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For over sixty years, Godzilla has been the biggest movie star in the world. Literally. He’s got a good 294 feet on Finding Nemo’s Brad Garrett, and that guy’s like 6'8". But while the G-man has been in more than thirty movies and over forty video games during his storied career—not to mention a memorable stint as one of Miranda’s boyfriends on Sex in the City—he’s still something of an enigma wrapped in a riddle wearing a rubber suit.
With a new Godzilla game coming out today on PS3 and PS4, I thought it might be helpful to compile the following list of eight essential Godzilla movies to watch before you pick up that controller.
8. ’GODZILLA: FINAL WARS’
Godzilla: Final Wars is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best movie the green giant ever made. It’s not even in the top ten. But if you’re gearing up to play a Godzillagame, then this flick—the last before he took a ten year sabbatical to study Zen meditation and take up vaping—is the best place to begin.
Why? Because like the game, Final Wars has Godzilla fighting more than a dozen of his fellow monsters, including Mothra, Hedorah, Rodan, Gigan, and even the imposter from the 1998 American-made Godzilla movie. Speaking of which…
While the 1998 Godzilla-in-name-only movie was an unmitigated disaster—and not just because Jimmy Page allowed Puffy Diddy to desecrate a Led Zeppelin song for it—Godzilla was ready and willing to end his lengthy sabbatical when the script for this American-made movie came across his desk.
And while he’s not in it as much as he, his fans, or his wife, Morgan Fairchild, would’ve liked, it was still a spectacular comeback that showed that, even at 60, Godzilla can still hold his own against monsters, actors, and Olsons of any size or caliber.
6. ‘DESTROY ALL MONSTERS’
A spiritual precursor to Final Wars, this classic monster movie also boasted an all-star cast for Godzilla to wail on.
In fact, the movie—which co-stars Mothra, Rodan, Anguirus, Kumonga, and King Ghidorah—was originally made to be the last Godzilla movie, a gargantuan send-off for an actor who, at the time, was about to celebrate his twenty-fifth year in film. Though we all know how that turned out.
5. ‘GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH’
Like Woody Allen, Godzilla’s best movies were his earlier, funny ones. But sometimes, even deep into his career, he’s able to get some of that old magic back.
In Godzilla Vs. King Gidorah, for instance, he once again battles the three-headed, dragon-looking lizard from space, and while it’s not as good as their earlier sparring matches, it still has its moments. Especially the one where a soldier yells at him, “Take that, you dinosaur!” like it’s a common day occurrence to see a giant lizard walking around Tokyo. Oh, right.
4. ‘KING KONG VS. GODZILLA’
While his first movie and its sequel, 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again, pitted him against puny humans, the original O.G. first went monster-a-monster in this epic battle royale. In it, King Kong is captured and brought to Japan to star in a reality TV show, only to be sent back home when authorities realize the damage he could cause to the country.
But when Godzilla shows up and starts trashing the place, Kong’s civil pride gets the best of him and he jumps off the ramp and makes a beeline for the big lizard. Needless to say, hilarity ensues…assuming you find mass destruction of model buildings funny.
3. ‘GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH’ A.K.A. ‘GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER’
While Godzilla has fought many strange creatures in his day—including a giant moth (Mothra), a giant lobster (Ebirah), and a giant praying mantis (Kamacuras)—the oddest but also most ecologically-relevant is Hedorah, the walking pile of sludge he battled in this allegorical monster mash.
Which, as anyone who’s ever had to clean up after their kids will tell, is not a fight that’s easily won.
2. ‘BAMBI MEETS GODZILLA’
A match made in Heaven—literally; the two stars came up with the idea for this short while enjoying martinis in an old Hollywood bar called Heaven—this bit of classic animation shows why you should never stiff the G-man when it comes to the drink tab.
Oh, and just so you know, no animated deer were harmed in the making of this movie. You can watch it here.
The original and still champion, Gojira—which was his stage name before he changed it to Godzilla—features the first time he went to Tokyo to get some ramen, accidentally knocked over a building, and got chased out of town by some people who had just read Frankenstein.
Just make sure you see the original version, not the American version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, in which they Forrest Gumped in footage of Raymond Burr for some reason. Y'know, because if a giant lizard attacks a Japanese city, who better to show up but Perry Mason.
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.
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