An instantly recognizable member of Toho’s kaiju lineup and a fan favorite overall, Mothra is an aptly-named giant moth that kaiju fans the world over know and love. Across many Godzilla films as well as some solo appearances, Mothra is one of the few kaiju that is always presented as unambiguously good and friendly to mankind. Mothra is a selfless protector of the Earth and a frequent ally of humanity. Her stories typically touch on themes of environmentalism, as well as death and rebirth, making her a welcome addition to any piece of kaiju media.
Not every Mothra movie is created equal, however, and, across the many films in which she has appeared, there emerges a fairly clear hierarchy of the best movies that star or guest star everyone’s favorite giant flying insect.
10 Rebirth Of Mothra II (1997)
Arguably the weakest of the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy, a series of solo films marketed with younger audiences in mind, Rebirth of Mothra II succumbs to a number of pitfalls that make it a lackluster kaiju movie overall. Most of the film’s human elements are taken up by children running around a sunken temple with somewhat unclear goals, which doesn’t do any favors to the pacing.
Although kaiju action has a little too much downtime, there are some downright outrageous abilities Mothra gets access to in this one to keep it interesting. This might not be a great movie overall, but seeing Mothra morph into dozens of tiny Mothras to attack her opponent from within makes some of it worthwhile.
9 Rebirth Of Mothra III (1998)
The final entry in the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy is of middling quality overall; although it leans more heavily into kaiju action and has overall better effects than its predecessor, it still falls short of the original Rebirth movie on account of its less-than-stellar human characters.
King Ghidorah wants to kidnap the children of Japan for some reason, and Mothra has to go back in time to defeat a younger Ghidorah like some kind of kaiju terminator. These plot points are interesting enough in themselves and they set up some great action sequences, but the movie is a bit muddled overall. Generally speaking, the second and third movies in the Rebirth trilogy ought to be reserved for only the most ardent Mothra fans because it’s hard to forgive their shortcomings otherwise.
8 Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Largely remembered for being the not-as-good sequel to 2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Tokyo S.O.S. is a movie that features Mothra and her fairies attempting to convince the human characters of the film to stop messing around with Mechagodzilla, lest they suffer a terrible fate. Things aren’t so simple, though, as Mechagodzilla represents humanity’s last line of defense against a renewed Godzilla menace.
Unfortunately, the movie takes a little bit too long to get going, choosing to reserve the appearance of its monsters for too late in the game. Although things do pick up once the kaiju hit the scene, it’s still hard not to feel like it can’t quite stack up to its contemporaries, and Mothra’s inclusion touches on themes that have been handled better elsewhere.
7 Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019)
The second Godzilla entry in Legendary’s “Monsterverse” is a big-budget kaiju crossover featuring Godzilla himself alongside his legendary rivals King Ghidorah, Rodan, and, of course, Mothra. This film makes a lot of notable changes to Mothra’s toolkit; she’s notably without her twin fairy escorts and this time opts for two-bladed front legs over lasers.
Reviews of King of the Monsters at the time were sharply critical of the human-centered drama, but they generally praised the realization of several classic Toho monsters, Mothra included. Indeed, the big moth certainly does look great in this movie, and she gets some impressive fight scenes, making this one worth a watch.
6 Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964)
In one of the wackier plots to meet the history of kaiju cinema, this is a movie involving an assassination plot of a political figure, an invading astro-monster, possession by Mothra’s fairies, and a spirited kaiju round-table debate with the fate of the human race in the balance. Indeed, with King Ghidorah is set to destroy Earth, Godzilla and Rodan have the power to stop him, but only if Mothra can convince them to work together first.
This is one of those movies that really thrusts Mothra into the kaiju peacemaker role that she so often inhabits, and to great effect. Watching her literally mediate an angry argument between Godzilla and Rodan while the fairies translate for the audience is not to be missed, and is certainly a scene that belongs in the hall of fame for kaiju history.
5 Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
Godzilla vs. Mothra is a confusingly titled remake of sorts of 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, and, as such, the movie follows similar plot beats to the original. Greedy businessmen with no respect for the environment pick up a giant egg, Godzilla is upset, Mothra hatches from said egg, etc., etc.
However, there are a couple of twists this movie introduces to keep it feeling fresh for those who have already seen Godzilla and Mothra’s inaugural showdown from 1964. There’s some fun family drama stuff, featuring an Indiana Jones wannabe trying to reconnect with his daughter while navigating his divorce settlement, and also a “Dark Mothra” that must be defeated. The effects and miniatures in the final battle are impressive as well, making this a diverting kaiju romp.
4 Rebirth Of Mothra (1996)
Without a doubt the best of the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy, this film sees a new-and-improved Mothra—read, more lasers—going head to head against Death Ghidorah. The kaiju action here is extremely impressive, with the suits having remarkable ranges of articulation and great built-in pyrotechnics to explode all over the place when one of them gets hit by a beam.
Although the movie starts slowly and leans a bit too heavily into the child-friendly tone of the trilogy, the character drama here is quite effective in its own right, and it’s a welcome complement to the battle sequences that populate the second half of the movie.
3 Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Mothra vs. Godzilla is remembered as a kaiju classic from the earlier Toho films of the 60s and 70s, and it certainly is a lot of fun. The plot should be somewhat familiar by this point; a greedy businessman finds a giant egg and plans to use it as a tourist attraction, but this upsets Godzilla, who in turn leads to Mothra hatching from the egg, and a decisive battle.
Despite Godzilla being in the title, this is still mostly Mothra’s movie, although Godzilla does make one of his most iconic entrances in this one, and the human characters happily have quite a bit to do in order to keep the plot moving at a brisk pace. The only thing keeping this film from being truly great is a somewhat lackluster final battle, but it’s still a great time overall.
2 Mothra (1961)
Mothra’s big-screen debut is still one of her most successful appearances, and it establishes many of the tropes that would be associated with the character going forward. Mothra’s fairies are kidnapped from Infant Island to be exploited as tourist attractions, which angers Mothra and invites her destructive wrath.
The cast here is great, as well; there’s an outrageously villainous businessman as an antagonist as well as an assortment of likable but dubiously competent protagonists who set out on a quest to return the fairies to Mothra before it’s too late.
1 Godzilla, Mothra, And King Ghidora: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
As a longtime fan favorite, GMK is a movie that gleefully upends the typical character roles that kaiju fans had become familiar with across decades of Godzilla material. Godzilla is a villain of pure malice this time around and a serious threat to the continued survival of Japan, and possibly the world! As such, it’s up to two familiar monsters to stop him: Mothra and… King Ghidorah?
Featuring eye-popping special effects, outstanding kaiju battles, and a great cast of human characters, GMK is a movie that easily lands itself in the upper echelons of the kaiju film tier list. It’s also exciting to see Mothra and Ghidorah team up, as that’s not a pairing fans are familiar with.
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