IMDb Rating
Gojira 1954 Japanese poster
A monster of mass destruction!
Directed By
Ishirô Honda
Produced By
Tomoyuki Tanaka
Written By
Ishirô Honda, Shigeru Kayama, Takeo Murata
Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi, Akihiko Hirata
Music By
Akira Ifukube
Masao Tamai
Editing By
Kazuji Taira

Distributed By
Release Date(s)
November 3, 1954
95 min
Flag of Japan Japan
Followed by
Godzilla Raids Again

Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) is a 1954 Japanese science fiction kaiju film produced by Toho, directed by Ishirō Honda, and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura. The plot tells the story of Godzilla, a giant monster mutated by nuclear radiation, who ravages Japan and brings back the horrors of WWII's nuclear devastation to the very nation that experienced it first-hand. It was the first of many kaiju films released in Japan, then the rest of the world, paving the way and setting the standard for future kaiju genre films, many of which feature Godzilla.

In the spring of 1956 TransWorld Releasing Corp. released an edited version of the film theatrically in the United States titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. This version featured newly shot scenes of Hollywood actor Raymond Burr spliced into the original Japanese footage. In the spring of 2004 Rialto Pictures gave the original Japanese-language version of the film a limited theatrical release (with English subtitles) in the United States to coincide with Godzilla's 50th anniversary.


When the Japanese freighter Eiko-maru is destroyed near Odo Island, another ship – the Bingo-maru – is sent to investigate, only to meet the same fate with few survivors. A fishing boat from Odo is also destroyed, with one survivor. Fishing catches mysteriously drop to zero, blamed by an elder on the ancient sea creature known as "Godzilla". Reporters arrive on Odo Island to further investigate. A villager tells one of the reporters that "something large is going crazy down there", ruining the fishing. That evening, a ritual dance to appease Godzilla is held during which the reporter learns that the locals used to sacrifice young girls to the monster. That night, a large storm strikes the island, destroying the reporters' helicopter, and Godzilla, though very briefly seen, destroys 17 homes, kills nine people and 20 of the villagers' livestock.

Odo residents travel to Tokyo to demand disaster relief. The villagers' and reporters' evidence describes damage consistent with something large crushing the village. The government sends paleontologist Kyohei Yamane to lead an investigation on the island, where giant radioactive footprints and a trilobite are discovered. The village alarm bell is rung and Yamane and the villagers rush to see the monster, retreating after seeing that it is a giant dinosaur, which then roars, and returns to the ocean.

Yamane presents his findings in Tokyo, estimating that Godzilla is 50 metres (164 ft) tall and is evolved from an ancient sea creature becoming a terrestrial animal. He concludes that Godzilla has been disturbed from its deep underwater natural habitat by underwater hydrogen bomb testing. Debate ensues about notifying the public about the danger of the monster. Meanwhile, 17 ships are lost at sea.

Ten frigates are dispatched to attempt to kill the monster using depth charges. The mission disappoints Yamane who wants Godzilla to be studied. Godzilla survives the attack and appears off-shore. Officials appeal to Yamane for ideas to kill the monster, but Yamane tells them that Godzilla is unkillable, having survived H-bomb testing, and must be studied.

Yamane's daughter, Emiko, decides to break off her arranged engagement to Yamane's colleague, Daisuke Serizawa, because of her love for Hideto Ogata, a salvage ship captain. When a reporter arrives and asks to interview Serizawa, Emiko escorts the reporter to Serizawa's lab. After Serizawa refuses to divulge his current work to the reporter, he gives Emiko a demonstration of his recent project on the condition she must keep it a secret. The demonstration horrifies her and she leaves without breaking off the engagement. Shortly after she returns home, the sound of Godzilla's footsteps approaching is heard. Godzilla surfaces from Tokyo Bay and enters the city, attacking Shinagawa, and scattering residents from its path. A passing commuter train collides with the monster, who then destroys the train. After further destruction, Godzilla returns to the ocean.

After consulting with international experts, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces construct a 30-metre-tall (100 ft), 50,000 volt electrified fence along the coast and deploy forces to stop and kill Godzilla. Yamane returns home, dismayed that there is no plan to study Godzilla for its resistance to radiation, where Emiko and Ogata await hoping to get his consent for them to wed. When Ogata disagrees with Yamane, arguing the threat Godzilla poses outweighs any potential benefits from studying the monster, Yamane tells him to leave. Godzilla resurfaces and breaks through the fence to Tokyo with its atomic breath, unleashing a more destructive rampage across the city. Further attempts to kill the monster with tanks and fighter jets fail and Godzilla once again disappears into the ocean. The Wakō Clocktower, the National Diet Building, and the Kachidoki Bridge are destroyed and there is a large loss of life. The day after, hospitals and shelters are crowded to overflowing, and a large portion of the population has radiation poisoning.

Distraught by the devastation, Emiko tells Ogata about Serizawa's research, a weapon called the "Oxygen Destroyer", which disintegrates oxygen atoms and the organisms die of a rotting asphyxiation. Emiko and Ogata go to Serizawa to convince him to use the Oxygen Destroyer but he initially refuses. After watching a program displaying the nation's current tragedy, Serizawa finally accepts Emiko and Ogata's pleas. As Serizawa burns his notes, Emiko breaks down crying.

A navy ship takes Ogata and Serizawa to plant the device in Tokyo Bay. After finding Godzilla, Serizawa unloads the device and cuts off his air support, taking the secrets of the Oxygen Destroyer to his death. The mission proves to be a success and Godzilla is destroyed but many mourn Serizawa's death. Yamane reveals his belief that if nuclear weapons testing continues, another Godzilla may rise in the future.


  • Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata (尾形 秀人 Ogata Hideto)
  • Momoko Kōchi as Emiko Yamane (山根 恵美子 Yamane Emiko)
  • Akihiko Hirata as Daisuke Serizawa (芹沢 大助 Serizawa Daisuke)
  • Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane (山根恭平 Yamane Kyōhei)
  • Fuyuki Murakami as Dr. Tanabe (田辺博士 Tanabe-hakushi)
  • Sachio Sakai as Hagiwara (萩原) (Journalist)
  • Ren Yamamoto as Masaji (政治) (fisherman)
  • Toyoaki Suzuki as Shinkichi (Masaji's younger brother)
  • Tsuruko Umano as Shinkichi's mother
  • Tadashi Okabe as Assistant of Dr. Tanabe
  • Jiro Mitsuaki as Employee of Nankai Salvage Company
  • Ren Imaizumi as Radio Officer Nankai Salvage Company
  • Kenji Sahara as Partygoer
  • Sokichi Maki as Chief at Maritime Safety Agency
  • Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla, the King of the Monsters who was mutated by the radiation of the H-Bomb & a reporter
  • Katsumi Tezuka as Godzilla (as Nakajima's Stunt Double) & Editor Yamada


In the film, Godzilla is represented as a symbol for nuclear holocaust and ever since the film's initial release, Godzilla has been culturally identified as a strong metaphor for nuclear weapons. In the film, Godzilla's attack mirrors the same horrors the Japanese experienced near the end of World War II, with the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka stated that, "The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind." Director Ishirō Honda filmed Godzilla's rampage on Tokyo with the mentality that the monster's onslaught was a parallel and physical manifestation of an Atom bomb attack. He stated, "If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla. Though Godzilla initially began as a metaphor for nuclear devastation, the more sequels Toho produced, the more the symbolism and metaphor behind Godzilla evolved. During the later Showa films, Godzilla was seen as a symbol of strength for Japan, however, in 1984, the character was taken back to his dark nuclear roots that made him an icon in the first place.

Gareth Edwards' upcoming Godzilla promises to return to the dark, nuclear themes of the original. Edwards recently spoke about the themes incorporated into his film, "Godzilla is definitely a representation of the wrath of nature. We've taken it very seriously and the theme is man versus nature and Godzilla is certainly the nature side of it. You can't win that fight. Nature's always going to win and that's what the subtext of our movie is about. He's the punishment we deserve.


The opening scene of the Eiko Maru being obliterated by Godzilla's first attack and later scenes of survivors of other attacks being found with radiation burns, were inspired by the U.S. testing of a hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll. A real Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon 5, was overwhelmed when the U.S. Castle Bravo nuclear test had a yield of 15 megatons rather than the planned 6 megatons. Military personnel, island natives and several Lucky Dragon 5 crew members, persons believed to be in a zone of safety, suffered from radiation sickness and at least one died six months later. This created widespread fear of uncontrolled and unpredictable nuclear weapons, which the film makers symbolized with Godzilla. The actual event played a major role in drawing attention to the hazards of nuclear fallout, and concerns were widespread about radioactively contaminated fish affecting the Japanese food supply.

Godzilla's climactic attack on Tokyo was meant to exemplify a rolling nuclear attack, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only much more slowly. Honda had plotted it this way, having been shocked by the real devastation of those cities.


The film went through several different drafts. Science fiction and horror novelist Shigeru Kayama was hired to write the original story. The screenplay was written by Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda. In Kayama's draft, originally entitled Kaitei ni-man mairu kara kita daikaijû (lit. "The Giant Monster from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"), and then later renamed G-Sakuhun (lit. Project G, with the G standing for the English word for Giant), Dr. Yamane was the antagonist and was seen as a mad scientist wearing a cape who lived in a gothic style house. Godzilla's first appearance was to have him rise from the sea at night and destroy a light house. This was an obvious homage to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Murata and Honda altered and changed a few things from Kayama's draft and added new elements, like the love triangle between Emiko, Ogata, and Dr. Serizawa. Dr. Yamane was changed from a mad scientist to an acclaimed paleontologist who seeks to study Godzilla rather than destroy him. Godzilla itself was changed from Kayama's initial wild beast that came ashore to feed on live animals.


The monster story itself had been necessitated by an emergency. The producers had planned a completely different film, but that project had fallen apart. Toho demanded a film, any film, within a short time. During an airplane ride, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had read of the Lucky Dragon incident, and was inspired. The monster angle was derived from the success of Warner Bros.' 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. It was then that the creation of the monsters' design began to take place, beginning with the film's special effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya's original suggestion of the monster being a giant octopus, the monster design later went several variations and features such as a hideous disportionate ape-like creature with head shaped like a mushroom, recalling the suggested references of mushroom clouds. In the end, the filmmakers eventually settled on a dinosaur-like monster that was a cross of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an Iguanadon, a Stegosaurus, and a fire-breathing dragon.

The Godzilla suit had actually been a last resort. Tsuburaya had been deeply impressed with the stop-motion animation method used in King Kong. However, that method was far too costly and time-consuming
Godzilla '54 design

The filmmakers took inspiration from various Dinosaurs, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Iguanodon, and Stegosaurus, to shape Godzilla's final and iconic design.

(even though stop-motion would be used briefly, in one scene where Godzilla destroys the Nichigeki Theatre with his tail). It was decided that the easiest way to go was a stuntman in a monster suit, and a scale-model of Tokyo. This also proved difficult. Stunt actor Haruo Nakajima volunteered to play (the full suit) Godzilla. Nakajima would play Godzilla in later sequels until his retirement from the character in 1972. The first attempt at a Godzilla suit was far too stiff and heavy, nearly impossible to use. They finally hit on a design that worked; but even that was grueling. The stuntman would suffer numerous bouts of heat exhaustion and dehydration. The suit had to have a valve to drain the sweat from it. Also, in order to avoid suffocation, the suit could have only been worn for three minutes. It has also been said that, at one point, Nakajima passed out in the suit due to heat exhaustion. Godzilla's name was also found difficult to accomplish. The monster went through several names prior to the final stages. Because the monster had no name, the first draft of the film was not called Gojira but rather titled G, also known as Kaihatsu keikaku G ("Development Plan G"), the "G" of the title stood for "Giant", however. Nakajima confirmed that Toho held a contest to name the monster. The monster was eventually named Gojira, a combination of the Japanese words Gorilla (gorira) and Whale (kujira). A myth spread to the fan base that a staff member of Toho inspired the name Gojira because that name was claimed to have been his nickname. One of Godzilla's names during production was "Anguirus". That name was saved and later reused as the name of Godzilla's opponent in the sequel. Anguirus would later become Godzilla's closest ally in the series. Also, Anguirus' roar would be used for Godzilla's for the American version of the sequel Godzilla Raids Again.


Toho Studios had balked at the suggestion of filming Godzilla in color. Ironically, the cheaper black-and-white film had actually enhanced the special effects (e.g. hiding wires and other things in the shadows), and otherwise adding to the overall chill of Godzilla's nighttime attacks. Two years later, Toho would film Rodan in color, which it would subsequently use in nearly all its giant-monster films.

For a special effects shoot for the movie, Nakajima, who was inside the Godzilla suit, was placed in a swimming pool. Someone accidentally sent electrical charges through the pool. Masaaki Tachibana (an announcer of a scene in a steel tower) painted his face with olive oil to express that he was sweating with fear. There were many scenes filmed that were not used, but most have not been recovered. The best known example was the scene that was meant to replace the iconic appearance of Godzilla on Odo Island. Originally, Godzilla arrives holding a dead cow in his mouth, but the effect was not convincing enough and was cut, and only a few stills remain.

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