After years of anticipation, the Eighth Wonder of the World has returned to the big screen in Kong: Skull Island — and what a triumphant return it has been! With positive reviews and fan approval, Skull Island has earned its spot in the mythical movie monster's iconic legacy.
Larger than ever — and even more ferocious — the mighty ape had no problem slaying gigantic competition at the box office. But where does Skull Island rank among Kong's other cinematic outings? It's no secret that the King has had a near-century history on film, so let's take a look back at each adventure, and figure out where the newest installment ranks among the classics.
8. King Kong Escapes (1968)
Much like with their legendary #Godzilla franchise, Toho's King Kong Escapes made our favorite gorilla the hero of the film, and saw him squaring off with some abominable monsters, including a Gorosaurus and even a mechanical version of himself: Mechani-Kong. He also ended up opposing a villain by the name of Dr. Who — no, not that one.
The film's plot tends to borrow a lot from the original 1933 film. Not only does Kong fall hopelessly in love with the leading lady, he also battles a dinosaur and climbs a landmark building, which in this case is the Tokyo Tower.
While Kong himself may not have been as intimidating as he is today — mainly due to the costume's hilarious grin — the film's tone and battles ensure that he's a totally believable hero. Toho's second outing with the cinematic icon may not have been as memorable as the first, but it's still one heck of an entertaining flick.
7. King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962)
The world's two most iconic movie monsters collided in Toho's 1962 King Kong Vs. Godzilla. And while its effects aren't as cutting-edge as 2020's #KongVsGodzilla promises to be, it still provides us with one hell of a showdown between the two legends. Moreover, it was monumental at the time to see Toho's beloved Godzilla taking on an opponent capable of defeating him — for once, both monsters were the hero of this story.
It may be far from perfect in today's day and age, but it's undeniable that King Kong Vs. Godzilla's legacy is alive and well. And it always will be.
6. Son Of Kong (1933)
The very first #KingKong sequel was released the very same year as the original, as a quick follow-up. Due to this, parts of it feel rushed, and I can't help but feel that it could have been much grander had RKO waited a little longer. But that doesn't stop Son Of Kong from delivering 69 minutes of a great story.
Undoubtedly, one its strongest aspects is the great character development from King Kong's Carl Denham. Moreover, there are also some cutting-edge animatronics on display. And while it doesn't necessarily pack the same emotional punch as its predecessor, it's still one heck of a humorous, fun, action-packed adventure.
5. King Kong Lives (1986)
King Kong Lives served as the sequel to the 1976 remake of King Kong. However, unlike its hugely successful predecessor, Lives bombed at the box-office, and has since garnered a lot of heat for its outlandish plot.
The film — which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary — sees a university revive Kong with an artificial heart. With a new lease on life, the ape eventually falls in love with a Lady Kong (a prehistoric female ape who literally appeared out of nowhere), and the two disappear to the countryside to live happily.
The film may not be up to the same standard as any of the three King Kong films, but it doesn't deserve the negativity it receives. It still delivers some great special effects, strong performances and hilarious moments. And mark my words, the ending will have you bawling your eyes out. Action, cheese and emotional heart — King Kong Lives ticks all the boxes for a perfect '80s film.
If you're a fan of Kong: Skull Island, check these out:
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4. Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Kong has returned to our lives in a huge way. I know that many of us were apprehensive about the taller Kong and the reboot — but having seen the film, I can easily say that Skull Island is every bit as epic as we hoped. Despite the fact that it has the plot of a B Movie but an A-List cast, not to mention the phenomenal special effects, the film thrives because it has accepted that. It's unburdened by retelling the original story, and thus has room to add to mythos in new ways, while still managing to thrill us like the rest.
Thanks to its story, strong characters and perhaps the most interesting Kong yet, Skull Island has earned its place in the King Kong franchise, and has me so excited to see what comes next for our favorite movie monster.
3. King Kong (1976)
The King Kong franchise was reinvigorated in 1976 when the original film was remade by Dino De Laurentiis and John Guillermin. This time around the story was completely rewritten — instead of a film crew arriving on the island, we had an oil company; and instead of an actress looking for work, we had a woman rescued at sea. While a departure as significant as this was considered controversial, it should be commended for daring to be different.
Instead of an updated copy of the classic story, we got an interesting retelling which provided us with some unique characters and revolutionary special effects. Furthermore, the film itself added a great deal to Kong's legacy, as it was the first film which featured the beauty falling for the beast as well — something all subsequent reboots have adopted.
While many still don't appreciate the rewrites Kong '76 made, some of the ideas explored were so interesting, they inspired events in Kong: Skull Island.
Moreover, King Kong also deserves credit for heightening the emotional aspect of the story with its beautiful score — John Barry's powerful music is the best of all three Kong scores — and for introducing the world to the legendary Jessica Lange. The film, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, should be respected for breathing new life into the iconic franchise.
2. King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson's 2005 remake was quite literally larger than life. Unlike the 1976 film, this one was almost a direct adaptation of the classic story — it was even set in the same time period. While the film's length holds it back at times (seriously, the first hour of the movie could have been drastically shortened), it doesn't change the fact that Jackson's King Kong is exactly what it should be: an epic love story.
Kong is arguably far more human than ever — thanks to Andy Serkis' incredible performance — and his connection to Ann Darrow is much more heartfelt than ever before. But amidst the emotion, there are some stunning CGI marvels, including Kong's epic battle with the three V-Rexes and of course, his climb to the top of the Empire State Building. All in all, the film is Jackson's love letter to the original, and it was so loyal to the source material that this is what the 1933 film probably would have looked like if they had the technology available to them back then.
1. King Kong (1933)
No matter how many amazing spectacles follow it up, you just can't beat the original. The 1933 King Kong came along at a time when there was literally nothing else like it. The stop-motion animation used to bring the ape to life was revolutionary, and it still holds up to this day. With both the stop-motion model and the terrifying giant head, the filmmakers went to unimaginable lengths to produce something that had never been done before — and that's exactly what they did.
A perfect mix of #horror and romance, King Kong managed to make us scream and cry at the same time. It redefined what a film could do and shattered special effects boundaries. Moreover, it is the film that started it all. Inspiring a sequel, two spin-offs, two remakes — one of which had its own sequel — and brand new a reboot, King Kong thoroughly deserves its stop atop this list. And it will likely never be beaten. The 1933 film is truly the King of all Kongs.
Whether you preferred the original or one of its remakes, there's no denying that Kong: Skull Island is a worthy entry in the legendary franchise, and has reinvigorated the cinematic icon all over again. And it has ensured that King Kong will be sticking around for many more years to come.
Which King Kong film was your favorite?
(Poll Image Credit: Legendary/Warner Bros.)