The film was a co-production between Centropolis Entertainment and TriStar Pictures. It was commercially distributed by TriStar theatrically, and by Sony Pictures Entertainment for home media. Following its wide release in theaters, the film won and was nominated for multiple Razzie Awards, but received recognition in the field of computer-generated imagery by winning the Saturn Award for Best Special Effects. On May 19, 1998, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released Epic Records. It features songs written by several recording artists including The Wallflowers, Rage Against the Machine, Silverchair, and Foo Fighters. The film score was composed and orchestrated by David Arnold.
Godzilla premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on May 20, 1998 grossing $136,314,294 in domestic ticket receipts. It earned an additional $242,700,000 through international release to top out at a combined $379,014,294 in gross revenue. The film was met with a mostly negative reception from critics and fans alike. From this, sequels were abandoned, however an animated series premiered September 12, 1998 on the Fox Kids network.
Following a nuclear test in French Polynesia, a marine iguana nest is exposed to the fallout. Years later, a Japanese fishing vessel is suddenly attacked by an enormous sea creature in the South Pacific ocean; only one seaman, an old cook, survives. Traumatized, he is questioned by a mysterious Frenchman in a hospital regarding what he saw, to which he replies, "Gojira".
Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an NRC scientist, is in the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine researching the effects of radiation on wildlife, but is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of an official from the U.S. State Department. He is sent to Panama and Jamaica, escorted by the military, to observe a trail of wreckage across land leading to the recovered Japanese fishing trawler with massive claw marks on it. In Jamaica, the Frenchman is also present, observing the scene, and introduces himself as Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno), a so-called "insurance agent".
Aboard a military aircraft, Dr. Tatopoulos identifies skin samples he discovered in the shipwreck as belonging to an unknown species. He dismisses the military's theory that the creature is a living dinosaur, instead deducing that he is a mutant created by nuclear testing. The large reptilian creature travels to New York City leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The city is evacuated as the military attempts to kill it but fails in an initial attempt. Tatopoulos later collects a blood sample and learns that the creature reproduces asexually and is collecting food not just for itself, but also for its offspring.
Eventually, Dr. Tatopoulos meets up with his ex-girlfriend, Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo), a young news reporter who wants to find a story. While she visits him, she uncovers a classified tape in his provisional military tent which concerns the origins of the monster, and turns it over to the media. She hopes to have her report put on TV in hopes to become famous, but her superior and boss, Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer) declares the tape as his own discovery. The tape is broadcast on television by the media, dubbing the creature "Godzilla". Dr. Tatopoulos is thrown off the team for his inadvertent carelessness and says goodbye to Audrey.
Tatopoulos is later kidnapped by Roaché, who reveals himself to be an agent of the DGSE, the French foreign intelligence agency. He and his colleagues have been keeping close watch on the events and are planning to cover up their country's role in the creation of Godzilla. Suspecting a nest somewhere in the city, they cooperate with Dr. Tatopoulos to trace and destroy it.
Following a chase with Godzilla, the creature dives into the Hudson River to evade the military, where it is attacked by Navy submarines. After sustaining head-on collisions with torpedoes, the beast sinks after being rendered incapacitated. Believing it is finally dead, the authorities celebrate.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tatopoulos and Roaché's team, covertly followed by Timmonds and her cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti (Hank Azaria), make their way through underground subway tunnels to Madison Square Garden. There, they locate numerous eggs. As they attempt to destroy them, the eggs suddenly hatch. Sensing the human intruders as food, they begin attacking. Dr. Tatopoulos, Palotti, Timmonds and Roaché take refuge in the stadium's broadcast booth and send a live news report to alert the military. A prompt response involving an airstrike is initiated as the four escape moments before the arena is bombed.
The adult Godzilla, however, emerges from the venue's ruins. Discovering all of its young dead, it chases the group through the streets of Manhattan. In pursuit, Godzilla eventually makes its way to the Brooklyn Bridge. The creature becomes trapped in the steel suspension cables, making it an easy target. After being attacked by military aircraft, it falls to the ground and slowly dies.
Meanwhile, amidst the Garden's ruins, a lone egg begins to hatch.
- Matthew Broderick as Dr. Niko "Nick" Tatopoulos
- Jean Reno as Philippe Roaché
- Maria Pitillo as Audrey Timmonds
- Hank Azaria as Victor "Animal" Palotti
- Kevin Dunn as Colonel Hicks
- Michael Lerner as Mayor Ebert
- Harry Shearer as Charles Caiman
- Arabella Field as Lucy Palotti
- Vicki Lewis as Dr. Elsie Chapman
- Doug Savant as Sergeant O'Neal
- Malcolm Danare as Dr. Mendel Craven
- Frank Welker as Creature Vocals