The 10 greatest Godzilla enemies ever
With the latest American Godzilla reboot right around the corner, I feel like waxing nostalgic about one of my great childhood (and, let’s be honest, adulthood) loves: Toho’s Godzilla films.
I could slap together a list of my favourite Godzilla flicks, but that’d just be too easy. Dig a little deeper and ask yourself, what makes a great Godzilla film great? The bad guy.
Godzilla’s pantheon of enemy kaiju is large and long, and even picking your favourites is no easy task. Do you like the cheesy drive-in monsters from the Showa series (Godzilla in the ’60s and ’70s)? Or maybe you’re more into massive, powered-up monstrosities of the 1980s and ’90s Heisei era? The sleek, cgi-enhanced baddies from the Millenium series can’t be ignored either.
Everybody’s tastes are different, but here’s my own take on the top 10 Godzilla enemies of all time.
Honourable Mention. Zilla
First appearance: Godzilla: Final Wars
In an especially gratifying nod to Godzilla fanboys everywhere, 2004′s Godzilla: Final Wars featured a scene where Godzilla (the one we all know and love) actually fights and destroys his counterpart from the disastrous 1998 Hollywood film, named “Zilla” here. Zilla may not have put up much of a fight, but seeing the original king of monsters give Tri-Star such a blatant slap in the face is at least worthy of a mention here, even if Zilla himself didn’t really deserve to make the cut.
Now, on with the true list.
First appearance: Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)
A hideous organism of pure sludge and toxins, Hedorah is a space creature who came to Earth through unknown means, and grew from the human industrial waste of the 1970s.
Hedorahis not your average kaiju. He doesn’t just smash buildings and crush bridges, he pollutes the very air with poisons, choking the Earth as he grows in strength. Hedorah can swim, walk, even fly… somehow. And he’s one ugly son of a Baragon. The toxic sulfuric acid mist he spews melts human flesh and corrodes metal – it even effects the mighty Godzilla.
Sucking down industrial exhaust and drinking polluted water, he grows so powerful, he actually defeats Godzilla in a one on one battle. It takes a collaboration between some human science and Godzilla’s brute power to finally end the sludgy abomination.
Godzilla vs Hedorah, as a film, is pretty terrible. It’s full of all the goofy, nonsensical stuff you’d expect from late Showa Godzilla movies (ie: psychedelic music, Godzilla using his breath to fly, etc.). As a monster though, Hedorah is a deadly foe with a creative origin. Not just another space creature or giant-sized animal, he’s ripe for a reboot in a new Godzilla film.
9. The JSDF
First appearance: Gojira (1954)
The Japanese Self Defence Force. Godzilla’s most common foe by far, and still standing with a record of 0-28.
Generally used as early screen fodder in any given Godzilla flick, the JSDF has thrown more tanks, jets, missiles and soldiers at the beast than any rational person could count. But what would a Godzilla film be without the obligatory shots of Japanese Army vehicles lining up on the coastline, naval ships being toppled and crushed like bathtub toys, and war planes wasting presumably millions of dollars in ordnance against the immortal Kaiju?
As a Godzilla fan, you just have to love the JSDF.
First appearance: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
One of Godzilla’s truly classic foes, Gigan is just as recognizable to fans as more popular enemies like Mothra, Ghidora, and Mechagodzilla. Looking a bit like a cyborg-turkey with a razor blade fetish, he’s cut Godzilla up on more than one occasion.Often playing second-banana to fellow space monster King Ghidorah, Gigan is a hell of a lot more badass than he gets credit for.
In Toho’s latest Godzilla film, ‘Final Wars, he gets a sleek black cyberpunk makeover, trading his hook blade hands for double chainsaws.Yes you read that right, he had chainsaws for hands.Why exactly Gigan ultimately became the appetizer to King Ghidorah’s entree, we’ll never know. But he’s beloved all the same.
7. The Super-X
First appearance: Godzilla 1985 (The Return of Godzilla)
During the ’60s and ’70s, Godzilla fought dozens of enemies, from the smog monster Hedorah to children’s TV icon Jet Jaguar, in films that generally got progressively sillier as the years went by. For his return-to-roots reboot in 1985, he faced a very different kind of enemy: the JSDF’s ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon. The Super-X.
Equipped with heat resistant armour and an array of future-tech weapons, including “masers” and anti-radiation cadmium missiles, the Super-X was a manned aerial combat machine designed to be humanity’s greatest weapon against the beast.
What I love about the Super-X is its machine-ness, its lack of personality as a villain. Godzilla enemies, even the mechanical ones, are generally monsters of some description. Sometimes evil, sometimes good,but always with a personality and flavour of their own. But the Super-X? It’s simply a cold, dead machine. The sum total of so many armoured panels, wires and weapons. In keeping with Godzilla 1985′s dark and dour tone, it’s fitting that humanity should combat the ultimate force of nature with the dead soul of technology.
First appearance: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
While a laughable plot and uneven special effects made Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla arguably the worst of the Heisei era Godzilla films, it’s not without its merits. Spacegodzilla himself is one badass mother monster.
Created when black hole radiation mutates Godzilla’s DNA (left floating in space by either Mothra or Biollante), he’s is essentially an uglier, meaner version of his Earthly counterpart, with some giant crystals for shoulders and a golden…horn…thing. Oh, and a radiation-beam blocking force shield. And lightning powers.
It’s like Toho just took the basic Godzilla design and said, ‘how much cool-for-the-sake-of-cool, sci-fi crap can we slap on this guy?’
One of Godzilla’s most memorable and powerful foes, the mighty Spacegodzilla remains a fan favourite 20 years after he first descended from the heavens.
First appearance: Godzilla vs Destroyah (1995)
The mighty Destroyah, Godzilla’s final Heisei foe, is on this list for one reason and one reason only: he killed Godzilla.
Well, more accurately, Godzilla died directly following his battle with Destroyah, due to a complete nuclear meltdown.But it’s still a landmark occurrence.
A Precambrian creature mutated by the unintended side effects of the oxygen destroyer — the only weapon ever effectively used to kill Godzilla, in his 1954 debut — Destroyah is an evil shade from the past, come back to haunt The King of Monsters. One that, like it’s technological progenitor, seems destined to end Godzilla. The two do battle in the epic final film of the Heisei series, a movie filled with death, special effects and melodrama.
In the Heisei era of bigger-than-big monsters, Destroyah stands quite literally head and shoulders above the rest. At 120 metres tall, he makes even Godzilla seem small by comparison.
First appearance: Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla
What better to fight the ultimate force of nature, than the ultimate machine?
Forged in steel rather than flesh, Mechagodzilla is The King of Monsters through a glass, darkly. Throughout the three ages of Godzilla (Showa, Heisei, and Millennium) Mechagodzilla has been a staple enemy of the Big G. Every generation he gets more powerful, more unstoppable, and closer to his flesh and blood counterpart.
In the latest string of Toho Godzilla films, he’s actually built around the bones of the first Godzilla, who was destroyed in Gojira (1954).
First appearance: Mothra (1961)
Perhaps the most famous kaiju aside from The King of Monsters himself, Mothra is like the calm, bright yin to Godzilla’s angry, dark yang. Beginning life as the subject of a serialized novel in the 1950s, she has appeared in more of Toho’s monsters films than any other kaiju,save for Godzilla himself.
Shrouded in a fog of environmental mysticism, Mothra is often depicted as a kind of ancient guardian of the planet Earth and mother nature. When a threat appears, be it greedy businessmen looking to exploit the environment or a killer asteroid headed to Earth, so does she. If Godzilla is nature’s revenge, Mothra is its mercy.
First appearance: Godzilla vs Biollante
On paper, a giant killer rose with fangs sounds like pretty much the worst Godzilla enemy imaginable. But on celluloid, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Godzillavs Biollante is one of the finest film of the Heisei era, and perhaps my favourite Godzilla flick of all time. Biollante herself is a heavily mutated carnivorous specimen of flora created by splicing Godzilla’s own DNA with that of a rose, and human being. The result is an ever-growing monstrous plant creature, with the psychic mind of a woman. Godzilla’s two battles with Biollante are an epic masterclass in lighting, special effects and model work.
With her regenerative properties, massive tentacled form, and “diamond-melting” acid, she’s no push over either. Unique, memorable, and powerful, Biollante deserves, in my opinion, a much higher place among the great Godzilla enemies than she usually gets.
1. King Ghidora
First appearance: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
The name says it all: King Ghidorah. The most menacing, the most dangerous, and the most destructive recurring foe in any series or era, Ghidorah is an other-worldly force of malice in the form of the iconic three-headed golden dragon.
You may have noticed a trend in the last few entries on this list. All the high ranking monsters have at least one thing in common: They’re shades or mirrors of Godzilla in some way or another. Whether it’s his form and image (Mechagodzilla), his guardianship of Earth as a force of nature (Mothra), or his very genetic structure (Biollante), they all reflect him in some way. But not Ghidorah.
Ghidorah serves to bring out the “good” in Godzilla. When the dragon descends to Earth, usually under the thrall of some jumpsuit-wearing mono-visored aliens, Godzilla is compelled stop his own ongoing destruction of the human race… and defend them instead. In the face of the foreign invader, Godzilla inevitably protects the people (or perhaps just Earth itself, depending on your philosophical views on the kaiju).
That’s the appeal of King Ghidorah — a thing so monstrous, it brings out the humanity in The King of Monsters.