Godzilla Minus One Just Made Oscars History

The movie’s VFX win proved that there are still unexplored chapters for the franchise.


Everybody loves an underdog, though few would label one of the biggest movie monsters as such. Godzilla has been a fixture in film since his debut in 1954, and though his many on-screen appearances are beloved by a fandom full of monster lovers, prestige has largely eluded the Godzilla franchise.

That’s what makes Godzilla Minus One such an anomaly. The 2023 film seemed to come out of nowhere, turning a wave of word-of-mouth praise into tangible box office success in December. Made on just a little under $15 million (and by a VFX team of only 35 people), Minus One felt like a refreshing return to basics. Not unlike The Creator, it showed just how much can be accomplished with a considerably modest budget.

While Hollywood’s MonsterVerse turns Godzilla into an anti-hero, and prestigious war epics like Oppenheimer tell a one-sided account of nuclear war, Minus One reminds us of Godzilla’s original purpose: to personify Japan’s anxieties about nuclear weapons after the attacks during World War II. It’s now considered one of the best Godzilla movies in the franchise’s 70-year history. And after the 96th Academy Awards, it’s also the only Godzilla film to win an Oscar.

The Godzilla Minus One team “felt like Rocky Balboa” throughout the Oscars race.

John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

The Godzilla Minus One team took home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects on Sunday, beating out four big-budget Hollywood tentpoles in the category. That it was able to triumph over such blockbusters as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, and Napoleon — each with budgets over $200 million — speaks to the efficiency of its team, led by writer and director Takashi Yamazaki.

Yamazaki credited the “shock” of innovative films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in inspiring him to pursue filmmaking. “So far from Hollywood, even the possibility of standing on this stage seemed out of reach,” Yamazaki said upon accepting his Oscar. “The moment we were nominated, we felt like Rocky Balboa welcomed into the ring as equals by our biggest rivals, which was already a miracle. But here we stand.”

The Minus One team campaigned tirelessly in the VFX category, and it’s clear now that their passion paid off. Minus One is just one of a handful of films signaling a return to more sustainable filmmaking. Hopefully, it won’t be the last to reimagine what’s possible on screen, or the last win for a monster franchise as prolific as Godzilla.

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