The first Godzilla movie was released in 1954 and is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It’s also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama, made in Japan at a time when the country was reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing in the Pacific. It is the ultimate anti-war film masquerading as 50s horror/sci-fi; made during a time when Japan was still reeling from WWII and nuclear devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Godzilla was a beast born of human hubris and atomic fire.

Produced and distributed by the Japanese company Toho, the original motion picture was directed by Ishiro Honda who having witnessed the destroyed city of Hiroshima one year after the atomic bomb was dropped, he became captivated with the idea of such destructive power in the hands of men. Even though Honda was determined to commemorate the disaster that struck Japan in 1945 and brought World War II to its end, the immediate post-war years made it impossible to address the matter directly.

Honda (left) working on the set of the original Godzilla.

Honda decided to make his vision come true. He conceived of a giant monster, awakened from the depths of the ocean by the power of these nuclear tests. Honda called it Gojira―a mixture of the Japanese word for a whale (kujira), and the English word gorilla, which was a clear reference to King Kong.

Every film incarnation of Godzilla between 1954–2017

The Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) franchise is recognized by Guinness World Records to be the longest continuously running movie franchise, ongoing production from 1954 to the present day, the franchise consists of 35 films, 32 produced by Toho and three Hollywood films.

Godzilla, originally conceived as a robust, erect-standing, plantigrade reptilian sea monster, was reimagined by artist Patrick Tatopoulos as a lean, digitigrade bipedal iguana-like creature that stood with its back and tail parallel to the ground. Acting on the instructions Emmerich gave him that it should be able to run incredibly fast.

The 1998 American version Godzilla was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, widely known for his disaster films. Released to negative reviews it was a box office success. It’s planned sequels were ultimately canceled and an animated series was produced instead.

The 2014 Hollywood production ‘Godzilla’ was directed by Gareth Edwards and is a reboot of the of Toho’s Godzilla franchise. The first film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse (which also includes King Kong). It was released to generally positive reviews and was a box office success, prompting the development of several sequels with Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) as the next film to be released, followed by Godzilla vs. Kong (2020).

The success of the 2014 film prompted Toho to produce a reboot of their own and Legendary to proceed with sequels, with Godzilla: King of the Monsters set to be released in 2019 and Godzilla vs. Kong to be released in 2020.

Thomas Tull was the producer for the 2014 movie, and made it clear that Godzilla’s design had to be accurate, stating, “We had to make triply sure we got it right. Godzilla had to look like Godzilla. Period.” Tull was also puzzled at the design direction of Emmerich’s Godzilla, stating, “I’m always puzzled as a fan when you take things so far it’s unrecognizable.”