All 21st Century Godzilla Movies, Ranked


The Godzilla series began way back in 1954, meaning everyone’s favorite giant, radioactive, atomic-breath lizard has been a staple of cinema for about seven decades now. In that time, there have been a few dozen movies featuring the character, with most of those made in Japan and a handful being American productions. There are more 20th century Godzilla films than 21st century Godzilla movies, but the latter category is growing at a rapid pace, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The Godzilla movies of the past 20-ish years ultimately show that the franchise is in good health, with few misfires and generally strong efforts being made in both Japan and the U.S. The MonsterVerse is where the latter’s take on Godzilla shows up, while in Japan, various approaches are being taken to keep stories involving the king of the monsters feeling fresh. All the character’s live-action films of the 21st century so far (as such, excluding those less-than-great anime movies) are ranked below, starting with the decent and ending with the great.

11 ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ (2019)

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) shouldn’t be mixed up with Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), which was an interesting American re-edit of the original 1954 Godzilla film. This was the second MonsterVerse movie to feature Godzilla, and the third overall, getting released two years after the surprisingly good Kong: Skull Island (a movie instrumental in setting up the two legendary cinematic monsters eventually clashing in 2021).

When it comes to the monster side of things, Godzilla: King of the Monsters can be quite spectacular, and it’s also notable for being the first American Godzilla movie to feature iconic series characters like Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. A big budget’s used to show these creatures as they’ve never been seen before, though it can be a little dimly lit at times, and all the human-focused stuff falls flat. It’s worth a watch for Godzilla fans just for the good stuff, but there is a decent amount of Godzilla: King of the Monsters that underwhelms.

10 ‘Godzilla vs. Megaguirus’ (2000)

Directed by Masaaki Tezuka

The late 1990s wasn’t a great time to be a Godzilla fan. The Heisei Era had ended in spectacular fashion with 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, though 1998 saw the release of the dismal original U.S. Godzilla movie. Then, back in Japan, the Millennium Era began in 1999 with the slightly better Godzilla 2000: Millennium, but most fans would call that one merely decent. Then, one year later, the 21st century got its first Godzilla release: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.

Continuity-wise, it only acknowledges the events of 1954’s Godzilla, and sees the titular monster taking on a small army of mutated bugs, and then one very large bug – Megaguirus – who’s the queen of the species. It can be disappointing to see how much less-than-amazing CGI is used throughout this movie, but the foe Godzilla gets to take on is a novel one, and the film does offer enough ridiculous action to entertain in parts, and enough to prevent Godzilla vs. Megaguirus from feeling like a total misfire.

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9 ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ (2024)

Director: Adam Wingard

Godzilla and Kong roaring together in a desert Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
Image via Warner Bros. 

Given it’s not Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire does at least have the distinction of not being Godzilla’s worst outing in the MonsterVerse to date. As the title implies, it sees him crossing paths once more with sworn enemy King Kong, though they’re on somewhat better terms after their genuinely high-stakes battle back in 2021. There’s a new threat impacting the world, too, necessitating these two titans forming an alliance to save all life on – and below – Earth.

Even though there are plenty of things to criticize in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, the movie does also manage to be quite fun when it focuses on action and spectacle, and there is undeniably a ton of action (and very little by way of drama for the human characters in the monster movie). It’s nowhere near being considered a genuinely bad giant monster movie, and so long as Godzilla fans are okay with him kind of being secondary here to Kong, they’ll likely have fun with what this movie has to offer.

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8 ‘Godzilla’ (2014)

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Godzilla coming out of the water in 2014's Godzilla.
Image via Warner Bros.

16 years on from the aforementioned 1998 Godzilla movie, Hollywood once again tried to put its own big-budget spin on the iconic Japanese character. The result was a 2014 movie simply titled Godzilla, and one that was solidly directed by the then up-and-coming Gareth Edwards. It’s a patient movie, which proves to be its most divisive quality, given the titular monster is only shown briefly throughout much of the movie, with most of the monster action saved until the climax.

It’s more of a slow-burn than most Godzilla movies, but the approach works for a while, particularly with a strong cast – including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, and Ken Watanabe – that elevates the human storyline to some extent. Still, some compelling characters end up being in the film for a disappointingly short time, and the constant teasing of Godzilla doing cool stuff can eventually wear thin. Thankfully, forgiveness is possible once the eventual monster smackdown comes around, as the final battle between Godzilla and two MUTOs is quite the sight to behold.

Godzilla (2014)

Release Date
May 16, 2014

123 minutes

7 ‘Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.’ (2003)

Directed by Masaaki Tezuka

The penultimate Millennium Era Godzilla movie, the somewhat underrated Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is an immediate sequel to the previous Japanese Godzilla film, which was rare for the more episodic nature of said Millennium Era. Things take place in the aftermath of a battle between Godzilla and Kiryu, which is the name for the Millennium Era’s take on Mechagodzilla, with a rematch eventually seeming like an inevitability.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. also adds Mothra to the mix, which helps keep the action and narrative overall feeling different enough from the previous Godzilla/Mechagodzilla movie, which came out in 2002. It’s a no-nonsense and somewhat by-the-numbers approach to a Godzilla film, getting things stripped down to their bare essentials and keeping the runtime at just 91 minutes. The result isn’t a series highlight by any means, but it’s a good deal of fun and mostly delivers the goods.

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6 ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ (2021)

Directed by Adam Wingard

Godzilla fighting Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong - 2021
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2021, Godzilla had been a cinematic icon for close to 70 years, and King Kong had been around for almost 90. Despite this, the two had only crossed paths once, and all the way back in 1962 to boot. It felt like a rematch had been a long time coming, so 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong had a lot to live up to. The good news was that whenever the two went head-to-head in this film, the results were a blast to watch, with tons of over-the-top and breathtakingly ridiculous action/destruction sequences.

And the fighting is what most people are there for, seeing as “vs.” is even right there in the title and everything. The parts of Godzilla vs. Kong that focused more on the human side of things didn’t fare as well, with such scenes generally being inconsistent, to say the least. At least the movie’s somewhat self-aware of this, and tries to keep the dialogue and human character interactions as brief as possible, always willing to get back to the good stuff: the monster fights.

5 ‘Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla’ (2002)

Directed by Masaaki Tezuka

When it comes to looking at the very best movies in the Godzilla series, an entry like Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla has the potential to get overlooked. After all, the character of Mechagodzilla had already shown up twice in the Showa Era and once in the Heisei Era, so maybe some people would get a little tired of the robotic take on Godzilla by this point. But thankfully, Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla puts a spin on the iconic series foe, and is referred to here by the name Kiryu.

In this film, Godzilla appears to be a brand-new version of the original monster, with Kiryu being created from the remains of the first Godzilla, and used by humanity to fight back against the new threat. It’s a simple dynamic, but it works well thematically and narratively, leading to plenty of great action and some genuine suspense, thanks to how well-matched the two titular monsters are. Like its 2003 follow-up, Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla also benefits from a relatively brief runtime, clocking in at just 88 minutes.

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4 ‘Godzilla Minus One’ (2023)

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki

Godzilla wrecking havoc in 2023's Godzilla Minus One
Image via Toho

The fourth era of Japanese Godzilla films, the Reiwa Era, kicked off in 2016, and included three anime movies released in 2017 and 2018. Fans had to wait until 2023 to see another live-action depiction of the character made in Japan, with that film – Godzilla Minus One – eventually proving worth the wait. It’s a Godzilla film with a rather unexpected premise, as it travels back decades to a period setting: the years immediately following World War II.

Japan is shown dealing with Godzilla in the late 1940s, harkening back to the 1954 film, which had a setting that was contemporary for the time. It’s less concerned with action and providing blockbuster entertainment, and instead chooses to make the titular monster more horrifying and malicious than he’s perhaps ever been before. It’s an interesting approach and one that largely pays off, with Godzilla Minus One already considered a strong entry in the long-running kaiju series.

Godzilla Minus One

Release Date
December 1, 2023

Takashi Yamazaki

Ryûnosuke Kamiki , Minami Hamabe , Yûki Yamada , Sakura Andō

124 Minutes

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3 ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ (2004)

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura

Godzilla fans who like movies being unpredictable, wild, and perhaps even silly will get a huge kick out of the preposterous Godzilla: Final Wars. This film ended the Millennium Era not with a bang, but with countless bangs, and also served as a celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary. It aimed to bring back most of the foes Godzilla had battled before, and have them all engage in rematches with a version of the king of the monsters who’d never been quite so powerful.

Not only does Godzilla fight countless enemies, but the human storyline of Godzilla: Final Wars is perhaps the wildest in series history, too. The human characters get plenty of their own action scenes to take part in, and various characters have inhuman/sci-fi abilities to keep things interesting. It’s a messy film, but perhaps the most action-packed out of any Godzilla movie made so far, which ultimately makes it tremendously entertaining to watch.

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2 ‘Shin Godzilla’ (2016)

Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

shin godzilla
Image via Toho

There’s a sense of tragedy and eeriness to Shin Godzilla that makes it one of the scariest Godzilla movies made so far, perhaps even rivaling the sense of dread found in the 1954 original. Perhaps that’s to be expected, given Shin Godzilla was co-directed by Hideaki Anno, who created Neon Genesis Evangelion and is therefore responsible for giving plenty of anime fans nightmares, owing to that franchise’s disturbing and sometimes even terrifying elements.

It’s a movie that shows a particularly disturbing-looking and seemingly tortured version of Godzilla causing havoc in modern-day Japan, with Shin Godzilla also unpacking how much the government would struggle to deal with such an issue. It’s got an element of social commentary/satire to it, thanks to looking at the pitfalls of bureaucracy and constant red tape, and also satisfies when it comes to the monster-related stuff. It’s a striking and impressive entry in the series, and a surprisingly original one, too.

Shin Godzilla

Release Date
July 29, 2016

Hideaki Anno , Shinji Higuchi

Satomi Ishihara , Jun Kunimura , Shinya Tsukamoto , Hiroki Hasegawa , Nozomi de Lencquesaing , Mark Chinnery


Main Genre

1 ‘Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack’ (2001)

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

In the mid to late 1990s, Shusuke Kaneko directed three surprisingly great Gamera movies that allowed the character – a giant flying turtle – to be a true cinematic rival to Godzilla like never before. This made Kaneko an ideal candidate to helm a Godzilla film, and in 2001, he did just that, directing series highlight Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. The title’s long, but not long enough to include the names of all monsters that show up, given Baragon is also in this.

It takes a fantastical approach to some familiar characters, rather than a more expected sci-fi slant, having a particularly villainous Godzilla possessed by spirits of those who died in World War II, and the other monsters being mythical creatures originally thought to be mere legend. It’s got a non-stop pace and a story filled with action, thrills, and emotion. It’s about as good as Godzilla movies get, and is an easy pick when it comes to crowning the best 21st century Godzilla release so far.

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NEXT: The Best Giant Monster Movies That Don’t Feature Godzilla or King Kong


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