The iconic kaiju Godzilla (or Gojira) is obviously known for stomping through cities and destroying everything in its path in the Godzilla movies, but the film Godzilla vs. Hedorah suggests that all of this needless destruction could easily have been avoided, because, apparently, Godzilla can fly. Yes… fly.
Godzilla has been fighting flying opponents ever since he clashed with Mothra in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla. He’s also battled Rodan, King Ghidorah, Battra, and Megaguirus, all of whom are capable of flight. Since Godzilla is grounded, the only thing he can do against an airborne opponent is shoot them down with his atomic breath or wait for them to draw near and hit them with a tail smack, just as he did in Legendary’s 2014 reboot. Flight is one advantage that kaiju like Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah have always held over Godzilla. But one particular monster learned a valuable lesson about Godzilla’s limitations in the 1971 movie, Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
After receiving a vicious beating from Godzilla, the smog monster Hedorah morphed into its flying saucer form and escaped. However, the creature failed to realize that Godzilla, who had been struggling to find a way to defeat Hedorah, wouldn’t give up so easily. To the shock of the Japanese military, Godzilla launched himself into the air with his atomic breath and chased after Hedorah through the air. Godzilla’s breath was capable of propelling him upward. Everyone watching was in disbelief, as no one imagined that Godzilla could fly. Godzilla caught up to Hedorah, defeated him again, and took off a second time.
This bizarre – but impressive – feat hasn’t been repeated in any other Godzilla movie, though it has reappeared briefly in video games and comics. The fact that the only time it happens in live-action is in Godzilla vs. Hedorah makes this moment even more noteworthy. As for how it came together, Godzilla vs. Hedorah director Yoshimitsu Banno has explained (via Vantage Point Interviews) that Godzilla needed to fly in order to catch up with the smog monster. Also, the scene added a bit of levity to the movie, which was much darker than its predecessors.
Alternate scenes were filmed with Godzilla chasing after Hedorah on foot, in case producer and Godzilla creator Tomiyuki Tanaka was opposed to the idea of Godzilla flying. Since Tanaka was in the hospital during filming, he was unable to personally monitor production. The movie was complete before Tanaka even saw the scene. After watching the movie, Tanaka was reportedly unhappy with Godzilla’s newfound power. This is said to be the reason why Banno was never hired to make another Godzilla movie, and it also explains why Godzilla never flew again.