With the launch of HBO Max, the new streaming service has already set itself apart from much of its competition in one clear way: classic movies. With an entire branch of the service dedicated to films from the Turner Classic Movies brand, and an overlap with The Criterion Collection, which happens to include most of the classic Godzilla movies from the legendary Toho Studios. Not sure where to start? Unclear about what movies are spin-offs and what's unrelated? We've got a full guide to Toho's kaiju movies and everything Godzilla adjacent below!
Luckily there's not a very strict continuity for the earlier Godzilla movies, so leaping around as you see fit and watching whichever sounds the most interesting to you is an entirely appropriate way to watch. We've included a list of our favorites if you just want to hit the highlights, along with the movies in the series that aren't on HBO Max for one reason or another.
We'll also note that, seemingly due to limitations in the search function of HBO Max, currently the specific titles must be typed out into the search bar in order to find them. Simply searching for "Godzilla" will not bring up all of the movies featuring the character, which could be a hurdle as some classic movies with the kaiju don't have his name in the title.
The 1954 original
Up first is the movie that start it all, the somber and stoutly anti-nuclear war Gojira. HBO Max includes both versions of the movie: the Japanese version from filmmaker Ishirō Honda (simply titled "Godzilla" on the service) and the American version of the film featuring new material with US actor Raymond Burr (titled "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!," not to be confused with the 2019 film). The Japanese version is rightly considered the superior version and comes only subtitled on HBO Max. Though younger audience members may not be as interested in this version, it stands the test of time and remains one of the best movies in the franchise.
Godzilla Raids Again
The direct sequel to the 1954 movie, Godzilla Raids Again, is present and available to watch with no sign of its American counterpart (the poorly dubbed "Gigantis, the Fire Monster"). This 1955 follow-up introduces the first monster that Godzilla will fight in the spiked Anguirus, but can't hold a candle to the first movie.
King Kong vs. Godzilla is UNAVAILABLE
Currently the 1962 showdown between Japan's champion and the American king is NOT available on HBO Max, nor The Criterion Channel. The film, the first Godzilla movie to be shot in color, isn't available anywhere for streaming currently as its American distribution is owned by Universal Pictures.
Most of the sequels that followed King Kong vs Godzilla are available on HBO Max including Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Monster Zero), Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster), Son of Godzilla, and the ultimate kaiju throw down, Destroy All Monsters.
Absent from HBO Max (but still available on The Criterion Channel) is the 1969 All Monsters Attack, derided by some Godzilla fans for being entirely too focused on being a movie for children but not without its vocal supporters as well.
All of the 1970s Godzilla movies from Toho are available for streaming on HBO Max including Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla. The final film in the this cycle of the character, 1975's Terror of Mechagodzilla, marked the last Godzilla movie in what has been dubbed the "Shōwa era," and his last appearance until the 1984 reboot.
Legendary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The 2019 movie from director Michael Dougherty is the only film from Legendary's Monster-verse available for streaming on HBO Max. Currently the 2014 Godzilla and 2016's Kong: Skull Island cannot be watched on the platform, but like the classic Godzilla movies they're also not required view to understand the film.
Related Toho Movies
Only a few of Toho Studios' other kaiju movies are available on HBO Max but luckily they're both winners. The 1956 solo movie Rodan, which introduced the world to the flying kaijiu that would go on to appear in Godzilla movies, is available to be watched. In addition the 1966 movies The War of the Gargantuas can also be seen on HBO Max. The connection between that movie and the Godzilla franchise is a little tenuous (it's a sequel to the unavailable Frankenstein Conquers the World which featured the kaiju Baragon, a monster that appears in Destroy All Monsters), but it's a cult classic monster movie and was previously noted by director Guillermo del Toro as a major inspiration for Pacific Rim.
The Best Available Godzilla Movies on HBO Max
Of the fifteen films we've cited above, there are some stands outs in particular:
Godzilla (1954) - A general great movie and the start of the franchise
Rodan - A kaiju movie that will keep you guessing all the way to the final frame.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster - The first major kaiju battle movie, pitting four monsters in a major brawl.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla - The first appearance of the robot antagonist.
Terror of Mechagodzilla - The final film in the Shōwa era from Toho and features the underrated monster, Titanosaurus.
War of the Gargantuas - Semi-unrelated to the larger franchise but a Toho movie worth seeking out.
HBO Max is not home to every Godzilla movie, with Netflix being the sole home to the three Toho animated movies Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, and Godzilla: The Planet Eater. In addition the 1998 Sony remake of Godzilla can also be viewed on Netflix if you wish to do that. Sony's Crackle has the film Godzilla 2000 available as well.
Most of the Godzilla movies from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s cannot be watched on HBO Max, or anywhere for that matter. In addition the award winning 2016 movie Shin Godzilla can't be watched online other than as a digital rental from some platforms.