Since 1954, Godzilla has loomed large in popular culture. With 35 cinematic outings under his spines and a 36th (Godzilla vs. Kong) due for release next year, he’s the star of one of the longest-running and most prolific movie franchises ever, thanks to Japanese studio Toho.
One of the best things about Godzilla is that the idea is so simple it can work in almost any context. Across various media, Godzilla has been on sea, land, air, space, and (in one comic series) even the biblical Hell. He’s fought aliens, robots, King Kong, and the Avengers. There’s nothing this mutant monster can’t do.
And to prove it, here are some of crazier things we’ve seen him get up to in his non-Hollywood outings…
Son of Godzilla (1967)
Forget the extremely non-canon Godzooky. If you want a pint-sized Godzilla then the Son of Godzilla, aka Minilla, is the only one we recognize (well, except Godzilla Jr). Son of Godzilla is arguably one of the goofiest Godzilla films of the bunch, and the father-son interactions between the –illa guys is top of the list as to why. Probably the most ridiculous moment in a film that has plenty to choose from is when Godzilla realizes that he can get Minilla to achieve full capacity on his juvenile atomic breath by, er, stomping on his son’s tail. Hey, it was a different time.
Still, nothing in the film can really beat director Jun Fukuda’s reasoning as to why they gave Godzilla a son, saying “we thought it would be a little strange if we gave Godzilla a daughter.” Well, true, but no more so than anything they actually made…
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Sticking with the Shōwa era, this movie sees Godzilla facing the manifestation of mankind’s polluting ways as alien microbe/sea-monster/flying saucer Hedorah makes his presence known. The ability of one of Hedorah’s forms to take flight is a potential problem for the king of the monsters, who thus far had broadly kept both feet (or at least a tail) on the ground. However, utilizing his atomic breath Godzilla managers to propel himself into the air and catch up to Hedorah, allowing him to fight the sludge-monster once and for all.
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Ever wished you know what Godzilla was saying when he belts out those roars? Well, in Godzilla vs. Gigan, the movie helpfully provides a translation. The scene features Godzilla and Anguirus (an Ankylosaurus kaiju) co-ordinating a response to Gigan and King Ghidorah’s attack with one another. In the original version of the film, we get to see some speech bubbles overlaid onto the movie so that the translation can be read.
But if that isn’t nuts enough for you, the dubbed version of the movie, Godzilla On Monster Island (actually a peninsula), has the two monsters actually speaking. With voices and everything.
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Just to prove we’re not going to spend the whole article laughing at the early and intentionally goofy Shōwa movies, here’s some stuff from the Heisei era. In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, humans from the year 2204 (helpfully calling themselves the Futurians) come back to 1992 and claim their plan is to travel further back in time and prevent Godzilla from being created. However, they’ve actually come back to try and prevent Japan’s emergence as a global superpower, and they also plan to kill off Godzilla so that he doesn’t, er, interfere with their plans. Also, they have a UFO.
The whole thing is gloriously nuts, but no more so that the inclusion of time travel in the plot, which was apparently done because director Kazuki Ōmori felt that the reason the previous Godzilla movie, Godzilla vs. Biollante, got crushed at the box office by Back to the Future Part II was because people wanted movies with time travel in. Just think: if he’d taken a different lesson from that, we could have had Godzilla vs. Teen Wolf in 1991 instead. It’s hard to think what would’ve been better.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
The Millennium series of films all take place in their own individual continuities, each loosely forming a sequel to the original Godzilla. However, Godzilla: Final Wars, which ended the Millennium series, brought back many of Godzilla’s friends and foes.
The most surprising guest of this film is the 1998 TriStar Godzilla, who was later given the name “Zilla” to distinguish it from the version people actually care about. It’s not quite the clash of titans you might be expecting, though. The real Godzilla dispatches his western counterpart in about 6 seconds, booting him straight into the Sydney Opera House and then finishing him off with a faceful of atomic breath. Not unreasonable.
Shin Godzilla (2016)
The first Godzilla movie from Toho since 2004, Shin Godzilla returns the franchise to its roots as an entirely standalone cautionary tale against atomic energy – although this case, instead of being about nuclear bombs it’s a take-no-prisoners commentary on the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima disaster from Evangelion mastermind, Hideaki Anno. Arguably the best instalment in the franchise since the original, Shin Godzilla is a completely different beast from most Godzillas – and we mean that in more ways than one.
You see, when Godzilla first makes landfall in this movie, he cuts a swath of destruction through Tokyo before we’ve seen a single scale. Eventually, after a solid build-up, we get a glimpse of the titular destroyer and it turns out to be… a giant googly-eyed eel that looks frankly terrified to be out of the water. It’s a fantastic swerve on our expectations and an early indicator that this movie is going to challenge everything you knew about Godzilla. And if you think that’s weird, wait until you see how many anti-Godzilla subcommittees this movie contains. Turns out bureaucracy is the real monster.