Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla: Final Wars
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.
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
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
Godzilla vs. Megalon
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.
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
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.
Godzilla vs. Megalon
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.
Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth
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.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus
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.
Terror of Mechagodzilla
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
King Kong vs. Godzilla
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.
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.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro Monster, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla: Final Wars
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.