By EVAN MILLAR
With Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ GODZILLA VS. KONG premiering tomorrow, it’s a great opportunity to look back at some of the best beatdowns to be found in Godzilla’s nearly 70-year cinematic history. From the Showa Era right through to Legendary’s MonsterVerse, here’s an overview of some of the toughest skirmishes that the radioactive reptile has gotten himself into.
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962)
It makes the most sense to begin with the original clash between these titans, so let’s do just that. A pairing of monumental proportions in the world of kaiju cinema, director Ishiro Honda’s massively successful film marked Kong’s first appearance in the Toho universe and both monster’s premiere in colour. In terms of battles, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA features some truly stupendous visuals, especially in its climax on Mt. Fuji. Godzilla gives a thrashing to Kong with a slew of tail-slaps to his head, one hell of a flying dropkick, and is poised to send off Kong with a fiery death via his atomic breath. Still, the big ape has plenty of moments of greatness such as choking Godzilla by shoving a tree in his mouth and hurling giant boulders on his fallen foe. Kong also comes across as the victor as the final credits roll, reinvigorated by a bolt of lightning and emerging from an aquatic scrap while Godzilla remains unseen.
GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)
Just as in Legendary’s GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, Godzilla had to enlist the help of Rodan and Mothra to defeat the sinister King Ghidorah in this classic entry from the Showa Era. An ancient extraterrestrial menace that’s hot on the heels of destroying Venus and its inhabitants, Ghidorah is easily the strongest enemy Godzilla had faced up until this point. Godzilla triumphs thanks to Rodan’s clever strategy at a pivotal moment in the fight, when a larval Mothra is hoisted up into the air, spraying its web to blind the monster while Godzilla clings to his two thrashing tails.
GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971)
After laying a smackdown on the first form of Hedorah, a toxic alien organism that feeds on pollution, Godzilla definitely meets his match by the final confrontation at the end of this underrated entry in the Showa Era. Morphing into an acid-spraying UFO-shaped terror before achieving its upright humanoid form, Hedorah manages to take out one of Godzilla’s eyes and nearly burns off his hand in the climactic struggle. But, just when you think it’s over, Godzilla digs his claws into Hedorah’s carcass and scatters his innards to the wind in a brutal display of power unmatched in any of his films up to this point.
THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)
Godzilla and MechaGodzilla are already one hell of a matchup, but when you add Titanosaurus into the mix and sprinkle it with the darker tone of Honda’s last Showa film, it’s a recipe for one of the most intense fights ever. Titanosaurus really does a number on the King in this battle, biting his face and flinging him around like a dog with a chew toy. It’s a vicious skirmish even by modern kaiju film’s standards, with every subsequent moment making it seem like Godzilla might not make it out alive.
GODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA (1994)
This film might be a little weak conceptually, but the final battle between these titans is still thrilling thanks to explosive energy beam exchanges and city-wide destruction. SpaceGodzilla makes mincemeat out of the King thanks to his telekinetic powers and immense size, easily making him one of the strongest kaiju created by Toho. This mutant clone from space keeps Godzilla busy with a steady stream of crystal projectiles, until M.O.G.U.E.R.A. joins the fight, splitting into Land Moguera and Star Falcon, the former burrowing underground and taking out Fukuoka Tower’s foundations to rob SpaceGodzilla of his power source.
GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995)
The Heisei Era concluded on a truly grand scale with a full-circle moment that paid tribute to the original 1954 film’s final moments. Created by the oxygen-destroyer that was used to defeat Godzilla when he first emerged from the depths of the Pacific, Destoroyah’s design looks like an unholy union of all of the series’ most powerful foes fused into one absolutely terrifying kaiju. Grieving the death of his son by Destoroyah’s hands, the dying Godzilla is pushed to his limits while on the brink of atomic meltdown resulting in what is undoubtedly a series high-note.
GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004)
Even though the Showa era’s ALL MONSTERS ATTACK featured a pretty stacked matchup of kaiju greats, the Millenium Era took the concept to an entirely new level with FINAL WARS. Pretty much every monster you can possibly imagine makes an appearance here – logic be damned. It’s utterly ridiculous in the best way possible, and even the 1998 American Godzilla (now rebranded by Toho as “Zilla”) pops up briefly just to be smacked into the Sydney Opera House and killed instantly. Good riddance!
Gareth Edwards’ take on Godzilla wasn’t loved by everyone, but it’s hard to argue that it didn’t do a phenomenal job of capturing the King’s identity after the very confused 1998 film. Returning to his rightful role as an ambivalent force of nature, this Godzilla faces off against the male and female MUTOs in a final battle that is made all the more powerful thanks to Edwards’ conservative use of his overall screen time. That, and you know, the absolutely devastatingly badass use of Godzilla’s atomic breath fired directly into the MUTO’s gaping mouth, beheading the insectoid kaiju in the process.
SHIN GODZILLA (2016)
Although there aren’t any other kaiju in Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s SHIN GODZILLA, the confrontation between Godzilla and Japan’s military forces is one of the most shocking moments in the entire series thanks to the film’s fresh take on both Godzilla’s origin and his classic abilities. What at first seems like just another atomic breath attack transforms into an explosion of laser beams from Godzilla’s spikes, disintegrating every fighter jet in the surrounding area. It’s a jaw-dropping moment in a masterful film that manages to inject some terror back into the long-running Toho series.
Time will tell whether or not GODZILLA VS. KONG’s fights can take a spot on this list, though if the film’s trailers are any indication, it’s looking as though the odds are good. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ GODZILLA VS. KONG will be released nationwide in 2D and 3D in select theaters and IMAX on March 31, 2021 and will be available in the U.S. on HBO Max for 31 days from theatrical release.