Take a look back at Kong’s reign in our King Kong movies guide!
Before we head back to monster inhabited lands in Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures‘ Kong: Skull Island, we’re taking a look back at nearly a century of King Kong movies!
This year, King Kong gets a new adventure and origin story in a post-Vietnam world from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Named after the island where Kong is most often found, the film follows a new crew and features a cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson. They’ll find the giant ape in his dominion with lots of other terrifying creatures. While Vogt-Roberts seeks to update the story with his man vs.nature take, the new film is set to lead up to the battle we’re all waiting to see: 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong! As you’ll see in our King Kong movies guide, however, it’s not the first time the two monsters have clashed!
King Kong (1933)
The original film introduced King Kong as one of cinema’s first monsters. Producer Merian C. Cooper was inspired by his fondness for gorillas growing up and decided to center the film on a director. Robert Armstrong would go on to play the filmmaker in the movie who takes his crew to Skull Island after getting his hands on a map to a dream location. When they arrive, they realize they’re not alone and surrounded by incredible beasts including Kong who takes a liking to aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). After a Dino encounter, the crew is able to lure the King of the island to NYC and he climbs the Empire state building with Darrow in tow.
Son of Kong (1933)
RKO wanted to cash in on more Kong after the first film’s success and got the ball rolling on the sequel almost immediately. In Son of Kong, Denham returns to find a new monster to bring back to the states to fix his problems. He and his crew encounters a smaller albino ape who they figure has to be Kong’s son.
Wasei Kingu Kongu: Japanese King Kong (1933)
Japan hopped on the King Kong movies wagon really early. In anticipation of the release of the original film overseas, they shot a comedic short to amp up audiences. Tokyo-based Shochiku Studios created a silly black and white short about a man who dresses up as King Kong for a theater to impress his girlfriend. There is no footage available from this film and, sadly, it’s considered lost.
Edo ni Arawareta Kingu Kongu: King Kong Appears in Edo (1938)
Kong’s second Japanese appearance is in another lost film from the late ’30s. King Kong Appears in Edo is a period piece where the giant ape takes on Samurai’s in the feudal era. He’s used to kidnap a girl who’s father is looking for her with an army. In this film Kong is more minute and the size of a Yeti. Nothing much is known about this film outside of stories from actors and interviews about it.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
After the success of Godzilla, Studio Toho was looking to produce more big monster movies. A lot of ideas were tossed around before they were able to secure the rights to utilize King Kong in a behemoth battle against their monster. They tie their universes together by creating a Japanese pharmaceutical company that seeks to find a monster to gain notoriety and stumble across Kong on an island.
At the same time, Godzilla breaks free from an iceberg and just so happens to be heading to Japan. Realizing that both monsters would destroy humanity in their country, the Japanese military orchestrates a way for the monsters to take each other out. The movie would go on to be financially successful and sow the seeds for big monster movies in Asia.
King Kong Escapes 1967
In the ’60s, Rankin/Bass and Toho branded this film as an official Kong story. It was kind of weird in a mash-up way. Combining elements from King Kong-inspired TV shows into the lore, the filmmakers behind King Kong vs. Godzilla created a tale where Kong takes Mechani-Kong, a popular villain from the serials. And yes Mechani-Kong is exactly what it sounds like — a giant robot in the shape of Kong.
King Kong (1976)
In the ’70s, producer Dino De Laurentiis and Paramount Pictures wanted to remake the ‘33 film but set it against the backdrop of the times and make it more era appropriate. Therefore the story ended up getting retooled to be about an oil company exec who discovers infrared images of an undiscovered island.
He enlists an expedition to the island in the hopes that there’s oil on it and is joined by Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a paleontologist and Dwan (Jessica Lange), an actress who was found unconscious on a raft on their way there. Once they reach the shore, however, they don’t discover oil but instead a lot of monsters roaming about and they make the wise choice to bring one of them back to the U.S.: Kong. He of course goes on a rampage in NYC on not just one building this time around, but two.
King Kong Lives (1986)
De Laurentiis invested in another Kong sequel that took place with after the last film. Kong gets awakened from a 10-year coma after his fall from the World Trade Center by Dr. Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton). After an explorer who’s brought with him a giant female gorilla ‘Lady Kong’ to the lab, the King is given a new lease on life and makes an escape with his bride.
King Kong (2005)
Shortly before tackling The Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson was approached by Universal to remake King Kong after they found out it was his favorite film — and the reason he got into filmmaking. Having already set into motion the J.R.R. Tolkien series, it wouldn’t be until 2005 that we saw his take on the monstrous cinematic icon.
Loosely based off the 1933 original, Jackson’s King Kong centers on ambitious filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) as he wrangles a crew to shoot on Skull Island. Naomi Watts stars as Ann Farrow and Adrien Brody as Denham’s screenwriter. They all uncover that the island holds untold secrets and creatures, including Kong himself.
The King Kong movies list continues with Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island. The next incarnation of the mighty ape will be hitting theaters on March 10, 2017!