Zechs closes out Toho Month with a look at his Top Fifteen Favorite Kaiju flicks.
*Oh, yes Zechs does know he's a day late and at the start of a new month.WELL TOO BAD!
In closing out Toho Month I decided to go the cheap route in listing my top fifteen favorite Kaiju films of all time. Why fifteen? Because I hate top ten, eleven is just as short, and with fifteen it’s such a much easier number for me to load this thing up. If you don’t know me I am an avid lover of Kaiju movies, though Godzilla ones in particular. Sure I’ve seen Gamera movies and North Korean variety, but to me Godzilla will always be the films to judge any other Kaiju film.
So there will be a few non-Godzilla films that snuck onto this list. Which ones will they be? Will I think one might surprise some and another probably won’t. I have to admit even with fifteen this was super tough for me. I wanted to include Gorgo (1961), The Last Dinosaur (1977), and a couple Gamera movies namely Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) and Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967). Yes, I know the later stinks, but hell when I was a kid and later re-watching it on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that movie was utter gold to me. So to those films you all get an honorable mention and will always be dear to my heart, but these other fifteen films will be a lot closer.
*Oh and THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. But then if you haven’t seen these films already. SHAME ON YOU!
15.) Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
-Even though this is a basic retelling of the original Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964) film now with Mechagodzilla inserted into the conflict, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t entertained by this film. I think what does it for me is the continuation of the previous film so we don’t have to skip through yet another Mechagodzilla origin.
Still it does have its issues. For example, about the most likeable characters in the film are the old veteran soldier who actually was in the original Mothra (1961) and of course now former Mechagodzilla pilot Akane Yashiro, who has one of my all time favorite human scenes of a Godzilla film in this movie with her speaking to the main character in this piece about Kiryu. There’s just something about that scene and it is a very nice passing of the torch of her character to Kiryu’s new guardian (even if he isn’t the actual pilot). Also I’m just glad that she actually was allowed to reprise her role and not just forgot or replaced behind the scenes(*cough* pilots of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II were where you in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla?! *cough*).
14.) Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- I probably will get some slack for putting this movie in, but hell it’s King Ghidorah and his return to the Godzilla series. I can still remember the first time I saw this film in the late 90s, when Roger Corman was hosting a Godzilla-thon of the Heisei series on American Movie Classic.
Then there are the plot holes with this film which are huge. For example, why in the damned world would the Future humans just deposit Godzilla in the middle of Pacific Ocean and not just kill him?! I know they’re arrogant and all, but still. Then there’s the whole upgrade Godzilla gets that makes no sense. Still, Godzilla gets a damned good entrance in this at least more in the actual America dubbed version.
13.) Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)
-Hey if I put the remake at fifteen, you just had to know the original movie would be showing up sooner or later. Honestly, other than the remaining Showa films here this is probably one of the few of them I re-watch over and over again. There’s just so much fun to it. We get probably one of the best damned Godzilla entrances period. I still remember when first watching this how off-guard it caught me as much as it did the characters. Plus he just adds such a presence to this film. The moment Godzilla shows up you’re like, “Ok now not only is the bad guy in this screwed, but so are the good guys.” Sure enough, was I so right.
Honestly, this probably had my favorite human villains in a Godzilla film. They were just so damn greedy and only thinking about themselves it felt so damn rewarding when Godzilla showed up and everything they build up to ensure that Mothra egg was blowing up in their face.
12.) Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
-Ah the Michael Bay of Godzilla films or at least that’s how I view this one. Just about everything is left a molten crater by the time this film is over. Nothing human or alien made is left standing in this. Not to mention this is a very fun revamp of Destroy All Monsters (1968). It’s pretty much Godzilla vs. Toho’s entire arsenal of Kaiju with a somewhat assist from Mothra. About all the creature effects save for one (more on that later) where done exceptionally. Of them all though, the King himself was one of the stand-outs with such a sleek updated design incorporating a lot of good from previous Godzilla suit designs. The other was Gigan who after thirty years of being absent during the Heisei series FINALLY returns to pester Godzilla again. I’m glad the director in this gave Gigan the most due of the monsters Godzilla went up against. It’s such a great update and show of the character.
11.) War of the Gargantuas (1966)
- SURPRISE! Of all the Toho films made during Godzilla’s Showa period, this has to be my favorite non-Godzilla film. I bet some were thinking I put King Kong Escapes! (1967) due to MechaKong. Well.. WRONG!! Even with the cyborg presence, I hate the darn monkey. I know by even saying that I now incur the wrath of Lord Simian. WELL BRING IT! We should even have jsalwen do a sketch of MechaKong vs. Mechagodzilla. Of course we know the later wins because well let’s face it a primate mecha sucks.
Anyway, back to this movie. I enjoy it so because it has two monsters duking it out (and a third octopus creature as well in the beginning). Plus the maser guns used during this actually did something then merely give Godzilla or other Toho creatures an itching sensation. The other reason is that “evil” Frankenstein aka Gaira has good excuse to wreck all this havoc: humans are darn tasty. To stop his all you can eat human buffet stands Sanda, another gentler Frankenstein. It is these two creatures and their effects of the world around it that make’s the film for me.
Not to mention their battle is so darn brutal and honestly I wondered throughout just really who’d win this brawl given there was no big name attached (i.e. you knew Godzilla was going to win this or the heroic good guy). Here both creatures are just so evenly matched. I just love the battle goes everywhere with these two. This was almost the falls count and anything goes match anywhere of Kaiju brawls.
10.) Godzilla vs. Biollante (1991)
- What the?! I just reviewed this film! Well for those wondering what I felt about the movie just see here for my review. To summarize, Godzilla goes down an intriguing concept in this one besides him being cloned into a giant plant. It’s that various humans are fighting over a sample of Godzilla and what it could do for the world both against the Big Lizard or helping mankind. Again, the creature and special effects are great here. However, the music (save for the cues of Ifukube music here and there) is very repetitive. That’s all I have to say here without breaking into a broken record with what I said in my review.
9.) Gamera 3: The Awakening of Irys (1999)
- Honestly, what other Gamera film where you expecting to crack into this list? I have a small guilty pleasure love of the Showa series, but the Heisei Gamera Trilogy just blows that to pieces. Of the three films, none was as spectacular or brilliant as this one was. It has an even deadlier foe (Irys) than ever before and with a recurring one (Gyaos), who’s like almost a hydra like creature in this. Kill one and ten more replace it. Also the motives of the main Kaiju monster is actually an interesting one: revenge. Though not the first film that tried this motive both past and present, it’s more rooted here than any previously shown with collateral damage of Gamera destroying a Gyaos from the first part of this series and in effect what dooms him here with the little girl befriending Irys who take’s to the rage the girl has for the giant flaming turtle.
8.) Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
- As I said in the previous entry with Gamera, revenge is an intriguing motive. Once more it is what drives the main character, Akane Yashiro to why she’s so obsessive in wanting revenge for Godzilla. We see it quite clearly here in the beginning of this film.
Then there’s Mechagodzilla itself aka Kiryu. Just an awesome update of a classic Godzilla rogue. I love that finally after making so many darn versions of the machine, that Japan finally gave it a name than just simply call it Mechagodzilla. The design is much sleeker and less bulky than the Heisei version. About the only negative with him would be that he takes up so much damned energy here than why didn’t he in the Heisei series?! Then again, maybe Japan kinda realized how much damned cybernetic beings love betraying their creator and built this as a precaution. Well I guess it pays for their paranoia in this film. I just wish it wouldn’t be as glaring in the climax.
About the only downside would be the real annoying kid character in this piece that misses her mom so much she uses a plant to pass as the real thing. Why this kid hasn’t seen any psychology help makes me wonder if the dad is too cheap or more likely too involved in creating a being in protecting Japan. Then again maybe it’s all a ruse just to get Akane to be with her. Then she’s a damned evil annoying child.
7.) Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
- Remember when I said earlier about my favorite evil alien race? Well here they are in their full glory the alien apes from the Third Planet from the Black Hole! Wait a tec, evil ape-like aliens? DAMNIT! How’d that happen? ARGH! Damn Lord Simian isn’t going to let me live that love for those damned evil primates will he? Ok, sure they originally appeared in the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), but again where so damned entertaining even more so here.
Once more Mechagodzilla is rebuilt and this time learning from their mistake in the previous film have teamed the mechanized beast up with another, Titanosaurus. So its two monsters against Godzilla thus KAIJU HANDICAP MATCH!!
This movie probably has my favorite of the “hero” Godzilla suits and come on the design for Mechagodzilla is retained here and is still awesome. Titanosarus is an alright Kaiju, but damned if his special attack not so stupid. Why couldn’t he have wings or fire breath? Why a friggin tail that could make great winds?
The only negative I can have for this film is that you get the feeling that the film-makers behind this wanted to do another Godzilla film though fate had other ideas. I just wish those damn dirty alien apes got their just reward via Godzilla. Still I guess that’s another reason why this villainous race have endured so well in my heart. It’s the fact they got away than others or in their previous effort.
Oh and if this film has one more good to it would be the epic score done by Akira Ifukube. The techno mixed in with drumbeat is a robust theme for Mechagodzilla. As always with Ifukube’s music it goes great with Godzilla films and would have been his final one if not for Toho to get him to do the Heisei series and probably his greatest Godzilla score, which has yet to be revealed.
6.) Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster (1964)
- Oh come on! You knew the King’s grand debut movie would find a way to slither into my favorite Kaiju movie list. Also it’s Toho’s biggest Kaiju at the time (Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra) taking on the biggest villain they have ever created.
Sure this also was the film to start the whole, “Godzilla is the hero of Japan, not its enemy.” that was a regular part of the Showa series, but here Godzilla is more a neutral presence doing something that only befits himself, and not those puny humans.
The whole plot to get this point fills the meat with some woman thinking she's from Venus or Mars (if you see the American version) fortelling of a Kaiju Apocalypse. Then there's the whole Kaiju chaos that erupts not shortly thereafter with all it heralding to the debut of the foe who would pester Godzilla and Mothra for over forty years now.
Toho does a nice job building up the reputation of Ghidorah being the destroyer of all things and all the other monsters having to band together if they're to beat him. Of course we also have Monster United Nations during all of this. With Mothra the third party trying to get Godzilla and Rodan. I can't but just bust a gut whenever I watch that scene. Its so damn hammy and yet I'm completely buying all of it. Sure this is what started also the lighting of Toho's Kaiju frachinse, but what the hell I know its a cornball movie and I still enjoy it to hell. Yes, Destroy All Monsters was the one who perfected it, but honestly I rather watch this and see Ghidorah vs. three kaiju then the totally unfair ten against one (or is it three if we count the number of heads?) and their space alien allies. There's just something more here than the utter beatdown Ghidorah has there than here.
5.) Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1992)
- Akira Ifukube strikes back! This time with a phenomenal score to a very intriguing film. Never before where the lines of human vs. nature so well drawn out as it is here than it has in previous Godzilla films. This also was to be Ifukube’s final film, but thankfully he got coaxed into doing one more Godzilla movie. However, unlike his previous final effort Terror of Mechagodzilla, here Ifukube goes all out. From the boastful heroic theme of Mechagodzilla, to the return of Rodan’s theme, and of course Godzilla’s theme all out. He even has a nice choral piece in this as well, not seen since the original Gojira.
Its human characters are alright, and honestly I think this is the best use of Miki Saugusa with her being tapped of all things to kill Godzilla. The way Megumi Odaka portrays Miki’s contempt and struggling to do the actual act is quite compelling. Though it does have a sort of hiccup with its main male character and somehow he just so happens to have a dinosaur fetish besides building also happening to be the planes only pilot and creator. It doesn’t have this problem at all in the staging of the action and actual creatures. Everything involving them is nicely paced and just feels perfect.
Even more Godzilla Jr. isn’t like his Showa counterpart, Minya where he isn’t there to provide juvenile humor. He’s there to drive the actual plot of human vs. nature. It’s surprising how anything of the creatures in this is just the right amount and everyone gets a fair showing in this. But of course the real star is Mechagodzilla created in this. Though VERY heavy looking and bulky, the mechanized foe is given a wide variety of weapons in his arsenal than ever before to take on Godzilla. Even more, its main weapon the Plasma beam, delivers a nice final blow to any creature it fights against. You actually get that Japan went out of its way to make the best anti-Godzilla weapon here. All and all it’s just a steady film that just when you feel you’re about to skip bits they insert something to make you watch it.
4.) Godzilla 1985 (1985)
- No matter how much I actually number it, or how damn corny it is in the American version, by God I love this film. Maybe it’s due to being the first Godzilla film I ever saw in a theater. Maybe it’s the nostalgic value I have for this film since after the movie I only saw it a handful of times in the 90s before finally claiming it on VHS in the early 00s.
At its core this film is a VERY dark and sinister edge to it. Gone is the guardian of Japan, back is the primal force of nature once more about to wreck untold havoc across Japan. Even more, there are no other Kaiju found in this flick. Once more Godzilla is the lone Kaiju thus a more solid threat to his human foes. Though his counterparts have prepared a weapon just in case Godzilla reared his radioactive-laced breath again, the Super X, a hover tank that has a weapon that could possibly end the King of the Monsters.
With all this happening, Steve Martin (played acutely negative against humanity by Raymond Burr) must relive the nightmare he once witnessed in Japan almost thirty years ago. Like I said in my review to the Japanese version, sure one of the actors I find utterly annoying and wish someone just punch him, but I’ll be damned if Burr brings his A-game to this movie and in effect a person from the very past who we actually know has dealt with Godzilla before. Those who criticize Burr’s performance need to re-watch him in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1955) and honestly after having dealt with all that you do not that think he be traumatized after that?
Also call me insane, but I still believe even with the Soviets being bad guy-like portrayed and the Americans good guys, that this film has a far more superior beginning and end than the actual original version. Sure there are some cuts to the film, but honestly it never stopped me or others who love this film. Then there’s the score, but again I don’t want to repeat myself since I talked more about it in my review of Return of Godzilla (1984) which you can find here .
Honestly, my love knows no bounds to this movie. So yeah I’m probably blind to its flaws and dubbing plus overlook THE NUMEROUS Dr. Pepper ads. Well too bad! I welcome this placing so high.
3.) Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: All-Out Monster Attack! (2001)
- Toho gives Shusuke Kaneko (aka the dude who directed my #9 entry) now a shot at their biggest Kaiju stars and boy does he score. What he gives us is probably one of the scariest interpretations of Godzilla ever. Sure some call the G’s design here pudgy, but just take one look at his face and you’ll probably go bug eyed and run for your life. Also, other than say then the original and a little bit of our #3 entry this film brings a VERY human face to the disaster Godzilla causes. We see people inside boats or running around get crushed to death. Then there’s the sickly dark humored scene well that I won’t spoil but you can’t help but cringe at the scene and the fact you’re laughing at it.
Besides Godzilla we also get Baragon and of course the obvious two Kaiju in the title. I have to admit it is pretty weird seeing the roles reversed with Ghidorah protecting Earth than destroying it, but hey when the main character (Yuri) describes him ok I buy it then. Plus he has a “friendly” look about him then his usual evil look. Mothra’s appearance here is probably my all time favorite version of the Kaiju. There’s a very elegant look to him here and more insect-like than any previous or future film so far involving him.
Then there are our human characters who’re probably some of the most likeable and ones you care and root to survive Godzilla’s rampage. Speaking of them the two that do the most commendable job is as Chiharu Niiyama as Yuri and Ryūdō Uzaki as her father Admiral Tachibana. Chiharu does a nice job conveying the skeptic at all this weird guardian monster business than slowly find herself a loyal believer. Ryūdō does an admirable job playing a man who knows he’s facing something no current human weapon can harm him, yet he’ll be damned if he’ll keep trying and work on whatever weak spot that’ll be exposed cause of it.
Everything about this film was perfect, save for one thing. Ghidorah has way too many dues ex machina’s to save him after two failed tries. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when the second came, I mean come on did they have to go that way. Still other than that nitpick, this is an awesome film with just a perfect end.
2.) Gojira (1954)
- Yep, the original is still one of THE BEST Kaiju films around. Even if its effects are a bit dated, the story has not at all. With its nice mix of romance, drama, action, and tragedy this film set the rules for every Kaiju film following it. This is a walking natural disaster flick all caused by humanity’s folly with a subplot of a man, Serizawa, struggling with the fact he’s created a weapon worse than the creature ravaging his city.
It is Akihiko Hirata’s portrayal of Serizawa that pulls me in every-time. To watch this man bury such pain of what he’s created and yearn to tell the woman he loves yet who doesn’t repay in kind. Just watching his face sells entirely the scene which he demonstrates the Oxygen Destroyer to his beloved and she recoils in absolute horror. Even more, you can’t help but agree with the guy over the burden and his choices to deal with it and give Japan a fighting chance against the possibly un-killable monster.
Of course Ifukube rears his head again, this time laying the groundwork for all his wondrous scores to Godzilla franchise. This film is so rich with stuff but the notables for me would be his piece when Serizawa listens to the children of Japan sing. Damn does that get me as much as it does the doctor. The same goes for the final musical piece at the climax. The score hits all the right notes as victory over the monster is as tragically sour. To me this is still one of my favorite scores done by Ifukube with only one more coming as close to it.
Then there’s the direction from Ishirō Honda, which perfectly showcases every detail of an act of nature. You really feel for the people whose life is forever changed by the giant monster that wrecks havoc across it. He hits all the right emotional moments and you cannot help but feel more upset than entertained at the disaster Godzilla causes. I still get chills of the aftereffect shot of the city in just utter ruin.
1.) Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995)
- So why does this deserve my top spot of all my favorite Kaiju films of all time? Sure it copies heavily from Aliens, but the central idea to the plot is what drags me fully into this movie from time to time no matter how many times I’ve viewed this film. The idea of Godzilla having a meltdown after consuming too much radiation is an intriguing idea to this series.
Even more, the fact a creature that has evolved from the very weapon that originally killed Godzilla also I find so darn appealing. Everything about this film is top notch. From the fights which are utterly epic and the actual designs of the creatures in this film are all superbly done. The acting is all there and there are plenty of gripping moments to be had here.
There’s no shoehorned love story in here, nor any little kid screaming for Godzilla to protect Japan. The plot to this movie is a very focused one. All its characters are concerned in Godzilla going boom and are trying to find ways of preventing it or lessening the impact. It’s the unpredictably of this film what does it for me. I like the fact that some of the characters in this are somewhat bastards and rather have Godzilla or Godzilla Jr. perish rather than humanity itself. Then there’s Miki who’s still her creature loving self to bring some humanity to humanity.
The uniqueness of this film has in the usual rules of a Godzilla film have been thrown to the curb and we have a new set for only this film. Godzilla is going to die. The question becomes will Destroyah be the one to claim that or will it be the actual radiation? Either way each final second when the climax comes, I just cannot look away from the screen. The action is just so thrilling that I can never press the fast forward button or if I find out this movie is on I will sit down and watch those last minutes no matter what. They’re just that damn good.
Speaking of Godzilla’s opponent Destroyah is just an utter beast. Unlike some other Godzilla foes, Destroyah has a true nasty streak about him. No grudge goes undone here. If you cross Destroyah it will find you again and literally try to destroy you. You might think you beat it and have it leave, but it’ll keep returning when you least expect it. That’s kind of why I think Destroyah truly is the ultimate foe for Godzilla going to levels even King Ghidorah or Showa Mechagodzilla never gone too in ways of villainy. He’s even cut from the same brand as Godzilla, created via from a horrible weapon. Oh and the fact that he dishes out a ton of damage that has never ever been seen Godzilla before. Nor have we’ve seen Godzilla ever blast and claw at a foe with such intensity before.
But most of all is the haunting score by Akira Ifukube, who quite possibly scores probably his finest work in my mind for the final film he was on. Every major Godzilla theme he fills into this film, while also introducing some grand new ones. Then when he lays the final piece upon us (called Requiem in the soundtrack) when Godzilla dies it’s hauntingly beautiful and yet sad. The impact of the scene would have never worked without the majesty of Ifukube. Finally there’s the final image we see in this film which no matter how many times I view it still gives me chills.
So why did this rank higher than the original? Humanity is in the backseat here with it only hoping to lessen the destruction of Godzilla will cause here. It cannot destroy, nor stop the inevitable. Godzilla will meltdown and die. All it can do is pit the beast against a creature born from what killed the giant dinosaur originally. To have to mutated beasts of weaponry just go at it to me brought the series full circle.
So there you have it. My top Fifteen Favorite Kaiju films of all time. You want another Toho month? Then by all means suggest something. I still haven't seen the most recent Kaiju flicks aka Cloverfield (2008) or the Host (2006) by all means I'll take a gander at them. Later this week I return to reviewing movies again. Just which one? See the comments for a hint. Until then I fully prepare for the feedback.