Godzilla is one of my heroes, if you can apply the word 'hero' to a gigantic radioactive dinosaur monster whose main activities is leveling Japanese cities and making other giant monsters regret crossing paths with him. Godzilla (Gojira in the original Japanese movie) was probably the first giant monster (kaiju in Japan) to ever grace the silver screen and have being around since his first appearance in 1954. It become such a pop culture icon that you can find references to him in several movies, TV shows and even games. His title of King of Monsters come from the fact that he was never really defeated by other monsters (he is killed in the first movie by some kind of chemical weapon and in Godzilla VS Destoroyah he just dies of nuclear heart attack).
Godzilla was created to be a physical incarnation of the horrors of nuclear warfare. He is an unstoppable being that people have few, if any, ways to stop him. That is specially visible in his first appearance and in some of later movies. But if you randomly get any movie to see, how he is portrayed will vary, depending on the time the movie was made and how the director wanted to portray him.
If you believe that Godzilla is just a series of cheap, awful movies, you would be wrong. And right too, because the quality of those movies vary greatly. The first movie is a very good one, with a very clear message. Try to see the original Japanese version, not the american edition if possible. It shows how the military and common people would react against it very well and some of the drama the people involved have to deal with.
I would avoid seeing most movies made during the 70s. Those are the worst both in technical quality, acting and story. They are very camp, try to sell Godzilla as some kind of hero and are more geared towards children. They are good for a laugh, but they give a very bad image of the badass Godzilla really is.
|And you will avoid Jet Jaguar and his happy rape face.|
At the end of the Showa era movies, he have the best era of Godzilla movies, the Heisei era. Starting with 1984 Return of Godzilla, those movies are some of the best technically and with some interesting stories to be told. Godzilla VS Biollante is probably the best one of this era, with Godzilla VS Mothra being the second best. Usually all movies during this period, who ends with Godzilla VS Destoroyah (actual name) are fun to watch movies, with some really good fights between giant monsters and with the humans in the story hardly getting in the way of what really is interesting.
The Millenium era movies, starting with Godzilla 2000 vary in quality and have no connection with each other in general, being the two best movies in this era, Godzilla VS MechaGodzilla (be careful to not confuse it with the Showa and Heisei movies of same title) and its sequel who involves Mothra (another classic monster). In general, the movies have great technical quality but not very great stories.
The last Godzilla movie was Final Wars, with basically all monsters of the Godzilla franchise appearing all in one movie. It is a very bad movie in the side of the humans, but a great gift for the fans, with some very cool giant monster battles. A good movie just for some laughs at the plot but some great moments in the battles.
The 1998 american movie is a very bad movie. It have no charm, you cannot laugh at how bad it is because while technically competent it lacks any story, character and personality and it is more of a curiosity for fans than a worth seeing movie.
Since 2004 we didn't had any other Godzilla movie, but hopefully we will have any new movie soon. If you never saw a Godzilla movie, I highly recommend it. You may believe those are awful movies from third party opinions, but I recommend to go and see them without any expectations. It is true that they are not technically incredible in most part, many being very old movies and having low budgets when you compare to big Hollywood productions. But there is a certain charm and some subtlety in them that make them worth a shot.
Godzilla is probably one of those characters that will live for a long time in people's memories, like Darth Vader or Mickey Mouse. There is a reason for it, and watching those movies will be a good time (if not for anything else, for some laughs) and Godzilla will always be one of the greatest characters ever created.