King Kong is one of the most iconic movie monsters. Dubbed The Eighth Wonder of the World, Kong is a giant creature – of varying size, depending on the source – resembling a gorilla.
He first emerged in 1933 when he appeared in an eponymous movie and its novelization. Kong has since gone on to appear across various media, including 11 other films, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides, and even a stage play.
In this article, we'll take you through all 12 of Kong's movies and rank them from worst to best.
12. King Kong Lives (1986, Directed by John Guillermin)
By some distance, the worst King Kong movie is King Kong Lives. It's a sequel to the 1976 King Kong movie. In the film, Kong survives his fall from the North Tower of the World Trade Center and gets an artificial heart to continue living. When he senses the existence of a female Kong, he escapes and goes on a rampage.
An Absurdist Love Story
It's an unbelievably dull movie, and the cast knows it and looks incredibly unenthusiastic throughout – and that includes Linda Hamilton, fresh from starring in The Terminator. There's no horror or enjoyable action here, and it's essentially an absurdist love story, and it offers nothing you want or expect to see in a Kong adventure.
11. The Mighty Kong (1998, Directed by Art Scott)
The Mighty Kong is an animated musical version of the original King Kong story. It follows director Carl Denham and down-on-her-luck actress Ann Darrow as they head to a mysterious island with a movie crew. There, they encounter Kong and bring him back to New York, where havoc ensues.
An Animated Musical Version
It's a terrible movie with only one prominent redeeming feature: its voice cast. Dudley Moore voices both Denham and Kong, and he does so brilliantly. Some of the songs in the movie are performed well and are pretty catchy, but they're nothing to celebrate. Kids might enjoy this one somewhat, but they'll definitely be the only ones and quickly forget about it.
10. Kong: Return to The Jungle (2006, Directed by Stuart Evans)
Kong: Return to the Jungle is an animated movie and the sequel to the 2005 movie Kong: King of Atlantis. It sees Kong returning to his natural habitat of the jungle, in the valley of Konhi, where he has to pretend to be less intelligent, which results in him losing his sense of identity.
Kids Will Love It
It's neither a great movie nor a terrible one. It's watchable, and the animation is good, as is the voice cast who reprise the roles they play in Kong: The Animated Series. Kids will love it, but hardcore Kong fans who like the terror and violence of his classic movies will find it disappointing.
9. Kong: King of Atlantis (2005, Directed by Patrick Archibald)
The predecessor to Kong: Return to the Jungle, Kong: King of Atlantis is an animated movie. In the film, the ancient empire of Atlantis returns to Earth, and its evil ruler, Queen Reptilla, tries to trick New Kong into becoming its King.
A Fantastic Sci-Fi Element
Like its sequel, this movie isn't brilliant, but it's by no means poor. It has the same core voice cast that its sequel and Kong: The Animated Series have, the same impressive animation, and a fantastic sci-fi element that sees Kong telepathically controlled. Again, children are the only viewers who should genuinely enjoy this one, but it's a worthy inclusion in the Kong back catalog.
8. Son of Kong (1933, Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack)
Son of Kong is a pre-Code movie and the sequel to the original King Kong film (it was released just nine months later in the same year). In the film, Carl Denham, the director who took Kong to New York, returns to Skull Island on a treasure hunt and finds the monster's son. After that, mayhem ensues on the island.
Sacrifices Drama for Little Humor
This movie was a rushed attempt at cashing in on the success of King Kong. While it's not half bad, it's far from being as good as its predecessor. It sacrifices drama for what the filmmakers believed to be humor, but the laughs are few and far between and sometimes misplaced.
7. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962, Directed by Ishirō Honda)
King Kong vs. Godzilla is a Japanese kaiju movie and the third installment in both Kong and Godzilla's respective franchises. In the film, Godzilla gets awakened by a submarine while a pharmaceutical company captures Kong for promotional purposes. The events culminate in a battle between the monstrous duo on Mount Fuji.
Tried Too Hard To Be Funny
Many people saw King Kong vs. Godzilla as an exploitation movie or a kids' movie, and it undoubtedly tried too hard to be funny. Still, it will forever be a classic because it was the first time two iconic giant movie monsters shared the screen. The story is ludicrous but energetic, action-packed, and quite touching.
6. King Kong (1976, Directed by John Guillermin)
This version of King Kong is a remake of the 1933 movie in a modernized 1970s setting. It follows a primate paleontologist as he sneaks on board a vessel heading to a mysterious island looking for oil to warn its crew about what he believes lives there. The expedition discovers Kong, and they take him home to New York as a promotional gimmick.
A Highly Entertaining Remake
While it lacks the majority of the magical imagery of the original King Kong movie, this is a highly entertaining remake that packs a punch. It's lively, silly, romantic, and has a great cast. Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and, in particular, Charles Grodin are all excellent. Kong perched atop the Twin Towers will forever be etched in our memories.
5. King Kong Escapes (1967, Directed by Ishirō Honda)
King Kong Escapes is a Japanese-American co-production loosely based on the animated Rankin/Bass series, The King Kong Show. It's an animated movie in which the evil Dr. Who captures King Kong to dig for him when Kong's robot doppelganger, Mechani-Kong, cannot do so adeptly. Kong then escapes and confronts his mechanical double.
Campy, Cartoonish, Fun, and Weird
It's a comedic Kong movie, actually, that kind of works. It's campy, cartoonish, colorful, fun, and a little weird, but it knows and plays on all that. Some cringe-inducing moments make the whole thing even more enjoyable. Toho's model work is beautiful in this one.
4. Kong: Skull Island (2017, Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts)
Kong: Skull Island is a reboot of the King Kong franchise and the second movie in Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse. In the film, set in 1973, a team of scientists and Vietnam War soldiers venture to Skull Island to search for prehistoric creatures. There, they encounter Kong and a plethora of other terrifying creatures.
A Superb A-list Cast
It's a good movie with a superb A-list cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, and John C. Reilly. It's well-acted, fast-paced, exhilarating, looks gorgeous (thanks mainly to some excellent special effects), and is generally fun.
3. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021, Directed by Adam Wingard)
Godzilla vs. Kong is a sequel to Kong: Skull Island and the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse. The film sees Kong clashing with Godzilla after humans move the former from his home to the Hollow Earth to retrieve a power source they intend to use to power a secret weapon to stop Godzilla's strange rampages.
A Huge Spectacle
It's pretty much the same quality as Kong: Skull Island, but it places higher on this list thanks to the inclusion of Godzilla. This movie is a huge spectacle, and what it lacks in plot and character development is more than made up for by the action. It looks fantastic, and seeing two iconic giant movie monsters slugging it out for the first time in almost 60 years is incredible.
2. King Kong (2005, Directed by Peter Jackson)
Following the 1976 movie, this version of King Kong is the second remake of the 1933 film of the same name. Set in 1933, it's the classic story of a filmmaker who has his cast and hired ship crew travel to the mysterious Skull Island. There, they meet Kong and several other massive prehistoric creatures, capture the former and take him to New York City.
A Terrific Movie With a Fantastic Cast
It's a terrific movie with a fantastic cast that includes Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschman, Jamie Bell, and Andy Serkis as Kong through motion capture. It's performed brilliantly, and Kong is a compelling CGI character. It looks beautiful and captures the spirit of the 1933 original. The only major criticism is that it's incredibly overblown.
1. King Kong (1933, Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack)
The first King Kong movie is a pre-Code horror adventure, telling the same story that the remakes have told. It follows filmmaker Carl Denham as he charters Captain Englehorn's ship, the Venture, for his new project – a journey to Skull Island. They encounter Kong, a giant ape who attempts to possess Denham's beautiful young star.
One of the Finest Movies Ever Made
It remains the best King Kong movie by far – and one of the finest movies ever made, period. With breakthrough special effects, King Kong's eponymous character has a real soul. The movie makes audiences scream in terror, cry in sadness, and revel in romance. It looks gorgeous but incredibly creepy at the same time. King Kong is a masterpiece of cinema.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.