It’s been a while since we were able to just sit in a theater with a bucket of popcorn and watch giant monsters go to war in major cities. Thankfully, the release of Godzilla vs. Kong became a bright spot in the grim future for movie theaters after as the pandemic comes to a slow but steady end. Now that blockbusters are officially back at the box office, it’s time to bring back enthusiastic discussions about our favorite franchises.
Godzilla vs. Kong is the culmination of a showdown set up across three movies and decades of Hollywood history. It finally gave us the long-awaited showdown featuring the two most famous movie monsters of all time, but how does it rank against the previous entries in the MonsterVerse?
This list will breakdown all four of the films that are currently canon in the MonsterVerse: Godzilla (2016), Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong. The list was surprisingly hard to put together because each film has its unique strong points, but in the end, overall quality and personal enjoyment were the main criteria that broke a lot of ties.
This ranking is my personal opinion at this moment in time. My opinions with this series (like many others) change over time because of repeat viewings and newer films changing my view of previous installments. After rewatching all of the films over the past few weeks, I certainly came to interesting conclusions that I never expected, so I welcome everyone to share their own lists and their hottest takes with us on Twitter or in the comments section.
4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
It pains me to put this film last. I was one of its strongest advocates when critics hammered it more than any other MonsterVerse movie back in 2019 (42% on Rotten Tomatoes). I still love and defend this movie because its exactly what you would expect from the ultimate Godzilla movie: a mindless VFX spectacle with a serviceable plot.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters shines with its incredible visuals, intense action, and exciting world building. Its human cast is serviceable with a few standouts including Millie Bobby Brown and Vera Farmiga, but it’s cast of monsters are where this film falls short. Its lack of focus and overcomplexity make it hard to really appreciate all of these classic monsters come to life. King Ghidora makes a strong impression as a genuine threat, but all of the other monsters are just there to showoff instead of serving a purpose.
The one major problem I have with this movie that sent it to the bottom of my rankings is its wasteful use of Mothra, one of the most famous monsters from the franchise. She was put in the movie to sacrifice herself for Godzilla in the final act after her appearance was teased throughout the beginning of the film. Mothra deserved better treatment in her first appearance in the franchise, and hopefully the studio comes up with some ill-conceived explanation to bring her back in the future.
Once again, the film overall is a perfect popcorn flick to enjoy in theaters or to put on as white noise in the background at home, but the other films have certain qualities that make them better in certain contexts.
3. Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island was the only film on this list that did not improve after my recent rewatch. I used to have it at the top of my MonsterVerse ranking, but as time passed and I rewatched it more and more, I had to demote it for a few reasons. Before I go into those reasons, let’s talk about the good parts of the movie.
In my opinion, Kong: Skull Island has the best visuals of any movie in the MonsterVerse, which is big praise considering the intense competition. The Vietnam War style was a perfect choice for a franchise that had been visually stale for decades. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed the hell out of a movie that had no business being as stunning as it is. He created the beautifully terrifying world of Skull Island that sadly turned out to be as isolated in the franchise as it was in the film.
The human cast is also surprisingly strong for a movie in this genre. Their characters might be standard quality for the MonsterVerse, but the A-List ensemble cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman made Kong: Skull Island feel like a high-quality film instead of a generic mindless blockbuster. Where Kong: Skull Island fell short is its lack of relevance to the overall story and its relatively small scale in comparison to the rest of the MonsterVerse.
Watching Godzilla vs. Kong made me realize that Kong: Skull Island is not essential viewing for the entire series. The 1970s setting separates the characters and the settings from a lot of the main action. This is now especially obvious because developments in Godzilla vs. Kong show that the most interesting parts of Kong’s story happened off-screen between the two films. It pains me to do it, but now I have no choice but to demote it to No.3.
2. Godzilla vs. Kong
Originally, I wanted to put this film at No. 1 because Godzilla vs. Kong is exactly what it sounds like: two of the most famous movie monsters of all time duking it out in a mindless visual spectacle. Under that definition, the movie more than delivers. Where the movie falls short, however, is as a standalone film with major script issues that would hold it back from being an instant classic under normal circumstances.
Director Adam Wingard holds nothing back in this beautiful visual spectacle with top notch VFX and action that supersedes any Kaiju sequence ever put to film. The feeling of being back in a theater after so long watching the best mindless blockbuster I have ever seen combined to create a truly memorable experience for me. Where this movie falls short, however, is almost everything else about it (rushed script, useless characters, etc.)
So why does Godzilla vs. Kong still get the No. 2 spot? Well, its is by far the most entertaining movie in the MonsterVerse and one of the most entertaining films of all time. The pure joy I experienced watching Godzilla and King Kong duke it out in full CGI, city destroying glory is an experience I will never forget. It is easily one of the best experiences I have ever had in a movie theater, and I have rewatched on HBO Max several times already with no plans to stop any time soon.
Overtime, I suspect that this movie will fall lower on my list, but my phenomenal first impression is more enough to take second place for now.
1. Godzilla (2014)
I know, I know. This may be a bit of a hot take, but I think the first entry in the series is by far the best MonsterVerse movie all around. Godzilla perfectly captures everything that I prefer from my monster movies: a grounded, horrifying perspective on how larger than life monsters could realistically affect the lives of the very puny humans on the ground.
Godzilla is the most unique film in the series because it truly makes you care about the lead characters. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (with an amazing assist from Bryan Cranston) lead an emotionally terrifying journey that is more thrilling and horrifying than any of the other MonsterVerse movies. It’s a nice change of pace for a Godzilla movie to keep me so engaged and invested throughout, especially since the series made a hard pivot for all of the following entries because general audiences didn’t gravitate towards it as much as I did.
A common complaint of this movie is that Godzilla is not the main focus of the movie that bears its name, but that actually makes it better to me because it’s a unique take on a classic story that reminds me a lot of the grounded, found footage style of Cloverfield (one of my favorite monster movies ever).
Even though I am well aware that Godzilla is on the bottom of the list for most, its unique, emotionally thrilling elements set it apart as my favorite entry in the MonsterVerse so far.
What did you think of our list? Share your own MonsterVerse rankings on Twitter or down below in the comments!