
|4||Mothra vs. Godzilla
(Godzilla vs. the Thing; Godzilla vs. Mothra)
|1964||Ishirō Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||Mothra||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Classic Media - DVD|
|5||Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
(Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster)
|1964||Ishirō Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Classic Media - DVD|
|6||Invasion of Astro-Monster
(Monster Zero; Godzilla vs. Monster Zero)
|1965||Ishirō Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Ghidorah, Rodan||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|7||Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
(Ebirah, Horror of the Deep)
|1966||Jun Fukuda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Ebirah, Mothra, Giant Condor||Haruo Nakajima||Kraken Releasing (Section23 Films) - DVD / Blu-ray|
|8||Son of Godzilla||1967||Jun Fukuda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Kamacuras, Kumonga, Minilla||Yu Sekida, Haruo Nakajima, Seiji Onaka||Sony - DVD|
|9||Destroy All Monsters||1968||Ishirō Honda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Anguirus, Baragon, Gorosaurus, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Varan||Haruo Nakajima||Media Blasters - DVD / Blu-ray|
|10||All Monsters Attack
|1969||Ishirō Honda||Ishirō Honda||Gabara, Minilla, Maneater||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|11||Godzilla vs. Hedorah
(Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster)
|1971||Yoshimitsu Banno||Teruyoshi Nakano||Hedorah||Haruo Nakajima||Kraken Releasing (Section23 Films) - DVD / Blu-ray|
|12||Godzilla vs. Gigan
(Godzilla on Monster Island)
|1972||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Anguirus, Gigan, King Ghidorah||Haruo Nakajima||Kraken Releasing (Section23 Films) - DVD / Blu-ray|
|13||Godzilla vs. Megalon||1973||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Gigan, Jet Jaguar, Megalon||Shinji Takagi||Media Blasters - DVD / Blu-ray|
|14||Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
(Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster; Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster)
|1974||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Anguirus, King Caesar, Mechagodzilla, Fake Godzilla||Isao Zushi||Sony - DVD|
|15||Terror of Mechagodzilla
(The Terror of Godzilla)
|1975||Ishirō Honda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Mechagodzilla, Titanosaurus||Toru Kawai||Classic Media - DVD|
|16||The Return of Godzilla
|1984||Koji Hashimoto||Teruyoshi Nakano||Shockirus||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Lakeshore Entertainment - VHS|
|17||Godzilla vs. Biollante||1989||Kazuki Omori||Koichi Kawakita||Biollante||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Echo Bridge Entertainment - DVD / Blu-ray|
|18||Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah||1991||Kazuki Omori||Koichi Kawakita||Dorat, Godzillasaurus, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|19||Godzilla vs. Mothra
(Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth)
|1992||Takao Okawara||Koichi Kawakita||Battra, Mothra||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|20||Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II||1993||Takao Okawara||Koichi Kawakita||Baby Godzilla, Rodan, Mechagodzilla, Mecha-King Ghidorah||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|21||Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla||1994||Kensho Yamashita||Koichi Kawakita||Fairy Mothra, Little Godzilla, MOGUERA, SpaceGodzilla||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|22||Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
(Godzilla vs. Destroyer)
|1995||Takao Okawara||Koichi Kawakita||Destoroyah, Godzilla Junior||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|23||Godzilla 2000: Millennium
|1999||Takao Okawara||Kenji Suzuki||Orga Millennians||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|24||Godzilla vs. Megaguirus||2000||Masaaki Tezuka||Kenji Suzuki||Meganulon, Meganula, Megaguirus||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|25||Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack||2001||Shusuke Kaneko||Makoto Kamiya||Baragon, King Ghidorah, Mothra||Mizuho Yoshida||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|26||Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla||2002||Masaaki Tezuka||Yûichi Kikuchi||Kiryu||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|27||Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.||2003||Masaaki Tezuka||Eiichi Asada||Kamoebas, Kiryu, Mothra||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|28||Godzilla: Final Wars||2004||Ryuhei Kitamura||Eiichi Asada||Anguirus, Ebirah, Gigan, Hedorah, Monster X, Keizer Ghidorah, Kamacuras, King Caesar, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Zilla Gorath||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD / Blu-ray|
|#||Title||Year||Director||Effects director||Monster co-star(s)||Current US licences/media|
|1||Godzilla, King of the Monsters!†||1956||Terry O. Morse
|Eiji Tsuburaya||None||Classic Media
Criterion Collection - DVD / Blu-ray
|2||King Kong vs. Godzilla†||1963||Ishirō Honda
|Eiji Tsuburaya||King Kong, Odako||Universal - DVD / Blu-ray|
|3||Godzilla 1985†||1985||R. J. Kiser
|Teruyoshi Nakano||Shockirus||New World - VHS
Starmaker - VHS
Anchor Bay - DVD
|4||Godzilla||1998||Roland Emmerich||Patrick Tatopoulos||Baby Zillas||Sony - DVD/Blu-ray|
|5||Godzilla||2014||Gareth Edwards||Jim Rygiel||MUTOs||Warner Bros.|
|6||Godzilla 2||2018||Gareth Edwards||Unknown||Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah||Warner Bros.|
† Japanese films that featured American footage shot exclusively for their US releases.
Italian Godzilla, aka Cozzilla
In 1976, Italian director Luigi Cozzi intended to re-release Godzilla in Italy. Facing resistance from exhibitors to showing a black and white film, Cozzi instead licensed a negative of Godzilla, King of the Monsters from Toho and created a new movie in color, adding lots of stock footage of graphic death and destruction and short scenes from newsreel footage from World War II, which he released as Godzilla in 1977. The film was colorized using Cozzi's own technique, and may have been one of the first black and white movies to be colorized. Dialogue was dubbed into Italian and new music was added. After the initial Italian run, the negative became Toho property and prints have only been exhibited in Italy. Italian firm Yamato Video at one time intended to release the colorized version on a double DVD along with the original Godzilla.
In 2007, a CGI Godzilla appeared in the Japanese movie Always Zoku Sanchōme no Yūhi (Always Sunset on Third Street 2). In an imaginary sequence, Godzilla destroys part of 1954 Tokyo. The making of the sequence was kept a secret. Godzilla has been referenced and has briefly appeared in several other films. 
A Godzilla series of books was published by Random House during the late 1990s. The company created different series for different age groups, the Scott Ciencin series being aimed at children. Several manga have been derived from specific Godzilla films, and both Marvel and Dark Horse have published Godzilla comic book series (1977–1979 and 1987–1999, respectively). In 2011, IDW Publishing started a new series Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters rebooting the Godzilla story.
To tie-in with the 2014 film, three books were published. Titan Books published a novelization of the movie in May 2014, written by Greg Cox. The Godzilla: Awakening graphic novel by Max Borenstein, Greg Borenstein and Eric Battle served as a prequel, and Godzilla: The Art of Destruction by Mark Cotta about the making of the movie
Blue Öyster Cult released the song "Godzilla" in 1977.
The French death metal band Gojira is based on Godzilla's Japanese kaiju name.
The American punk band, Groovie Ghoulies released a song called 'Hats Off To You (Godzilla)' as a tribute to Godzilla. It is featured on the EP 'Freaks on Parade' released in 2002.
Label Shifty issued compilation Destroysall with 15 songs from 15 bands, ranging from hardcore punk to doom-laden death metal. Not all songs are dedicated to Godzilla, but all do appear connected to monsters from Toho studios. Fittingly, the disc was released on August 1, 2003, the 35th anniversary of the Japanese release of Destroy All Monsters.
There is also a song by metal band Sepultura that was written with Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) called 'Biotech is Godzilla'.
King Ghedorah (aka MF DOOM) released Take Me To Your Leader a Hip-Hop album featuring guests from the group Monster Island Czar another Godzilla themed rap group. These albums include multiple Godzilla samples throughout the series.
In Japan, Godzilla appeared in several episodes of Toho's live-action Zone Fighter television program in 1973. Also in Japan, Godzilla (along with a plethora of other kaiju) appeared in an animated toy show called Godzilla Island that ran from 1997-1998.
The success of the Godzilla franchise has spawned two American Saturday morning cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions: Godzilla and Godzilla: The Series (a cartoon sequel to the American film). Both series feature an investigative scientific team who call upon Godzilla as an ally. The series make several homages to the Shōwa films and several antagonist monsters have been inspired by extant Toho creations.
Godzilla is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and is an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. It has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States (with the "-zilla" part of the name being used in vernacular language as a suffix to indicate something of exaggerate proportions), as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original Godzilla, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.
Much of Godzilla's popularity in the United States can be credited with TV broadcasts of the Toho Studios monster movies during the 1960s and 1970s. The American company UPA contracted with Toho to distribute its monster movies of the time, and UPA continues to hold the license today for the Godzilla films of the 1960s and 1970s. Sony currently holds some of those rights, as well as the rights to every Godzilla film produced from 1991 onward. The Blue Öyster Cult song "Godzilla" also contributed to the popularity of the movies. The creature also made an appearance in a Nike commercial, in which Godzilla (creature created at ILM) went one-on-one with NBA star Charles Barkley.
At least two prehistoric creatures from the fossil record have been named after Godzilla. Gojirasaurus quayi is a theropod dinosaur that lived in the Triassic Period; a partial skeleton was unearthed in Quay County, New Mexico. Dakosaurus andiniensis, a crocodile from the Jurassic Period, was nicknamed "Godzilla" before being scientifically classified.
In 2010 the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named their most recently acquired scout vessel MV Gojira. The Godzilla Franchise served them with a notice to remove the name and in response the boat's name was changed in May 2011 to MV Brigitte Bardot.
- 1954 Japan Movie Association Awards – Special Effects (Godzilla)
- 1965 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Mothra vs. Godzilla)
- 1966 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Invasion of Astro Monster)
- 1986 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects and Newcomer of the Year (The Return of Godzilla)
- 1986 Razzie Awards – Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star (The Return of Godzilla)
- 1992 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah)
- 1993 Tokyo Sports Movie Awards – Best Leading Actor (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award and Money-Making Star Award (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1994 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II)
- 1995 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla)
- 1996 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- 1996 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- 1996 MTV Movie Awards – Lifetime Achievement*
- 1998 Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Supporting Actress and Worst Remake or Sequel (Godzilla 1998)
- 1999 Saturn Awards – Best Special Effects (Godzilla 1998)
- 2001 Saturn Awards – Best Home Video Release (Godzilla 2000)
- 2002 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack)
- 2004 Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2007 Saturn Awards – Best DVD Classic Film Release (Godzilla)
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- Biotech is Godzilla
- Terrence Rafferty (May 2, 2004). "The Monster That Morphed Into a Metaphor".
- "The Beast Transforms into a Beauty as Godzilla Becomes the Brigitte Bardot - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society". Seashepherd.org. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 47.
- Galbraith, Stuart. Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films : A Critical Analysis of 103 Features Released in the United States, 1950-1992. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. 1994.