Guest contributor RKSDooM ranks Godzilla's ten greatest enemies.
The term kaiju (a Japanese word meaning “strange beast”) was recently introduced to mainstream America in Guillermo Del Toro’s 2013 giant monsters vs. giant robots / cynical inner critic vs. gleeful inner child flick, PACIFIC RIM.
In Japan, however, both the term kaiju, and the immense creatures it refers to, have long held a place in the hearts of moviegoers. It was over sixty years ago, in fact, that Toho studios introduced the world to one of cinema’s most enduring creations: the 50 meter tall, energy beam spewing, dinosaur-like granddaddy of all kaiju: Godzilla, the King of the Monsters.
Godzilla spent most of his first movie just generally stomping around Tokyo and making a nuisance of himself until being dissolved into nothingness by a superweapon called the Oxygen Destroyer. It wasn’t until the first sequel, 1955’s GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, that a defining aspect of the Godzilla series would be introduced: gratuitous monster on monster action!
|Not like THAT! GODDAMNIT Japan...|
Number of Appearances: 5
First Appearance: GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964)
Record Against Godzilla: 0 WINS, 2 LOSSES, 1 DRAW
Powers: Flight, Occasional Breath Ray
First appearing in his own solo outing in 1956, Rodan is one of the more famous kaiju to come out of Toho. He is also one of the only kaiju to have appeared in every Godzilla series of films (only four other monsters have shared that honor: Mothra, Mechagodzilla, Larva Mothra, and King Ghidorah).
With an appearance like that of a fearsome, short beaked pteranodon, Rodan’s original design in his solo film was pretty amazing, so naturally Toho altered it completely for the kaiju’s appearances in the Showa Godzilla films. Rodan’s head and neck were transformed from that of a nightmarish flying dinosaur to a goggle-eyed, roasted bird with a long silly neck that did nothing to disguise the stuntman’s own head bulging out at the bottom.
Showa Rodan was initially adversarial to Godzilla, until being shamed (by Larva Mothra) into putting aside his differences with the King of the Monsters in order to protect the Earth from Ghidorah in 1964’s GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. After that Rodan, remained a staunch ally of the Big G throughout the Showa series.
However, things changed in the Heisei series when Godzilla stumbled upon Rodan (here called “Fire Rodan” and portrayed by a mechanical puppet) standing between him and his egg in 1993’s GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II, and then again in the Millennium series when a mind-controlled Rodan attacked Godzilla in 2003’s GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. Both times, Rodan was soundly defeated. Regardless, the ability of Showa Rodan to fight Godzilla to a standstill should be acknowledged. That incarnation of the kaiju had an awesome devil-may-cry attitude that helped make up for his goofy design. His aerial slam into King Ghidorah in GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER is one of the many highlights of that film’s monster combat.
Number of Appearances: 1
First Appearance: GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991)
Record Against Godzilla: 0 WINS, 0 LOSSES, 1 DRAW
Powers: Flight, Can shoot lightning from his two organic heads and shoots an energy beam from the robot head, “G-Grasper,” “Godzilla Grip”
Mecha-King Ghidorah is what happens when you teleport the gigantic, golden, dragon-like corpse of a regular King Ghidorah (albeit a significantly weaker version of the beast than the one seen in the Showa series) into the future after one of its three heads have been blown off by Godzilla’s heat ray, slap some robot parts and a new mechanical head on it, and then teleport it back to the present to fight Godzilla. Facing one of the most powerful incarnations of the Big G, Mecha-King Ghidorah managed to hold it’s own against Godzilla, and even incapacitate him in the end by by sacrificing its own, twisted mockery of an existence to do so.
Along with Mecha-King Ghidorah’s robotic middle head and wings, he could also deploy special weapons such as four giant metal electrified clamps collectively called the "Godzilla Grip," and the “G-Grasper,” a huge vice grip that Mecha-King Ghidorah uses to lift up and carry away the Big G.
Impressively, this massive cyborg kaiju was created entirely by puppeteering the empty monster suit with wires.
BATTRA / BATTRA LARVA
Number of Appearances: 1
First Appearance: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA: BATTLE FOR EARTH (1992)
Record Against Godzilla: 0 WINS, 0 LOSSES, 2 DRAWS
Powers: Larva - Swimming, Energy Beams, Burrowing; Adult - Flight, Energy Beams
Despite sounding like Batman’s personal version of Mothra, Battra actually means “Battle Mothra.” While the larval version of the beast (brought to life by a, presumably very uncomfortable, stuntman in a monster suit) may have looked like the unholy offspring of Larva Mothra and Megalon from 1973’s GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, Battra Larva would, in it’s single film appearance, prove to be a worthy adversary for the Big G - managing to fight Godzilla to a draw before both of them are sucked down into an underwater lava flow.
The adult form of Battra (which looked like a black, demonic fly and was a mechanical marionette puppeteered by wire-workers), fights Godzilla alongside fluffier sibling, Mothra, and manages to incapacitate the King of the Monsters at the cost of it’s own life.
So, overall, not a bad performance for a one hit wonder.
Number of Appearances: 7
First Appearance: GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964)
Record Against Godzilla: 1 WIN, 8 LOSSES (5 of them to 2 or more monsters)
Powers: Flight, Spew Lightning from its mouths
King Ghidorah is possibly (alongside Mothra and Rodan) Godzilla’s most famous opponent that isn’t named “King Kong,” and the first monster on our list to have actually won a fight with Godzilla (even if it did take him 40 years and a promotion in rank from “King” to “Kaiser” to do it).
King Ghidorah is a gargantuan, golden-scaled dragon with two tails, bat wings and three Chinese dragon style-heads on the ends of long, snake-like necks. He was brought to life by putting a stuntman in the suit to control the monster's legs and torso, while all of Ghidorah's heads, his wings and his two tails were puppeteered by wire-workers. According to special effects cameraman Teisho Arikawa: "There were times when all three necks got tangled up, or the piano wires would reflect the studio lights, or the wires would get caught in the scales. It was an agonizing operation."
Unfortunately for Ghidorah, he suffered the fate of most reoccurring villains - repeated defeats at the hands of his opponents. In defense of the three-headed destroyer of worlds, over half of his losses are to multiple kaiju.
Ghidorah’s usual fighting style can best be described as “frantic.” Like, “three immense, golden snakes injected with dumptrucks full of pure blue monster meth while simultaneously being electrocuted” kind of frantic. Ghidorah’s three heads are a constant blur of movement, spewing lighting from each mouth in an erratic and haphazard orgy of destruction.
It wasn’t until 2004’s GODZILLA: FINAL WARS that Ghidorah (here called Kaiser Ghidorah) actually managed to defeat the King of the Monsters, a victory made all the more impressive when you consider that in that film the Big G is insanely powerful and manages to dispatch monster after monster without breaking a radioactive sweat. Sure, Godzilla ultimately comes back from his defeat and destroys Kaiser Ghidorah, but not until after receiving a supercharge from humanity, courtesy of supership the Gotengo.
(Pee Wee Herman fans may also remember King Ghidorah from his appearance in Tim Burton’s PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, where he can be seen fighting the Big G when Pee Wee rides through the movie studio towards the end of the film.)
Number of Appearances: 13
First Appearance: MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1961)
Record Against Godzilla: 1 WIN, 3 LOSSES
Powers: Showa: Flight, “Poison Powder”; Heisei: Flight, Energy Beams from Antennae; Millennium: (GMK) Flight, Energy Attack from Stinger; (TOKYO S.O.S.) Flight, “Poison Powder”; (FINAL WARS) Flight
Mothra is exactly what she sounds like - an immense moth monster. In Japan, she is second only to Godzilla in popularity and - along with Rodan - one of the only kaiju to have starred in their own film (1961’s MOTHRA) before joining the Godzilla series. She even had her own movie trilogy during the 90’s (sure, she looked like an explosion of yarn and felt in it, but still...).
If you’re wondering how a giant (seemingly quite flammable) moth can hold her own against a huge, energy beam spewing, radioactive mutant dinosaur… well, just remember that Mothra is worshipped as a God, and assume that it’s all those prayers from her followers on Infant Island that keep her going.
For Mothra’s first battle against the King of Monsters in 1964’s MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (released in America under the title GODZILLA VS. THE THING), a new mechanical prop was built that would fly through the air courtesy of wires that attached to a Y-shaped brace capable of opening and closing, which caused the giant moth’s wings to flap up and down. The marionette also had brand new radio-controlled legs added, for additional realism.
Mothra’s battle strategies have never fared terribly well against the Big G, tending towards a mix of hit-and-run tactics and battering Godzilla with torrential winds by rapidly flapping her wings in his general direction. Her most damaging attack, the “poison powder” she can excrete from her wings, tends to have the unfortunate side effect of killing her when it’s utilized. To date, the adult Mothra’s only victory over Godzilla, in 1992’s GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA: BATTLE FOR EARTH, came with the help of Battra fighting at her side.
Number of Appearances: 2
First Appearance: GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971)
Record Against Godzilla: 1 WIN, 3 LOSSES
Powers: Transmogrify into various shapes to swim, fly, etc. / Eye Beams / Fling Globs of Acidic Sludge / Discharge massive pools of liquidy poo.
Better known to American audiences as the “Smog Monster,” Hedorah is one big pile of shit. And that’s not me being judgmental - that’s literally what Hedorah is: poop and eyeballs.
Brought to life in its initial appearance via a combination of multiple props and an immense (and practically immobile) monster suit worn by a stuntman; Hedorah is handily dispatched by Godzilla in its initial, flying-manta-ray-of-feces form. The reborn Hedorah, however, is a fearsome foe indeed, handing Godzilla what is perhaps his most ignominious defeat by drowning him in what appears to be a river of excrement that it pours from its body. It’s only with the help of humanity, utilizing giant electrodes to dry out Hedorah’s squelchy form, that Godzilla is able to win the day.
Hedorah didn’t fare nearly as well in its only other appearance, in 2004’s GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. The ridiculously overpowered incarnation of Godzilla in that film easily defeated it by hurling the giant lobster-shrimp monster Ebirah claw first into one of Hedorah’s eyeballs.
Number of Appearances: 1
First Appearance: KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
Record Against Godzilla: 1 WIN, 2 LOSSES
Powers: Discharge electricity from fingertips, Absorb energy from lightning
The Toho King Kong had a few of the 1933 ape’s defining characteristics (he was a giant monkey that starts off living on a island full of scantily clad natives, before being stolen away to civilization, where he promptly displays a propensity for both groping hot chicks and climbing tall buildings), but there were quite a few differences as well. Firstly, and most importantly, he’s about a hundred feet taller than the American King Kong so that he can match Godzilla’s 50 meter height. He also has electricity based powers and is a huge drunkard, taking every opportunity he can to get completely shitfaced on soma berry wine.
From a technical standpoint, one can’t help but look at the silly looking carpet monkey Toho delivered as bit of a disappointment. Despite effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya having both a deep love for the original Kong and a stated desire to equal or surpass its stop-motion animation glory with his man-in-suit version, the Toho Kong is sadly unconvincing. After rejecting design after design, the one used in the film was ultimately chosen and two suits were built. One had normal length arms and a frozen expression, while the other utilized arm extensions and had moving eyelids to give Kong that dazed, drunken “Whazz goin’ on, guyz?” facial expression that he repeatedly sports throughout the film.
Kong tends to utilize three strategies against Godzilla: wrestling moves, attacking with foreign objects (like rocks and trees), and... beating cheeks as fast as his giant monkey legs will take him. He actually fares pretty poorly against Godzilla the first two times they fight, but he makes up for it by handing the King of the Monsters his ass after a convenient lightning strike revitalizes him.
Number of Appearances: 1
First Appearance: GODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA (1994)
Record Against Godzilla: 1 WIN, 1 LOSS
Powers: Flight, Energy Absorption through shoulder crystals, Shoot energy rays, “Gravity Tornado”
It’s like a regular Godzilla, but with... but with space.
Spacegodzilla looks like an over-designed, regular old, non-spacey Godzilla, but with the Predator’s face mandibles and a bunch of crystals stuck to him. The cosmic kaiju was apparently created when a bunch of Godzilla’s cells got, uh, sucked into a black hole… or... something?
Not the most inspired of kaiju, Spacegodzilla makes up with fearsome power what he lacks in creative origins.
Spacegodzilla’s giant crystals that protrude from its shoulders absorb energy, and it can also fire cosmic beams from its mouth-hole, as well as utilize a "Gravity Tornado" to levitate empty Godzilla monster suits with ease. It’s only with the help of M.O.G.U.E.R.A., a giant Japanese robot that can split apart into 3 vehicles (yet somehow manages to remain incredibly lame, in blatant defiance of VOLTRON’S FIRST LAW OF ROBOTICS), that Godzilla manages to ultimately overcome his space-doppelganger.
Number of Appearances: 6
First Appearance: MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964)
Record Against Godzilla: 2 WINS, 0 LOSSES, 1 DRAW
Powers: Swim, Shoot out immensely strong “webbing” from between its mandibles.
How did two comparatively tiny little baby Mothras accomplish what powerhouses like Ghidorah have failed to do and repeatedly defeat the King of Monsters? Three words (well, one hyphenated word and one regular one, so…. two words?): “built-in webshooters.” Like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, these lethal larvae never go anywhere without their organic webshooters, and in every fight the little, armored caterpillars come out with the silly string blazing, managing to not only incapacitate Godzilla on two separate occasions, but helping to defeat King Ghidorah a couple of times as well.
In its initial appearance outside of the Godzilla series, in 1961’s MOTHRA, the Larva Mothra was created with a giant suit containing six stuntmen crouched in a row, human centipede style. The Larvae in 1964’s MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA, however, were a combo of mechanical props and hand puppets, and their “webbing” was an oil-based compound created by the effects crew.
Despite their (relative to Godzilla) tiny size, and overall unintimidating demeanor, the Mothra Larvae have never lost a fight to the King of the Monsters, always seeming to have Godzilla’s number regardless of the decade in which they’re fighting.
Number of Appearances: 5
First Appearance: GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974)
Record Against Godzilla: 4 WINS, 5 LOSSES, 1 DRAW
Powers: MG1 - Flight, Force Field, A wide array of energy and missile attacks; MG2 - A wide array of energy and missile attacks, flight, the “G-Crusher” attack that targets Godzilla’s secondary brain; MG3 (Kiryu) - A wide array of energy and missile attacks, Absolute Zero Cannon, drill arm, Tri-Mazer
Mechagodzilla, regardless of whether its a giant space robot built by moldy-looking monkey aliens, a great big Godzilla shaped tank driven by the Japanese military, or the tragic cyborg creation of a desperate humanity, is always a dire threat to the Big G.
The original Mechagodzilla was a creation of the "Simians," aliens from a black hole who, instead of spending their time being crushed into nothingness like good little slaves to the laws of physics, instead decide that the pinnacle of interstellar warfare technology is, naturally, a gigantic robot Godzilla. Also they look like green PLANET OF THE APES monkey people. Because reasons.
Standing 50 meters tall, weighing 40,000 metric tons and made of "space titanium" (like regular titanium, but with space) the Godzilla-shaped mech is equipped with a wide variety of missile and energy based death, and, in its second appearance in 1975's TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is capable of continuing to fight even when its head has been ripped from its body.
The Heisei series Mechagodzilla is basically just a glorified tank, albeit a devastatingly powerful one, capable of killing Godzilla by targeting and destroying his secondary ass-brain.
The Mechagodzilla from the Millennium series, however, is something special, and, arguably, the most fascinating Mechagodzilla of them all. Given the name “Kiryu” (which roughly translates to “mechanical dragon”), this Mechagodzilla is built over the bones of the original Godzilla killed by the Oxygen Destroyer in the first ever Godzilla film. Due to this, Kiryu comes across with much more personality than his automaton forebears.
But, regardless of their origin, every time a giant robotic version of Godzilla is unleashed against the King of the Monsters it manages to score at least one victory against the Big G with its onslaught of technological destruction. Making Mechagodzilla Godzilla’s toughest opponent of them all.