King Ghidorah

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King Ghidorah
Godzilla film series character
King Ghidorah Incarnations.jpg
Shōwa, Heisei, & Millennium incarnations of King Ghidorah
First appearance Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Last appearance Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Created by Tomoyuki Tanaka
Portrayed by Shōwa era:
Shoichi Hirose[1]
Susumu Utsumi[2]
Kanta Ina[3]
Heisei era:
Hurricane Ryu[4]
Tsutomu Kitagawa[5]
Millennium era:
Akira Ohashi[6]
Legendary Pictures:
Jason Liles[7]
Alan Maxson[8]
Richard Dorton[8]
Aliases Ghidrah[9]
King Ghidra[10]
King Ghidora[11]
Monster Zero[12]
The 10,000 Year Old Dragon[13]
The King of Terror[14]
The Golden King[15]
God of the Void[15]
King of the Void[15]
Species Dragon-like monster

King Ghidorah (キングギドラ, Kingu Gidora) is a film monster originating from Toho's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Although Toho officially trademarks the character as King Ghidorah,[16] the character was originally referred to as Ghidrah in some English markets.[9]

Although King Ghidorah's design has remained largely consistent throughout its appearances (an armless, bipedal, golden-scaled bat-winged dragon with three heads and two tails), its origin story has varied from being an extraterrestrial planet-killing dragon,[17][18] a genetically engineered monster from the future,[19] or a guardian monster of ancient Japan.[20] The character is usually portrayed as an archenemy of Godzilla and Mothra,[17][18] though it has had one appearance as an ally of the latter.[20]

Despite rumors that Ghidorah was meant to represent the threat posed by China, which had at the time of the character's creation just developed nuclear weapons,[21] director Ishirō Honda denied the connection and stated that Ghidorah was simply a modern take on the dragon Yamata no Orochi.[22]



The initial idea for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster came from Tomoyuki Tanaka, who also created Godzilla. Tanaka's inspiration came from an illustration of the Lernaean Hydra in a book about Greek Mythology, and Orochi of Japanese folklore. Tanaka was enamored with the idea of Godzilla fighting a multi-headed serpent, but considered seven or eight heads to be too excessive, and thus the number of heads was reduced to three.[23] The final version was an armless three-headed dragon with large wings, two tails and of extraterrestrial origin.[24]

Shōwa era (1964-1973)[edit]

Shōwa King Ghidorah

In its debut film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ghidorah is portrayed as an ancient extraterrestrial entity responsible for the destruction of the Venusian civilization, five thousand years before the film's events. Its attempt to destroy Earth is thwarted by the combined efforts of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra.[17]

Subsequent Shōwa era films would portray Ghidorah as the pawn of various alien races seeking to subjugate Earth.[25][26][27] King Ghidorah also appears in the fifth and sixth episodes of the television series Zone Fighter, where it is revealed that it is a creation of the Garoga aliens.[28][29]

Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa insisted that the Ghidorah suit be fabricated using light-weight silicon-based materials in order to grant the wearer greater mobility.[30][31] The final Ghidorah design was constructed by special effects artist Teizo Toshimitsu,[32] who had initially painted it green in order to further differentiate it from Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra, but changed it to gold on the insistence of Eiji Tsuburaya, after his assistant noted that being a creature from Venus, the "gold planet", Ghidorah should be that color.[23]

The monster suit itself was built by Akira Watanabe, and worn by Shoichi Hirose,[1] who also played King Kong in Toho's King Kong vs. Godzilla.[33] Hirose walked hunched over inside the Ghidorah costume, holding a metal bar for balance, while puppeteers would control its heads, tails and wings off-camera like a marionette.[24] The monster's heads were each fitted with remotely controlled motors, which were connected to operators via a wire extending from the suit's backside.[32]

Performing as Ghidorah proved challenging to Hirose, as he had to time his movements in a way that would not conflict with the separately operated heads and wings, as doing so would have resulted in the overhead wires tangling.[30][31] Because of the suit's weight, it frequently snapped the overhead wires supporting it.[32] Special effects were added as the creature is capable emitting destructive, lightning-like "gravity beams" from its mouths and generating hurricane-force winds from its wings.[34]

Despite King Ghidorah's central role in the film's plot, the character was given little screen time, as Hirose had fallen out with special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, who never forgave Hirose for accepting a Hollywood deal, and subsequently he hired Susumu Utsumi to play King Ghidorah after Invasion of Astro-Monster.[30][31] In that film, King Ghidorah was given a darker shade of gold, and its movements both on land and in the air were more fluid than during Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, as the special effects crew had at that point learned from the shortcomings of the previous film's depiction of the creature.[35]

Heisei era (1991-1998)[edit]

Heisei King Ghidorah.

In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), the creature's backstory is completely re-envisioned: it originates as a trio of diminutive genetically engineered creatures called "Dorats" owned by members of the 23rd century Equal Environment Earth Union, a group dedicated to equalizing the power of Earth's nations. Seeking to stop Japan's global economic dominance in their timeline by transforming the Dorats into King Ghidorah through nuclear exposure, the Earth Unionists hope to plant the Dorats on Lagos Island during the 1954 H-bomb tests there. Prior to doing so, they remove the dinosaur that would ultimately become Godzilla from the island, so that the resulting King Ghidorah would be able to attack Japan without opposition. In 1992, the Earth Unionists unleash Ghidorah onto Japan, but he is defeated by a recreated Godzilla. The wounded King Ghidorah lies dormant under the sea for two centuries before being outfitted with robotic parts by a disillusioned Earth Unionist and sent back to 1992 as Mecha-King Ghidorah in order to stop Godzilla's rampage.[19]

The character's ruffs of hairs surrounding its heads were replaced with horns, as it proved difficult for the special effects team to superimpose the individual strands of hair onto footage of people escaping the monster.[36] Special effects director Koichi Kawakita had originally planned on having each of Ghidorah's heads fire differently colored beams, but this was ultimately scrapped in favor of the classic yellow color.[37] This version of King Ghidorah was portrayed by Hurricane Ryu.[4]

In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Mecha-King Ghidorah's robotic middle head is salvaged by the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center (UNGCC) and reverse engineered to create Mechagodzilla.[38]

In Rebirth of Mothra III (1998), King Ghidorah is depicted as an extraterrestrial that landed on earth during the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era and wiped out the dinosaurs by draining them of their life energies. Ghidorah left Earth and returns in modern times to feed on humans. Mothra fails to defeat the monster and travels back to the Cretaceous in order to kill Ghidorah retroactively. Mothra defeats the younger Ghidorah, but the monster's severed tail allows it to regenerate back into its adult form in modern times. Mothra finally kills the monster by transforming into a new form: "Armor Mothra".[18] This version of King Ghidorah was portrayed by Tsutomu Kitagawa.[5]

Millennium era (2001)[edit]

Millennium King Ghidorah.

In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Ghidorah is portrayed as having been one of the three Guardians of Yamato, originating 1,000 years before the events of the film. Initially an antagonist, Ghidorah was imprisoned in Mount Fuji, only to be reawakened in 2001 to halt Godzilla's destruction of Tokyo. Ghidorah is defeated, but then revived and empowered by ally Mothra.[20]

Director Shūsuke Kaneko had originally planned on using Varan as Godzilla's principal antagonist, but was pressured by Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka to use the more recognizable and profitable King Ghidorah,[39] as the previous film in the franchise, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, which featured an original and unfamiliar antagonist, was a box office and critical failure. In order to emphasize Ghidorah's heroic role in the movie, the creature's size was greatly reduced, and was portrayed by Akira Ohashi, who moved the creature's heads as hand puppets.[40][41]

Anime trilogy (2017-2018)[edit]

Ghidorah is referenced by Metphies in a post-credits scene for Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle.[42] Ghidorah was confirmed to be featured in Godzilla: The Planet Eater.[43]

MonsterVerse era (2019-)[edit]

MonsterVerse King Ghidorah.

In 2014, Legendary Pictures announced their acquisition of the licenses to King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan from Toho to use in their MonsterVerse.[44] The trio were introduced in Kong: Skull Island in a post-credits scene depicting cave paintings of all three monsters, including Godzilla.[45]

In June 2017, a press release confirmed that Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah will be featured in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.[46] In April 2018, Jason Liles, Alan Maxson, and Richard Dorton were cast to provide the motion capture performances for the heads of King Ghidorah, with Liles performing the middle head, Maxson performing the right head, and Dorton performing the left head. Other actors will perform the body.[7][8] This version of Ghidorah stands 521 ft (158.8 m) tall and is referred to as "Monster Zero" by Monarch. According to Monarch's database, ancient civilizations called the monster "Ghidorah".[47]


Throughout the creature's appearances, the only consistent abilities are flight and the capacity to fire "gravity beams" from its mouths. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the first incarnation is shown travelling through space within a meteor capable of generating magnetic fields.[17] Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah features a robotic version - Mecha-King Ghidorah - equipped with grappling cables and a mechanical arm that can discharge electricity and is capable of lifting Godzilla.[19]

In Rebirth of Mothra III, King Ghidorah gains energy from eating victims and can construct a dome to house its victims for future consumption. It is also portrayed as capable of firing lightning bolts from its wings and regenerating its entire body from severed body parts.[18] Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack features a version that can electrocute enemies via its teeth and can gain power by absorbing the spirits of dead monsters, allowing it to form an energy shield capable of deflecting Godzilla's atomic heat ray.[20]

In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ghidorah has a divergent frontal lobe density in each of its heads, rendering each head capable of independent thoughts. Its scales are capable of running bioelectrical currents through its body and its dermal layer is coated with aurum. It can generate "hurricane-force" winds due to hyper-tensile on the muscle tendons of the wings. Its body's electro-receptor molecular biology can create electrical currents and localized storm systems as it travels. This results in the stratosphere being torn open by thunder and lighting as it takes flight.[47]


The character has been well-received and is considered to be the most famous enemy of Godzilla. listed King Ghidorah as #1 on their "Top 10 Godzilla Villains" list,[48] and #6 on their "Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters" list,[49] while IGN listed the creature as #2 on their "Top 10 Japanese Movie Monsters" list.[50] Complex listed the character as #4 on its "The 15 Most Badass Kaiju Monsters of All Time" list, calling it "iconic" and "...simply looks cooler than some of the more powerful bugs, crabs, and robots."[51]

In his review of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ethan Reed of Toho Kingdom praised King Ghidorah, calling it "a fantastic addition to the franchise" and "no less than pure evil, a relentless force of destruction that wipes out the life of entire planets just for the sake of it" and concluded that "King Ghidorah is not only one the best characters in the series, but one [of] the best movie villains as well."[52] Similar views were expressed in Paste, which listed Ghidorah as #5 on its "10 Best Movie Dragons", describing it as "probably the deadliest beast in all of Godzilla lore".[53]

Godzilla historian Steve Ryfle, however, has criticized Ghidorah's design in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, citing its stiff movements and recycled Rodan roar, as well as noting that it did not deviate enough from Eiji Tsuburaya's original design.[54][55]


King Ghidorah appeared in a brief piece of stock footage in Terror of Mechagodzilla.[56] Stock footage of King Ghidorah was used in three episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog: "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City",[57] "The Tower of Dr. Zalost", and "Nowhere TV".[58] Spin-off characters based on King Ghidorah (although quadrupedal in appearance) were featured in other Toho films: Desghidorah (or Death Ghidorah) in Rebirth of Mothra[59] and Keizer Ghidorah in Godzilla: Final Wars.[60] A post-credits scene in Kong: Skull Island depicts a cave painting of several monsters such as Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah.[45]



Video games[edit]

King Ghidorah battling SpaceGodzilla in Bandai Namco's Godzilla.



  • Take Me To Your Leader is the second studio album by English hip hop artist Daniel Dumile (also known as MF DOOM)[63] and was released under the alias "King Geedorah" on June 17, 2003. The cover features a figure very similar to the appearance of King Ghidorah, and many tracks contain samples from the Godzilla films.



  1. ^ a b Ryfle 1998, p. 116.
  2. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 357.
  3. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 359.
  4. ^ a b Ryfle 1998, p. 364.
  5. ^ a b Solomon 2017, p. 102.
  6. ^ Kalat 2010, p. 238.
  7. ^ a b Verhoeven, Beatrice (April 26, 2018). "'Rampage' Breakout Star Jason Liles Joins 'Godzilla: King of Monsters' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c White, James (April 26, 2018). "Rampage's Jason Liles Playing King Ghidorah In Godzilla: King Of Monsters". Empire. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Ryfle 1998, p. 117.
  10. ^ AMC Intro for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
  11. ^ Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah - Initial Sony 1998 VHS Release
  12. ^ Solomon 2017, p. 37.
  13. ^ DeSentis, John (July 4, 2010). "Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection Box 6". SciFi Japan. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  14. ^ Yoneda 1999, 4:49.
  15. ^ a b c "Godzilla: The Planet Eater Press Notes, Trailer and Pics From Toho". SciFi Japan. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  16. ^ "King Ghidorah Official Trademark". Toho. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
  18. ^ a b c d Rebirth of Mothra III (1998). Directed by Okihiro Yoneda. Toho
  19. ^ a b c Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). Directed by Kazuki Ōmori. Toho
  20. ^ a b c d Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Toho.
  21. ^ Jess-Cooke, C. (2009), Film Sequels: Theory and Practice from Hollywood to Bollywood, Edinburgh University Press, p. 38, ISBN 0748689478
  22. ^ David Milner, "Ishiro Honda Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1992)
  23. ^ a b CHO Japan (2012-10-31). "1970's Godzilla FX Director - PART I - 70年代のゴジラの特技監督 (SciFi Japan TV #06)". YouTube. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
  24. ^ a b "Audio Commentary by David Kalat". Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster - Classic Media 2007 DVD Release. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  25. ^ Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
  26. ^ Destroy All Monsters (1968). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
  27. ^ Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Directed by Jun Fukuda. Toho.
  28. ^ "Attack King Ghidorah!". Zone Fighter. Directed by Jun Fukuda. April 30, 1973
  29. ^ "King Ghidorah's Counterattack!". Zone Fighter. Directed by Jun Fukuda. May 7, 1973
  30. ^ a b c Kalat 2010, p. 77.
  31. ^ a b c Kalat 2010, p. 78.
  32. ^ a b c "Yasuyuki Inoue: 1922-2012". SciFi Japan. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  33. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 84.
  34. ^ King Ghidorah character profile - Godzilla Movie Studio Tour (PC Game), 1998
  35. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 124.
  36. ^ David Milner, "Shinji Nishikawa Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1995)
  37. ^ David Milner, "Koichi Kawakita Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1994)
  38. ^ Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Directed by Takao Okawara. Toho
  39. ^ Ed Godziszewski and Norman England, "Interview with Shusuke Kaneko", Japanese Giants #9 (June 2002)
  40. ^ Kalat 2010, p. 240.
  41. ^ Kalat 2010, p. 241.
  42. ^ Shizuno & Seshita 2018, 1:40:05.
  43. ^ Squires, John (September 13, 2018). "The Poster for Toho's 'Godzilla: The Planet Eater' is a Glorious Treat for Fans of King Ghidorah". Bloody-Disgusting. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  44. ^ Jeffries, Adrianne (July 26, 2014). "Gareth Edwards returns to direct 'Godzilla 2' with Rodan and Mothra". The Verge. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  45. ^ a b Goldberg, Matt (March 11, 2017). "'Kong: Skull Island' Post-Credits Scene Explained". Collider. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  46. ^ "Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse Kicks Into Gear as the Next Godzilla Feature Gets Underway". Warner Bros. (Press release). June 19, 2017.
  47. ^ a b Shaw-Williams, Hannah (July 18, 2018). "Here's Every Hidden Secret On Godzilla 2's Viral Website". Screen Rant. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  48. ^ (September 25, 2015). "Top 10 Godzilla Villains". YouTube. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  49. ^ (August 31, 2013). "Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters". YouTube.
  50. ^ Hawker, Tom (May 15, 2014). "Top 10 Japanese Movie Monsters". IGN. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  51. ^ Josh Robertson, "The 15 Most Badass Kaiju Monsters of All Time", Complex (May 18, 2014)
  52. ^ Ethan Reed, "Review: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)", Toho Kingdom (July 22, 2009)
  53. ^ Curt Holman, "The 10 Best Movie Dragons", Paste (January 3, 2013)
  54. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 271.
  55. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 272.
  56. ^ Honda 1975, 42:21.
  57. ^ Cohen 2000, 04:56.
  58. ^ Cohen & November 2001, 09:22.
  59. ^ Rhoads & McCorkle 2018, p. 168.
  60. ^ Solomon 2017, p. 282.
  61. ^ "Graphic Novel: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah". Retrieved 2015-07-25.
  62. ^ "Book: Godzilla Saves America: A Monster Showdown in 3-D!". Retrieved 2015-07-25.
  63. ^ "King Geedorah "Take Me To Your Leader"". Retrieved 2014-06-23.


  • Cohen, David (2000). Courage the Cowardly Dog - Episode 15: Courage in the Big Stinkin' City. Warner Bros. Television.
  • Cohen, David (2001). Courage the Cowardly Dog - Episode 20: Nowhere TV. Warner Bros. Television.
  • Honda, Ishiro (1975). Terror of Mechagodzilla. Toho Co., Ltd.
  • Kalat, David (2010). A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series (2nd Edition). McFarland. ISBN 9780786447497.
  • Rhoads, Sean; McCorkle, Brooke (2018). Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema. McFarland. ISBN 9781476663906.
  • Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. ECW Press. ISBN 1550223488.
  • Shizuno, Kobun; Seshita, Hiroyuki (2018). Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. Toho Co., Ltd.
  • Solomon, Brian (2017). Godzilla FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the King of the Monsters. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 9781495045684.
  • Yoneda, Okihiro (1999). Rebirth of Mothra III. Toho Co., Ltd.