Director: Ishiro Honda
Stars: Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kochi, Akira Takarada
At this point, Godzilla has been bastardized within popular culture more than Snoop Dogg's rap credibility. The iconic, Japanese-created movie monster has been the subject of goofy spinoff movies (Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, anyone?), action figures, a piece-of-shit Hollywood remake starring a ridiculously miscast Matthew Broderick, video games, and comic books, amongst other cash-ins.
With such a storied merchandising history, it's easy to forget that the green beast's cinematic debut, 1954's Godzilla (or, Gojira) was actually a serious, intelligent, and topical metaphor for post-Hiroshima paranoia in Japan. The monster itself is a dormant creature awakened, and mutated, by hydrogen bomb testing, leading to destruction and wide-scale tragedy that's bravely played straight-up by director Ishiro Honda.
There's no way that Honda could've foreseen Godzilla's subsequent impact on all forms of entertainment; even today, his rather haunting flick feels like the work of an angry and, yes, scared, citizen living during Japan's uncertain WWII times. Twenty eight movies later, the monster has become a punchline. If only Honda, who passed away in 1993, could slap some sense into us all.