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"A great battle of wonder and terror!" But can you really call it a fair fight?

"Bombs vs. bombs. Missiles vs. missiles. And now a new superweapon to throw upon us all. As a scientist, no, as a human being, I cannot allow that to happen."
Dr. Daisuke Serizawa after his Oxygen Destroyer is revealed to Hideo Ogata
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The one that started it all.

In The '50s, Cold War tensions were high, movie monsters created or awakened by nuclear explosions were a thing, and the monster could be defeated in a scientific way. Godzilla introduces, and invokes, a new type of radioactive monstrosity in a new, darker way...

Godzilla (or Gojira, the literal Hepburn romanization), is a black and white kaiju tokusatsu film directed by Ishir⁠ō Honda in 1954 and the first film of the Godzilla franchise.

Released on November 3rd, 1954, the film is notorious for its story, which is written by legendary sc-fi writer Shigeru Kayama. The genesis of the film happened when producer Tomoyuki Tanaka read a news article involved a US nuclear test at the Bikini Atoll, codenamed Castle Bravo, which detonated a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb in March 1st, but that's not the full story. A Japanese fishing boat, the Daigo Fukuryū Maru was caught by the burst of the radiation explosion, irradiating her crew, and one of the crew members died of radiation poisoning. This international crisis and the possibility of irradiated fish poisoning fish markets put the country on edge.

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Chosen to direct the film was Ishiro Honda, who was a former foot soldier during World War II who already had an extensive career as a director and his old friend, special effects guru Eiji Tsuburaya. Once Honda was released as a prisoner of war, he went home only to find out what happened to Hiroshima: destroyed by the Little Boy atom bomb in August 6, 1945 which haunted him forever. And thus, the film is a metaphor for their destructive power. The opening scene is a direct reference to the Castle Bravo test, and Godzilla's rampage in the second act symbolizes the atomic bombings.

The film features Akira Takarada as Hideo Ogata, Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane, Akihiko Hirata as Dr. Daisuke Serizawa and Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane.

While set up originally as a horror film, this film established Kaiju as a genre of its own, in addition to beginning one of the greatest franchises in the world.

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Despite debuting to poor reception in Japan initially, Gojira (or Godzilla, take your pick), was praised by American viewers after the original cut was made available outside of Japan with two DVD releases, by Classic Media and The Criterion Collection. The English version, Godzilla: King of the Monsters! was edited to add American reporter Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), which sees its release in its home country of Japan called Kaiju-Oh Gojira. There is also the Italian version, Cozzilla, a much stranger recut that includes colorization and Stock Footage from World War II.

Godzilla is a much more grounded, bleak and haunting film than its successors, so viewers visiting the film after a bout with the more fantastical later installments may be surprised at its somber tone and unsubtle allegories.

Until 2014, this film was the headstart of every Continuity Reboot. Godzilla (2014) was the first film in the series' franchise to get a fresh start with no ties with this one.

For the sequels taking place after this film, see Godzilla Raids Again, The Return of Godzilla, and various Millennium series films. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and Godzilla: Final Wars continue the story where the original Godzilla lives.

The unromanized title is not to be confused with the French progressive death metal band Gojira.

The film can be viewed for free on YouTube.


This film provides examples of:

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     A - C 

  • A-Team Firing: The military brings out fighter jets to attack Godzilla as a last-ditch effort to defeat him or drive him away. The missiles are shown visibly missing him, even as he submerges into the ocean.
  • Allegory: This film is famous for its nuclear metaphors, with Godzilla being the metaphor for the bomb and a victim of it, the tragedies of Japan after World War II, and the hell its citizens went through. There is no sugarcoating about its metaphors, and they are still powerful to this day. Even film historians note this film would've been a generic monster flick without them.
  • Apocalypse Wow: We see what happened in the second act and the aftermath of the third. The scene is deliberately designed to look as if it was hit by a nuclear bomb.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Inside Godzilla's wrathful exterior is a victim of the same warfare 9 years earlier in World War II (just like Japan), and thus his wrath is very understandable. When a monster is presented as much of a victim of nuclear weapons as humans, you know Ishiro Honda is going out of his way to show that, yes, the nuclear age is the real monster here.
  • Antagonist Title: Godzilla, who's the villain here.
  • Anyone Can Die: Thousands to millions of people are practically dead or dying in this film. The main characters aren't exactly immune to this either as Serizawa pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Godzilla is supposedly from the Jurassic Era of dinosaurs (the era itself being 201.3± 0.6 Ma). Shigeru Kayama purposely date the Jurassic Era later than that to tie Godzilla's origins to man.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Kyohei Yamane is shown touching things while investigating an area destroyed by Godzilla. After it is pointed out that the area they're in is radioactive, as Godzilla himself is deathly radioactive if you're near him, he resumes touching things that could be possibly radioactive without gloves. This is only pointed out by his assistant Dr. Tanabe who told him the trilobite he found could contain radiation.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: The government advises the construction of electrical towers should Godzilla appear again. There is no way those towers were made in less than a week. Even if they did, Godzilla would have taken his time to attack Japan at any point. The original script did point out the electric towers took weeks to be built, while civilians complained having to reside in bomb shelters while this was going on and wanting to go home.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Dr. Yamane's description of the Mesozoic Era is woefully inaccurate. He also claims that trilobites have been extinct for 2 million years; it's actually closer to 250 million. He also puts the existence of dinosaurs at 2 million years, when virtually everyone knows that dinosaurs haven't been around for over 65 million years, and specifically references the Brontosaurus, which itself isn't known to have lived any more recently than 150 million years ago.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Having the oxygen atoms in your body spontaneously destroyednote  would be nasty and most likely fatal, but probably would not strip the flesh from your bones and disintegrate you.
    • Also, when Serizawa is placing the Oxygen Destroyer close to Godzilla in order to kill him (and Godzilla is walking around looking for him, because he senses something is wrong), they're both shown to be walking around the bottom of Tokyo Bay. Godzilla is explicitly 50 meters tall, and is fully submerged when walking, so Serizawa must be in at least 160 feet of water. However, it's very bright down there, and he can easily see. While sunlight can penetrate that deep, it isn't going to make things anywhere near that well-lit.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Godzilla is exactly 50 meters in the Japanese version. The dub overshot this with him being 400 feet tall, which is 121.92 meters. The latter is rather inconsistent, due to him being barely taller than a couple of buildings that would be over his height.
  • Bad Vibrations: An early example. It usually signifies an Oh, Crap! for everyone, including the audience. However, the special effect used for other scenes is rather... odd. Since in the party boat scene, we can hear the stomping before Godzilla surfaces (it would made sense, but sound is usually not heard underwater), then again when it can be heard before Godzilla puts his head out of the water in his first rampage. In fact, Akira Ifukube accidentally stepped on a sound system, and it was used in the film.
  • Badass Normal: Daisuke Serizawa, a brilliant, yet otherwise ordinary human, is responsible for one of the few times that the King of Monsters has been defeated.
  • Berserk Button: Dr. Yamane urges the JSDF not to shine lights on Godzilla during the monster's rampage in Shinagawa. It's explained in the second film, when Yamane speculates Godzilla doesn't like bright lights because they remind him of the glare of the atomic bomb, which turned him into what he is today.
  • Big Bad: Aside from the pun, Godzilla's actions kick-start the plot, and his death casts a shadow over the entire franchise in 3 entire series, Showa, Heisei, and Millennium. However, his Showa successor goes from a villain to a hero, Heisei successor from villain to antihero, and multiple versions who are villains and antiheroes in the Millennium series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Godzilla is destroyed, but at the cost of Serizawa's life. Tokyo still lies in ruins, and there's a possibility that another Godzilla may come if humanity doesn't abandon its nuclear weapons.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • Two politicians, a man and a woman, argue whether or not Godzilla's existence should be held a secret or not. The male politician (played by Jun Tazaki) suggests information about Godzilla and his connection to the H-Bomb should be kept a secret, as revealing it would affect already-frail international relationships with other countries. The woman believes people have a right to know about Godzilla, as he is responsible for several deaths in the last few days, which has caused enough grief among family and friends of several of the deceased crewmen.
    • Ogata and Serizawa argue over the use of the Oxygen Destroyer. Ogata wants to use it after Godzilla's rampage throughout Tokyo, which caused enough death and destruction to drive Emiko to tears. Serizawa hates the idea of using the Oxygen Destroyer in its current form and intended to use it for beneficial reasons. The real allegory of the film is here. Serizawa voices the arguments used by those who object to nuclear weapons, while Ogata does the same for the arguments in favor of their use in 1945. Specifically, that the Oxygen Destroyer will spread too easily to other countries, versus the use of it will cause less damage than Gojira is doing and will end it.
  • Bowdlerise: The 2006 rerelease by Classic Media and Sony BMG Music Entertainment Home Entertainment had the subtitles of a woman on a train remarking she barely escaped the destruction of Nagasaki censored to her saying "They seemed certain about the accuracy of their report."
  • Breath Weapon: Godzilla's Atomic Breath, a stream of radioactive plasma which he uses to blow up the ships at the film's beginning, melt the high-tension power lines, and burn Tokyo to the ground.
  • The Cameo: Stuntman Haruo Nakajima (the guy in the Godzilla suit) appears as a reporter in a newspaper office. Fellow stuntman Katzumi Tezuka is his and Hagiwara's editor.
  • Central Theme:
    • Tragedy and consequences have long-term effects on people. It can also affect other life on Earth, and not just human beings that inhabit secluded areas. War creates victims. And the film's last act depicts Godzilla as an innocent creature whose mutation turns him into a walking nuclear bomb, and it wasn't his choice to begin with.
    • The film also treats the humans and monster as not that different: Japan suffered a defeat that took millions of lives by two atomic bombs. Godzilla suffers from a nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific that horrifically scars and irradiated him.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Godzilla seems to know where to go in this film. He lands on Odo Island (where Masaji happens to be), and comes to Tokyo twice on two separate nights.
    • Emiko just happens to be the daughter of the paleontologist who figures out what Godzilla really is, she just happens to be having an affair with the salvage crewman who finds him in the South Pacific, and she just happens to be engaged to the scientist who invents the super-weapon that ultimately kills him. Fancy that.
  • Creator Cameo: Ishir⁠ō Honda is the guy who flips the switch that electrocutes Godzilla.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: Immediately after Godzilla's rampage throughout the city, we're treated to a sight most of its successors would ignore; namely a somber sequence showcasing the local hospital overwhelmed by the destruction of the attack. The place is so overcrowded that most of the patients are forced to lie on the floors, with vehicles constantly arriving to bring more, and the staff are utterly overwhelmed despite their best intentions. As well as the conventionally injured, we're shown numerous patients suffering from massive agonizing radiation burns and an utterly silent moment where a doctor holds a Geiger counter up to a tiny child to confirm he's radioactive and there is nothing they can do for him.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Godzilla and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa being disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Godzilla against the electrical blockade and a squad of tanks as he moves inward on Tokyo's wards. Godzilla's encounters with the military in general as well.

     D - H 
  • Darker and Edgier: It's a very dark film of its time. Before its Reverse Cerebus Syndrome and Lighter and Softer sequels (barring its first direct sequel Godzilla Raids Again), it is much darker than the radioactive monsters of the 50's and this is the first film of the film's overall chronology. In fact, the entire film takes itself very seriously without any sense of humor to show as much dread as possible likewise with Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Deadline News: A radio crew reporting the attack on Tokyo realize they have no way out. Accepting it, they announce this fact to their listeners and continue reporting until Godzilla destroys the tower from which they're broadcasting.
  • Death by Irony: Masaji, the fisherman who survived Godzilla's third attack in the ocean, has an Oh, Crap! when Godzilla comes to Odo Island during a typhoon.
  • Death of a Child:
    • There's a scene which shows a mother comforting her two children during Godzilla's rampage in Tokyo. It's heavily implied that they were killed by the titular monster.
    • Likewise, the extremely unnerving scene where two soldiers use a Geiger counter on the body of a little boy...and it goes berserk.
  • Delaying Action: In the third act, the JSDF are trying their damnedest to hold Godzilla back while trying to evacuate an entire city. It doesn't work too well, as by the time the air force arrives, he has already decimated the city.
  • Digital Destruction: The Classic Media Blu-ray of Gojira used a mediocre, rough looking print hit with excessive grain smoothing (which didn't even get rid of much of it to begin with). Many optical wipes and fades were inexplicably replaced with digital ones as well, shortening the overall runtime of the film. Fortunately, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray gave the film a proper restoration.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Considering Ishir⁠ō Honda directed this film and its screenplay, there are several references to Japan's experience in the aftermath of World War II and the incoming Cold War:
    • The Eiko Maru blowing up in the beginning is a direct reference to the nuclear incident that occurred earlier in the year, when the US Castle Bravo test detonated a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific and the Lucky Dragon 5 fishing boat got caught in the radiation burst by accident.
    • Godzilla himself is not just a metaphor for the atomic bomb (or nuclear weapons in general), but also a living nuclear weapon. A rather sad part, Godzilla in the climax is treated as the monster itself is innocent, since it experienced the aftershock of the nuclear weapons that gave the monster its powers as much as Japan did. In essence, not only is Godzilla a metaphor for nuclear weapons, he's also a victim of them. Basically, he's a giant monster version of a Hibakusha.
    • The exchange with Ogata and Dr. Yamane when Ogata agrees with the army's decision to kill Godzilla because of him being a reminder of the atomic bombings. The generation that survived 9 years ago were haunted by the aftermath of the bomb and its horrors at the time (hence stories such as Barefoot Gen, which did not pull punches on the subject as Keiji Nakazawa survived the atomic bomb that killed his family). Unfortunately, Yamane doesn't agree with Ogata's decision, and kicks him out of his house.
    • The fire raids. Those of you don't know about the fire raids, look it up.
    • A couple complains about using bomb shelters should Godzilla come again. The majority of the generation of that era would most likely be survivors during the time when US air raids were common during World War II.
    • After Godzilla's raid on Tokyo, the aftermath itself looks as if it was hit by an actual atomic bomb, with scenes of crowded hospitals filled with the dead and dying, children and patients coming into contact with Godzilla to indicate they will die of radiation poisoning. Considering who made this film, Toho's depiction of the aftermath is actually tame compared to graphical works that depicts the detonation of a nuclear weapon, such as Barefoot Gen.
  • Dramatic Irony: The film makes no attempts whatsoever to explain that, even as wrathful as he was, Godzilla is heavily affected by the Hydrogen Bomb. Just as the Japanese with the two nuclear bombs nine years ago.
  • Dramatic Thunder: When Shinkichi, his brother, and mother are suddenly awakened by Godzilla, Shinkichi immediately leaves the house, realizing something was up. When Masaji goes to get his brother, there's some very excellent timing as he had a very horrified expression as thunder strikes.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Serizawa's final moments and words. He is canonically the first human to have ever defeated Godzilla by himself.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This is a given, since the very first film was made in the height of the Cold War and the not-so subtle reference to the atomic bomb tragedy nine years earlier. This is especially glaring compared to this film and its sequels.
    • Unlike the later sequels, there's a very clear anti-war and anti-nuclear message written over it. This is made by the man who saw the aftermath of Hiroshima, and considered to be the best film of the franchise.
    • Unlike the later films, this is the only film to depict Godzilla as a radioactive burn victim. The later films depicts Godzilla as a force of nature or a hero, or a jerk with a chip on his shoulder. This Godzilla is treated as if he's a nuclear holocaust survivor, which is precisely the point. Shin is what happens if you turn Godzilla into an Ant-walking Alligator monster.
    • Speaking of which, this is the only film where Godzilla's connection to radiation and nuclear weapons isn't glossed over, and treated in a negative light. Atomic movie monsters of the 1950's, including this film's own sequels, often has the formula of "giant monster + nuclear weapon = rampaging in a major city" to the point that the main characters even see the monster as a mindless beast out to cause havoc as much as possible (or in the case of this film series, Godzilla being a dick in general regardless of that connection). This film treats him as a Hibakusha, and is treated a very somber light. This is the point Ishiro Honda was pointing about about Godzilla before the series went into Lighter and Softer territory.
    • This is also the first solo Kaiju film where Giant Equals Invincible is played absolutely straight. Solo films such as Varan, the Unbelievable, Rodan, and a few has the title monsters being dispatched strategically but not without the monsters' somber death, though you can argue that the other 50's monsters created by Toho are not radioactive, or has no connection with nuclear weapons. This film, Godzilla is portrayed as a nuclear bomb and Ishir⁠ō Honda makes a point that if Godzilla was just a regular dinosaur, a cannonball is enough to kill him. But if he were to equate a nuclear bomb, there's nothing anyone could do. Whereas later treat Godzilla as a giant nuisance rather than the atom bomb he was personified as.
    • Godzilla's attack on Tokyo is treated not only in a terrifying light, it is portrayed realistically rather than just "men in rubber suits smashing scale-model of a major city" while epic music blares in the background. It also portrays his rampage as a nuclear attack where Tokyo is burned to the ground, people are being rushed to the hospitals, getting ill by radiation sickness, etc.
    • Godzilla's depiction as a God of Destruction only occurs in the Odo Island scenes. Later films dropped this angle up until Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! trailer. It isn't until Godzilla (2014), Shin Godzilla, and Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters where he is treated as a God again. Shin is where Godzilla's official Meaningful Name means "God Incarnate".
    • Just generally, the film is very different from the sequels. It's a bleak, depressing, and nightmarish horror story that has more in common with The Call of Cthulhu than the pulpy, lighthearted B-Movie Summer Blockbusters that would embody the franchise.
    • Godzilla's Breath Weapon is a jet of super-heated gas that melts or ignites whenever it's used on rather than the beam of atomic fire that's depicted as in later installments, and its color is white rather than Cherenkov blue.
  • Exact Words: Serizawa tells Emiko he intends to have his research destroyed in the event of his death. Once Serizawa is finally convinced to offer his aid with the Oxygen Destroyer, Serizawa begins burning his notes. Emiko, seeing this, can do nothing but cry.
  • Expy: Godzilla is based directly on the title creature from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, released a year prior.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Serizawa, the brilliant scientist who made the Oxygen Destroyer, wears an eye patch. It establishes him as a tragic figure as well as making him less conventionally handsome, so Emiko's lack of interest in him is easier to swallow.
  • Face Death with Dignity: How Serizawa intends to go out at the climax.
  • Film Noir: While this movie isn't a crime drama, it nevertheless makes use of Noir-style lighting.
  • Foreign Remake: Has 2 under its belt by the US. The much-maligned Godzilla (1998) and the 2014 remake for its 60th anniversary.
  • Foreshadowing: In the beginning of the film, we see the fishing boats explode, and earlier, a blinding flash of light. In Godzilla's second raid in Tokyo, they are revealed to be the result of his Atomic Breath.
  • From Bad to Worse: People find out Godzilla is a giant radiation-mutated dinosaur. But when he starts rampaging in urban areas, it turns out he has a radioactive Breath Weapon, and proximity towards him can make people suffer from radiation poisoning.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The basic premise is thus: A giant prehistoric beast/radioactive mutant is created/awakened by a nuclear testing and goes on a rampage, the protagonist and the scientist are the ones who has to deal with the monster, defeats it, and the film ends. However, that was the original premise. The film goes so much further with this detail than the B-movies and sequels to this film except Shin Godzilla glosses over:
    • The entire country is on edge because the monster has been destroying boats at sea, thousands of people die either from being stepped on, burned alive, crushed under rubble, or radiation burns, the protagonist and her fiancé witnesses a weapon with horrific potential that can destroy a whole ecosystem which her fiancé is completely and absolutely terrified of, but its powerful yet dangerous potential is the only way to defeat a giant creature that cannot be defeated with conventional weapons.
    • The monster is mutated by a nuclear weapon, but instead of being a mindless beast out to cause random destruction wherever it goes, It Can Think, and is deliberately attacking humans, making it a very wrathful creature that unleashes its rage on innocents. But it also has horrific radiation scars, thereby treating it as a victim. In other words, it's a post-war tragedy in a guise of a horror monster movie.
    • The protagonist (who is actually a woman here) and her boyfriend discovers the beast and their military is desperate to defeat it before it causes collateral damage and more deaths. Her scientist fiancé discovers a powerful source of energy that could potentially defeat the monster before it could cause more damage and death. Her fiance however is absolutely terrified of his discovery and doesn't want it used as a weapon. However, his fiancée tells her boyfriend about it and they both fight over it, resulting in the fiancé's reluctance to use it, but chooses to after the destruction it causes. He ultimately gives his own life so that his secret dies with him and his fiancée stays with the man she loves (sadly, she doesn't 40 years later)
    • Many of the series' sequels tend to be Lighter and Softer, including its American contemporaries, when it comes to a monster rampaging in a major city, and leaving death and destruction in its wake. Even sequels to this film glosses over the damages caused by Godzilla and whatever monster antagonist he faces when fights are in a major city. This film does not, and as a result, the film shows what happens after the monster is done rampaging: major landmarks are destroyed, hospitals is being filled with dead and injured people, children being orphaned by the monster, and a choir of girls praying for peace. The allegories in this film is anything but subtle about it.
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Godzilla. The big guy set the stage for "giant monster ignores heavy artillery".
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Japanese government is willing to go to any lengths to eliminate Godzilla, including using an untested superweapon that will cause drastic long-term damage to Japan's own marine-based economy. The entire point of the film, in fact, is to examine how humanity is willing to develop and deploy ever more powerful weapons without regard for the consequences, making this an Unbuilt Trope.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The JSDF sends ships out to depth charge Godzilla. Not only does that not work, the creature follows the ships back to Tokyo Bay and lays waste to the city.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Serizawa and Ogata brawl over the Oxygen Destroyer notes, the camera stays behind a massive fish tank so we only hear the fight and see its aftermath.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality:
    • As the DVD commentary says, the crux of the film is its moral ambiguity that Serizawa is wrestling with. If he does nothing, Godzilla will surely destroy his people, making him culpable to the extinction of the Japanese. However if he uses the Oxygen Destroyer, it creates the danger of a new arms race, and one that has the power to cause the utter destruction of all mankind. It's because there is no third option in this film that Serizawa is so tortured by the decision he has to make. He does find a third option... of a sort, as he reluctantly decides to use the weapon on Godzilla, but burns all his notes and performs a Heroic Sacrifice so that all knowledge of the Oxygen Destroyer's creation will die with him. Serizawa also, in no uncertain terms, points out that he doesn't want it to be used at all.
  • Gut Punch: As if this film wasn't a horror film with a grand spectacle wasn't enough:
    • Masaji survives his encounter with Godzilla in the ocean, but doesn't make it out with his mother after the monster lands on Odo Island.
    • Godzilla's short raid shows that despite being short, no one is safe.
    • His second raid leaves a very thorough swathe of destruction with a mother telling her children they will see their father soon.
    • Daisuke Serizawa willingly giving up his life after detonating the Oxygen Destroyer. But the punch before that? Godzilla is shown to be the victim resting in Tokyo Bay. Which makes his death very hard to swallow.
  • Happily Adopted: Godzilla killed Shinkichi's mother and brother. Now he's Emiko's adopted brother, and doesn't mind being their new son. In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, he really does seem to get along with his adopted father in his picture with Dr. Yamane.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Would you believe that Godzilla's roar was a result of a rubber glove used against a string instrument? It's damn chilling too.
  • The Hero Dies: Daisuke Serizawa cuts the rope tethering him to the boat so that the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer dies with him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Serizawa has one after realizing the full weight that rests on his shoulders. One must wonder how Akihiko Hirata felt when playing the guy. As mentioned in the Bittersweet Ending entry, Yamane laments that Godzilla was the last of his kind, but if nuclear tests are continued to be conducted, another Godzilla will appear again in the world. Cue Fridge Horror for that part.
  • Heroic Suicide: Serizawa chooses to kill himself after planting the Oxygen Destroyer so that he can never be convinced to use it or remake it again.
  • Homage: At the time, this film was inspired by King Kong (1933), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and the Arctic Giant episode of the Superman cartoon.
  • Hope Spot: The military are throwing everything they can, including electrical wires, at Godzilla. Cue Atomic Breath and the ensuing death that follows.
  • Horror: This is technically a horror film. Unlike most giant monster films and its later sequels (except Godzilla Raids Again) that weren't, this one sets it apart differently. The black and white nature of the film lampshades this, and it is actually meant to scare the shit out of you. Not just the picture format, but the music has its level of creepiness.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Godzilla was created due to the atomic bomb, which is entirely humankind's fault. Before that he was just an innocent dinosaur living underwater.

     I - N 

  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Daisuke Serizawa, one of the scientists involved in the story, is aware that Emiko Yamane is with Ogata the whole time. Even he knows she's inseparable with the man. During the climax, he willingly sacrifices himself so that Emiko and Ogata would be together. (Also to prevent the Oxygen Destroyer from ever being used again).
  • Ignored Expert: Guess how Tokyo ended up when Dr. Yamane told them to never use lights on Godzilla? In Godzilla Raids Again, the military were wise enough to listen to him.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played with. Shinkichi survives (which is played straight). The children in the second act survive the attack from Godzilla, but their mother dies. Then one of Yamane's colleague uses the Geiger Counter on a boy who has it crackle near him.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: "Bombs vs. bombs. Missiles vs. missiles. And now a new superweapon to throw upon us all". This quote is the exact reason why Serizawa opposes using the Oxygen Destroyer.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Though not a main character, Hagiwara tries to get the story as much as he can. Throughout the whole movie, he survives the entire film.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Why Kyohei Yamane is interested in Godzilla despite the incidents he caused.
  • Kill It with Fire: A deadly white (later blue) radioactive breath that can cause fires.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After all the stupidity on the part of the Japanese government, they (sort of) get their due when during the climactic rampage, Godzilla plows through the Diet Building.
  • Last of His Kind: Dr. Yamane believes Godzilla is the last of his kind. Then he revises this statement and says that another one will appear again. Unfortunately, he was right.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The theme for the opening credits was not meant for Godzilla, but for the military. Both Godzilla and the JSDF have two themes.
    • It can be hard to hear at first, but the sailor's harmonica tune in the opening scene can be heard later as the Oxygen Destroyer's theme in Emiko's flashback (which is later used as its theme in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: After Godzilla devastates Tokyo, there's a closeup of a little boy with a Geiger counter waved around his face, clicking rapidly.
  • Love Triangle: This is the first monster film (albeit a rather tragic giant monster film) to use such a trope. Serizawa's obviously in love with Emiko, while she herself is in love with Ogata. This is further complicated when Ogata asks Serizawa to use the Oxygen Destroyer rather than Emiko, and thus proving his point that humans want to use any one superweapon, despite a living nuclear weapon practically destroying their hometown. Serizawa relents after seeing the destruction wrought upon Tokyo, and the love triangle shifts to him going to the "I want my beloved to be happy" phase.
  • Mad Scientist: Inverted. Serizawa's not a mad scientist despite his appearance and lab equipment. In fact, he's horrified by the weapon he's accidentally created. Kyohei Yamane, however, was originally gonna be one.
  • Manly Tears: Both Ogata and Shinkichi cry when Serizawa makes his Heroic Sacrifice at the climax of the film.
  • Meaningful Background Event: During the typhoon scene as Shinkichi shouts to his brother, you can see the lower half of Godzilla on the upper left side of the screen as he destroys Masaji's house.
  • Mighty Glacier: Just look at that suit. In production terms, it's the heaviest and stiffest suit ever made (the prototype suit is 200 pounds). This works well with the plot, as Godzilla's attack in the second act serves as a rolling nuclear explosion slowly killing everything in his path. Future suits would be made for Godzilla to become a Lightning Bruiser.
  • Mighty Roar: Godzilla introduces himself to the Odo Island research team with that (soon to be) iconic monster roar.
  • Mirror Character: Another theme of the film is that Godzilla isn't just a giant radioactive monster hell-bent on destruction and death. He is an angry giant radioactive monster with horrific radiation burns and keloid scars, something survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are no stranger to. This makes the Japanese and Godzilla no different to each other.
  • Missing Mom: Emiko's mother is not mentioned. We are assumed that Kyohei Yamane is widowed in this film, since Emiko lives with her father.
  • Monster Delay: A classic example. The titular monster doesn't show up until roughly 22 minutes in (his lower half however shows up roughly 14 minutes in during the typhoon). This is necessary due to having to use a hand puppet and a complete suit at the time.
  • Monumental Damage: The first film of its kind, with the destruction of the Wako Clocktower and the Diet Building. Later films will do this a lot. Interestingly though, the Diet Building scene was filmed first. However, the building did not crumble correctly, so it had to be reshot.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Serizawa after he accidentally injures Ogata in a scuffle over the Oxygen Destroyer.
  • National Geographic Nudity: In an early beach scene a couple of older fisherwomen are seen casually topless. Japan hadn't yet adopted Western attitudes towards that kind of nudity.
  • Neverending Terror: Even if Godzilla dies, he still haunts the Japanese for the rest of their lives in all three series.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The film takes place in summer 1955 (specifically August) according to the original English sales brochure. However, unlike the Heisei series which always takes place a year than the release date, every film afterwards dates the movie in 1954.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Even though Emiko and Ogata is the film's Official Couple (in the eyes of the audience), their behavior toward each other is perfectly chaste, perhaps because Emiko is still technically entangled with Serizawa.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Invoked by Serizawa, who is afraid of his Oxygen Destroyer being used as a weapon. He clearly has hundreds of research documents and notes for creating the Oxygen Destroyer, but he destroys all of it to prevent the device from ever being used again, and just to be safe, he kills himself immediately after using it.
  • No-Sell: This is where Godzilla's Giant Equals Invincible comes into play. Military weapons have no effect on the guy whatsoever.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Used in the first act. You know something is destroying those boats, but the monster is nowhere to be seen. In the typhoon scene, you can hear the footsteps of the monster, then his lower half is shown, followed by crushed buildings, then a crushed helicopter ending with a Dramatic Wind. In that order.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The whole point of this movie is that not only nuclear weapons, but weapons of mass destruction in general. Dr. Yamane stated using said nuclear weapons could bring about another Godzilla.

     O - T 
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In the Odo Island scene, the villagers are scurrying to fight off the monster (apparently, they don't know just how huge the thing is). The whole village runs back down after seeing Godzilla.
    • While the people on a partyboat are in a celebration, Godzilla appears unscathed, and scares the hell out of everyone on the boat.
    • While blasting Godzilla to death (or attempting to), Godzilla melts the electrical wires, of course, it means run like hell!!
  • Off-Model: Several close-ups of Godzilla's head are used by a hand puppet, with varying degrees of success. For instance, in a few scenes where he shoots his atomic breath, his eyes were... weird to say the least. Other times, they would (sorta) match the up with the suit footage.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: When Emiko first sees Serizawa's secret creation in action, all we see is her horrified reaction to its effects on an aquarium, but when she recounts the event later to Ogata, we see now that all the fish in the tank are almost instantaneously dissolved into nothing by the device, which Serizawa calls the Oxygen Destroyer, a chemical weapon with the potential to rival a nuclear bomb in destructive power, and therefore the ability to kill Godzilla.
  • Out of Focus: Hagiwara is very important in the first half of the film, but has a lot less to do toward the end.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Godzilla's very existence is this, since as a giant radiation-laden monster, the Japanese military has a hard time trying to kill him, or drive him away, especially since he can also spew radiation flames. This immediately prompts Emiko to tell Ogata about the existence of the Oxygen Destroyer.
  • People in Rubber Suits: Godzilla was actually an interesting case where the film wasn't intended to use suits. Originally, it was going to be in stop-motion, but Tomoyuki Tanaka advised Eiji Tsuburaya that it would take 7 years to complete the film through that method. So they had 2 suits constructed. The original, superheavy 200 pound suit that couldn't be used (due to the latex increasing the weight), and a slightly lighter suit. Both Haruo Nakajima and Katzumi Tezuka still had their own problems wearing the second suit, and this is when it's complete since Nakajima had no problems wearing the bottom half, since it needed to be cut in half for him to use. Despite Haruo Nakajima developing blisters, he would relish the role until Godzilla vs. Gigan.
  • Physical God: Godzilla was worshiped as a malevolent sea god by the people of Odo Island, who once sent virgin sacrifices out on rafts to appease his wrath. When ships start being torn to shreds offshore and survivors wash up with strange burns, the islanders conduct a ritual to appease him. It doesn't work.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: This is what Emiko initially believes regarding Serizawa. Unfortunately, he feels otherwise.
  • Played for Drama: Everything in this film is played for drama. Including the climax, where you'd expect the film to end on a high note. It doesn't.
  • Recut: Germany's cut was a simple dubbed and edited edition (running 82 minutes), while France got a unique hybrid edit of the original cut and King of the Monsters (running about 90 minutes).
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Though not necessarily "mad", Serizawa reluctantly decided to use the Oxygen Destroyer after seeing the destruction Godzilla caused. Though he intends to use the Oxygen Destroyer once, his heroic sacrifice is foreshadowed in an earlier scene when he clearly states that he'd burn his notes at the event of his death.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: For anyone who has seen the sillier Denser and Wackier and Lighter and Softer entries, this is not such a film. This film is based on real-life tragedies and Ishir⁠ō Honda's traumatizing experience of the aftermath of the Little Boy atom bomb that decimated Hiroshima. The film also possess one of the most tragic monsters in an age where atomic monsters were a thing.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: The electric towers appears to have been built in no less than a few hours. Originally, they were built in two weeks. So the towers' construction could have happened in those days while helping with the pacing.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The movie opens with the crew of a fishing vessel relaxing after a hard day. Suddenly they see a bright light, hear a loud noise, and the survivors are contaminated with radiation. This is literally what happened in real life to the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru, when it strayed within the exclusion zone of the Castle Bravo H-Bomb test in March 1954. Anyone watching the film in Japan later that year could easily make the connection.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Godzilla's famous attack on Tokyo.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Underneath Godzilla's wrath is a horribly scarred radioactive burn victim of nuclear weapons that gave him his powers. His wrath itself represents the horrors of war that plagued the country, including the firebomb airstrikes while the victims are trying to get away, and the nuclear weapons that horrified its populace for years to come.
  • Save the Villain: Played with. Kyohei Yamane does not want Godzilla to be killed because he survived the H-Bomb testing in the Pacific. This mindset puts him at odds with the government, friends, and family seeing as Godzilla is directly responsible for hundreds upon thousands of deaths because he's a paleontologist and wants to know how Godzilla was able to survive a hydrogen bomb. However, he ends up having to agree to kill Godzilla after what he did to Tokyo.
  • Scenery Gorn: Tokyo after Godzilla nukes the place, intentionally evocative of the real atomic bombings.
  • Sci-Fi Horror: The earliest films to make a monster movie scary with a dose of Tragedy.
  • Science Is Bad: The film is anti-nuclear for a reason. The Japanese know Godzilla was awaken by a hydrogen bomb, and Serizawa is absolutely horrified of the prospect of the Oxygen Destroyer being used as a weapon. He had valid reasons to keep it a secret. Science woke up the monster, but it also brought things a lot worse for years to come.
  • Sea Monster: Godzilla is revealed to be an amphibious prehistoric reptile that was living in deep-sea trenches before H-Bomb tests irradiated it.
  • Sequel Hook: Though unintentional, Dr. Yamane's final line suggests there may be another Godzilla somewhere in the world. Three series later (except Godzilla vs. Megaguiurus and Godzilla: Final Wars), it ended up happening.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Leans very hard on the cynicism. The film is very dark, and it stays that way. The ending is no better either as Yamane laments the possibility of another Godzilla appearing in the future.
  • Space Whale Aesop: A more dead-serious take on the trope where it shows actual consequences. Reckless nuclear testing not only woke up Godzilla, he is also an angry radioactive dinosaur that killed millions of people because of his mutation. As stated in the main page, the Japanese audience of Godzilla didn't need to be persuaded against nuclear weapons, since the entire point of the movie is that it's an allegory of the known effects of these weapons as it is a warning for their usage.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Der Godzilla is referred to with an integral article the way an animal would be in the German dub.
  • Stripped to the Bone: What the Oxygen Destroyer does to living things.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Since this is the first film, Godzilla appears sleeping underwater when the climax starts. Justified as Godzilla is considered to be an intermediate dinosaur, capable of surviving underwater as long as he wants.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A giant animal, let alone a large prehistoric monster, isn't some mindless beast hell-bent on destruction. Godzilla has a brain, and knows exactly who he's targeting. The film also doesn't gloss over the destruction he creates, let alone leaves behind. Being a large radioactive beast meant that anyone who is even remotely near him can die of radiation poisoning.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Monster example. You know that 50-metered giant radioactive monster that is hell-bent on attacking humanity and looks like he has a Slasher Smile? Not only is he a main villain, but the climax treats him in a sympathetic light, compared to his Jerkass Woobie successors.
  • Take a Third Option: Serizawa is faced with either allowing Godzilla to destroy Japan (and then the world), or using a weapon that he knows will spark another deadly arms race that could lead to the destruction of Earth by warring governments. In the end, he opts to use the weapon on himself and Godzilla, ensuring all research goes with him to his watery grave.
  • Take That!: To the developers of nuclear weapons
  • Taking You with Me: Perhaps the most famous one in Japanese cinema, if not in Kaiju history, ever. When Serizawa unleashes the Oxygen Destroyer, he makes sure Godzilla dies with him.
  • Technological Pacifist: Serizawa refuses to do anything that would risk the Oxygen Destroyer being developed into a weapon. It takes a long time just to convince him to use it to kill Godzilla.
  • Tempting Fate: So you'd think by now since Dr. Yamane says that Godzilla survived an H-Bomb testing, and nothing could stop him, that the military would think twice about fighting the beast. Yet the military bombards the thing when he crosses the high-tension electrical towers and he uses his atomic breath. They still attack him after he blows up and crushes every building in his way.
  • Together in Death: A woman during Godzilla's rampage holds her children, telling them they'll see their father soon. This is easily agreed to be one of the darkest moments of the franchise by its context alone.
  • To Serve Man: During his rampage Godzilla bites down on a tower to get at the people on it, and gnaws on a train. According to the myths of Odo Island, he would come ashore to feast on mankind unless appeased by sacrifices and ritual dances.
  • Token Romance: Emiko and Ogata's Love Triangle with Serizawa has almost nothing to do with the plot of the film, but does serve to give some scenes a bit more dramatic weight and pad out the runtime.
  • Too Broken to Break: What made Godzilla so hard to kill isn't just his incredible durability but the fact that his mutation into his current form caused him more pain than anything humanity could do to him.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The first time the army tries to kill Godzilla. Tries being the keyword here. Given that Yamane, in no uncertain terms stated if Godzilla survived an H-Bomb, what can they do that could possibly to to hurt him? They try, then they got blasted by the thing.
    • The government. In a nutshell, they want to get rid of Godzilla as soon as possible despite Dr. Yamane's warnings. Trying to kill Godzilla not only pisses him off, but several deaths would have been avoided if they had listened. As of result, Tokyo is utterly destroyed, the Diet Building is crumbled, and hundreds to thousands of people are either dead or dying. And you know why by the time of the first sequel, they stopped trying to kill him and listened to Yamane.
  • Tortured Monster: Godzilla
  • Tragedy: Aside Horror, this fits the bill as well. The film does not even attempt to hide that it's a tragedy, since it's one of the post-war films where it does not even sugarcoat post-war trauma. The de-factor hero dies killing the tragic monster.
  • Tragic Monster: Godzilla himself. The film shows the circumstances of Godzilla's origins and powers was not his own doing, but that it made him the victim due to the aftermath of his horrible experience, making him similar to the Japanese people who went through a lot of shit during World War II, including the Tokyo Firebombings and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No wonder Ishir⁠ō Honda felt so strongly that nuclear weapons would be mankind's undoing.

     U - Z 
  • Unbuilt Trope: A monster awakened by a nuclear weapon and attacking innocent people and devastates a major city? Haven't seen that before. A giant monster awakened and mutated to the point of scarring it for life, that blames humanity, annihilates a major city, dies in a Tear Jerker manner, but no epic fanfare celebrating its' defeat? Holy crap...
  • Unstoppable Rage: Describes Godzilla perfectly.
  • Villain Protagonist: Godzilla, who is the central character and a tragic example.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: When explaining the significance behind the ritual dance, one of the Odo Islanders casually remarks they used to send young girls out on rafts for Godzilla to eat.
  • War Is Hell: Godzilla is basically the consequence of nuclear war; wide spread destruction, poisoning the water in his wake, military dying like flies, and children orphaned at the hands of the monster, as well as a Shell-Shocked Veteran who is heavily traumatized by war. The film was made during post-war Japan, 9 years since the first atomic bombing on Hiroshima, but now Japan had to contend with the Cold War since the nuclear incident with Castle Bravo and Lucky Dragon 5, and we're not kidding, since it actually happened. Ishir⁠ō Honda, the man behind the film, saw what the aftermath of Hiroshima did to him, and it haunted him for the rest of his life. The climax illustrates this very well, and it shows.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Tokyo is utterly destroyed by Godzilla while its survivors literally watch it burn. It would make you cringe since it would remind you of what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever happened to the military platoons attacking Godzilla in the second act? The first platoon was busy shooting Godzilla as he surfaces, then before his destruction starts, a whole platoon tries to annihilate him when he uses his atomic breath.
  • The Worf Barrage: None of the JSDF's weapons can do as much as slow Godzilla down. This is why you listen to the scientist who pretty much summarize it as "[Godzilla] survived a nuke. What makes you think conventional weaponry can do jack against him?".
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Godzilla and Daisuke Serizawa.
    • There's already enough scenes to show how much of a woobie Serizawa is, and he literally is a destroyer of worlds (accidentally). He's a Shell-Shocked Veteran, he's horrified by the creation of his Oxygen Destroyer, and he never intended its use as a weapon. Yet, he created a weapon by accident which severely damaged Tokyo Bay's ecosystem when he used it in the climax.
    • Godzilla's as much as a woobie as well. He survived a nuke, he is horribly disfigured (yes, some of Godzilla's facial close-ups look like radiation burns), hates lights, and really wants to be left alone. The footnote on the 2006 Classic Media book even calls them "innocent victims of the nuclear age".


"I can't believe Godzilla was the last member of his species. But if we continue to conduct nuclear tests, then someday, somewhere, another Godzilla may appear."

 
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Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla lets out one final roar before he dies at the hands of the Oxygen Destroyer.

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