Having appeared in 30 films across the last 60 years, the gargantuan Godzilla is a cinematic icon, terrifying audiences the world over during his city-stomping rampages.
Did you know that this towering beast holds a Guinness World Record for the longest continuously running movie franchise? That's because Godzilla movies have been in constant production from the 1950s until the present day.
In 2019, Godzilla will be making a grand comeback in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, promising to be the biggest, baddest and most epic movie in the franchise yet. So we're exploring the past, present and future of the giant lizard who lords it over all...
When was the first Godzilla movie released?
Back when special effects were a little different to the ones we see now, Godzilla made his first appearance in 1954, in the groundbreaking Toho Studios movie Godzilla directed by Ishirō Honda.
There was no computer wizardry available back then, and while initially the director had wanted to create the creature with stop-motion animation or puppetry, the end result was in fact achieved through 'suitmation'. As a result the monster was brought to life with an actor in a suit crushing and stomping his way through miniature cities.
With advances in technology, we can now see monsters brought to life through CGI motion-capture or other visual effects, and while the effects of the original Godzilla may look a little dated now, they still frightened early audiences and cemented the beast's reputation as a pop culture icon.
This was of course the film that started it all, making way for a genuine phenomenon and countless other film sequels, prequels, reboots, and re-imaginings of the Godzilla legend. Without these humble beginnings, we wouldn't be where we are now.
Who are the other monsters in the Godzilla franchise?
Not content with causing mass destruction all by himself, Godzilla has also squared off against some other legendary mythical creatures. From King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) to Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla (1994), we've seen beastly battles in all shapes and sizes, and whilst he might wreak havoc on unsuspecting cities, he is quite often portrayed as the antihero, especially when he is going toe-to-toe with bigger and badder adversaries.
Throughout the franchise Godzilla has contended with insect-like Mothra, the fire-breathing Rodan and the three-headed King Ghidorah. And revamped versions of all three iconic foes are set to feature in the upcoming Godzilla II: King of the Monsters.
What do we need to know about Godzilla II: King of the Monsters?
In 2009, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to reboot Godzilla as a modern cinematic blockbuster. Establishing their brand new 'MonsterVerse', Godzilla (2014), directed by Gareth Edwards, proved to be a box office hit and this gave the go-ahead for the next films in the franchise.
The next stage in the franchise Kong: Skull Island (2017) took us back to the 1970s and acted as a fresh introduction to gargantuan gorilla King Kong, who has similarly seen many big-screen adaptations over the years. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, this mash-up of Apocalypse Now and monster epic starred Avengers: Infinity War's Tom Hiddleston and Room's Oscar-winning Brie Larson. An end credits teaser featuring Godzilla's roar teased the future battle between Kong and the giant lizard (more on which momentarily).
In the interim, Japanese production company Toho decided they would do a reboot of their own. Toho were of course the company who kick-started the Godzilla movies, all the way back in 1954, and while the rights were shared, crossed over, and changed hands multiple times, it's still very much Toho's baby.
Shin Godzilla (2016) received high acclaim from Japanese critics and audiences, but didn't do quite as well elsewhere. Perhaps many felt the screen wasn't quite big enough for two versions of Godzilla so close together, but Shin Godzilla is a surprisingly good monster movie, and a return to form for Toho.
King of the Monsters is another important chapter in the Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures 'MonsterVerse' and will see the continuation of Godzilla's story as he squares off against the aforementioned monstrous opponents. It's directed by Krampus filmmaker Michael Dougherty, with an all-star cast including Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown, The Conjuring's Vera Farmiga and Game of Thrones' Charles Dance.
If the trailers are anything to go by, this film will be a spectacle unlike anything previously witnessed in the franchise, and it is incredible to see how far the special effects have come since Godzilla's rather humble beginnings as a man in a suit.
What is the next movie in the 'MonsterVerse'?
You may be wondering what the future of the 'MonsterVerse' holds. Well with Godzilla and Kong now firmly re-established as hot Hollywood properties, the next step is Godzilla vs Kong, which at the moment is set for release in summer 2020. The gloves will certainly be off for this battle, and we can't wait.
Where can we watch the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters?
Check it out below, and don't forget Godzilla: King of the Monsters reaches us on 31st May 2019.
Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.