It’s a rare occurrence, but there have been situations in the Godzilla franchise where the humans actually got the best of the kaiju. Typically, Godzilla is regarded as a force so powerful that the human characters in the movies have little hope of stopping his rampages. For that reason, it’s usually his fellow monsters – and not the military – who provide the biggest challenges to the pop culture icon.
Battles between humanity and Godzilla goes back to his theatrical debut in 1954. But, they’re primarily not the focus of most Godzilla stories. More often than not, their fighting takes a backseat to other problems. Sometimes, the humans deem Godzilla the lesser of two evils and decide to help him. But when Godzilla isn’t busy playing the hero, their efforts tend to be centered on beating him. In the past, they’ve had some near-victories, such as the time they almost killed him in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. In other instances, the military has done much more than simply come close to stopping him. On seven different occasions, the humans pulled off the impressive task of beating Godzilla.
7 Godzilla (1954)
In spite of 1954’s Gojira being his first movie, the story ended with Godzilla meeting a grizzly end. In the movie, scientist Dr. Daisuke Serizawa invented a powerful weapon known as the Oxygen Destroyer. Created as a device that can eradicate oxygen molecules, the Oxygen Destroyer was seen as the one weapon that could take down Godzilla. However, Dr. Serizawa was hesitant to deploy it, as he feared what would happen if it fell into the wrong hands. But feeling that Godzilla had left him no other choice, Dr. Serizawa resorted to using the Oxygen Destroyer to kill the monster.
Sacrificing himself to ensure that no one else ever recreated the technology behind it, Dr. Serizawa secured the humans’ victory over Godzilla by activating it in the ocean. The blast destroyed all the oxygen in the immediate area, causing Godzilla’s entire body – his bones included – to dissolve. This moment on its own cemented the Oxygen Destroyer’s place in the Godzilla mythos, as it now lives on in notoriety as the only manmade weapon to kill the King of the Monsters.
6 Godzilla Raids Again
Since Gojira’s ending left no room for this particular version of Godzilla to return, its first sequel confirmed the existence of a second Godzilla. Released in 1955, Godzilla Raids Again pitted the movie’s titular antagonist against both the Japanese military and a new threat in the form of Anguirus. It was acknowledged early on in the film that this time around, killing Godzilla wasn’t an option since they had no known alternatives to the Oxygen Destroyer, which was lost for good. Instead of killing him, the humans put an end to his attacks by luring him into a mountain range and causing an avalanche. Buried under debris, Godzilla was finally taken out of commission – but not dead.
5 Return of Godzilla
After years of utilizing Godzilla as an ally to the humans, Toho went back to the formula of the first two movies when it pressed the reset button on the franchise in 1984. Titled Return of Godzilla, the first installment in the Heisei era once again made fighting humans the focus of Godzilla’s story. Given the timeframe of the film, the military was much better equipped technologically in Return of Godzilla, yet still found themselves outmatched. They built a machine called Super X to oppose him, and when it failed to stop him, the humans managed to trap him in an erupting volcano. He broke free in Godzilla vs. Biollante, but Return of Godzilla’s ending at least gave them a reprieve from constant Godzilla attacks.
4 Godzilla (1998)
The Godzilla versus humanity plot became the underlying premise of Sony’s adaptation when it offered its own take on the story of the 1954 Godzilla classic. In addition to making a slew of significant changes to Godzilla’s design and origin, the 1998 movie notably reduced his power level. By weakening Godzilla to such an extreme degree, the film eliminated the need for the Oxygen Destroyer. A tactic that never would have worked in any other Godzilla movie proved a success when Godzilla, ensnared by the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge, was blasted to death with fighter jet missiles.
3 Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
In Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, the Japanese government built Mechagodzilla – referred to in the movie as Kiryu – for the purpose of stopping Godzilla in his tracks whenever he steps onto land. Piloted by humans, the mecha-kaiju struggled to contend with Godzilla for most of the movie, but held his own well enough in the final fight to secure a tie. Mechagodzilla didn’t win, per se, but the humans achieved their goal when a wounded Godzilla abandoned his current course (which was taking him into Japan) and changed directions. Via Kiryu, the military had prevailed in driving Godzilla away.
2 Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S.
The humans’ victory over Godzilla was short-lived, as their rivalry with him was renewed in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S, which served as a direct sequel to the 2002 film. They managed to fix up Mechagodzilla for a rematch, but how the fighting played out made it abundantly clear that in spite of what happened in the last movie, Godzilla was the stronger of the two. Godzilla would’ve won, but Mothra’s involvement in the conflict shifted things out of his favor. Tied up by silk from Mothra’s larvae, Godzilla wasn’t able to stop Kiryu from finishing the fight and dropping him somewhere in the ocean, far away from Tokyo. While it admittedly took some help from Mothra in the end of Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S, the humans were ultimately able to save their home from Godzilla.
1 Shin Godzilla
Toho’s most recent entry in the franchise ignored Godzilla’s anti-hero status and reimagined him as a nearly unstoppable killing machine. Able to adapt by transforming his entire body, the monster seen in 2016’s Shin Godzilla forced Japan to work with other world powers to develop a method of stopping Godzilla from spreading any more destruction. Larger and more sinister than most versions of Godzilla, the movie’s interpretation of the kaiju seemingly had no weakness until Japanese military officials and scientists concocted a plan to freeze him solid. It worked, though Godzilla didn’t die. The beginning of a more grotesque fifth form in a post-credits scene set up a return, but Toho never moved forward with a Shin Godzilla sequel.
MORE: The Lost Godzilla Movie Tokyo 1960 Explained (Was It An Official Sequel?)