Kaiju-a-go-go: Every Godzilla Monster, from Lamest to Coolest

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Kaiju-a-go-go: Every Godzilla Monster, from Lamest to Coolest

In the last 60 years, Godzilla has messed up a lot of giant monsters. That’s pretty much his MO: Enter, wreck stuff, break monsters in half, exit stage left. Sure he’s died once or twice along the way, but that’s fairly insignificant compared to the mountains of giant kaiju corpses he’s left in his wake. Every monster on this list has had his features rearranged by Godzilla at least once unless he’s purely been an ally or blood relative.

Therefore, it should go without saying that in any kind of list ranking the monsters of the Toho Co. Godzilla universe, “Big G” himself is going to be at #1. Instead, this list celebrates all of Godzilla’s many enemies and allies, from the most obscure and ineffectual to his greatest arch-nemeses. It remains to be seen where the monstrous “MUTOS” of the new Godzilla movie will measure up, but there’s no better time to familiarize yourself with the King of the Monsters’ rogues gallery, should any of them reappear in the future.

(Ed. note—List has been updated to include the MUTOS.)

32. Giant condor
Appearances: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster)

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Few are going to argue that this is the lamest Godzilla monster ever. Its description consists of “It’s a big bird, and Godzilla fights it for some reason.” The fight scene is so unintelligible you can’t even really tell what is happening. This is the absolute bottom of the barrel.

31. Giant octopus
Appearances: King Kong vs. Godzilla

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Like his compatriot, giant condor, “giant octopus” isn’t even worthy of a real name. Likewise, his fight with the giant ape in King Kong vs. Godzilla is largely without context—Kong just happens upon him while the octopus is attacking a village (on land for some reason) and they proceed to do awkward battle. It would seem that the only function of the giant octopus is to make Kong look threatening before he takes on Godzilla later in the picture. Giant octopus is lame as hell.

30. Varan
Appearances: Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla: Final Wars (stock footage)

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Varan is sort of a cool design, I suppose—he’s like a big iguana with fangs and webbed limbs that allow him to glide. However, he really only appears in cameos in the Godzilla films. In Destroy All Monsters he’s one of the denizens of Monster Island that the invading aliens mind-control into attacking earthly cities. Even in the final battle against Ghidorah, he simply stands by and watches from the sidelines. Forgettable.

29. Manda
Appearances: Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla: Final Wars (stock footage)

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For all intents and purposes, Manda is in the exact same boat as Varan, except he has a slightly cooler design. Reflecting traditional Japanese dragons and sea serpents, Manda is sort of like a huge snake with a few tiny legs. He appears in Destroy All Monsters and gets in a bit of cool destruction during the city-smashing scenes, but ends up watching the final battle from the sidelines with Varan.

28. Gabara
Appearances: Godzilla’s Revenge (aka All Monsters Attack)

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Godzilla’s Revenge is probably the worst Japanese Godzilla movie, and Gabara is doubtless the worst monster to serve as the primary antagonist of a Godzilla film. His design is goofy and confusing: He’s like some sort of cat-faced, wart-covered crocodile man? He spends most of his time bullying Godzilla’s annoying latchkey son, Minilla, and then gets his ass kicked by Godzilla at the film’s conclusion. Everything about Gabara is pretty much terrible.

27. Ebirah
Appearances: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster)

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Ebirah, unlike Gabara, is not difficult to describe. In fact, he’s probably the easiest kaiju on the list to sum up in a few words: Ebirah is a big lobster. Like, a really large lobster. Far larger than a normal lobster, even. And that’s it! He’s one of the least interesting kaiju in the entire series because he’s basically incapable of doing anything compelling besides standing there in waist-deep water. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is one of the cheapest-feeling Godzilla flicks, and you definitely get a cheap feeling from Ebirah, whose “big moment” is batting away a rock kicked at him by Godzilla. I imagine “giant lobster” probably sounded better on paper than it did it execution.

26. Kamacuras
Appearances: Son of Godzilla, Godzilla: Final Wars

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More rock-kicking action! Just like with Ebirah, Kamacuras is essentially just another earthly animal that happens to be giant-sized, this time a praying mantis. There are actually a few of them in Son of Godzilla, but Godzilla takes them all out with no difficulty. Really, the only memorable Kamacuras moment is the aforementioned rock, which one of the mantis monsters throws back at Godzilla, hitting his son Minilla flush in the face in a hilarious moment. Kamacuras also shows up briefly in Godzilla: Final Wars as one of the plethora of monsters wrecked by Godzilla in an extended montage. This time, he ends up impaled to death on an electrical tower. Things rarely work out for Kamacuras.

25. Zilla
Appearances: Godzilla (American 1998 remake), Godzilla: Final Wars

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Zilla is one of the most difficult monsters to rank, because it mostly depends how egregious you find Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla with Matthew Broderick. Personally, I hate that film, but I have to at least admit that Zilla isn’t that bad a monster. He never should have anchored his own film or been referred to as “Godzilla,” but Toho managed to differentiate the two by referring to this monster simply as “Zilla.” They clearly showed their contempt for the 1998 film when a horrendous-looking CGI Zilla briefly appeared in Godzilla: Final Wars, only to get vaporized by big G in a fight lasting all of 30 seconds. It’s a truly pathetic showing.

24. Minilla (aka Baby Godzilla/Godzilla Junior)
Appearances: Son of Godzilla, Godzilla’s Revenge, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

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Another difficult monster to rank, Godzilla’s offspring spends most of his appearances simply being annoying, but it’s mildly interesting to witness his developments in the Heisei series. In movies such as Godzilla’s Revenge, his dopiness makes you want to punch the TV, but in later entries like Godzilla vs. Destoroyah he actually becomes integral to the plot. After Godzilla’s legitimate death in the latter film, it is heavily implied that the great monster’s essence has been passed into Junior, which will complete his transformation into a new, fully powered Godzilla. But ultimately, Minilla only gets ranked this high because he has a cool dad.

23. Baragon
Appearances: Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

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Baragon apparently has a fan base of sorts in Japan for various appearances in non-Godzilla kaiju flicks, but as far as the Godzilla films are concerned he’s a perpetual afterthought. In Destroy All Monsters he appears but simply stands around during the final battle, looking on. In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack it finally seemed like Baragon was getting featured prominently, but he couldn’t even make it into the absurdly long title. The ceratopsian-like monster looks pretty cool in that flick and is supposed to be one of the three main heroes, but ultimately he’s stomped by Godzilla and brushed aside in terms of starpower by Mothra and Ghidorah. Baragon is like the Pete Best of kaiju.

22. Gorosaurus
Appearances: Destroy All Monsters

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I could totally understand ranking this guy lower. In terms of design, there’s nothing to him, he’s basically just a big Allosaur-like dinosaur with nothing particularly interesting going on. He’s ranked this high because he actually contributes fairly significantly in his one major appearance in Destroy All Monsters. Unlike say, Baragon, he participates in the fight against Ghidorah and is the only monster that is able to bring Ghidorah down out of the air. Illogically, his signature move is a jumping kick, because why not? That’s what dinosaurs do, right? Jump-kick stuff like Bruce Lee?

21. Kumonga
Appearances: Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla: Final Wars

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The primary antagonist of the goofy Son of Godzilla, Kumonga actually has a fairly cool-looking design. The giant spider proves himself decently capable in that film and also contributes during the Ghidorah fight in Destroy All Monsters, using his webbing to keep Ghidorah from taking to the air. He’ll never be a well-known part of the Godzilla canon (despite the Final Wars cameo), but he’s significantly more interesting than some of the other also-rans.

20. M.O.G.U.E.R.A.
Appearances: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

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When a kaiju’s design closely mirrors that of a popular earlier monster, it’s going to be tough to stand out, and so is the case with M.O.G.U.E.R.A. The acronym stands for “Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-Type,” and if that name doesn’t make it clear, he’s a big, flying robot. The problem is, the far superior Mechagodzilla had already been well established as one of Big G’s most persistent foes, so M.O.G.U.E.R.A. just looks like a cheap rip-off. He plays the lacky role in SpaceGodzilla, helping the King of the Monsters to defeat his crystalline counterpart, but it’s not surprising we never saw him again when Mechagodzilla had the giant robot role pretty much nailed down.

19. Jet Jaguar
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Megalon

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This giant robot predates Mechagodzilla, so you can give him a pass on the originality front. Instead, he’s much more like a rip-off of the popular Japanese series Ultraman, right down to the design of his costume. How much you enjoy him depends on how much of the cheesy Showa series goofiness you can handle, because Godzilla vs. Megalon is one of the silliest of the kiddie-era Godzilla flicks. You can’t fault him for not being heavily featured in the thing, though: The movie is really more of a Jet Jaguar film than it is a Godzilla film. He plays his part and helps Godzilla beat Megalon, but he’s a good example of why it’s difficult to rank characters from different eras against each other when their films are so wildly different in tone. He gets at least a few bonus points for the silly Jet Jaguar theme song, though.

18. SpaceGodzilla
Appearances: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

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SpaceGodzilla, like M.O.G.U.E.R.A., suffers from a lack of originality. On some level that is of course the point—he seems to have been born out of some writer saying “If Godzilla fought himself, who would win?” But that was already sort of the shtick behind Mechagodzilla. What fans got in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla was probably the worst of the Heisei series films and a monster that is basically Godzilla, except with some huge crystals on his shoulders. He’s got some cool cosmic powers, but doesn’t do anything that puts him into the higher echelons.

17. Megalon
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Megalon

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Megalon is a bizarre critter, there’s no doubt about that. The god of a race of underground dwellers known as the “Seatopians,” he’s sort of like a huge beetle with metal drill hands. Oh, and he somehow SPITS BOMBS as well, did I mention that? Weird, wild stuff, but presented in a very kid-friendly manner. Megalon doesn’t have much personality of his own, but his film is cheap, cheesy fun. I still feel like there’s more originality on display here than there is with say, SpaceGodzilla.

16. Battra
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth

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It’s tough to make “evil version of another character” work, and it holds back Battra, who is actually a pretty awesome-looking kaiju. A giant, spiky moth, he’s essentially the bad side of Mothra, a guardian of the Earth who goes too far in restoring balance by trying to eliminate all of humanity. He also takes issue with Godzilla, and they have some pretty good fights both in larval and adult form. Battra mixes it up with Mothra as well, and eventually they’re able to come to a truce of sorts. In the end, though, Toho seemed to realize they were making a one-shot character and gave him a fitting death at the end of his only film.

15. Megaguirus
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

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There are only so many “flying monster” designs out there, but Megaguirus is one of the better ones. The insectoid queen of a species of big prehistoric bugs called “Meganulons,” it bears a close resemblance to a lot of the enemies that have come before, with just a tad bit more personality and a pretty imposing design. But once again, the main limiting factor here is originality, even in the monster’s method of creation. Like many of the others from the Heisei series, Megaguirus is created with help from Godzilla’s DNA—I swear, his DNA becomes like the Swiss Army Knife of the series from 1989 onward.

14. Titanosaurus
Appearances: Terror of Mechagodzilla

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Titanosaurus doesn’t have the highest profile, but he’s a scrapper and makes the most of his appearance in Terror of Mechagodzilla, where he teams up with the metal monster to take on the original King of the Monsters. In terms of marquee power, he’s not really the equal of Mechagodzilla in that film, but he fights well against Big G and has one of the more interesting-looking designs from the Showa series. Perhaps most importantly, he at least seems distinctive and isn’t a copy of any of the previous monsters.

13. King Kong
Appearances: King Kong vs. Godzilla

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Kong arrived in Toho’s Godzilla series with the benefit of instant name recognition. The character brings a certain amount of gravitas as America’s most famous monster, and the Toho version of Kong is larger than life. He’s blown up to Godzilla’s size and gains some other bizarre characteristics, chief among them an affinity for electricity that manifests in electrical powers. This is fairly easily explained by the fact that this film was originally intended to be King Kong vs. Frankenstein—the electrical elements were simply transferred from Frankenstein’s Monster to Kong in the final cut. The fight between the two monsters is a little hackneyed, but you can’t deny that it’s a classic clash of titans seeing the two icons going at it.

12. MUTOS
Appearances: Godzilla

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Like a classic comedy team, the MUTOS of Gareth Edwards’ new Godzilla flick fall into the “small guy/big guy” formula, but as a unit they form a pretty formidable opponent for both Big G and the humans thanks to their EMP-generating abilities. The smaller male MUTO is a flying creature that evokes Megaguirus in particular, while the more massive female (although still smaller than Godzilla) seems to take a few design cues from Orga. I love that they literally eat and digest radiation as a foodstuff, which is something so silly that it feels comic book-like in origin. They get good screen time in the film, certainly more than Godzilla himself, and they elevate the excitement factor whenever they’re on screen. Their death scenes, likewise, are appropriately gruesome in the grand Godzilla tradition. That’s really what you need in a good Godzilla kaiju: Looks cool, fights well, dies spectacularly. Check marks all around.

11. Rodan
Appearances: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro Monster, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla: Final Wars

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Rodan is how you do a flying monster right. The giant pterodactyl-like beast is one of Godzilla’s more persistent supporting players, an occasional enemy of Big G but more often than not an ally. He could fly around at mach 3 before it was cool, and is capable of unleashing devastating sonic booms. He’s never really the most important monster (or even second most important) in any of the Godzilla movies where he appears, but he’s typically a valuable supporting player who has a recognizable style all his own.

10. Hedorah
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla: Final Wars

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Certainly one of the most unique Godzilla monsters, Hedorah is also known as “the smog monster,” but he more closely resembles a living pile of ooze or toxic waste. A clear warning on the dangers of environmental destruction, he’s the least subtle message a Godzilla movie ever attempted to deliver. Still, he’s a very memorable foe for Godzilla and has all kinds of crazy powers and abilities, such as turning into a flying saucer, liquefying himself and reducing people into skeletons. He’s ultimately a bizarre monster who fits in well, considering he finds himself in the weirdest Godzilla flick of them all.

9. Orga
Appearances: Godzilla 2000

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Kaiju from the most recent Millennium series don’t really get lauded very much by Godzilla fans. They tend to sit near the middle of the pack, but Orga is really one of the cooler, underrated Godzilla foes. He’s another weird one, beginning as a UFO piloted by invading aliens, always a Godzilla staple. Another sample of Godzilla’s DNA (this will recur again and again) allows the aliens piloting the craft to transform into the truly massive Orga. He’s unique in his size, big enough to actually attempt swallowing Godzilla whole at one point. He also has gigantic, long-knuckled hands that he uses to walk in a weird, ambling way. It’s an inspired design that really doesn’t feel like your standard “man in a suit” monster.

8. King Caesar
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla: Final Wars

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Alright, here’s one I happen to like a whole lot more than most people. King Caesar is one of the goofiest monsters, and I just find him lovably stupid and charming. The fact that you have to sing a long, rambling pop song to make him wake up from his comatose state is just one of the things that makes me laugh about him. Then there’s his physical appearance—what is he, exactly? Some sort of dog-lion hybrid? Finally, he fills a niche that is quite different from a lot of the other kaiju in the way he fights, with a fast-moving, athletic style, which is clearly seen in his Final Wars cameo. I’m not going to argue he’s not silly, but he’s the best of the non-serious monsters.

7. Anguirus
Appearances: Godzilla Raids Again, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla: Final Wars

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Like most of these monsters, Anguirus first met Godzilla by tussling with him in Godzilla Raids Again, but eventually he became Big G’s most trusted and helpful ally. In some respects he’s almost treated like Godzilla’s faithful hound, typically the first to leap into action when a new threat presents itself. Or perhaps “the Robin to Godzilla’s Batman” would be a more accurate description? Squat, short and spiky like an imposing armadillo, he’s not the biggest of the monsters, but he’s very tough and often takes quite a beating without giving up. He’s the ultimate “hustle player” of the Godzilla universe, and you’ve got to love him for that.

6. Destoroyah
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

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When Toho decided to legitimately kill Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, they knew they would need a true badass to do the job. Destoroyah was fittingly born from the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon that killed the original Godzilla in the 1954 film. He’s huge, even bigger than the adult Godzilla and absolutely diabolical-looking, combining elements of crustaceans, dragons and demons. He takes on the most powerful version of Godzilla ever put on film, one that is in the process of melting down, and brings him to the brink of death. His creation may be a little wonky, but you can’t argue with Destoroyah’s importance to the Godzilla canon. He may very well be Godzilla’s most powerful opponent ever.

5. Gigan
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla: Final Wars

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Here’s a monster that is better than all of the movies he’s featured in. The design for Gigan is absolutely nuts—whoever dreamed him up should be closely monitored. He’s basically a walking set of blades, with big, curved scythes for arms. His signature weapon, though, is a rotating saw blade stuck right down the middle of his chest. It spins like a table saw and spells death for anyone stupid enough to blunder into it. His early films in the Showa series really aren’t among the better ones in the series, but the greatness of Gigan was recognized in a greatly expanded part in Final Wars. Always a villain, he inevitably loses, but perhaps someday it will be Gigan’s day of triumph.

4. Mothra
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Mothra, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

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Mothra is the most commonly appearing kaiju other than Big G himself in the Godzilla series, a beloved figure popular enough to receive several stand-alone films of her own. She was the original flying Godzilla opponent, and it’s hard to argue against the classic value of her first appearance, Godzilla vs. Mothra. She introduced the concept of a “good monster” fighting to protect the Earth from Godzilla, but would then go on to team up with him many times to take down greater threats. The main knock on Mothra is probably her stopping power and toughness—she’s always in the fight, but rarely does Mothra kick anyone’s ass. In fact, she tends to die in most of her appearances, but luckily there always seem to be one or two Mothra larva left over to become the new Mothra.

3. Biollante
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Biollante

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Biollante is unquestionably the most creative monster design to come out of the Heisei series of Godzilla flicks, and when he showed up it was really a breath of fresh air for the series. This plant-based monster was the first Godzilla enemy to be born using his DNA as a base, but he looks nothing like Big G. The design is absolutely wicked, a tangled mess of vines and a massive mouth full of sharp teeth. Biollante is legitimately scary-looking, and he also possesses the ability to regenerate large amounts of his body if they’re destroyed. The fact that this is still a costume intended to be worn by a human being is incredible. He remains one of Godzilla’s most creepily unique opponents.

2. Mechagodzilla
Appearances: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

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Simply put, Mechagodzilla will mess you up. Always one of the most fearsome and dangerous of Godzilla’s rogues, he’s equally imposing as a villain in the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla or a hero in the Millennium series films as an anti-Godzilla deterrent. Unlike many of the other kaiju, he almost always come out on top at least once whenever he appears, and often it takes the combined might of several combatants to bring him down. His weaponry varies from film to film, but it’s always effective. He succeeds where so many of the “evil counterpart” monsters fail by having his own unique visual aesthetic while still evoking Godzilla, the greatest monster of them all.

1. Ghidorah/King Ghidorah/Mecha-King Ghidorah
Appearances: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro Monster, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and Godzilla: Final Wars

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The presence of Ghidorah in any form elevates any movie he’s in. The three-headed golden dragon is probably Godzilla’s most recognizable foe and is rightly considered his arch-enemy, appearing in nearly as many films as Mothra and almost always in the role of villain. In many of his films, Ghidorah is a “super boss” such as in Destroy All Monsters, where it takes half a dozen combatants to go toe-to-toe with him. Couple that with a distinctive and cool-looking design, and you’ve just got a great monster, one who looks even cooler once he becomes “Mecha-King Ghidorah” in the Heisei series. Ghidorah may not have been in the absolute best Godzilla films, but he’s one of the strongest indicators of any Godzilla movie’s quality. One can only hope for a Ghidorah return in the pending sequel to Gareth Edwards’ upcoming Godzilla.

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