Godzilla (1998 film)

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Godzilla (1998 Movie Poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Dean Devlin
Screenplay by Dean Devlin
Roland Emmerich
Story by Ted Elliot
Terry Rossio
Dean Devlin
Roland Emmerich
Based on Godzilla 
by Toho
Starring Matthew Broderick
Jean Reno
Maria Pitillo
Hank Azaria
Kevin Dunn
Michael Lerner
Harry Shearer
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Edited by Peter Amundson
David Siegelrel
Distributed by TriStar Pictures (US)
Toho (Japan)
Release dates
  • May 20, 1998 (1998-05-20)
Running time
139 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $130 million[1]
Box office $379 million[1]

Godzilla is a 1998 American science fiction monster film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich and a reimagining of Toho's Godzilla franchise. It is the 23rd film in the Godzilla franchise and the first Godzilla film to be completely produced by a Hollywood studio.[Note 1] It stars Matthew Broderick, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn and Jean Reno.

The film was a co-production between Centropolis Entertainment and TriStar Pictures, with TriStar distributing theatrically, and Sony Pictures Entertainment for home media. It also marks the only time that producer Devlin and director Emmerich worked on an intellectual property (IP) not of their own. The film is dedicated to the memory of Godzilla franchise producer and creator Tomoyuki Tanaka, who died during the film's production.

The film was released in May 20, 1998 to negative reviews from critics and fans[3][4] and grossed $136 million domestically and $379 million worldwide at the end of its theatrical run.[5] Planned sequels were abandoned and an animated series was produced instead.

In later years, Toho (the Godzilla IP owners) officially retconned TriStar's Godzilla as "Zilla" for future appearances.[6][7][8][9] The character has since appeared in other media as "Zilla".[10][11][12]


Following a nuclear test in French Polynesia, the fallout irradiates a lizard's nest. Decades later, an enormous sea creature suddenly attacks a Japanese fishing vessel in the South Pacific, leaving only one fisherman alive. Dr. Niko "Nick" Tatopoulos, an NRC biologist, is sent to Tahiti and to Jamaica, where a wrecked village, footprints, and ship are found. Nick collects skin samples that lead him to believe the creature is an enormous mutant created by nuclear testing. It travels to New York City during the rainiest week of the season, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

The city is evacuated before the military attempts to kill it but fails in an initial attempt. Nick later collects a blood sample, and after performing a pregnancy test, discovers that the creature reproduces asexually and is collecting food for its offspring. Aspiring journalist and ex-girlfriend of Nick's, Audrey Timmonds, uncovers a tape in his possession containing classified information about the creature. However, her superior, Charles Caiman, appropriates the tape as his own and broadcasts it on television, revealing the creature's nuclear origins in French Polynesia and its name, spoken by the surviving fisherman: "Gojira", but Caiman jumbles it up as "Godzilla". With the classified information now released, Nick is then removed from the operation, and abandons Audrey (despite her apologies). Soon, he is kidnapped by Philippe Roaché, an "insurance guy" he met before coming to Manhattan. Revealing himself as an agent of the French secret service, Philippe and his colleagues have been keeping close watch on the events and plan to cover up their country's role in the nuclear testing that spawned Godzilla. Suspecting a nest somewhere in the city, they cooperate with Nick to trace and destroy it.

Following a second military attempt to kill Godzilla, the creature dives into the Hudson River to escape. Attacked by US Navy submarines, it sinks to the river bed, presumably killed. Meanwhile, Nick and Philippe's strike team, followed by Audrey and her cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti, find the nest inside Madison Square Garden and locate over 200 eggs. Before the French can succeed in destroying them, the eggs suddenly hatch and the offspring attack the strike team, killing most of them. Nick, Animal, Audrey and Philippe take refuge in the Garden's broadcast booth and send out a live news-report to alert the military of what will happen if the offspring escape. A prompt response involving an airstrike is initiated as the four escape moments before Air Force jets bomb the arena. Audrey and Nick reunite, before the adult Godzilla, however, having survived, emerges from the Garden's ruins. It chases the four across Manhattan, believing them responsible for the deaths of its young. After a taxi chase, they manage to trap Godzilla within the Brooklyn Bridge where the returning Air Force jets manage to shoot it down. Godzilla dies from its wounds, while the remaining citizens celebrate. Audrey tells Caiman that she quits working for him after what he did, before leaving with Nick. Philippe (taking a tape that Animal was recording and promising to return it after "removing a few items from it") thanks Nick for his help and parts ways.

Meanwhile, back at the ruins of Madison Square Garden, a single surviving egg hatches.




Stan Winston created a design for de Bont that was faithful to Toho's Godzilla, but was later scrapped by Emmerich.

The first talk of an American production of a Godzilla film started in the early 1980s when director Steve Miner received special permission from Toho to produce a 3D feature film titled, Godzilla, King of The Monsters in 3-D. Miner tried to find backers to finance the project, presenting concept art and storyboards from artist William Stout and a full screenplay written by Fred Dekker. Despite igniting some interest in Hollywood, studios were unwilling to gamble on Miner's proposed $30 million budget and the film rights died in 1983.[13]

In 1992, TriStar Pictures acquired the rights to Godzilla from Toho to produce a trilogy of Godzilla films, with the promise of "remaining true to the original series—cautioning against nuclear weapons and runaway technology."[14] Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were tapped to write the script and submitted their final draft in late 1994.[15] Earlier that year, Jan de Bont became attached to direct and began pre-production on the film for a 1996 summer release.[16] De Bont's Godzilla would have discarded the character's atomic origin and replaced it with one wherein Godzilla is an artificial creation constructed by Atlantians to defend humanity against a shape-shifting extraterrestrial monster called "The Gryphon".[17] Stan Winston and his company were employed to do the effects for the film. Winston crafted sculptures of Godzilla[18] and The Gryphon.[19] De Bont later left the project after TriStar refused to approve his budget of $100–120 million.[20]

Prior to the release of Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin signed on to do Godzilla under the condition they would be able to handle the film "their way."[21] Emmerich and Devlin discarded Elliott and Rossio's script and provided a new script where the Godzilla character was largely re-written.

Patrick Tatopoulos was contacted early on by Emmerich and asked to design the new Godzilla. According to Tatopoulos, the only specific instructions Emmerich gave him was that it should be able to run incredibly fast.[22] Godzilla, originally conceived as a robust, erect-standing, plantigrade reptilian sea monster, was reimagined by Tatopoulos as a lean, digitigrade bipedal iguana-like creature that stood with its back and tail parallel to the ground. Godzilla's color scheme was designed to reflect and blend in with the urban environment.[22] At one point, it was planned to use motion capture from a human to create the movements of the computer-generated Godzilla, but it ended up looking too much like a human in a suit.[23]


Production began in May 1997, in New York City, and moved to Los Angeles in June.[24] Scenes in New York were filmed in 13 days; tropical scenes were filmed in the Hawaiian Islands.[25] The United States Marine Corps participated in the filming of the movie. An actual Marines Reserve pilot, Col. Dwight Schmidt, was the pilot of the plane that "fired" the missiles that killed Godzilla.[26]


Main article: Godzilla: The Album

The soundtrack featuring alternative rock music was released on May 19, 1998 by Epic Records.[27] It was a success on the music charts, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum on June 22, 1998. The original score was composed by David Arnold. The film's score was not released on CD until 9 years later, when it went on sale as a complete original film score in 2007 by La La Land Records.



Taco Bell contributed to the marketing of the film with $20 million in media support.[28] The marketing campaign featured commercials of the Taco Bell chihuahua chanting, "Here, lizard lizard lizard!" while attempting to trap the monster in a box.[29] Trendmasters manufactured the toys for the film, including the 11-inch tall "Living Godzilla"[30] and the 21-inch tall "Ultimate Godzilla".[31] However, poor merchandise sales for the film led to a cancellation of a toyline based on the animated series, and resulted in significant financial losses for Trendmasters, which went out of business three years later.[32]

Box office[edit]

The film premiered in cinemas on May 20, 1998 in wide release throughout the United States for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.[1] The film was initially projected to break the four-day Memorial Day long weekend opening record of $90 million (set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park a year earlier). Instead, it grossed $55,726,951 in business showing at 3,310 locations over the four-day weekend.[33] The film Deep Impact opened in second place during that weekend with $19,381,788 in revenue.[33] The film's revenue dropped by 59% in its second week of release, earning $18,020,444. For that particular weekend, the film remained in first place as the romantic drama Hope Floats overtook Deep Impact for second place with $14,210,464 in box office business.[34] During its final week in release, the film opened in 19th place grossing $202,157. For that weekend, Lethal Weapon 4 starring Mel Gibson made its debut, opening in first place with $34,048,124 in revenue.[35] The film went on to top out domestically at $136,314,294 in total ticket sales through an eight-week theatrical run. Internationally, the film took in an additional $242,700,000 in business for a combined worldwide total of $379,014,294.[1] For 1998 as a whole, the film was the ninth highest grossing film domestically[36] and the third-highest grossing film worldwide.[37]

Critical reception[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 16% of 74 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 4 out of 10.[38] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 32 based on 23 reviews.[39] In 1999, at the Huntley Hotel Garden Room in Santa Monica, California, the film won Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actress for Pitillo and Worst Remake or Sequel. The film was also nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.[40] Criticism highlighted by film critics included the film's script, acting, and directing[4][41][42] while fans targeted the film's drastic reinvention of Godzilla, which included its radical redesign and departure from the source material.[3][43][44][45][46][6]

Barbara Shulgasser, writing in The San Francisco Examiner, said in a one star review, "OK. Maybe the special effects are slightly more sophisticated than they were in Jurassic Park, but the techno-stuff is all getting a bit boring. When a movie is nothing but relentless action, there's little chance for dramatic tension to develop." She wrote that the film was "devoid of any discernible plot logic."[47] Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that the film was "an overblown action monstrosity with no surprises, no exhilaration and no thrills... What passes for thrills is a succession of scenes lifted and extended from Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Godzilla, shot mostly from the waist down, steps on cars and strafes the sides of buildings with his tail."[48] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post said the film "neither draws upon our fears nor revels in the original's camp charms. The picture really isn't about anything unless it is the deep pockets and shallow minds of the honchos who begat this colossal bore." She wrote further, "Size vanquishes both substance and subtlety in the overhyped, half- @#!*% and humorless resurrection of dear old Godzilla. It might well be titled Iguana Get You Sucka."[49] The film, however, was not without its supporters. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, wrote that the film was an "expertly designed theme park ride of a movie that packs nonstop thrills."[50] In a slightly positive fashion, Gary Kamiya of Salon.com commented that "The plot is about as ridiculous as you'd expect, but for the most part its absurdities are tolerable."[51] Joe Leydon of Variety contributed mildly to the positive sentiment by saying "Throughout Godzilla, New York endures the most sustained rainfall in all of movie history. Most of the action takes place at night, but even the daytime scenes unfold under darkly overcast skies, which, of course, makes it all the easier for Emmerich to obscure Godzilla's features for the maximum amount of time to generate the maximum amount of suspense."[52]

Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's big-budget lizard-stomps-Manhattan disaster flick has been written with the brain dead in mind. The script isn't just 'dumbed down,' it's lobotomized. Godzilla lives and dies on special effects alone.

—James Berardinelli, writing in ReelViews[53]

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four, noting that "One must carefully repress intelligent thought while watching such a film. The movie makes no sense at all except as a careless pastiche of its betters (and, yes, the Japanese Godzilla movies are, in their way, better—if only because they embrace dreck instead of condescending to it). You have to absorb such a film, not consider it. But my brain rebelled, and insisted on applying logic where it was not welcome." Ebert also pointed out in his review that the characters Mayor Ebert and his assistant Gene were Devlin and Emmerich's jabs at his and Gene Siskel's negative reviews of Stargate and Independence Day.[4] In an entirely negative review, James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film "one of the most idiotic blockbuster movies of all time, it's like spitting into the wind. Emmerich and Devlin are master illusionists, waving their wands and mesmerizing audiences with their smoke and mirrors. It's probably too much to hope that some day, movie-goers will wake up and realize that they've been had."[53] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that the film "is so clumsily structured it feels as if it's two different movies stuck together with an absurd stomping finale glued onto the end. The only question worth asking about this $120 million wad of popcorn is a commercial one. How much further will the dumbing down of the event movie have to go before the audience stops buying tickets?"[54]

In Howard Hawks' The Thing, there is a great scene where scientists in the Arctic spread out to trace the outlines of something mysterious that is buried in the ice, and the camera slowly pulls back to reveal that it is circular — a saucer. In Godzilla, the worm expert is standing in a deep depression, and the camera pulls back to reveal that he is standing in a footprint. Which he would have already known.

—Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times[4]

Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post queried, "The question is this: Are the awe-inspiring creature effects and roaring battle scenes impressive enough to make you forget the stupid story, inaccurate science and basic implausibility?" Thoughtfully disillusioned, he wrote, "The cut-rate cast seems to have been plucked from the pages of TV Guide. There's Doug Savant from Melrose Place as O'Neal, a scaredy-cat military man who looks like Sgt. Rock and acts like Barney Fife. There's Maria Pitillo (House Rules) as Nick's soporific love interest, Audrey; The Simpsons' Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer as a wise-cracking news cameraman and superficial reporter; Vicki Lewis of NewsRadio as a lusty scientist. Shall I continue?"[55] However, in a more upbeat tone, Owen Gleiberman writing for Entertainment Weekly thought "There's no resonance to the new Godzilla, and no built-in cheese value, either. For a while, the filmmakers honor the sentimental paradox that seeped into the later Godzilla films: that this primitive destroyer, like King Kong, doesn't actually mean any harm." He opined that the film contained "some clever and exciting sequences", but ultimately came to the conclusion that, "It says much about today's blockbuster filmmakers that they could spend so much money on Godzilla and still fail to do justice to something that was fairy-tale destructo schlock to begin with."[56] Film critic Aladino Debert of Variety was consumed with the nature of the special effects exclaiming, "the title creature is wonderfully designed and the animation is excellent." Complimenting the technical aspects of the film, he summarized, "The integration of the lizard into its surroundings is for the most part very well accomplished, with rigged cars collapsing under the massive weight of Godzilla, and buildings either demolished or partially damaged. The compositing of the debris and pyrotechnics is generally good, especially when the monster runs or walks on the streets: The asphalt gives way convincingly every time the massive feet touch the ground, and a variety of CGI elements are seamlessly composited. Debris flies off buildings with every touch of the monster."[57]

Director Emmerich later admitted regretting the film's production, particularly due to the rushed shooting schedule that was required for a Memorial Day weekend release and the studio's insistence on not test-screening the film. However, he defended the film as better than critics gave it credit for, as it was financially successful, and out of all the films he directed, it was the one which parents told him their children enjoyed the most.[58] However, director Emmerich admitted to never being a fan of Godzilla, stating, "I was never a big Godzilla fan, they were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh."[59][60]

In later years, producer Devlin admitted to "screwing up" his Godzilla, mainly blaming the script that he co-wrote with Emmerich as the source of the film's failure.[61][62] Devlin additionally emphasized "two flaws" that he believed hurt the film, stating, "The first is we did not commit to anthropomorphizing Godzilla - meaning we did not decide if he was a heroic character, or a villainous character. We made the intellectual decision to have him be neither and just simply an animal trying to survive." Devlin admitted the decision was a "big mistake" and revealed the second flaw of the film was "...deciding to exposit the characters' background in the middle of the film rather than in the first act (where we always do). At the time we told the audience who these characters were, they had already made their minds up about them and we could not change that perception". Devlin concluded by stating, "These were 2 serious mistakes in the writing of the film, and I take full responsibility."[63]

Toho's reaction[edit]

Toho's trademark for incarnations of TriStar's Godzilla.

Veteran Godzilla actors Haruo Nakajima and Kenpachiro Satsuma, as well as Shusuke Kaneko (who would later direct Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack), were also critical of the film and its character. Nakajima stated "its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog".[45] Satsuma walked out of the Japanese premiere of the film and commented, "it's not Godzilla, it doesn't have his spirit".[46] The "Godzilla" on the film was considered so different from Toho's Godzilla by the fans and the audience that the term GINO, "Godzilla In Name Only", was coined by critic and Godzilla fan Richard Pusateri to distinguish the character apart from Toho's Godzilla.[64] Kaneko pondered on the treatment the character was given by the studio, stating "It is interesting [that] the US version of Godzilla runs about trying to escape missiles... Americans seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms."[65] In 2004, Toho (Godzilla's license owners) officially retconned the character as Zilla for future appearances.[7][9][66][67] This decision was made by producer Shōgo Tomiyama and Godzilla: Final Wars director Ryuhei Kitamura because they felt Emmerich's film "took the God out of Godzilla” by portraying the character like a mere animal.[6] The name "Zilla" was chosen for the character by Tomiyama as a satirical take on counterfeit Godzilla products that use "Zilla" as a suffix.[68] The character has since appeared in other media as "Zilla".[10][11][12]


The film was nominated and won several awards in 1998–99. Furthermore, it was screened out of competition at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.[69] The film was also nominated for multiple Razzie Awards including Worst Picture and Worst Director.

Award Category Nominee Result
19th Golden Raspberry Awards[70] Worst Picture TriStar Pictures Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Maria Pitillo Won
Worst Remake or Sequel TriStar Pictures Won
Worst Director Roland Emmerich Nominated
Worst Screenplay Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin Nominated
Worst Movie Trends of the Year Yo quiero tacky tie-ins Nominated
26th Saturn Awards[71] Best Special Effects Volker Engel, Patrick Tatopoulos, Karen E. Goulekas, Clay Pinney Won
26th Annie Awards[72] Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects Animation Jerome Chen Nominated
BMI Film & TV Awards 1999[73] BMI Film Music Award David Arnold Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Award 1999[74] Favorite Song Sean Combs Nominated
Bogey Awards for 1998[75] Bogey Award in Silver ———— Won
California On Location Awards 1998[76] Location Team of the Year – Feature ———— Won

Home media[edit]

Following its cinematic release in theaters, the Region 1 widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on November 3, 1998. Special features for the DVD include; photo galleries, visual effects and special FX supervisor commentaries, the music video of "Heroes" by The Wallflowers, Behind the Scenes of Godzilla with Charles Caiman, theatrical trailers, a featurette, director/producer and cast biographies, a photo gallery, music video, and Godzilla Takes New York (before and after shots).[77] A Pan and Scan VHS tape was also released on the same day. And a Widescreen tape was released in 1999., a special edition DVD was also released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on March 28, 2006. The DVD contains all of the above features as well as the "All-Time Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes" featurette, 3 episodes from Godzilla: The Animated Series, and a "never-before-seen" production art gallery.[78]

The widescreen high-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on November 10, 2009. Special features include the visual effects commentary, the "Behind the Scenes of Godzilla with Charles Caiman" and "All Time Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes" featurettes, as well as the music video of "Heroes" by The Wallflowers.[79] A supplemental viewing option for the film in the media format of video on demand is available as well.[80]

The film was re-released on Blu-ray 1080p "Mastered in 4K" format on July 16, 2013.[81]


TriStar planned to produce a trilogy of Godzilla films upon acquiring the license for Godzilla in 1992. Emmerich and Devlin only went as far as to hire Tab Murphy to write a treatment for a sequel. The sequel would have involved the surviving offspring battling a giant insect in Sydney, New South Wales.[82] However, due to the overwhelming negative reception the first film received and a lack of enthusiasm from fans, audiences, theater owners, and licensees, the planned sequels were abandoned and TriStar let their rights to Godzilla expire and revert to Toho in 2003.[83] Producer Devlin stated that they left the film with an open-ending in case the film's success allowed them to return for sequels.[84]

Animated series[edit]

Main article: Godzilla: The Series

An animated series was produced as a continuation of the storyline of the film and aired on Fox from 1998 to 2000. In the series, Dr. Tatopoulos accidentally discovers the egg that survived the aerial bombardment before it hatches, in a minor change from the ending in the 1998 film. The creature hatches after Nick Tatopoulos stumbles onto it as it assumes him as its parent. Subsequently, Dr. Tatopoulos and his associates form a research team, investigating strange occurrences and defending mankind from dangerous mutations.[85] Actor Ian Ziering voiced the character of Dr. Tatopoulos throughout the series.


  1. ^ The U.S. releases for Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla 1985 featured additional footage with Western actors shot by small Hollywood production companies that merged the American footage with the original Japanese footage in order to appeal to domestic audiences.[2] Invasion of Astro-Monster was the first Godzilla film to be co-produced between Japanese studio Toho and American studio UPA.



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