Godzilla screenshot

Godzilla (1954)

five stars

When a giant, ancient monster is roused from the ocean depths by a hydrogen bomb, only an even more terrible weapon can stop it.


Godzilla is an outstanding, landmark science fiction horror film with incredible special effects and a deep, profound message. It has endured for over sixty years and inspired numerous sequels and reimaginings. The titular beast has become a cultural icon at the center of a massive multimedia franchise. Later kaiju films would pit the King of the Monsters against other creatures, but there are two monsters in the original film as well: Godzilla and doomsday weapons.

Godzilla's attacks are already taking place when the film begins. As a result of hydrogren bomb testing, Godzilla was awakened and risen from the depths of the ocean. The monster repeatedly attacks Tokyo, sustaining no damage from any weapon used against it. But we also learn that a scientist named Dr. Serizawa has created a catastrophic weapon called the "oxygen destroyer." The device is terrible, but may be the only hope against Godzilla. Serizawa reluctantly agrees to use the weapon and is able to kill the monster, but the scientist also sacrifices himself so that all knowledge of the oxygen destroyer dies with him. With the monster destroyed, Dr. Yamane laments that there is likely another Godzilla lurking in the ocean depths, and that another hydrogen bomb could wake it up.

Godzilla screenshot

A terrible weapon unleashed Godzilla, and it took another to destroy the monster. But what new creature did the oxygen destroyer awaken? And how many more doomsday devices will need to be created to top a previous weapon? Dr. Serizawa sacrificed himself to make sure he couldn't be forced to make another oxygen destroyer, but isn't it naive to think nobody else will follow in his footsteps and continue his work?

The original version of Godzilla wasn't released in the United States. Instead, it was released in an edited form titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956. Scenes were cut, dialogue was dubbed, and new footage was shot with Raymond Burr, effectively adding a new leading actor to the film. While the Japanese version makes references to specific nuclear bombings and testing incidents, the American cut removes the anti-nuclear sentiment entirely.

Godzilla was followed by so many sequels that the films are split into distinct "eras," including the Shōwa period during the reign of Japan's Emperor Hirohito, Heisei period during the early years of Emperor Akihito's reign, and Millennium period in the early 2000s. Multiple movies reboot the franchise and ignore the sequels, but many of these reboots actually serve as a direct sequel to this 1954 film rather than a complete fresh start. Even if they have little to do with the original stylistically or thematically, those reboots are aware that this Godzilla is the greatest kaiju film of all time.