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Is Godzilla really king of the monsters? All 4 MonsterVerse movies ranked

With Netflix and Apple TV Plus prepping MonsterVerse shows, we look at the franchise's full history.
By
May 26, 2022
MonsterVerse poster collage: Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs. Kong
Warner Bros.

Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla-centric MonsterVerse is expanding after four successful movies. Last year, Netflix announced the anime series Skull Island, featuring Kong, and now Apple TV Plus is also launching an untitled live-action series set in the MonsterVerse following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong. The MonsterVerse so far has been fairly varied, and there’s plenty of room to grow, but which are the best MonsterVerse movies? We break it down below and offer our MonsterVerse movie rankings ahead of the new shows and a planned sequel to Godzilla vs. Kong with director Adam Wingard.

Starting with 2014’s Godzilla, the MonsterVerse follows Titans and their relationship with humans and each other. Are these Kaiju threats to humanity or to each other? Or, do they represent nature’s need for balance?

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So, read on for our ranking of Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong. If you haven’t seen the MonsterVerse movies or want to refresh your memory, you can currently watch all but 2014’s Godzilla on HBO Max. Sign up by hitting the link below.

4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Godzilla emerges from the ocean in Godzilla: King of the Monsters — Monsterverse movies ranked
Warner Bros.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a solid bit of worldbuilding. We get a clear view of the shadowy government organization Monarch, which has studied the Titans for generations. Mixed in with that is the revelation of the hollow earth, which allows the Titans to survive and travel underground. And we meet the Russell family, who work for Monarch and experienced tremendous loss when their son died during the events of Godzilla.

Unfortunately, King of the Monsters ranks at the bottom because it rushes through far too much action. We’re introduced to too many Titans all at once and watch them duke it out without much proper narrative build-up. Many complained about Godzilla’s scant eight minutes of screentime in 2014’s Godzilla, and Legendary seems to have overcorrected here, making the film a self-serious series of CGI showdowns without a whole lot of heart.

3. Godzilla (2014)

Still of paratroopers free falling in Godzilla 2014 — Monsterverse movies ranked
Warner Bros.

As a franchise kick-off, you could do a lot worse than 2014’s Godzilla. The original Gojira was a stunning work of cinema in 1954, offering a radioactive sea monster as a metaphor for the horrors of World War Two and particularly the unspeakable harm Japan experienced when America dropped two nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese film spawned numerous sequels and was remade in America as the notoriously uncelebrated 1998 Godzilla. Expectations were high for the new outing, but the specter of failure also loomed large.

Your mileage may vary, but the relative lack of Godzilla onscreen in the 2014 film actually makes for a tense human drama. Shot primarily from the perspective of panicked humans scrambling to survive, Godzilla as a metaphor for an uncontrollable force unleashed by human hubris worked quite well. With solid performances from Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and more, the film tells a moving, human story about grief and perseverance during an impossible global disaster. 

2. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla vs. Kong — still of the two titans facing off
Warner Bros.

Godzilla vs. Kong may not be at the top of our MonsterVerse movie ranking, but it’s arguably the most fun MonsterVerse outing. If Godzilla: King of the Monsters felt a bit joyless and overstuffed, Godzilla vs. Kong pulls back a bit, limiting the action to two Titans (for the most part). We spend a bit more time getting to know the humans and what makes them tick, and we focus on the two beasties with the most established backstory. Godzilla and Kong had both headlined their own films by the time this one came out.

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Maybe more important than all of that is tone. Godzilla vs. Kong leans into some of the silliness of these films. It fleshes out the hollow earth elements of the story and even takes us there. It’s like director Adam Wingard wanted to channel Jules Verne in his take on the MonsterVerse, making it appropriately campy without undercutting the action. Combine that with a terrific cast of returning actors and welcome new additions like Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård, and Demián Bichir, and you’ve got one of the best MonsterVerse movies yet.

1. Kong: Skull Island (2017)

King Kong seen from below in Kong: Skull Island — MonsterVerse movies ranked
Warner Bros.

Kong: Skull Island was received about as well as the other MonsterVerse films when it came out, garnering generally positive reviews. It hasn’t broadly earned the recognition it deserves as the best MonsterVerse movie though. A riff on Apocalypse Now, Skull Island sees a group of American G.I.s on one last mission before heading home at the end of the Vietnam War. What they don’t know is that their destination is home to a towering Titan: Kong.

A mix of creature feature and war pic, Kong: Skull Island takes the futility of war — particularly the horrors of America’s presence in Southeast Asia — and uses it as the backdrop for moving human tragedy. While the nascent Monarch organization uses military muscle to help its research, we get a sense that these soldiers are cogs in a nightmarish machine. That sense is only heightened by the presence of Kong and other beasties. These gods among us don’t care that they have families waiting for them at home. Their actions, good or bad, can’t save them. It’s a moving message within a rollicking adventure that sets the stage for the expanded MultiVerse and eventual duel with Godzilla.