There is no movie franchise quite like Godzilla. It’s the longest running film series out there. (28 installments my friend.) Like James Bond, the title character has changed appearance over the course of so many movies. One question that pops up frequently in the fanbase is which is the best incarnation. Is he best as an antagonist solely bent on destroying Japan? Is he better as a hero and defender of his mother country? Or an anti-hero? But perhaps an even greater question asked is which is his best design.
Before getting into this, it’s important I make a little disclaimer. There are some suits I’m not including. I’m not including the 55 suit, because it’s pretty much the same as the original, just inferior according to 99% of the fanbase. (I agree with that that too.) I also won’t be including the 65 or 66 suits, (since the 68 suit pretty much encompasses 65 and 66) or the Kiryu suit. (Because it’s basically a modified version of the 2000 suit, which I consider to be much better and most of the fanbase would agree.) Also, while there are some little differences in the Heisei suits from 1989 to 1994, they are not enough to separate them, so only the 1994 suit I’ll be including since many would agree that it’s the most definitive look. (And also that the S.H. Monsterarts based their figure on it.) So without further ado, let’s take a look at the most iconic Godzilla suits and decide which is the best…
The Original, the Classic, 1954
It’s amazing to think we last saw this design 60 years, and how well it holds up in film. This is where the legend started folks. 60 years later, and the design still looks great. This version of Godzilla’s sole purpose was to personify the atomic bomb. The design got that right, with an almost deranged look. It’s hard to get more classic than this thing. 60 years later, and it’s still a fan favorite.
The Arrogant Kong-Slayer, KingGoji, 1962
After a 7 year hiatus, TOHO brought Godzilla back for a fresh movie and with a fresh new design. And boy, was it a new design. This one was drastically different than the original. For one thing it was slightly chubbier, giving Godzilla more of a brutish look. But the biggest thing was the face, it’s by far the most unique face design of them all. On paper it might sound silly, but in film it looks great. Godzilla was pretty arrogant in this one, clapping his hands whenever he beat up on poor King Kong, the suit perfectly displays that. It’s easy to see why a lot of fans greatly love this unique design.
Rising Out of the Sand, the Eyebrows, 1964
1964 was one of the biggest years for G. Not only was it his tenth anniversary, not one, but two movies came out. (And they are both some of the best from the entire series.) The suit used is regarded by many as the greatest Showa suit. It’s easy to see why, it just looks good. The face looks rather mean. as you can see here. (As you can tell, he was a lot more serious than his rather comical self in 1962.) The eyebrows is definitely the most standout feature and to this day makes it very recognizable among the many Godzilla designs.
The Insect Killer, the Father, 1967
Only in recent years have fans begun to realize just how good of a movie Son of Godzilla is. This film is monumental for a few reasons, one of them being that it introduced Godzilla as a dad. The suit is regarded as the absolute worst by fans. It’s definitely hard to argue, it just looks rather goofy. But it does get the job done perfectly, and that’s to show that G is not a malicious monster that attacks Japan anymore, he’s a loving father.
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, 1968
Destroy All Monsters is regarded as an absolute classic. While some parts do drag on a bit, it’s definitely a highlight in G’s legacy. (46 years later and the final battle is still the best.) The design perfectly showcases his heroic persona at that point, while also looking mean. Many consider this the definitive Showa design, and it’s easy to see why.
The Martial Artist, the Hero, 1975
1975 was a sad year for Godzilla. Not because the subject film, Terror of Mechagodzilla, was bad, (it’s actually one of the very best) but it was actually the last G film for nearly a decade. This suit is a modified version of the Megalon and Mechagodzilla suits, and it easily improves upon them. At this point in time, Godzilla had moved completely past the “destroy Japan” persona and was a defender. (In this movie he actually teams up with humans!) The suit, namely the face, perfectly shows that Godzilla is a complete hardcore hero. To this day it’s my personal favorite Showa design.
The Return, the Rebirth, 1984
1984 was an important year for Godzilla. Not only was it his 30th anniversary, but the film that came out was very good. (It’s a shame not too many people have seen it, cause to this very day it does not have an official DVD release outside Japan.) The suit perfectly showcases that G was no longer a hero, he was back to his destroying Japan roots. In the first scene where we get a good at his face, that was fantastic. It just looks mean. Out of all the suits, it seems this one is under-appreciated. (Which is due in part to having no DVD release.)
The Iconic, the Heisei, 1994
The 1994 suit is the perfect combination of past Heisei suits after 1984. When the average person thinks of Godzilla, chances are this design comes to mind. It’s easy to see why, it’s the most marketed design aside from perhaps the Millennium one. It’s so definitive to people that Tamashii Nations used it for their first Monsterarts figure. Out of the designs listed, this one might be the most well-known.
The Millennium, the Spiky, 1999
GODZILLA 2000 was big movie, cause it showed the world what a true G film was after the thing we call the 1998 film was released. The suit is definitely the greatest and most memorable aspect of it. This version of Godzilla was definitely the most radical since 1962. (And many say it actually looks like a modern version of KingGoji.) Obviously one of the most memorable things about it are the dorsal plates. They are noticeably larger and spikier. They look quite awesome, especially in distance shots. The face is more reptilian and lizard-like compared to previous incarnations. It’s easy to see why this design has been one of, if not the most marketed design, being the mascot look for all three console video games.
The God of Destruction, No Pupils, 2001
Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a unique Godzilla film in many areas. Chief of those areas is G’s design, which is truly interesting. Godzilla here is pure evil, something that had not been since 1954. With complete white eyes and an imposing stature, the GMK design truly stands out. The only criticism fans give it is that it has what is known as a “potbelly.” It does admittedly look awkward in some scenes, but it’s only a minor thing. The GMK suit portrays Godzilla’s merciless character like no other.
The King, the Super Saiyan, 2004
Final Wars is one of the most hotly talked about films of the series, even to this day. The suit for the most part is liked by fans. The main thing you’ll notice is that it’s much slimmer than previous incarnations, making him more agile and quicker. The face is pretty much perfect. He looks mean, not evil like GMK, but not friendly either, like 1967. All in all, it’s hard not to like this design, it gets so many things right.
So with all that said, what kind of conclusion can we come up with? The answer isn’t easy, but there’s an answer, and that’s…
What? What kind of a cop-out is that you ask? Allow me to explain. Every Godzilla design listed perfectly fits the role it was designed to be in. If you like Godzilla as the personification of the atomic bomb, look no further than the 1954 suit, if Godzilla being an arrogant brute suits your fancy, the 1962 version gets that right, or if you like G as pure evil, the GMK design does that perfectly. You, see there is no “best Godzilla design.” There is only what makes sense in the context of the film. The GMK suit is great, but would it have made sense for it to be in 1967 and showing Minilla the ropes? Of course not. Like desserts, it’s about what fits. Ice Cream is perfect for a hot summer day, while hot chocolate is great for a cold winter day. Godzilla has had many great designs over the years, so kick back and enjoy every one of them!