Tim here. The new Godzilla is [insert joke based on large animals destroying cities] the box office, while receiving generally mixed reviews that all agree on one point: the climactic monster battle in the film is aces. One of the best in the while 60-year, 30-film franchise, in fact, standing proudly alongside such classic moments as Godzilla and fellow icon King Kong pummeling each other, Godzilla being lacerated by the deadly vines of a giant mutant plant, or Godzilla using his atomic breath to fly after a levitating tadpole made of toxic waste.
The Godzilla films, they are silly.
Still, there’s enough B-movie popcorn fun in enough of them that, in honor of the new film and it’s triumphant climax, we are happy to present this highly subjective list of the best monster mashes in the giant lizard’s history.
10. Godzilla vs. Anguirus, round #2, Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
The first giant monster Godzilla ever faced off with, and the results are not nearly as clever or imaginatively choreographed as in most of the serie’s later entries, there’s one thing this battle boasts that almost nothing to follow it would: the fighting monsters feel like actual animals scrambling over each other with tooth and claw. And the setting at Osaka Castle is a nice bonus.
9. Godzilla & Anguirus vs. Gigan & King Ghidorah, Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
A limply-staged fight in a truly horrendous movie – one of the tiny handful of Japanese Godzilla films that I think to be worse than the notorious 1998 Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin misfire – but it has one important claim to fame: this was the first time we ever saw Godzilla bleed in one of his fights. That’s the kind of traumatizing experience that a Godzilla-loving child never forgets.
8. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Mechagodzilla is one of the coolest monsters ever build, which helps to compensate for the shoddy quality of the Godzilla suit used this time around. The film boasts two pretty fantastic monster fight setpieces, but the former is the more impressive, with its profoundly dramatic fiery lighting, and the delightful reveal of the robot monster beneath a fake Godzilla skin.
7. Godzilla & Godzilla Jr. vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla vs. Destroroyah (1995)
The Godzilla fight as pathos: the protracted climax of the best Godzilla film of the 1990s is actually two distinct action scenes, but they work in lovely concert with each other: first, Godzilla’s adopted child pitches himself against Godzilla’s most devastating enemy yet, and dies. Then, with parental rage of a sort not usually seen in skyscraper-sized mutant lizards, Godzilla flings itself at the batlike monstrosity Destoroyah, all while literally melting down due to a nuclear overload in its heart. If there’s a giant monster fight scene that’s genuinely tender and sad, it’s this one.
6. Godzilla vs. Mothra & Mechagodzilla, Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Points more for sheer size than anything. Anybody whose chief complaint about the 2014 Godzilla is the lack of monster fighting needs to check out this penultimate Japanese Godzilla picture right now, because the second half is basically nothing but one epic, city-spanning fight in multiple movements. It’s nonsensical, shallow spectacle, but it makes up for it by being genuinely spectacular, changing things up every few minutes to avoid anything getting stale. The dusky lighting is also gorgeous.
5. Godzilla vs. MUTOs, Godzilla (2014)
It hasn’t even been out a week, so for fear of spoiling, I’ll say nothing about it, other than that one scene of Godzilla shoving a MUTO like a football lineman is among my favorite things the monster has yet done, and the finishing move is just the best damn thing ever.
4. Godzilla vs. Mothra larvae, Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Back when we were still rooting against Godzilla, this fantastically simple and small fight scene provided plenty of opportunity to enjoy seeing the giant beast taken down by the weirdest of foes, a pair of giant moth larvae spitting silk at him. The action is spare but amazingly effective, and the frustrated rage of Godzilla s it gets tangled up and worn down is some of the best physical acting in Nakajima Haruo’s long stint in the suit.
3. Godzilla vs. Titanosaurus & Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
Somewhere between the animalism of the Godzilla/Anguirus fight from ’55 and the wrestling sequences that the monster fights had become by the mid-‘70s, the climax of the last Godzilla film before a reboot in the ‘80s is a fine summary of everything that the series creators had learned over 21 years: the fighting moves are truly creative, the lighting and camerawork emphasise the scale and weight of the monsters, and the tone is resolutely serious, refusing to take the matter of men in rubber suits with any less dignity than a drama about real people with real stakes.
2. Godzilla vs. Biollante, round 2, Godzilla vs Biollante (1989)
There is absolutely no reason for a giant plant with teeth to be a reasonable adversary, even in the loony world of Godzilla movies, and yet the beautifully-designed Biollante is at the heart of the most dramatic, punishing fight scene in the series, taking place in the dark of night with a gorgeous horror-movie slant on the visuals. Ichor and blood spurting out in a surprisingly violent and grim fight give this as much impact and severity as anything else in the annals of Godzilladom.
1. Godzilla vs. Bambi, Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)
A fast fight, but definitive.