The 10 Most Iconic Godzilla Movie Moments
Standing 400 feet tall (or whatever measurement you think is canon), Toho’s legendary monster Godzilla has had some pretty epic cinematic adventures. From his times as a baddie to being a champion of small children to even being a devoted father, this atomic breath-spewing lizard has quite the resume. And with his new flick, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stomping into multiplexes soon, it’s about time we give some love, respect, and rawrs of victory to this iconic creature.
With this list, we’ll attempt to cover the greatest of highs, the lowest of lows, and the strangest of the strange when it comes to Godzilla’s 65 plus year history of celluloid domination. With a mixture of fan favorites, along with some underrated gems, these selections are all here to prove the pop culture significance of this titan, and why his return to the big screen (regardless of its quality) should always be celebrated in some way.
So, without further ado, here’s our Most Iconic Godzilla Movie Moments!
Godzilla Victory Dancing (Monster Zero)
Once in while, a Godzilla film will produce an image that is such a perfect, wacky blend of fantasy and reality that it never leaves your mind. Such a visual comes in the midst of Monster Zero, a film that is notable for quite a few things: it has aliens in shiny jumpsuits, the one and only Godzilla battle taking place outside of Earth, the great and all powerful King Ghidorah, the always awesome Rodan, and, oh yeah, a Manga-inspired victory dance.
Popularized within the pages of the Osomatsu-kun manga by Fujio Akatsuka, the character known as Iyami would strike a pose (whenever he was surprised or caught off guard) that would electrify Japanese pop culture for decades and generations to come. A fan of the manga and the pose was the legendary actor Yoshio Tsuchiya, who desperately wanted to have Godzilla strike an Iyami style victory dance within the film. This lead special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya to incorporate it after Godzilla defeats Ghidorah, even though the film’s director Ishirô Honda hated it.
Does such a scene make a ton of sense? No. But did it leave just as much of a cultural impact as the original “shê” pose did? I would debate it did, and perhaps even more so than the element that inspired it, but that’s for another article at another time. Instead, let’s just all smile at the fact that we can watch the King of the Monsters celebrate his victories with pride on celluloid for the rest of cinematic time.
Godzilla Tail Kick (Godzilla vs. Megalon)
The Godzilla films are no stranger to breaking the laws of both monster and human physics. Whenever it happens, there’s always a wink to the audience – the kind that lets us know from that filmmakers that yes, indeed this is insane, but who cares! You’re watching a 400 foot tall lizard on screen, so leave your logistics at home on the kitchen counter! Yet, there’s one moment that truly defies even the most nonsensical of moments, and it happens within Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Fighting a bomb-spitting monster such as Megalon is tough, especially when your buddy helping in battle is a size-changing robot (who doesn’t do much to aid in your movie other than supply a catchy theme song.) So when the going gets tough, you gotta break out the big guns – or should I say, prop the entire weight of your body onto your tail and kick the monster real hard. And that’s exactly what our brave atomic breathing hero does and it’s a sight for the ages.
War Veteran vs. Godzilla (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah)
In the film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, we get a glimpse into (a version of) Godzilla’s origin. According to this film’s script, Godzilla was originally a dinosaur found on an island in 1944, who protected a group of Japanese soldiers during the war. One of those in said group was Yasuaki Shindo (played by the previously mentioned Yoshio Tsuchiya), who feels a deep connection to the creature, believing he is in debt to it for its actions.
So flash-forward to the present, where we witness Godzilla returning to Tokyo. Shindo is now a successful businessman, who continues to have flashbacks to his interactions with the Godzillasaurus. But the Godzilla who is stomping people like bugs isn’t the same one Shindo met those many years ago due to a (slightly confusing) time travel aspect. So when the King of the Monsters arrives in front of Shindo’s office, the veteran still believes the two have a bond.
This leads to one of the best edited scenes in all of Godzilla history, where Shindo retraces his decisions that led him to this moment, only to have them all be squashed in a matter of seconds. It is the kind of tension and build up that is deserved in all of the Godzilla films, but is often neglected in favor of a monster mash, which isn’t bad, but just doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Yes, these are silly monster flicks, but they can still leave an impact on audiences.
Godzilla final move on the MUTOs (Godzilla 2014)
Though Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla from 2014 isn’t exactly a masterpiec, it certainly has its moments. Sure, it takes way too long for the titular character to arrive on screen, and Edwards makes the choice to cut away from what could arguably be the coolest parts of the movie to instead focus on the human reactions, but at least he saved much of the best for last, including a specific fight sequence between Godzilla and the MUTOs.
In the scene, American soldiers (including Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) come down to the ground attempting to disarm a warhead, and are caught in the brawl between Godzilla and the male and female MUTOs. The battle continues to rage on, and the soldiers (as they usually are in most Godzilla films) are seeming unsuccessful at their mission. In a last attempt to save the day, Brody tries to escape with the warhead via boat, but is caught by the MUTOs. As the monster is about to strike, Godzilla comes from behind, grabs its head, cracks its jaw, allowing him to force all his atomic breath down MUTOs’ throat.
From the stunning camera angles, the excellently crafted sound design, triumphant score and the image just being all levels of metal, this moment is a shining light in an otherwise somewhat bland Godzilla entry. It easily is the best thing about this new incarnation of Godzilla so far.
Monster X (Godzilla: Final Wars)
Godzilla: Final Wars is easily one of the silliest films in the 30-plus film franchise. It has tons mutants doing kung fu action sequences, aliens that come down in (as Cinemassacre once described it) an Epcot’s Spaceship Earth style spacecraft, MMA fighter Don Frye trying his hand at acting, and (almost) every single monster from Toho’s catalog battling it out with Godzilla. Sure, this movie isn’t Destroy All Monsters, but for what was promised as both an anniversary movie and the last film to close out the Millennium era of Godzilla, it checked all the boxes.
But the biggest and most confident of these checks belongs in the category of surprises, this one involving a “mysterious” monster sent down via a meteor to earth, known only as Monster X. Is this a brand new foe for Godzilla? It seems like it could be at first, with a slick humanoid design, but there’s definitely something familiar about it. Spoiler Alert: it’s King Ghidora, a surprise that acts as a fantastic closing chapter to one of the most epic arcs in Godzilla’s history.
Godzilla’s Tail (Shin Godzilla)
When you hire the legendary Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) to direct a Godzilla movie, you are in for one heck of a ride. And Anno truly delivered, giving audiences haunting moments that’ll leave them thinking more than any other Godzilla film has before. But with the final shot of the film, not only did Anno achieve a terrifying entry in the series, but one of the most deliciously scary monster films to come out in decades.
Throughout the film, we have seen that this incarnation of Godzilla can evolve over time, changing his size and shape and adapting to new environments. But after being defeated by being frozen solid by the military, Godzilla’s body stands still in the streets of Tokyo. As the camera pans up, we see Godzilla’s tail and it is evident that humanoid creatures were about to be born from Godzilla’s tail. Perhaps the next step in evolution? Or maybe a deeper visual message that human might create the monsters, they will eventually become them?
Those are the kinds of questions that have left many a fan drooling for answers since the film’s release, but since Toho isn’t allowed to make a Shin Godzilla sequel until after 2020, the answer for what this all means will have to wait for quite some time.
Godzilla “dies” (Godzilla Vs. DESTROYAH)
When your hero is dying on screen, it can be hard to watch. But when it is an icon of cinema taking a heart-wrenching bow… well, I’m gonna need more than a typical box of tissues for this one. That’s definitely the case with the death of Godzilla in Godzilla Vs. DESTROYAH, a film with a silly title that still contains one of the most, if not the most, important scene in all of the franchise.
In the film, Godzilla’s heart is essentially a nuclear reactor that is in the midst of a meltdown. With every step he takes, he’s closer to becoming the kind of bomb that created him. Poetic? You’re damn right. But he seems to be handling such a situation pretty okay, or that is until he finishes his epic battle with the demonic Destroyah, which causes his meltdown to speed up in rapid succession. The military launches freeze weapons at him, trying to cool him down. And as he slowly dies, his energy gets passed off to his son, Godzilla Junior, allowing him to grow into the new King of the Monsters.
This is a fitting, yet bittersweet end for the movie monster, and though it wouldn’t be his last appearance on screen, it is still a moment that tugs at the heartstrings. Between the somber tone of it all, the musical score, and the credits that use footage from the first Godzilla film, Toho really knew how to get the waterworks flowing. Pair all of that with the insane global marketing campaign of this being the end for the famous character, and you got yourself a recipe for nerdy heartbreak.
Godzilla vs. Powerline (Godzilla, 1954)
This list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the OG, the original 1954 classic Godzilla. This is the one that started it all and without it, and the “rules” it set, we wouldn’t have the classic 400 foot titan (and all his flicks) that we have today. With its serious tones, messages about the horrors of nuclear weapons, and its groundbreaking special effects, it truly is a special movie that changed the game for both special effects and cinema overall.
With that in mind, that’s why out of any of the moments from this landmark movie, the one in which Godzilla is attacked by the military is by far the favorite of this writer, mostly because it leads to one of the most iconic and impressive series of images within the film. After crawling out of the ocean, Godzilla walks towards a powerline, and the military plan to defeat him by attacking him with both an electrical surge and various other weapons. But in true Godzilla style, things don’t exactly go according to plan.
Though maybe not as impressive as future destruction/battle sequences in the proceeding Godzilla films, no matter how many times you see it, the thought of how much time and energy it took for director Ishiro Honda, actor Haruo Nakajima (the guy in the suit) and the rest of the talented individuals that tediously put all of their (literal) sweat and tears into the project.
Zilla vs. Godzilla (Godzilla: Final Wars)
Final Wars delivers some pretty incredible “fanboy” moments. One of those comes when we see a certain version Godzilla come into join the fun…or at least, briefly joining before getting his lizard butt handed to him.
In the scene, one of the enemy aliens sends down Zilla (the American version of the character from the infamously awful Roland Emmerich 1998 film) to face the much taller, and obviously better, Godzilla. The alien seems confident of who will win, and with the very “killer” soundtrack (which seems to come straight from a low quality Anime Music Video from that time), his wish is not granted, as in a matter of under 50 seconds, Zilla is killed in only two moves by the true King of the Monsters.
I’m sure that many American fans of the iconic Toho character will agree: this was the outcome we all could have seen coming from a mile away. The fact that a Japanese Godzilla film even acknowledged the existence of this embarrassment from the west was truly astonishing, and with Godzilla’s flick of his tail, we could all breath a sigh of relief that maybe we’d never have to think about Zilla ever again. And with the much improved Legendary Pictures take on the character, now we have a Godzilla that could at least stand a chance in a fight.
King Ghidorah Gets Stomped (Destroy All Monsters)
You really can’t make a Godzilla list without mentioning what is still the greatest monster rumble on celluloid. Even more so than Final Wars, Destroy All Monsters has all the greats, and gives them all their moment to shine. Rodan, Anguirus, Minillia, Gorosaurus, King Ghidorah – you name it and that classic monster is likely here.
But out of all the battles, attacks, and roars of victory, none of them come close to the moment in which the all mighty King Ghidorah gets a taste of his own three-headed medicine. With a shot of his atomic breath, Godzilla lays down the law on this titan, showing him who’s boss. Then with the help of Anguirus and a few other monster pals, they all give it what they got.
It was as if Toho realized how much of a jerk Ghidorah is towards the rest of the monsters, and decided that it was time to let some much needed justice be served. And though it is quite the silly image, with some very odd effects issues here and there, the sentiment and the adrenaline of the moment still makes it an incredible rumble.
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