Jonathan Raab: Shin Godzilla (2016)
This film treats the ever-mutating Godzilla as a natural disaster, and follows the Japanese government’s response to his/her rampage. What should be a boring bureaucratic procedural is instead a comment on generational leadership and crisis management. Plus, Godzilla’s different forms are all unique and interesting. It’s far better than the recent American takes on the monster.
Cody Goodfellow: War Of The Gargantuas (1966)
The most mobile, emotive monsters ever to trample Tokyo. All the pathos of Frankenstein (to which it’s some kind of sequel) and all the mass destruction and weaponized tanning lamps you expect from Toho. Oh, and Russ Tamblyn.
Nathan Carson: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
The real battle in the classic Toho Godzilla films is the sometimes paltry amount of screen time the monsters get vs the often rote and boring hour that Japanese scientists spend talking in labs. 1973’s Megalon fixes this problem by adjusting its age focus toward children. That might sound like a loss, but this very colorful and exciting film is instead packed with non-stop action. Godzilla must battle a giant cockroach using fighting moves informed by a campy translation of his American contemporary Muhammed Ali. There is a young boy and his father who built a robot named Jet Jaguar to assist Godzilla, and those humans get knocked out by bad guys half a dozen times in a single day but keep on waking up and running around more. The real star is Jet Jaguar whose affectionate relationship with Godzilla is bromantic in a way that may have been unintentional, but winds up being heartwarming and hilarious.
S. L. Edwards: Mothra (1961)
Unlike many kaiju films, Mothra deals with a monster that actually enjoys humanity. And, unlike many films, Mothra cannot be stopped. Bullets smoke off of her, fighter jets can’t touch her. She would go on to be one of the most significant monsters in the Godzilla mythos.
John Deathginger Goodrich: Gojira (1954)
It’s where the boom began. It’s the first movie of the King of the Monsters. Where kaiju films sometimes get silly or pander to kids, Gojira is a serious meditation on the horrors of nuclear testing, created by a country that had been on the receiving end of two nuclear weapons. It’s a somber, terrifying movie about an unfolding disaster that happens to walk on two legs.
Frank Elder: Big Man Japan (2007)
Big Man Japan is my favorite Kaiju movie since Cloverfield. A throwback to the essence of old school Godzilla movies where the Japanese collective culture struggles to come to grips with the reality of the nuclear age but presented with the weird tendencies of modern Japanese horror movies. This movie is the perfect mixing of old and new Japanese cinema. You’ve never met Kaiju monsters so odd and a protagonist monster in the most unexpected way.
D. G. Sutter: The Last Dinosaur (1977)
It’s the best worst film ever made. Full of terrible acting and laugh out loud special effects and dialogue. Something you can watch for breakfast with a beer, a cigarette, and a bowl of fruity cereal.
Justin A. Burnett: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
As the editor of this series, so far I’ve refrained from throwing my opinion into the mix. On this particular subject, I can’t resist. Forgive me, I tried. The thing is, Godzilla films were the cinematic fabric of my childhood. Picking a favorite is next to impossible, but Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla seems woefully underrepresented on the “Best Of” Godzilla lists to me. This one has it all: aliens that turn into apes when they die, ancient prophecies, a remote-controlled, rocket-loaded Godzilla arch-nemesis, explosions, blood, bad voiceovers, space metals, a cheesy futuristic aesthetic, and King Caesar, a kaiju strikingly similar to Korea’s Pulgasari who is summoned in the nick of time by a sacred song set to a hilariously contemporary accompaniment. It may just be nostalgia speaking here, but re-watching it now, I’m still convinced that Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is among the best. It offers everything Godzilla fans look for: humor, fun, and mayhem without feeling either tedious or stretched too thin.