Godzilla, the gigantic monster who has fans among both kids and adults, first appeared in the 1954 film Godzilla. Inspired by American hydrogen bomb tests conducted near Bikini Atoll that year and by the U.S. movie King Kong, the Japanese film was about an ancient dinosaur transformed into a giant monster by the atomic testing. With a big, nasty monster cast in the starring role, this movie stood out at a time when human dramas were the most popular kinds of film in Japan.
Although some people say that Godzilla was first conceived as a novelty movie, the spectacle of a monster destroying a metropolis kept audiences riveted to their seats. Godzilla set a new standard for special effects, which until then had mainly consisted of explosion scenes in war films. The main story line of the film, the part featuring human actors, was directed by Ishiro Honda. The special effects for the scenes in which Godzilla appears were then executed under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya, who later became known as the "god" of special effects.
Godzilla was a big hit, and a sequel appeared the following year. Starting in 1962, when the third in the series came out, the movies were in color. As of 2000 there had been 24 films in the Godzilla series overall, 9 directors for the main story lines, and 5 directors for special effects. In 1956, an export version of the original Godzilla film was produced, and the monster also became popular in the United States. In 1998, Hollywood released its own Godzilla film. Godzilla has become a household name throughout the world.