While there are 28 different productions of Godzilla from Toho Studios in Japan, America has only been responsible for four Godzillas: in 1956, 1985, 1998, and the 2014 version that's now hitting the big screen. Below, a look back at all of them—every single one prior to the most recent was panned by critics, so it's possible we'll be getting our first ever not totally terrible Godzilla this weekend.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956): "A gigantic beast, stalking the earth, crushing all before it... on a rampage of total destruction!"
How was it received? Bosley Crowther (note: Welles Crowther's grandfather) wrote in the NY Times, "Godzilla is an incredibly awful film. It looks as though its Japanese producers, assisted by a stray American, made a close study of the old King Kong, then tried to do substantially the same thing with a miniature dinosaur made of gum-shoes and about $20 worth of toy buildings and electric trains. Cheap cinematic horror stuff."
Godzilla 1985 (1985): "Now he is back, and he's more magnificent, more glamorous, more devastating than ever."
How was it received? Vincent Canby wrote in the NY Times: "Though special-effects experts in Japan and around the world have vastly improved their craft in the last 30 years, you wouldn't know it from this film. Godzilla, who is supposed to be about 240 feet tall, still looks like a wind-up toy, one that moves like an arthritic toddler with a fondness for walking through teeny-tiny skyscrapers instead of mud puddles. The point seems to be that Godzilla must rise up from time to time to remind us of the precariousness of our existence. One can learn the same lesson almost any day on almost any New York street corner."
Godzilla (1998): "The city that never sleeps just got a wake-up call."
How was it received? Tom Kuntz wrote in the NY Times: "Well, so what if the new Godzilla movie stinks? It is protected by an immutable dictum of Godzilla cinema: To be good, it is preferable for a Godzilla movie to be bad. A good movie with Godzilla in it (have you ever seen one?) may be by definition a bad Godzilla movie. Conversely, a bad movie in which Godzilla appears is bound to be a good Godzilla movie. In summation, the ideal Godzilla movie is, paradoxically and counterintuitively, the classic 'good bad' movie, the elements of which can include but are not limited to lousy dubbing and stentorian proclamations from Raymond Burr." And thus we succumbed, and embraced the bad Godzilla movie. BUT WAIT...
But wait, are we about to get a good good Godzilla movie? Our own John Del Signore, having only seen the trailer, wrote: "I didn't think I was going to care about the new Godzilla movie, but after watching this new trailer for the forthcoming blockbuster, I have to admit I care, I care very deeply. Judging by what we see here, it's got just the right balance of mystery and mayhem, some epic special effects, and a solid cast." (Caveat emptor: Mr. Del Signore would see the latest Freddie Prinze, Jr comeback film if it were on an IMAX 3D screen, particularly if he can get his favorite end seat in the last row.)