Godzilla Ranking: The Heisei Era (1984 – 1995)

This Summer, everyone will have a chance to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the latest entry in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse. As a massive Godzilla fan, I’ve been doing my part to spread the good word on the classic Kaiju. Enjoy some fun facts here and eventually beginner’s guide on another site, but for Why So Blu, I wanted to put together a ranking of the films from a couple of key periods in the long-running franchise’s timespan. So, with this first of two posts (for now), enjoy this look back at the films from Godzilla’s Heisei period, which ran from the 80s to the mid-90s.

For some extra clarification, there are currently four distinct periods when it comes to the Japanese Godzilla films. The separation comes from the times when the studio Toho chose to reboot the series. Godzilla began with its longest and most popular era (the Showa period – consisting of 15 films from the 50s-70s), followed by the Heisei Era, consisting of 7 films, which is what this ranking will focus on.

Similar to the Showa era, the Heisei era was named in honor of the Japanese emperor of the time. It’s also been nicknamed the “VS Series” based on the majority of titles and epic faceoffs during this run of Godzilla movies. What truly distinguishes this era from the others is the shared continuity between the films. All of the Godzilla films from this period take place on a single timeline initiated by the original 1954 film. As a result, there are reoccurring characters, as well as a greater exploration of the nature and biology of Godzilla, as opposed to a continued look at the character as a metaphor for Nuclear fallout. These films tend to be looked at as darker than the movies from the other eras, but it’s also a series that features time travel, cyborgs, and giant plant monsters, so one can take or leave how serious these movies really are.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to ranking these films (and yes, all of these posters are amazing):

7. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

The Setup: Particles from Godzilla have somehow been sucked into a black hole in space, blasted with cosmic radiation, and warped into an evil clone of Godzilla – Spacegodzilla, who attempts to kill the true Godzilla, and conquer Earth.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: SpaceGodzilla is the antagonist, and Godzilla even gets help from his son, Little Godzilla, as well as MOGUERA (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type), a vehicle constructed from the remains of a previously destroyed Mechagodzilla.

Thoughts: I’ll say this, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is easily one of my favorite titles of any Godzilla movie. It’s so ridiculous yet simplistic. “What kind of monster is Godzilla facing off against this time?” “Why, SpaceGodzilla, of course!” It’s beautifully absurd and yet also a low-point of the Heisei era. Despite some impressive monster battles, creatures, and production design, the tone is all off. This film came at a point when the groundwork had been laid for a more serious look at the Godzilla series (clearly reflected in the movie that followed), only for SpaceGodzilla to undercut everything with a much lighter and sillier story, more fitting of the campier Showa era.

Bonus Trivia: Director Kensho Yamashita was more popularly known for directing romantic teen dramas, despite being an assistant director on Terror of Mechagodzilla back in 1975.


6. Godzilla 1985 aka The Return of Godzilla (1984)

The Setup: 30 years after the original monster’s rampage, a new Godzilla attacks Japan. The United States and the Soviets are at each other’s throats, each believing the other to be responsible, only for Japan to intervene with the Super X, an aerial vehicle armed with laser cannons.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Super X and other military forces, but there is a giant sea louse (a big sand crab) that attacks some people early on, because why not?

Thoughts: Ten years following Ishiro Honda’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, Toho finally decided it was time to reboot the franchise. The result was one of the lesser entries (and the American re-edit fares even worse, despite the return of Raymond Burr as American journalist Steve Martin). One of the main reasons the film failed to live up to its predecessors, and most of the Godzilla films to follow, was the direction. Yes, the effects were more impressive than what had been seen in many of the previous Godzilla films, but director Koji Hashimoto doesn’t bring the same esteem that tended to come from Honda’s hands on the franchise. Sadly, Honda, director of the original classic and many other sequels and kaiju films, passed on making this film in favor of working with Akira Kurosawa (not the worst prospect), leaving us without one final and genuinely great Honda-directed Godzilla film.

Bonus Trivia: This is the first Godzilla film in Dolby Stereo. Also, the American edit is notorious for its Dr. Pepper product placement inserts.


5. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth aka Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)

The Setup: During an expedition that leads to tomb raiding, fortune hunters discover a giant egg that contains Mothra. At the same time, nega-Mothra, or Battra, has awoken, intending to go after its sworn enemy. Meanwhile, as Mothra and Battra are on the path to battle each other, Godzilla has arrived in Japan once again, causing even more mayhem.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Mothra and Battra, who eventually look past their differences and choose to take on Godzilla together.

Thoughts: There’s a reason Godzilla vs. Mothra was the most financially successful of the Heisei era films: people love Mothra. According to Toho, women, in particular, love Mothra, Queen of the Monsters, which is why the studio made an effort to bring the classic Kaiju back, just as they had with King Ghidorah in the film before this one. Regardless, this is an enjoyable film. It wears a lot of Indiana Jones influence well enough to allow for fun human characters to shine in the early portions of the film, before going deep on the monster stuff. There’s also a fantastic score by original Godzilla composer Akira Ifukube, who does plenty of work to highlight how this is just as much a Mothra film as it is a Godzilla feature.

Bonus Trivia: Special effects director Koichi Kawakita originally wanted Mothra to be killed at the end so he could design a cyborg Mecha-Mothra for the sequel. Instead, Mothra flies off into space to stop an asteroid from hitting the earth. Movies!

4. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)

The Setup: The United Nations form the UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) and use the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah (more on that in the next entry) to build the ultimate weapon: Mechagodzilla. Meanwhile, scientists discover what they believe is a fresh Pteranodon egg, only to find it’s actually Baby Godzilla.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Mechagodzilla, which is later upgraded to become Super Mechagodzilla. There’s also Rodan, who eventually transforms in the nuclear-powered Fire Rodan. Then you have Baby Godzilla who fights for Godzilla’s attention thanks to a shared psychic connection.

Thoughts: On this most recent viewing I found a lot to like in Mechagodzilla II (named this way to not confuse audiences with the 1974 original, despite the films sharing no story or character-based connections). If the other films weren’t stronger, I’d be tempted to place this higher on the list. As it stands, I am a big fan of this incarnation of Mechagodzilla, as the design is quite effective. The film also features some of the best Heisei era action, which includes an early battle between Godzilla and Rodan (those two really hate each other, despite occasionally being frenemies). The introduction of Baby Godzilla is what it is. It actually becomes the start of a compelling sub-monster character storyline when looking at Baby G’s arc, but here it comes off as a purposefully cute design that sticks out in the film.

Bonus Trivia: The original plan was to remake King Kong vs. Godzilla, but the rights were too expensive. The next idea was using Mechani-Kong from King Kong Escapes, but there was also too much fear about the rights. That said, the Mechani-Kong theme appears in the film.


3. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

The Setup: Time travelers have come up with a plan to go back to modern Japan and convince a few researchers to go with them back to WWII to stop nuclear radiation from reaching the lost dinosaur that would become Godzilla. Unbeknownst to the researchers, this is all a part of the time travelers’ plans to replace Godzilla with King Ghidorah, who they will use to force modern Japan to bend to their will.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Three little kaiju known as Dorat are inserted into the past only to evolve into King Ghidorah with a little help from nuclear radiation. After Godzilla defeats King Ghidorah, a severed head is replaced with a mechanized one, as well as two metal wings and other parts to form Mecha-King Ghidorah. There’s also a cyborg, M11, who has some ground-based action, before having its brain programmed inside of Mecha-King Ghidorah (this film is nuts!).

Thoughts: If you can’t tell by the setup, this is one of the more bonkers entries in the Heisei era, let alone the Godzilla franchise. Thanks to influence from The Terminator and Back to the Future, here’s a film that actually rewrites Godzilla’s origins and somehow makes that work. The time travel component is nonsense, but it’s highly entertaining nonsense that mixes things up, before getting to the main event. Having not one, but two solo matches between Godzilla and Ghidorah means getting some terrific fights that I can’t imagine not satisfying fans. And even then, the human-based story features evil time travelers and cyborgs, making this one of the faster-paced Godzilla films, given all that’s going on.

Bonus Trivia: Legendary kaiju movie composer Akira Ifukube returned to score this film, after being non-pleased with what he heard in Godzilla vs. Biollante. This was his first Godzilla score since 1975.


2. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

The Setup: Microscopic crustaceans exposed to the Oxygen Destroyer that killed the first Godzilla in 1954 have been mutated, forcing them to combine and evolve into larger and larger forms, eventually resulting in Destoroyah, an angry kaiju bent to killing an already dying Godzilla, while also siphoning energy out of Earth.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Destoroyah, a monster that continually evolves, turning into xenomorph creatures along the way, before becoming a merciless foe. Not even Godzilla Junior (formerly Baby Godzilla) stands a chance.

Thoughts: The concluding chapter of the Heisei era is a surprisingly poignant one. For all the fun that comes with the chaos of a Godzilla film, this one lets you know the outcome won’t be pretty. Advertised as the film where Godzilla dies, with this era primarily placing Godzilla in an anti-hero role, watching him succumb to radiation exposure while going against one of his most deadly adversaries brings about as much emotion as you can expect in these movies. A returning Akira Ifukube helps with another impressive score, along with some of the terrific production values in place to establish the various forms of Destoroyah. Watching Godzilla Junior in battle is also a fine way to resolve that arc, only to have the kaiju character play into the final scene of the film in an interestingly cyclical way.

Bonus Trivia: An original idea for this film was to have Godzilla fight the original 1954 Godzilla in ghost form. It didn’t work out, but I would have been delighted to see a movie called Godzilla vs. GhostGodzilla.


1. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

The Setup: Due to genetic tampering, a monster is created from the combination of Godzilla DNA, human DNA, and rose DNA. As this monstrosity dubbed Biollante becomes a more significant threat, Godzilla emerges from his volcanic tomb (the endpoint of Godzilla ’85), only to be called to a fight by the giant plant kaiju, as humans attempt to figure out their best course of action.

Who Does Godzilla Fight: Biollante is the only adversary here, but it’s more than enough of a challenge for the King of the Monsters.

Thoughts: This is a truly bizarre film that happens to be my favorite of the Heisei era, let alone one of my favorites of the entire series. Toho hadn’t released a Godzilla film this weird since Godzilla vs. Hedorah (The Smog Monster) back in 1971, and similar to that film, it performed below expectations, leading to the revival of more classic monsters. Still, Biollante was something fresh for the series, taking a cue from Little Shop of Horrors of all things to deliver an all-time classic kaiju creation that’s as vicious as it is elaborate. As it took over 20 people to operate Biollante in her final form and it was worth it to see this magnificent creature design in full effect. Add to that the film itself, which incorporates some social commentary concerning the abuses of biotechnology, as well as plot beats that feel lifted straight out of a James Bond movie. Written and directed by Kazuki Ohmori, who would go on to follow this up with King Ghidorah, here’s a film that’s in full control of its oddness, while still working as one of the true classic Godzilla movies.

Bonus Trivia: One of the rare Godzilla movies not to get any re-edits. This is especially notable given that the film was owned by Miramax, a studio notorious for editing foreign films for American audiences.

That concludes my thoughts on the Heisei era of Godzilla films, but stay tuned for my take on the Millennium era, which featured 6 films spanning from 1999 to 2004!


Lastly, many of these films can be found for purchase on Amazon:



3 Responses to “Godzilla Ranking: The Heisei Era (1984 – 1995)”

  1. Brandon Peters

    Holy hell! You aren’t kidding about those posters! Great job, excited for the next one

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    If there’s one thing that’s consistent through the Godzilla Franchise (among other things), it’s the killer poster designs, which range from wacky to outstanding.

  3. Eric

    Very close to my list.. I probably would have G vs MG ahead of G vs KG

    Otherwise I can not argue 🙂