Godzilla Minus One: Is It The Best Kaiju Movie Ever?

The Fantasizing About Fantasy Films series asks an important question: is Godzilla Minus One the best kaiju movie ever?

Last Updated on April 5, 2024

Fantasy can cross over into several genres where you wouldn’t expect it to be found.  Horror is one, of course; I dare you to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and not tell me it’s a horrific fantasy.  But another is Science Fiction.  Sci-Fi and Fantasy go hand in claw, and no more so than when it comes to Godzilla and his family of monsters.  

In this edition of Fantasizing About Fantasy Films, we’re doing something a little different.  We’re going with the new modern classic Godzilla Minus One.  The return of the King of the Monsters from his home country of Japan and an origin story never previously witnessed.  Prepare to be amazed as we see a Godzilla story told in a way that will surprise you, and which became one of the biggest hits of 2023 as we fly toward the monster in Godzilla Minus One.

Godzilla is, to put it mildly, a god in film.  Since 1954, the radioactive Kaiju has been destroying movie screens in Japan (and a lot of other places recently) for movie audiences around the world.  Nearly 40 movies in total star the nuclear-powered monster with countless comics, a few cartoon series (I always wanted a pager of my own so I could call up Godzilla when I needed him), books, games, you name it.  You can even zip line into the monster’s mouth at a theme park in Japan—life goals.

Godzilla has gone through quite a journey in the films that featured him.  The original was an allegory for Japan and the fact that nukes had destroyed parts of their country.  It was very serious and would have its message tweaked a bit with the American edit that inserted Raymond Burr into scenes.  But at its heart, Godzilla was something that showed the world what happens when mankind messes with Mother Nature and the catastrophe that can happen from it.

This message has been seen several times over the years, but Godzilla has morphed from a monster to a hero in the Japanese series of films, even becoming more than a little goofy at times.  Then, through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, Godzilla became far more serious and took on a harder sci-fi tone.  

It was in 2014 that the US dived into the Godzilla pool (let’s try to forget about the 1998 version, which Jesse Shade is diving into this month on Awfully Good). The film that Legendary Pictures released became a massive hit. However, it was more Aaron Taylor Johnson staring off into space than Godzilla (anyone else weirded out by the fact that he and Elizabeth Olsen played brother and sister in Age of Ultron but were husband and wife here?).  But the Monsterverse series of films was born. 

On the Japanese side of things, a new era for Godzilla was started only two years later with Shin Godzilla, a completely different take on how Godzilla came to be, with the monster evolving throughout the film.  Where the 2014 Monsterverse film had some amazing scenes with soldiers jumping to their deaths amid Godzilla’s attack and some strong vibes of 9/11-type destruction and clouds of debris, Shin Godzilla harkened back to Japan’s disaster that happened in 2011.  

This was when the tsunami and earthquake caused the nuclear accident at Fukushima.  Once again, Godzilla was finding use as a metaphor for nuclear disaster, this one of a different sort and fairly recent to the film’s release.  It would also be the first clear evidence that the new reign of Zilla was going to be far more vicious when it came to taking on the Japanese government…something fairly rare when it comes to these films.

The Monsterverse/Legendary films (which we recently ranked here) would see Godzilla become more of a heroic figure, a protector of Earth alongside another titan in the form of King Kong.  Japan would bring Godzilla into the realm of Anime in three different entries shared with Netflix.  And then…something amazing would happen in 2023.

Rather than going into the future with the king of monsters, filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki went back into the past, all the way back to World War 2.  He’d bring a fresh take to the old god, and it would be glorious, heartfelt, and beautiful.  And it would blow away the box office in a way a Godzilla film from Japan hadn’t in a long time.  It would also do it in a way that would criticize the treatment of the Japanese by their own government after the war as well as how the world treated them.  It was a point of view and a serious subject that, again, hadn’t really been seen in this sort of film.  

Godzilla Minus One isn’t a direct sequel, of course, to Shin Godzilla.  The monster in this is fully formed and not like the evolving creature in Shin.  This monster is more of the classic version of the Big G first and foremost.

In this edition of Fantasizing About Fantasy films, which you can watch in the video above, we examine how Yamazaki, reinvented the character for a new generation and (maybe) stole a bit of Legendary’s MonsterVerse thunder in the process.

About the Author

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Jessica was raised on a diet of Dark Shadows, Doctor Who, and a lot of things she saw way too young. She’s been writing for nearly a quarter of a century about the world of entertainment and her own fiction (and that sound you heard was her bones turning to dust.) Jessica loves being a JoBro as well as creating content for her site/channel/Podcast Fangirl Magazine/Fangirl Radio. Her favorite things are writing, movies/tv, video games, reading, and trying to summon the ghost of Vincent Price.