On October 27, 1954, in Nagoya Japan, Godzilla first roared to life across movie screens. The best horror movies reflect the times and places in which they are made, and Godzilla is no exception to this rule. WWII had just ended in a pair of atomic fireballs for Japan and Godzilla was an equally formidable force of destruction leaving nothing but crushed and burning buildings behind him.
The name Godzilla is a cross between gorira, Japanese for gorilla and kujira, Japanese for whale. This is because the filmmakers had initially envisioned him as some sort of cross between those two types of creatures. And in those days, before CGI was a thing and when stop-motion was an expensive state of the art affair, Godzilla was portrayed by a stagehand in a latex suit.
A year later, Godzilla began to be shown in the US. At first, it was primarily shown in Japanese neighborhoods and in its original language, but it didn't take long for it to be picked up for more general release in the US. In 1956, a version called Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released. The Japanese language was dubbed over by English, and a few scenes were added to give the film an American face since the studio was unsure how a movie with a purely Japanese cast would play to an American audience. Raymond Burr played a reporter named Steve Martin (though THIS Steve Martin was neither a wild nor a crazy guy). His role was mostly to document the destruction wrought by the monster. It did keep the major beats of the film intact.
This proved to be a smart move for the studio. By '56, The Russian had the atomic bomb, and the cold war was in full swing. So it hit roughly the same nerve with American audiences as it did with Japanese.
Godzilla was the first movie of its kind, but it was far from the last. It became a franchise spanning 33 films. Including a failed American reboot starring Matthew Broderick where Godzilla was literally an overgrown iguana. It continues strong to this day, with the newest entry in the franchise coming to theaters in may of 2019. More to the point, it spawned an entire genre of Kaiju (giant monster) films. Gamera, Gorgo, and many others. The Danish even tried to get into the act with their own Kaiju, Reptilicus.
Further, Godzilla has escaped from the world of films. A dinosaur species has been named for the big guy, Gojirasaurus. More recently, Nasa gave Godzilla his own constellation.
Godzilla's enormous shadow has loomed over the movie landscape for 64 years, and there is no sign of it shrinking. So here's to 64 years of everyone's favorite giant atomic monster and let's hope for 64 more.