Long ago dubbed "The King of All Monsters", Godzilla has been a mainstay of pop culture for decades. First introduced to America in 1956, Godzilla King of the Monsters arrived as an Americanized version of the original 1954 Japanese Toho Pictures Godzilla also known as Gojira. Since that time, Godzilla has been in thirty-one movies, four animated cartoons and a number of video games, comic books, statues and model kits. Honestly, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Being such a popular character, it is inevitable that there would be any number of action figures available to crush innumerable cardboard cities (and maybe your little sister's dollhouse). Here are some of the best Godzilla action figures ever made!
"Classic 1954 Godzilla" released by Bandai
This figure details the Godzilla from the very first 1945 film and marks the first use of a man in a suit, also known as "suit-mation". The figure is grey like in the film and seems to be articulated in the same places as the original suit. The lower half of the body is thicker and the legs are much stockier than many of the figures that came after. The arms are small like a T-Rex but are longer and thicker. The tail is shorter and stands above the ground.
"SH Monster Arts Godzilla" released by Bandai Tamashii Nations
Based on the 1960s version of Godzilla, which falls in the Showa Period (1954-1975), this Godzilla is a thinner, taller and an overall less stocky version of the monster. Here, Godzilla is a uniform thickness with no particular area being more heavily muscled over any other. The arms are the longest of any figure and the tail is the shortest. There are also significantly fewer dorsal fins than other figures. The standout feature of this figure is the distinct color choices including lighter coloring at the chest and the knees.
Godzilla Shogun Warriors released by Mattel in 1977
As unusual as it sounds. Godzilla exists firmly within the realm of Captain America and Spider-Man. For 24 issues, running for Marvel Comics from 1977 to 1979, Godzilla battled S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the aforementioned wall-crawler. It is Godzilla's association with the other giant monster comic The Shogun Warrior that led to this Mattel action figure. A button on the figure's arm causes his fist to fire and a switch on the back of his head reveals a fiery tongue. His tail is also removable for easy storage.
Godzilla 1995 released by Bandai Tamashii Nations in 2012
From the Heisei period of the Toho films (1984-1995), this figure is a bit of a departure from the traditional figure. While the recognizable dorsal fin is a prominent part of this figure, the head is considerably smaller but the body has a bulkier build with more powerful and thicker legs. The figure is heavily articulated at several unusual points, including the chest, hips, knees ankles, and wrists. The extra-large tail helps balance out this large figure nicely.
Godzilla 2000 released by Bandai Tamashii Nations in 2013
Based on the Millennium period of the Toho film series (1999-2004), this figure has significant changes over its Heisei counterpart. The head and neck are considerably longer with the dorsal fins extending all the way up to the base of the skull. The body has a longer appearance rather than the taller 1995 version. The tail dips down and touches the ground at two spots and the claws on the hands and feet are extended and curved. This Godzilla looks like a more dynamic and proportioned version of the classic monster. This one also sports the biggest dorsal fins of any figure we’ve seen.
Classic Godzilla Final Wars released by Bandai Tamashii Nations
Coinciding with the 2004 film Godzilla Final Wars, this figure dials back the design detail in a way that is reminiscent of the original design. This 50th-anniversary figure shows a Godzilla that falls much more into his “suit-mation” roots. The figure has the more squat, human-like stance with a stocky body and legs. The arms are oddly thin, however, and the hands and claws are extended and fixed. This figure also isn’t as articulated as earlier figures and it is one of the few figures where the mouth is open and the brow is prominently furrowed.
FunKo Pop! Godzilla released by Funko in 2015
No toy list would be complete without including the Funko Pop vinyl figure. This adorable version makes the monster positively cuddly and can be found in a mix of collectible versions, including an outstanding "black and white: version. The figure is symmetrically perfect and reminiscent of the original with hands and legs of similar lengths and a shorter tail. His trademark growl is nearly a grin here and it makes it all the more lovable. What he lacks in articulation he more than makes up for in style.
Atomic Roar Godzilla released by Bandai in 2014
This figure is based on the 2014 American film by Legendary Pictures. It also has the most distinctive design of any figure. Here, Godzilla has a small head attached to a neck that continues in thickness all the way down to the lower torso, giving it the look of a standing alligator with a shorter snout. The arms on the figure are small but the legs are huge and equal in thickness to the body. The famous dorsal fins run from the back of the head all the way down to the tip of the long tail. In this particular figure, the mouth unhinges to allow the player to place a plume of blue “atomic flame” in the open area to simulate the devastating attack from the film.
Godzilla Minimates released by Diamond Select Toys
Both of these two-inch tall Minimate figure sets feature four popular figures from Godzilla's film history. In the first, Godzilla is featured expelling his blue "atomic flame" and his dorsal fins are also glowing in bright blue. MechaGodzilla, the alien created robot monster, the human-created giant fighting robot Jet Jaguar, and Hedorah the Smog Monster are also included in this set. The second set features Godzilla in a classic pose and fan favorites Mothra, Gigan and the metallic Titanosaurus.
The Good, the Bad and the Godzilla
Godzilla is the most enduring of all giant monsters and we wouldn't have films like Cloverfield or Pacific Rim without his influence on pop culture and our collective imaginations. I believe this is largely due to the fact that Godzilla can be portrayed as both a hero and a villain, sometimes in the same film. Often feared by adults but revered and beloved by children, belief in the monster's ability to do good is a matter of faith and imagination. These are some of the same qualities that make playing with these action figures so much fun.