Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Godzilla: King of the Monsters! Movie Poster Image
Giant-monster drama is stiff, dated but still a classic.
  • NR
  • 1956
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Many claim the theme is the personification of total war in the form of Godzilla (whose origin, it's theorized, was H-bomb tests), as an uncontrollable, indiscriminating force of pure destruction. Dr. Serizawa has a weapon to stop Godzilla but he fears it will just become an even greater and terrible danger in itself if he uses it, inserting a note of ultimate sacrifice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Upstanding, stalwart types prevail. Dr. Serizawa deliberately dies to prevent his weapon from being misused (though he's also on the losing side in a love triangle, which may have had something to do with his mood).


Godzilla famously destroys public property. Boats, trains, planes, and automobiles are wrecked by the giant reptile. Blood shown on dead and wounded left in the aftermath of a Godzilla attack. There's a scuffle between humans, one of whom dies offscreen in more or less a suicide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character smokes cigarettes and a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the violence in Godzilla: King of the Monsters! is of a war-scale variety, with ships, islands, trains, planes, and ultimately an entire city, Tokyo, destroyed, with dead and wounded. The culprit is a giant monster, though, rather than an army. While Godzilla was sometimes a good-guy monster and friend to children in later movies, he is just a menace here. Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. The finale involves a suicide by a key character. Different versions of Godzilla (aka Gojira, in the original Japanese) exist on DVD; the Japanese original was released in 1954, while the edited "American cut" -- which tells the story from the POV of a U.S. reporter -- was released in 1956. Picture quality varies wildly (sometimes even in the same edition!).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byher354 January 2, 2015

Put Godzila in time out

This movie is a wonderful treat as it is a classic, but it's not a flick for the kiddies. While many Godzilla films are silly and humorous, this- being the... Continue reading
Adult Written byLebron12James3 September 18, 2020

The working all the PPE‘s

Godzilla King of the monsters in a credible horror movie with death and if you watch this movie you will have a secret in your face would melt away Godzilla Kin... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDean0 Rocks316 May 30, 2021

King of the primitive effects

To those unaware, this is where it all began. The very first flick in the franchise.
Godzilla ‘54 is an interesting film. No other monsters, complex sequel titl... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byStevonnie07 April 3, 2021

I laughed the whole film

This was so fake, but fake ness made the film hilarious.

What's the story?

In GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS!, after a series of mysterious disasters at sea leave Japanese ships sunken, with no survivors, scientists and investigators trace the fatal phenomenon to a radiation-tainted island not far from Pacific Ocean H-bomb test sites, where natives have folk-legends of a vast evil spirit called Godzilla dwelling in the water. After one especially stormy night the researchers and media see the culprit, an immense dinosaur, stirred and mutated by the atomic fallout. The military tries to use depth charges to destroy Godzilla, but this only drives the monster into Tokyo bay. Godzilla wades ashore and completely devastates the city. One lone scientist on the periphery happens to have invented a chemical weapon able to destroy Godzilla -- but resists using it on fierce moral grounds. The original Japanese version came out in 1954; in the shorter, "Americanized" version, released in 1956, a U.S. reporter (Raymond Burr) is an onlooker during the crisis. (Despite his grave demeanor, his all-American name, oft-repeated, may inspire giggles: "Steve Martin.")

Is it any good?

Seen today, this film is plainly primitive in its special effects but still powerful in the way things are presented in stone-serious fashion without any humor. (Unless one counts the repetition of the name "Steve Martin" in the 80-minute version.) Though plenty of giant-radioactive-mutant monster movies emanated from Hollywood in the 1950s, the iconic Japan import Godzilla uranium-mined a particularly rich path through the minds of young moviegoers then and since, with seemingly endless sequels and campy follow-ups that evolved into city-destroying Japanese monster tag-team wrestling matches.

Though it's art blasphemy, the 1956 Raymond Burr version of Godzilla: King of the Monsters!  might be better than the lengthier, talkier original 1954 Japanese cut. Burr is very skillfully inserted into the narrative after the fact and anchors the film's tone with the sober narration and delivery of a broadcast war correspondent. Those who jeered the American Godzilla remake of 1998 often forget that the Japanese did a color rehash themselves, sort of, in 1985, with Burr repeating his role.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of Godzilla: King of the Monsters!. Does it still hold up? Can you see why audiences of 1956 were wowed by the f/x?

  • Talk about Dr. Serizawa's reluctance to use his ultimate weapon against Godzilla and his grim decision at the end. Is he justified?

  • Japanese Godzilla filmmakers have made it a tradition to do their films with monster suits and miniatures, not CGI or stop-motion. Ask young viewers if they enjoy such visuals or would prefer something more realistic and high-tech.

Movie details

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