Godzilla has become a worldwide cultural icon since first gracing the screen in the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla. He even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Godzilla also sparked 32 further Japanese films (produced by Toho), 3 Hollywood films (and one more to come in 2021), along with a plethora of novels, comic books, video games, TV shows, and even a hit single for Blue Oyster Cult.
Godzilla has both protected Earth and destroyed it over the years, depending on the film's era. Despite Godzilla’s ever-shifting role, one thing has remained consistent throughout almost all of the films: Godzilla must battle some invading monster(s) bent on destroying humanity. And against all the odds, he almost always manages to come out on top.
This article chronicles the Godzilla monsters featured in the films. We’ve broken the list down into the various Godzilla film eras, including the 3 American films.
Godzilla, or Gojira in Japanese, was created in World War II and served as a metaphor for nuclear weapons in the original film.
By the end of the Cold War, Godzilla’s role had reverted to the destructive force depicted in the original films. Except for the 1998 Godzilla, American film portrayals of Godzilla have again shifted toward a protector of Earth, albeit more of an antihero.
While Godzilla’s appearance has shifted throughout the years along with his personality, the overall appearance and features remain the same (let’s just pretend the 1998 Godzilla doesn’t exist, shall we). He is portrayed as a muscular dark green/grey/black Tyrannosaurus-like creature with dorsal plates.
Anguirus is the first kaiju other than Godzilla to be seen in the film (other than the American original King Kong), appearing in the second film of the franchise called Godzilla Raids Again. He is also the first monster to battle Godzilla, setting up a recurring theme throughout the franchise.
While Anguirus is originally pitted against Godzilla, he quickly becomes an ally and is seen fighting alongside Godzilla in several subsequent films.
Anguirus is an irradiated dinosaur that looks similar to an ankylosaurus. It has horns on its head and a spike-covered shell on its back. Anguirus can move incredibly fast due to multiple brains, burrow underground, and often attack by jumping back into its opponent to hit them with its spiked back.
Anguirus first appeared in the 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again and has been featured in 6 Godzilla movies.
Although not known primarily for his role in the Godzilla franchise, King Kong is a headlining monster.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) was the third film in the Godzilla franchise and the first to feature the monsters in color.
Mothra is a fan-favorite of the Godzilla monsters and is second only to Godzilla in film appearances with 15. She is also notable as the only confirmed female kaiju.
Mothra appears in two forms: as a giant caterpillar and as a giant moth. Unlike other Godzilla monsters, Mothra is almost always portrayed as a protective character, protecting her island, Japan, and Earth. She is often accompanied by twin fairies who speak on her behalf.
Mothra first appeared in the 1961 film Mothra and made her Godzilla debut in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla.
Rodan first appeared in his own film, the 1956 movie Rodan. Rodan later went on to be featured in 11 other movies, including 10 Godzilla movies.
Rodan is typically featured as an ally to Godzilla but has also been a foe. He is an irradiated Pteranodon who can produce shockwaves when flying and powerful winds by flapping his wings. He was initially named Radon, a contraction of Pteranodon, but had his name changed to Rodan for English-speaking markets to be confused with the element radon.
Rodan made his Godzilla debut in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
King Ghidorah (Monster Zero)
King Ghidorah, also known as Monster Zero, ranks as one of Godzilla’s most prominent foes and appears in 9 Godzilla films.
Ghidorah is said to be inspired by the ancient Japanese dragon Yamata no Orochi. He is a three-headed, golden-flying dragon kaiju that can shoot “gravity beams” that look like lightning bolts from its mouths. He also has two tails and no arms. Ghidorah has several origin stories. In one version, he is an extraterrestrial planet-killing dragon. In another, he’s a genetically engineered monster from the future, and in yet another, he’s a guardian monster of ancient Japan.
King Ghidorah first appeared in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Ebirah is a giant lobster kaiju who appears as an antagonist in 3 Godzilla films.
Ebirah first appeared in the 1966 film Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.
Kamacuras (derived from the Japanese word for mantis “kamakiri”) is a giant mantis mutated due to a radioactive accident.
Kamacuras makes relatively brief appearances in a few Godzilla movies, primarily as the monsters who tried to eat baby Godzilla. They live on Monster Island in the Showa era and are alien-controlled monsters in the Millennium era.
Kamacuras first appeared in Son of Godzilla in 1967.
Minilla (Son of Godzilla)
Minilla is the adopted son of Godzilla, who saved him from the Kamacuras after they cracked open his egg.
Minilla appears in a total of 4 Godzilla movies, the first being Son of Godzilla in 1967.
Kumonga is a giant spider kaiju that has served as both friend and foe to Godzilla. His main weapons include the ability to shoot a spider web and use a poison stinger. Some versions also show him with incredible leaping ability.
Kumonga first appeared in Son of Godzilla in 1967 and also appeared in 4 other Godzilla films.
Although not one of the most memorable Godzilla monsters, Manda appeared in a minor role in several Godzilla films and one non-Godzilla sci-fi film.
Manda is based on a Japanese dragon and is a sea-dwelling serpent kaiju that can also live on land. He is one of the monsters living on Monsterland (island monsters live on in many films).
Manda first appeared in the 1963 film Atragon and made his Godzilla debut in 1968’s Destroy All Monsters.
Gorosaurus is a dinosaur kaiju based on an Allosaurus. Like many other Godzilla monsters in this list, Gorosaurus has appeared in multiple films as both friend and foe.
While Gorosaurus doesn’t have any special powers, he can perform a leaping kick when attacking. This maneuver, along with his strength, greatly helps in King Ghidorah's defeat in the giant monster battle in Destroy All Monsters.
Gorosaurus first appeared as an antagonist in the 1967 film King Kong Escapes and later as a friend in 3 Godzilla movies.
Baragon is yet another monster appearing in multiple films throughout the eras.
He is a dinosaur-like kaiju with large ears and a face resembling a bat. He is said to have burrowed underground to avoid the dinosaur extinction and to have adapted. Baragon is one of three guardian monsters who battle Godzilla to save the Earth in Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack in 2001.
Baragon first appeared in Frankenstein Conquers the World in 1965 and later in 5 other films, including Pacific Rim Uprising.
Varan is another monster that appeared in both Godzilla films and other sci-fi films. He is based on a Draco lizard, Godzilla, and a kappa (demon found in Japanese folklore). The only special ability Varan has is the ability to glide at high speeds. He also has protective spikes on his back and tail.
Varan first appeared in Varan the Unbelievable in 1958, as well as in 2 Godzilla films.
Gabara only appeared in one Godzilla film as an irradiated toad in the dreams of the main character. He also resembles the Oni in Japanese folklore.
Gabara first appeared in 1969’s All Monsters Attack and well as two non-Godzilla films.
Maneater is a flesh-eating plant that is a minor character in the film All Monsters Attack. He features in only one film.
Maneater has the body shape of a person but is made of leaves, which lets it blend in with the jungle on Monster Island.
Like Godzilla, Hedorah represents a world problem. Hedorah gets his name from the Japanese word for sludge and was representative of the growing pollution facing Japan and the world. He wreaks havoc on Japan, killing people, destroying buildings, and feeding on toxic waste and gas emissions before being killed by Godzilla.
He first appeared in Godzilla vs. Hedorah in 1971 and again in Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004.
Gigan is another notorious Godzilla enemy known for being particularly violent in his actions, although he only appeared in 3 films. He can fly, has large metal hooks for hands, and a buzzsaw on his front.
Gigan first appeared in Godzilla vs. Gigan in 1972.
Jet Jaguar is not really a monster but rather a mecha (or giant machine) that helps Godzilla defeat invading monsters and protect Earth.
Jet Jaguar only appeared in one film but deserves mention because he is the result of a contest held by Toho for fans to develop a new hero to be used in their movies. The contest-winning robot was called Red Alone but was renamed Jet Jaguar and originally slated to star in its own film. However, producers didn’t think Jet Jaguar alone would be enough and instead made him a sidekick to Godzilla.
Jet Jaguar was featured in Godzilla vs. Megalon in 1973.
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) marks Megalon's sole appearance.
Megalon is a giant burrowing insect that looks most like a beetle. He has spinning drill-like appendages for arms, can shoot firebombs from his mouth, as well as produce lightning from its horn. Megalon can also fly.
He, along with Gigan, are the antagonists of the film.
Perhaps the most notorious mecha of the kaiju genre, Mechagodzilla is an alien or human-made Godzilla-like robot used to defeat Godzilla in several films.
Although Mechagodzilla has appeared in a few different incarnations, he’s always well-armed and employs a vast range of weaponry. He shoots missiles from his hands, knees, and feet, as well as beams from his eyes and chest. He can also fly and create a force field around himself.
Later versions of Mechagodzilla also introduce a weapon called the Absolute Zero Cannon, which shoots out of his chest and flash-freezes enemies.
Mechagodzilla first appeared in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and 7 other films, including Ready Player One.
King Caesar is a lion-like kaiju that first teams up with Godzilla to defeat Mechagodzilla and the alien invaders who control it in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).
He is a guardian based on Shisa, which are stone lion statues found commonly in Okinawa. King Caesar possesses speed, agility, and strength. He can also absorb the energy attacks of enemies and shoot them back through his eyes.
King Caesar first appeared in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and later in 2 other Godzilla films.
The last monster of the Showa era, Titanosaurus, is a dinosaur kaiju resembling a Spinosaurus. Although there is an actual dinosaur named Titanosaurus, they have little in common.
Titanosaurus is a secondary villain next to a redesigned Mechagodzilla. He is controlled by aliens and a mad scientist who wants revenge on humankind.
Titanosaurus can use his tail like a fan, create whirlpools, and holds his own with Godzilla in hand-to-hand combat.
He appeared in 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).
Shockirus is not a monster who’ll do much damage to other kaiju, but it does do a fair amount of damage to humans.
Akin to a kaiju pest, Shockirus is a giant crab or louse-like creature that jumps off Godzilla and onto a boat. It kills several humans on the boat before being killed.
Shockirus makes its only appearance in The Return of Godzilla (1984).
Biollante is the result of another Toho fan contest, albeit a much more terrifying one. It is an engineered clone of Godzilla with the genes of a rose and a human thrown in and was meant to symbolize the controversy of genetic engineering that characterized that period.
Biollante first appeared in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and made a cameo appearance in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).
The Dorat’s are briefly shown in one Heisei-era film but play a much more significant role in the background.
The Dorat’s are genetically engineered futuristic pets, with source material coming from King Ghidorah's corpse. In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), the 3 Dorat’s are left on Lagos Island to be later exposed to radiation from nuclear testing in the Pacific.
The testing combined and mutated the Dorat’s into King Ghidorah.
Godzillasaurus provides another origin story in the Heisei era.
Godzillasaurus is a dinosaur living on Lagos Island that is later irradiated by nuclear testing, turning it into Godzilla.
Godzillasaurus appears in the 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
In the film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla defeats and badly wounds King Ghidorah before rampaging around Japan.
Japan then asks a futuristic people if they can revive Ghidorah in the future and bring him back to stop Godzilla. Ghidorah is revived and made into a cyborg, becoming Mecha-King Ghidorah.
Mecha-King Ghidorah had the added ability to use grappling cables to attach itself to enemies and electrify them.
Battra is good and bad. On the one hand, Battra is a guardian of Earth who seeks to protect it. On the other, he sees humans as a threat to Earth and, therefore tries to destroy them.
In his only appearance in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Battra is originally an enemy to both Mothra and Godzilla and battles both. However, Battra has a change of heart and eventually teams up with Mothra to defeat Godzilla and save Earth.
Battra is seen in both a larval stage and a moth stage. He is black and red, with red eyes and horns. Battra can fly at great speed, shoot energy pulses from his horn, as well as use a stinger-like appendage on his tail.
Known as Godzilla Junior, Baby Godzilla, or Little Godzilla, Junior is another Godzilla monster adopted by Godzilla, depending on the film. He is thought to be the offspring of a Godzillasaurus and is found by humans in a Rodan nest.
Godzilla Junior is initially raised with humans but eventually ends up with Godzilla. Throughout the three films he’s featured in, we see Godzilla Junior grow from the height of a human to another fully formed Godzilla, although he is much friendlier toward humans than his father.
Godzilla Junior first appeared in the 1993 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.
Fairy Mothra is a small divine moth spawned by Mothra in space and sent to Earth to warn the people of the arrival of SpaceGodzilla.
Fairy Mothra appears in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) and the Rebirth of Mothra Trilogy, which did not include Godzilla.
SpaceGodzilla only made one film appearance, but it’s a notable monster.
Although the origins are unclear, it’s been theorized that SpaceGodzilla was formed after Godzilla cells were carried into space by another monster and irradiated through exposure to a black hole.
SpaceGodzilla is also one of Godzilla’s most formidable foes, perhaps because he is a Godzilla clone of sorts. He can fly, shoot a beam from his mouth, as well as bolts of energy through his shoulder crystals. SpaceGodzilla can also powerup by being near crystals. He creates a shield and has regenerative powers.
SpaceGodzilla made his only film appearance in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).
M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (which stands for Mobile Operations G-Force Universal Expert Robot: Aero-Type) is another mecha featured in many kaiju movies Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).
Like other mecha’s, he has an extensive array of weapons, the most used of which are plasma cannons in its eyes. Other weapons include a plasma maser cannon in its chest, a drill bit, grenade missiles, and the ability to fly.
M.O.G.U.E.R.A. first appeared in The Mysterians (1957).
Although it only appeared in one film, Destroyah has been labeled one of the most malevolent of the Godzilla monsters because it seemed to enjoy the destruction it caused. Destroyah even seems like it’s laughing in some of the fight scenes with Godzilla and Godzilla Junior.
It is also one of the scariest monsters. Destroyah develops through several forms throughout the film, finally reaching its most developed and powerful form at the end of the movie. It evolved from a colony of microscopic crustaceans that mutated when the Oxygen Destroyer used to kill the first Godzilla was detonated.
Destroyah can fly, has a laser horn, and can produce micro-oxygen beams. He was featured only once in Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995).
The Millennians are an alien species that intend to establish themselves on Earth. They seek to gather as much information as possible about technology and biology through telepathy. Unlike other kaiju, they are reluctant to fight.
Millennian appears in Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999).
After absorbing Godzilla’s DNA, the Millennians mutate and combine to form Orga.
Orga is also reluctant to fight Godzilla and instead tries to mostly avoid him, only getting closer to continue absorbing Godzilla’s DNA. Besides absorbing DNA, Orga can regenerate, jump very high or far, and detach its lower jaw to make its mouth larger.
Orga only appeared in Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999).
Megaguirus is a mutated form of Meganulon, which appeared as early as the 1956 film Rodan.
Megaguirus is formed after a swarm of Meganulon absorbs energy from Godzilla and then transfers that energy to Megaguirus, who is considered a queen of the species. Megaguirus can fly at incredible speeds, create shock waves with its wings, and stab opponents with a stinger at the end of its tail. This stinger can also absorb energy from its opponent.
Megaguirus appears in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), but the Meganulon also appears in Rodan (1957).
Kamoebas makes a brief appearance in the film Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) after being killed by Godzilla.
It is a turtle kaiju that first appeared in Space Amoeba (1970).
Keizer Ghidorah is a skeletal kaiju from space, although it is never made clear whether he was made or discovered. He is brought to Earth under the mind control of aliens attempting to take over.
Monster X has several weapons at his disposal. He can shoot electric beams from his eyes, beams from his mouth, and drain energy from opponents through his bite.
Monster X appeared in the 2004 film Godzilla: Final Wars.
MUTOs, which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, served as the main antagonists in Godzilla (2014) and played a minor role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
The MUTOs are parasitic insect-like Titans that are focused on consuming radiation and reproducing. They prove themselves formidable adversaries against Godzilla, especially when teamed up. They also show protectiveness toward each other and their nest.
Methuselah made a brief appearance in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). It is an animal-plant-rock hybrid Titan with a forest growing on its back and large horns on either side of its head.
While its name's significance is not entirely known, Methuselah refers to a figure in the Bible who lived an incredibly long time.
Scylla is a cephalopod Titan (like an octopus or squid) with six legs ending in claws with spikes. The name refers to a female sea monster in Greek mythology.
Scylla makes a brief appearance in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
Behemoth is the last new monster featured in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). It resembles a woolly mammoth or prehistoric sloth and has large tusks, claws, and spines down its back.