Top 5 King Kong Movies

In addition to being the Eighth Wonder of the World, King Kong also remains one of the oldest movie monsters in history.

Debuting nearly a century ago, Kong has become one of the most recognizable names not only in cinema, but in pop culture overall (even for people who have never seen any of his movies).

So as he prepares to go up against his kaiju rival Godzilla for the first time in 59 years, we thought it would be fun to look back on Kong’s entire legacy, and rank the top 5 movies he’s ever been in.

King-vs-Kong-Godzilla-1962
This won’t be the first time they’ve fought before. That was all the way back in 1962 for King Kong vs. Godzilla!

Check back tomorrow for our Top 5 Godzilla movies list!

5. King Kong (1976)
Kong 1976
This remake has largely gone forgotten in the 45 years since its release.  Starring a young Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange (who have great chemistry), it does an essential retelling of the original story, but swaps the 30’s film crew for a 70’s oil crew in the backdrop of the energy crisis.

Part of the reason it’s largely gone unremembered is because it didn’t really do enough differently or unique to stand out.  It’s also not so bad it’s good either.  What remains is a generally well-made movie for its time that feels rather dated.

Granted, it’s the only version where in close up, Kong looks pretty realistic, because he’s not stop motion or CGI.  But some of the other effects don’t look any better than in 1933, which is kind of unforgivable given that it came out 43 years later.

4. Son of Kong (1933)
Kong 1933.5
People who think that unnecessary, uninspired sequels are only a modern issue need look no further than Son of Kong.  Released a mere 9 months after the first film, this entire project was the definition of rushed.

They only had about half the budget, and it was plagued by tragedy when the primary Kong animator’s wife murdered their two children during production.  While the movie seemed doomed from the start, it does manage to pull off a semi-decent sequel.

We see the consequences and aftermath of Kong’s visit to New York with Carl Denham being sued by numerous people, and even being indicted by a grand jury.  He almost gets a redemptive arc as he displays visible signs of remorse for what he did the giant ape.

But then this is all changed, when he immediately returns to the island to find something else valuable and ends up killing Kong’s son by accident in the process.  It was an almost inspired movie, but ends up being facetiously entertaining by the fact that Denham truly has learned nothing from  his many mistakes.

3. Kong: Skull Island (2017)
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Serving as both a spinoff to Godzilla (2014) and Kong’s introduction to the Monsterverse, Kong: Skull Island has a lot going for it.  Its casting is brilliant, including the likes of three MCU heavy- hitters Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston, along with John Goodman and John C. Reilly.

And it foregoes the old plotline of brining Kong to New York, entirely taking place on Skull Island as a sort of survivalist adventure movie.  It has great action, set design, effects, and while it’s definitely trying too hard to Apocalypse Now at times, it’s an interesting new take on a beloved character.

Which brings us to Kong himself, who’s much larger than he’s ever been in any previous movie.  This version of Kong seems less like a mindless primate and more like an intelligent evolved leader, who knows what it takes to keep his island safe.  And Godzilla had better watch his spiked back!

2. King Kong (1933)
Kong 1933
You can certainly never go wrong with the original.  For its time, the effects and the movie itself were an amazing achievement truly unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.  That said, it is still rather problematic, particularly in it casting and portrayal of the natives on Skull Island (which is also an issue in the 1976 version as well).

But the movie itself is much smarter than it gets credit for.  On the surface all of the characters seem very typical and cliché for that era, with some casual misogyny thrown around.  But given that they are a film crew going to shoot a movie, a lot of the over-exaggeration is really meant to be satirical for that era.

Sure the movie is about a giant ape being captured and exploited, but it’s equally about a ruthless industry that was willing to do that to make money.

1. King Kong (2005)
Kong 2005
In what will most likely spark controversy, this version grabs the top spot.  Fresh after critical/commercial acclaim with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as a Best Director Oscar (for Return of the King), Peter Jackson was on top of the world in 2004.

And thus he was offered $20 million up front to direct a remake of his favorite movie all of time.  Jackson truly loves the original movie, and it really shows here.  His retelling remains faithful while expanding it in terms of character development and story.

Jackson takes this beloved story and turns into an epic.  With a cast that includes Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Colin Hanks, and Andy Serkis, there’s not a single weak link.  It does a great job characterizing Kong and making him sympathetic, and it plays out as a fun period piece that has all the self-aware satire of the movie industry the original had.

Granted, some of its CGI looked pretty bad, even by 2005 standards when it was released.  But it’s the adaptation that gives the most complete and well-rounded telling of the story, with a Kong/Ann Darrow dynamic that’s actually pretty sweet (and ultimately tragic).

Which King Kong movie is your favorite?  Who are you rooting for to win in Godzilla vs. Kong?  Let us know in the comments!

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