Godzilla (ゴジラ?) is a popular series of giant monster films, games, comics, toys, and any licensed products featuring the character GojiraGodzilla. Starting in 1954, the Godzilla series has become the longest running film series in movie history.
The first film, Godzilla, was first released in the United States in 1955 in Japanese-American communities only. In 1956, it was adapted by an American company into Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, edited and with added principal scenes featuring Raymond Burr. This version became an international success and gave rise to Godzilla's popularity outside of Japan.
The original Godzilla was greatly inspired by the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong, and the 1953 success of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Godzilla would go on to inspire other giant monster films such as Gorgo, Gamera, Cloverfield, and many others.
The Godzilla series is generally broken into three eras reflecting a characteristic style and corresponding to the same eras used to classify all tokusatsu kaiju film in Japan. The first two eras refer to the Japanese emperor during production: the Showa era, and the Heisei era. The third is called the Millennium era as it was still released during the political Heisei era, but these films are considered to have a different style and storyline than the prior era. The in-production trilogy of American Godzilla films by Legendary Pictures is considered its own new era and is often called the Legendary era. Toho's upcoming 2016 Japanese Godzilla film will signal the start of another new film era.
Showa Series (1954–1975)
The initial series of movies is named for the Showa era in Japan (as all of these films were produced before Emperor Hirohito's death in 1989). This Showa timeline spanned from 1954, with Godzilla, to 1975, with Terror of MechaGodzilla. With the exceptions of the first few films in the series, much of the Showa series is relatively light-hearted. Starting with Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla began evolving into a more human and playful antihero (this transition was complete by Son of Godzilla, where he is shown as a good character), and as years went by, he evolved into an anthropomorphic superhero. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was also significant for introducing Godzilla's archenemy and the main antagonist of the series, King Ghidorah. The films Son of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack were aimed at youthful audiences, featuring the appearance of Godzilla's son, Minilla. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla was notable for introducing Godzilla's robotic arch foe and secondary villain of the movie series MechaGodzilla. The Showa series saw the addition of many monsters into the Godzilla continuity, two of which (Mothra and Rodan) had their own solo movies. All of the Godzilla films in the Showa series are part of a single continuity (with the exception of All Monsters Attack, which is set in the "real world"), with Destroy All Monsters being the last film chronologically, being set at the close of the 20th century (explicitly identified as 1999 in the international and American versions). While all of the films share continuity, explicit references to previous entries are few and far between, and are usually restricted to only the film directly before.
Heisei Series (1984–1995)
The Godzilla series was rebooted and revamped in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla, following a nine-year hiatus after Terror of MechaGodzilla. The Return of Godzilla was created as a direct sequel to the 1954 film, and ignores the continuity of the Shōwa series. Because of this, the original Godzilla movie is considered part of the Heisei series as well as being a part of the Showa series. This series ended with 1995's Godzilla vs. Destoroyah after a run of seven films. The Godzilla of the Heisei series was portrayed as a much more vicious and destructive force than in the latter Showa series, though he retained a mostly anti-heroic role and by the series end was once again raising an adoptive son. The biological nature and science behind Godzilla became a much more discussed issue in the films, as well as the morality of scientific issues such as genetic engineering. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah gave the first concrete onscreen origin story for Godzilla, featuring a Godzillasaurus that was mutated by radiation into Godzilla.
Millennium Series (1999–2004)
The Millennium series is the official term for the series of Godzilla movies, made after the Heisei series ended with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. While Toho had originally intended for their series to go on a ten-year hiatus following Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, the poor reception of TriStar Pictures' 1998 American Godzilla film convinced Toho to bring the series out of retirement early in 1999 with Godzilla 2000: Millennium. The common theme to this era is that all movies use Godzilla (1954) as the jumping-off point and do not share continuity with each other aside from the films Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.. Since the films' continuities are different, Godzilla's size sometimes varies between films. Godzilla's most prominent size in this series is 55 meters (180 feet). In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack he was 60 meters (about 196 feet), and in Godzilla: Final Wars he was 100 meters tall (about 328 feet). Godzilla was originally supposed to be 50 meters (about 164 feet) in Final Wars, but budgetary cutbacks in miniature sets forced this size change.
Post-Millennium Series (2016–)
Following the close of the Millennium series in 2004, Toho announced it would place the series on hiatus for ten years in order to renew interest. During this time, Toho reached an agreement with American studio Legendary Pictures to produce a new American Godzilla film, which was released in 2014. The film proved successful, convincing Toho now was a good time to produce a new Godzilla film. Toho's new film, Godzilla: Resurgence, will be released to Japanese theaters on July 29, 2016. It will not be counted as part of the Millennium series, and may signal the start of an entirely new series.
Aside from the 28 (soon to be 29) official entries produced by Toho Company Ltd., American studios have attempted to produce Godzilla films over the years. Though some of these films did not ever see release, there have been two official American-made Godzilla films as of 2016: TriStar Pictures' GODZILLA in 1998, and Legendary Pictures' Godzilla in 2014. Legendary's Godzilla has two sequels currently in production.
Unmade American Films
- Main article: U.S.-Japan Collaboration: Godzilla.
After the Godzilla series went on hiatus following Terror of MechaGodzilla in 1975, Toho considered various projects to revive the series. Henry G. Saperstein, chief of UPA Productions and known for his collaboration with Toho on films such as Invasion of Astro-Monster and Frankenstein vs. Baragon, proposed a joint production between Toho and an American studio to produce a new Godzilla film with a relatively large projected budget of $6 million. Saperstein's friend Reuben Bercovitch was set to write a script for the film with Toho even including the project in their 1978 lineup, but it failed to progress past the planning stages. It has been speculated that the film would have featured Godzilla battling one of the Gargantuas from War of the Gargantuas, which Saperstein also produced, but there is no confirmation of this.
- Main article: Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3-D.
The first talk of an American version of Godzilla was when director Steve Miner pitched his own take to Toho in 1983. "The idea was to do a Godzilla film as if it was the first one ever done, a big-budget American special FX movie." Miner said. "Our Godzilla would have been a combination of everything - man-in-suit, stop-motion and other stuff." Fred Dekker had written the screenplay. "We had a big Godzilla trying to find its baby. It's a bit of a Gorgo storyline. The big ending has Godzilla destroying San Francisco. The final Godzilla death scene was to be on Alcatraz Island." Toho and Warner Bros. were said to be very interested in Miner's take but it eventually became too expensive, with no studio willing to back it.
- Main article: Godzilla (1994 film).
In 1992, Toho sold the film rights to Godzilla to Sony Pictures Entertainment, allowing it to produce a trilogy of American-made Godzilla films. Sony designated the project to their subsidiary TriStar Pictures, who hired Ted Eliott and Terry Rossio to write a screenplay. The screenplay featured Godzilla taking on an alien beast known as the Gryphon, with the final battle taking pace in New York. Jan De Bont, fresh off his success directing Speed, signed on to direct the film, with Stan Winston Studios contracted to provide the creature effects. Ultimately, studio executives were unwilling to agree with the budget De Bont wanted for the film, forcing him to drop out of the project. Rewrites were performed to reduce the budget, but the studio was unable to find directors willing to take on the project. Ultimately, this draft was discarded when TriStar brought in Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, who decided to take the production in an entirely different direction.
- Main article: Godzilla 2 (Unmade 1998 film sequel).
Ever since it had acquired the rights to the Godzilla franchise from Toho in 1992, Sony intended to produce a trilogy of American Godzilla films. Following the theatrical release of TriStar Pictures' GODZILLA in 1998, TriStar immediately began work on GODZILLA 2. The film had been a financial success, earning over three times its budget, but it still performed below the studio's expectations and was met with almost universal backlash from fans and critics. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were brought back to work on the sequel, while Tab Murphy wrote a screenplay for the film. The screenplay featured the lone offspring of the original Godzilla imprinting on Niko Tatopoulos and relocating to the Australian outback to raise its young, where it is hounded by the American military and a giant insect named the Queen Bitch. Ultimately, TriStar could not come to a budget agreement with Emmerich, who dropped out to direct The Patriot instead. Sony and TriStar eventually abandoned the proposed sequel altogether, believing it would not be as profitable as the first film due to a lack of enthusiasm from moviegoers and interest from retailers.
- Main article: Godzilla Reborn.
Following TriStar Pictures' American theatrical release of Toho's Godzilla 2000: Millennium, Mike Schlesinger, who had produced the American version of the film, became interested in producing an American-made sequel to the film, as Toho had been very complimentary of his edit to Godzilla 2000. Schlesinger approached the head of production at TriStar's partner studio, Columbia Pictures, and proposed a sequel to Godzilla 2000 to be made with traditional man-in-suit special effects and a projected budget of $20 million. Schlesinger was asked to write a screenplay for the film, which featured Godzilla battling a creature called Miba in Hawaii. Toho approved the screenplay after asking Schlesinger to change Godzilla being killed in the film to being placed in a coma, but Columbia's new head of production claimed the studio was not interested in such a low-budget film, sealing its fate.
Untitled Godzilla Reboot
Following the abandonment of the sequels to Roland Emmerich's 1998 GODZILLA and the rejection of Mike Schlesinger's Godzilla Reborn, Sony held onto the rights to Godzilla until 2003, at which point they would expire unless Sony released a new film. In the aftermath of the backlash to it and TriStar's first take on an American Godzilla, Sony realized that it would be best to reboot the franchise again with a new film completely unrelated to the 1998 entry. However, Sony eventually decided against making another Godzilla film, and allowed their rights to revert to Toho in 2003.
- Main article: Godzilla 3D to the MAX.
After Toho announced the Godzilla series would be placed on hiatus following Godzilla: Final Wars, Yoshimitsu Banno, director of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, acquired the rights to direct a new short IMAX Godzilla film. Banno decided to make the film an American production, with an American cast and a final battle set in Las Vegas. The film was projected to be 40 minutes long and revolve around Godzilla battling a pollution-based creature called Deathla across North America. Banno planned for the film to be released in the United States in 2007, with a Japanese release to follow. However, Banno was unable to secure funding from Toho in a timely fashion and the production continued to be delayed over the next few years. Brian Rogers, a producer for the film, approached American studio Legendary Pictures to receive further funding for the film. Legendary was interested in a Godzilla project, but wanted to produce a new big-budget feature-length film rather than an IMAX short film. When Toho approved Legendary's plans, Godzilla 3D to the MAX was scrapped and Banno was brought on as an executive producer for Legendary's Godzilla.
- Main article: Godzilla (1998 film).
In October 1992, Toho allowed Sony Pictures to make a trilogy of English-language Godzilla films, with the first film to be released in 1994. In May 1993, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were brought on to write a script, and in July 1994 Jan De Bont, director of Speed and Twister, signed on to direct. DeBont quit due to budget disputes, and director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin signed on before the release of the highly successful Independence Day. They rejected the previous script and wrote an entirely new treatment, while monster designer Patrick Tatopoulos radically redesigned the titular monster. The film was finally scheduled for release on May 19, 1998.
GODZILLA was met with mostly negative reviews and negative reaction from the fan base. It also received negative reception from Toho, who proceeded to make Godzilla 2000: Millennium in apparent retaliation. Having grossed $375 million worldwide, though, the studio moved ahead with an animated spin-off titled Godzilla: The Series, which was generally more well-received than the film. Tab Murphy wrote a sequel treatment for the film, but Emmerich and Devlin left the production in March 1999 due to budget disputes. The original deal with Toho was to make a sequel within five years of release of a film, but after sitting on their property, considering a reboot, Sony's rights to make a GODZILLA 2 expired in May of 2003, ending any chance of a sequel or new Godzilla film produced by the company. Toho later trademarked the version of Godzilla from the 1998 film as "Zilla" for all future appearances, claiming it "took the 'God' out of 'Godzilla,'" and featured it in the film Godzilla: Final Wars.
- Main article: Godzilla (2014 film).
In March 2010, Legendary formally announced the project after it had acquired rights to make a Godzilla film from Toho Company Ltd., with a tentative release date of 2012. The project was co-produced with Warner Bros., who co-financed the project. Legendary said their film would not be a sequel to the 1998 GODZILLA but a reboot to the franchise.
Legendary first promoted the planned new film at the San Diego Comic-Con International fan convention in July 2010. Legendary commissioned a new conceptual artwork of Godzilla, consistent with the Japanese design of the monster. The artwork was used in an augmented reality display produced by Talking Dog Studios. Every visitor to the convention was given a T-shirt illustrated with the concept art. When viewed by webcam at the Legendary Pictures booth, the image on-screen would spout radioactive breath and the distinctive Godzilla roar could be heard.
Gareth Edwards, who directed the 2010 independent film Monsters, was attached in January 2011 to direct the new Godzilla film. Edwards said of his plans, "This will definitely have a very different feel than the most recent US film, and our biggest concern is making sure we get it right for the fans because we know their concerns. It must be brilliant in every category because I’m a fan as well." When Edwards' signing was announced, it was also announced that David Callaham's first draft was rejected and the film would be rewritten by a new writer. In July 2011, Legendary announced that writer David Goyer would write the script however  on November 9, 2011, it was reported that Max Borenstein had been attached to write the film instead.
Legendary Pictures' Godzilla was released on May 16, 2014, and was financially successful, receiving mostly positive responses from critics and fans alike. The film's success convinced Legendary to produce a trilogy of American Godzilla films, with the second installment, tentatively titled Godzilla 2, scheduled for a March 22, 2019 theatrical release. Legendary later acquired the rights to King Kong from its new partner Universal Pictures and began producing a reboot to the Kong franchise titled Kong: Skull Island, which was meant to reintroduce the character for an upcoming crossover film with Godzilla set for release on May 29, 2020. Toho, meanwhile, was inspired by the film's success to begin production on their own new Japanese Godzilla film for summer of 2016.
Godzilla was originally an allegory for the effects of the hydrogen bomb, and the consequences that such weapons might have on earth. The radioactive contamination of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru through the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954 led to much press coverage in Japan preceding the release of the first movie in 1954. The Heisei and Millennium series have largely continued this concept. Some have pointed out the parallels, conscious or unconscious, between Godzilla's relationship to Japan and that of the United States; first a terrible enemy who causes enormous destruction to the cities of Japan such as Tokyo (Godzilla, The Return of Godzilla), Osaka (Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), and Yokohama (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) in different films, but then becoming a good friend and defender in times of peril.
Films have been made over the last five decades, each reflecting the social and political climate in Japan.
Godzilla also had his own series of books published by Random House during the late 1990s. The company created different series for different age groups, the Scott Ciencin series being aimed at children. Several manga have been derived from specific Godzilla films, and both Marvel and Dark Horse Comics have published Godzilla comic book series in the United States (1977–1979 and 1987–1999, respectively). In 2011, IDW Publishing started a new series titled Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, which was followed by two sequel series; Godzilla: Ongoing and Godzilla: Rulers of Earth. IDW has also produced numerous comic miniseries featuring Godzilla.
Blue Öyster Cult released the song "Godzilla" in 1977. It references Godzilla's habit of destroying Tokyo, and the introduction to the live version (1982) directly references the first Godzilla movie "...lurking for millions of years, encased in a block of ice, evil incarnate, waiting to be melted down and to rise again."
The French death metal band Gojira is based on Godzilla's Japanese kaiju name.
The song "Simon Says" by Pharoahe Monch is a hip-hop remix of the Godzilla March theme song. The instrumental version of this song was notably used in the 2000 film Charlie's Angels.
British band Lostprophets released a song called "We Are Godzilla, You Are Japan" on their second studio album Start Something.
The American punk band, Groovie Ghoulies released a song called 'Hats Off To You (Godzilla)' as a tribute to Godzilla. It is featured on the EP 'Freaks on Parade' released in 2002.
The American artist Doctor Steel released a song called 'Atomic Superstar' about Godzilla on his album "People of Earth" in 2002.
Label Shifty issued compilation Destroysall with 15 songs from 15 bands, ranging from hardcore punk to doom-laden death metal. Not all songs are dedicated to Godzilla, but all do appear connected to monsters from Toho studios. Fittingly, the disc was released on August 1, 2003, the 35th anniversary of the Japanese release of Destroy All Monsters.
Putting the Godzilla films' suits and effects crew to further use were several Japanese television shows such as Ulta Q, Ultraman and the Toho-produced Zone Fighter, Go! Godman and Go! Greenman. In 1992 and 1993, Toho produced a trivia show titled Adventure! Godzilland to promote the then-upcoming films Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla 2. This show later inspired a series of four educational OVAs titled Recommend! Godzilland which were released in 1994 and 1996. The 1997 television series Godzilla Island portrayed Godzilla and his various kaiju costars with Bandai action figures.
The success of the Godzilla franchise has spawned two American Saturday morning cartoons: The Godzilla Power Hour and Godzilla: The Series. Both series feature an investigative scientific team who call upon Godzilla as an ally. The series make several homages to the Shōwa films and several antagonist monsters have been inspired by extant Toho creations.
- Main article: Category:Video Games.
- Main article: Godzilla in popular culture.
Godzilla is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the Kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. He has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States (with the "-zilla" part of the name being used in vernacular language as a suffix to indicate something of exaggerate proportions), as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original Godzilla, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.
Much of Godzilla's popularity in the United States can be credited with TV broadcasts of the Toho Studios monster movies during the 1960s and 1970s. The American company UPA contracted with Toho to distribute its monster movies of the time, and UPA continues to hold the license today for the Godzilla films of the 1960s and 1970s. Sony currently holds some of those rights, as well as the rights to every Godzilla film produced from 1991 onward. The Blue Öyster Cult song "Godzilla" also contributed to the popularity of the movies. The creature also made an appearance in a Nike commercial, in which Godzilla went one-on-one with NBA star Charles Barkley.
At least two prehistoric creatures from the fossil record have been named after Godzilla. Gojirasaurus Quayi is a theropod dinosaur that lived in the Triassic Period; a partial skeleton was unearthed in Quay County, New Mexico. Dakosaurus andiniensis, a crocodile from the Jurassic Period, was nicknamed "Godzilla" before being scientifically classified.
In 2010 the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named their most recently acquired scout vessel MV Gojira. The Godzilla Franchise served them with a notice to remove the name and in response the boat's name was changed in May 2011 to MV Brigitte Bardot.
- 1955 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla)
- 2007 Saturn Awards – Best DVD Classic Film Release (Godzilla)
- 1965 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Mothra vs. Godzilla)
- 1966 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Invasion of Astro Monster)
- 1986 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects and Newcomer of the Year (The Return of Godzilla)
- 1986 Razzie Awards – Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star (Godzilla 1985)
- 1992 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah)
- 1993 Tokyo Sports Movie Awards – Best Leading Actor (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award and Money-Making Star Award (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1994 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2)
- 1995 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla)
- 1996 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- In 1996, after his then-final appearance in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla received an award for Lifetime Achievement at the MTV Movie Awards. Creator and producer Shōgo Tomiyama accepted on his behalf via satellite but was joined by "Godzilla" himself.
- 1996 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- 1996 MTV Movie Awards – Lifetime Achievement*
- 1998 Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Supporting Actress and Worst Remake or Sequel (GODZILLA)
- 1999 Saturn Awards – Best Special Effects (GODZILLA)
- 2001 Saturn Awards – Best Home Video Release (Godzilla 2000)
- 2002 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack)
- 2004 Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2014 Japan Cool Content Contribution Award (Godzilla)
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