Created from a French nuclear test, Zilla is a mutated marine iguana. Before Toho officially dubbed the creature Zilla, many fans developed several nicknames to differentiate this American Godzilla from the original Japanese Godzilla.
Originally an iguana egg irradiated by French nuclear tests in French Polynesia, Godzilla makes its presence known years later when it attacks a Japanese fishing ship. The creature then heads to New York City, dragging three trawlers under the sea on the way, then creating havoc in the Fulton Fish Market, before rampaging through the city. Manhattan is evacuated and the military attempt to kill the monster, first luring it out with a huge pile of fish. It takes the bait, but then is scared off by small arms fire, and is chased by three AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. They fire, only to knock the top two dozen stories off the Chrysler Building. The monster escapes, but not before it is realized that it reproduces asexually, and is collecting food not only for itself, but also for its offspring. The military lures godzilla out again, into the waters of the Hudson River and seemingly kill it with a torpedo. Meanwhile, hundreds of eggs are discovered in Madison Square Garden. The baby Godzillas begin to look for food, but are incinerated when the building is bombarded. The adult Godzilla emerges from the wreckage, and is lured to the Brooklyn Bridge where it becomes entangled in the steel suspension cables, and is an easy target for the fighters. After it is hit with several missiles, it screams in pain and falls to the ground, its heart beating slowly until it breathes its last breath.
All seems well until we see in the smoking ruins of the Garden, a single egg has survived and hatches revealing another baby Godzilla.
In 1998, Godzilla: The Series, a Saturday morning cartoon not to be confused with the original series from Hanna-Barbera, continued the story of Godzilla's surviving offspring from the 1998 film in a role reminiscent of the Japanese films of the late Shōwa era.
The series revolves around the only surviving offspring of the first Godzilla seen in the climax of the 1998 film. It imprints on Nick Tatopoulos and with Tatopoulos' monster hunting team HEAT, they travel around the world battling giant monsters.
The Godzilla from the series differs from the one from the 1998 film. The animated Godzilla cannot reproduce asexually, but can breath powerful blasts of radioactive fire. The creators of the show intended this Godzilla to much more like the original Japanese Godzilla due to fans disliking the creature from Roland Emmerich's film.
- Godzilla made an appearance in a 2006 Doritos commercial, in which it picks up a truck of Doritos and shakes chips into its mouth. In another Doritos commercial, it devours a spicy variant of Doritos, roars in pain, and dives into the Hudson River. Both were meant to parody the bait scene in the 1998 movie.
- At the time of the release of the 1998 film, it made several commercials for Taco Bell, crossing paths with the Taco Bell chihuahua.
- Toys of the American Godzilla appear in Armageddon alongside Japanese Godzilla toys during the opening sequence in New York. This was a friendly jab at Roland Emmerich.
- In the Robot Chicken episode That Hurts Me, the segment Godzilla Remade Again features Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich remaking Godzilla once more; the segment goes on to show a scene of baby Godzillas attacking, only to begin inexplicably roller skating and dancing in a rink. When the studio head bemoans the fact that he trusted Devlin and Emmerich to make a decent Godzilla film, for a second time, and that they instead have produced an unmarketable pile of poop, for a second time, Devlin and Emmerich give each other a high-five.
- The Godzilla roar is audible in the trailer for Spider-Man 3, when the Sandman dives down from a sand truck.
- Makes an appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars, attacking Sydney, Australia, but he is not named. In his fight against Godzilla he is quickly defeated and the Xillian leader refers to him as a, "Good for nothing tuna-eating monster!"
- Godzilla was a playable character in Godzilla Generations for the Sega Dreamcast. Unlocked after finishing the game with Godzilla 1954, it is the fastest of the playable characters. Its roar restores less health than the other Godzillas, but it is a bit tougher to compensate. His breath weapon is a powerful blast of air; while the shortest-ranged, it has the longest duration, able to take down the Super X in one blast and the Super X-II and Super X-III with two blasts if timed right. Its special attack is a fast run that crushes and smashes everything it runs over and into. It doesn't take damage while charging and it lasts a fair amount of time.
- It also appeared in Godzilla Trading Battle for the PlayStation.
- For Game Boy Color, the game Godzilla: The Series, and its sequel Godzilla: The Series - Monster Wars featured the animated Godzilla from Godzilla: The Series.