Wherever Godzilla goes, fire-breathing destruction is set to follow—along with a whole lot of fun for moviegoers. To celebrate his legacy, we’ve put together a list of things that even hardcore fans might not know about the world’s greatest city-stomper.
1. His original name, Gojira, was rumored to be the nickname of a tough guy at Toho Studios.
According to Ishiro Honda (who directed the first Godzilla film), “There was this big—I mean huge—fellow working in Toho’s publicity department, and other employees would say, ‘That guy’s as big as a gorilla.’ ‘No, he’s almost as big as a kujira [the Japanese word for whale].’ Over time, the two mixed and he was nicknamed 'Gojira.'"
It's a fun story, but in 1998, Honda’s widow dismissed this account, telling the BBC: “The backstage boys at Toho loved to joke around with tall stories, but I don’t believe that one."
2. Godzilla’s classic roar is a surprising mix of sounds.
In the original 1954 movie, Godzilla's iconic roar was produced by rubbing a pine tar-coated leather glove over a double bass string. As you can hear in the video above, Godzilla's roar has changed quite a bit over the years.
3. Godzilla was originally going to be a giant, mutated octopus.
It's part of movie lore by now: the original idea for Godzilla was that he would look something like a giant octopus. Ultimately, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka (smartly) decided to go with a more dinosaur-like design instead.
4. Godzilla went head-to-head with Charles Barkley.
5. Godzilla hawked Dr. Pepper in 1985.
Nike wasn't the first brand that Godzilla shilled for. In 1985, he appeared in commercials for Dr. Pepper—and that wasn't even their first collaboration: The soft drink was featured in the 1984 film The Return of Godzilla and again in Godzilla 1985.
6. Japanese baseball star Hideki Matsui was nicknamed “Godzilla” early in his career.
People started calling Hideki Matsui “Godzilla” back in his high school days, both because of his monstrous hitting prowess and a bad case of teenage acne. The acne went away, but the nickname stuck. In 2009, he helped the New York Yankees bring home their 27th championship and was named World Series MVP for his efforts. But you know what’s even cooler? The fact that Matsui made a brief cameo in the 2002 film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.
7. A church in Zillah, Washington decided to have fun with a homonym.
The Church of God-Zillah was founded decades before the radioactive monster’s conception, but that didn’t stop the congregation from tipping its hat to the odd coincidence: just behind the church, a steel wireframe dinosaur statue can be seen clutching a cross and sign.
“I’m not really sure the denomination likes being affiliated with a big lizard … but so far they’ve been pretty cool,” Reverend Gary Conner said.
8. George Takei got his show business start dubbing Japanese monster movies.
Listen for George Takei's rich baritone in the English-language version of Godzilla’s second film, Godzilla Raids Again, which was first released in Japan in 1955. Previously, the Star Trek legend had broken into the film industry by doing similar work on Rodan, another Toho monster flick.
9. During an action sequence in 1964's Godzilla vs. Mothra, the Godzilla suit accidentally caught on fire.
Amazingly, this footage made the final cut (fast-forward to the 1:03 mark in the clip above to see it for yourself).
10. A Godzilla suit was stolen, then lost, then randomly washed ashore.
In 1992, one of the monster’s costumes (worth a whopping $39,000) was stolen from a Toho garage, only to be found washed up on the shores of Lake Okutama (near Tokyo), where it inadvertently terrified a woman who was out for a stroll.
11. A Batman vs. Godzilla crossover movie was discussed, but never produced.
“Holy thermonuclear breath, Batman!” Since this idea never saw the light of day, we can only imagine how Robin would’ve reacted to the irradiated giant.
12. Godzilla fought The Avengers.
From 1977 to 1979, Marvel ran a 24-issue comic book series featuring Godzilla, which saw him square off against both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
13. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996) Contains A Godzilla Homage.
During the climax of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, an irate T. rex terrorizes San Diego. At one point in the carnage, a few Japanese tourists can be seen running for their lives, one of whom shouts (in Japanese), “I left Japan to get away from this!”
14. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966) was originally supposed to be a King Kong movie.
In the 1960s, Toho developed a story about King Kong fighting a massive lobster named Ebirah. Eventually, the studio’s American partners decided they didn’t like this concept, so Toho converted the basic premise into a new Godzilla adventure.
15. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) unwittingly caused an international controversy.
Though beloved by fans, 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah was condemned as “anti-American” by some Western viewers. A scene of particular contention took place during the Pacific theater of World War II and showed a troop of U.S. soldiers being massacred at the hands of a giant dinosaur as their Japanese adversaries look on in relief.
16. Two of the Godzilla's earlier films aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000
17. Shocker: Scientists say that Godzilla could never actually exist.
What a buzzkill. Paleontologist Mike P. Taylor claims that the limb cartilage in a Godzilla-sized animal would be crushed “like over-ripe watermelons” by its own body weight.
18. Godzilla (and his reptilian offspring) once promoted good parenting.
In 2008, Godzilla and his family starred in a PSA created by The Ad Council.
19. Paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter named a Triassic dinosaur after godzilla in 1997.
Gojirasaurus quayi was discovered in northeastern New Mexico in 1997. The creature was roughly 18 feet long and lived some 210 million years ago during the Triassic period. (Note that the scientific validity of this species has become a topic of debate.)
20. Patrick Stewart presented Godzilla with an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
“We’ve all heard about his temper, about the people he stepped on on his way to the top,” Stewart said during the ceremony. “In this world of stars and superstars, it would be no exaggeration to say [that] he is the biggest.”
21. Godzilla has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Godzilla’s induction came in 2004 to commemorate his 50th birthday.
22. A Godzilla statue is on display in Tokyo.
Godzilla’s likeness stands guard outside the Hibiya Chanter building in Tokyo. The statue is 8.2 feet tall, excluding the platform. When this thing went up in 2018, it replaced an earlier Godzilla sculpture that had been a local landmark since 1995.
23. There’s a three-story Godzilla that doubles as a slide in Kurihama Flower Park.
Kids can slide down his tail, but might have misgivings about the entry point (as will some adults).
24. Godzilla has been referenced in countless cartoons, from Futurama to South Park to Animaniacs.
We’d be remiss if this list didn’t also acknowledge Reptar, a leek-green Godzilla look-alike adored by Tommy Pickles and company on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats series. The babies watch a Reptar movie in one episode, complete with badly-dubbed Japanese characters.
25. It takes an oxygen destroyer to kill Godzilla.
Over the course of his 65 years of existence, people have tried to come up with all sorts of inventive ways to kill Godzilla, from burying him in hot magma to attacking him with asteroids. But the monster has always prevailed ... unless there's an oxygen destroyer in the area. The fictional weapon made its first appearance in the original 1954 movie, and it will play a role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, too.
"It appears as an important key item to the story, this is not a cameo," director Michael Dougherty told Cinema Today. "Of course there will also be other weapons created by humanity that will be shown."
This story has been updated for 2019.