Film / King Kong (1933)

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I'm going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive — a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!"

The original version of King Kong, released in 1933.

Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker known for his exotic animal pictures shot in the wild, brings out-of-work actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) on a hurried expedition to find an uncharted island, where he hopes to work on his next film. Ann will provide the "love interest" angle, while an unknown entity called "Kong" will provide the excitement. The ship's crew finds the island inhabited, its natives in the midst of an elaborate ritual where a girl is being ceremoniously decorated. The natives note fair-haired Ann and wish to decorate her instead, and when the crew refuse the natives resort to sneaking aboard the ship and kidnapping her. Tying her to an altar, they resume their ritual, chanting "Kong! Kong! Kong!" until an enormous something comes crashing through the trees...

First mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), who has developed feelings for Ann, leads the ship's crew on an expedition through the island's interior, where Kong has taken her. Along the way, nearly the entire crew is killed by the prehistoric creatures and other dangers. Meanwhile, Kong defends Ann from attack from a T. rex and shakes the remainder of the crew off a log into a deep crevasse. Jack evades death and continues after Kong, finally reaching the beast's lair in the island's mountain peak. There, while Kong battles a huge pteranodon, Jack and Ann escape and return to the native village. Kong pursues them, intent on retrieving Ann. He crashes through the hundred-foot gate that protects the village, but Denham subdues the monster with gas bombs.

Bringing Kong back to the United States instead of a movie, Denham puts the amazing creature on display in Manhattan. However, misinterpreting the intentions of newsmen trying to photograph Ann, Kong breaks loose from his bonds and begins a rampage through the city seeking the "woman of gold". Finally retrieving her from a hotel, Kong proceeds to climb to the highest point in Manhattan—the Empire State Building. There he attempts to fight off a squadron of biplanes, and Ann makes her escape. While Kong knocks down several that circle too close, the modern war machines finally get the better of the monster, and he plummets to his death. Yet Denham asserts that it wasn't the bullets that truly killed Kong... it was Ann's rejection of him: "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."

Co-directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, and featuring groundbreaking stop-motion animation effects by Willis O'Brien, Kong is an all-time classic. Followed later that year by The Son of Kong.


  • Alas, Poor Villain: Kong's death is intentionally presented as being as much a tragedy as it is a triumph. He may have killed many innocent people both on Skull Island and in his rampage of New York, but he's not a pure evil monster out to cause destruction for the hell of it—he's just an animal taken out of his natural environment and into a world he didn't belong in. He was a both a monster and a victim of circumstances out of his control when he's killed in the climax.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Safari and wildlife travelogues were pretty popular at the time, and a filmmaker like Carl Denham would have been famous. In Real Life, King Kong directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack did in fact initially become famous by making the travelogue documentary features Grass and Chang.
  • Always Save the Girl: Half the crew ventures into the jungle to rescue Ann when she's kidnapped by the natives.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Kong has no nipples.
  • Bittersweet Ending: New York is saved from Kong's wrath, but Kong is ultimately as much a victim as the people he tormented—he was simply an animal brought out of his environment into a world he didn't belong in, making his death as much a tragedy as it is a triumph.
  • Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate: The original film is a quite literal depiction of the Trope-naming argument. Merian Cooper was a man fascinated by both the past and the future. He traveled the world studying primitive societies that had not changed for hundreds of years. He was also a bold innovator who made important advances in aviation and motion pictures, and talked in his later life about his wish that he could live long enough to travel in space. In King Kong this duality becomes a violent conflict between the mighty but savage Kong and the technology of the modern world. Cooper recognized that the modern world would eventually win, but in many ways his sympathies lay with the primitive.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The reason that they must sail immediately is given early in the film: the ship is loaded with explosives. The explosives are used against the monster (see Stun Guns below).
  • Clothing Damage:
    • Kong peels some of Ann's dress off.
    • Jack and Carl both sport ripped sleeves after their time in the jungle.
  • Dirty Coward: Tim, the sailor who tries to run when the natives notice them, comes off as this. He's also The Load, since he always brings up the rear of the rescue party later and is constantly falling behind (especially when they're running from the brontosaurus). He does, however, save Jimmy from drowning by helping him take off his backpack after the raft overturns.
  • Dumb Dinos: All the dinosaurs are stupid and violent, actively targeting the humans with no provocation. This includes the herbivores.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: A brontosaurus emerges from the water in this manner to attack Denham's crew on their raft.
  • Exact Words: Fay Wray herself confirms the story that Merian Cooper invited her onto the project by promising her she would have "the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood."
  • Expo Speak: The opening lines are rather painful.
  • Fanservice: Ann wears a rather thin and clingy dress in the screen test scene. And suffers a great deal of Clothing Damage on Skull Island.
  • For the Evulz: Unlike the other creatures in the film, the brontosaurus really has no apparent reason to be attacking those sailors, especially since he actually bites down on them before either leaving them to die or tossing them aside.
    • The vicious grin he wears as he corners Tim in the tree makes it even clearer.
  • Giant Spider: Hoo boy, the spider pit has got many of them. Too bad it got deleted.
  • The Great Depression: The reason that Carl Denham is able to hire Ann with little difficulty is that he first sees her stealing food.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: A native baby is seen screaming on the ground as Kong approaches. It's immediately saved by someone.
  • Karma Houdini: Carl Denham was not one of these, as revealed in The Son of Kong. That film opens with him having to flee New York ahead of a series of lawsuits and a grand jury indictment stemming from Kong's damage to the city.
  • Living Dinosaurs: The Skull Island's fauna.
  • The Load: Tim, who contributes nothing to the search for Ann but lagging behind and falling down. A lot. After he dies, the heretofore reliable Jimmy (Denham's bomb carrier) takes up the mantle of constantly tripping and needing to be helped up.
  • Mighty Whitey: An unusual variant; Kong killed all the black native women sacrificed to him, as far as we know, but chose to keep and spare the white Ann Farrow, to the point that not only does he chase after her when she gets rescued, but in New York, his first thought upon breaking free is to find her and take her away again.
  • Moe Greene Special: How they take out the stegosaurus; they bomb it until it falls over, then finish it by shooting it through the eye.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: By implication most film makers are film makers. Cooper is given a "story by" credit, and he applies a great deal of his experience creating films on location to the story. It is this trope, because in creating the story he focuses on his experience as a film maker who creates stories.
  • Novelization: Written by Delos W. Lovelace and including many of the deleted scenes such as the insect pit scene. It was popular enough to be one of the very few movie novelizations consistently reprinted, even to this day (its being in the public domain unlike the movie certainly helps). Despite this, it was subject to a rather pointless rewrite by Joe DeVito with art by Brad Strickland, which gave no credit whatsoever to Lovelace. About the only change DeVito made was having Jimmy (the sailor who carries Denham's gas bombs) survive. Strickland's artwork, though touted heavily, amounts to very little. Mostly just landscapes and one picture of Kong's battle with the tyrannosaurus.
  • Plot Hole: If the purpose of the giant wall is to keep Kong away from the natives, why did they make the doors big enough for Kong to fit through?!
  • Plucky Girl: A screamer she may be, but one has to at least give Ann credit for repeatedly trying to escape Kong on her own, even if her attempts are met with failure.
  • Punny Name: Ann's last name is a Shout-Out to famous lawyer Clarence Darrow, best known for his participation in the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial".
  • Screaming Woman: As Ann, Fay Wray is one of the all-time champs.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Male example. Carl and Ann praise Jack for looking good in a tuxedo in the third act. He remarks he's never worn one before.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Jack has his shirt fully buttoned up at the start. When he softens towards Ann, he now has an Intimate Open Shirt. He also loses his sailor's hat around the time half the crew get killed and he has to rescue Ann alone.
  • Soft Water: Ann and Jack try to climb down a vine to escape the giant ape. The ape pulls the vine up trying to catch them, and they fall off the vine, and into the water that appears to be 100 + feet below them. They suffer no injuries.
  • Stun Guns: The gas bombs that Denham loaded on the ship work very quickly, and seem to pose no threat to the giant ape. In real life, anesthetics work slowly on large animals, and getting the exact dose so as to knock out the animal without killing is difficult. In this movie, the bombs were loaded on the ship with no specific knowledge of what type of animal they would be used on, and when they are used there is little chance to estimate the mass of the animal.
  • Tagline: "The Eighth Wonder Of The World!" for the 1933 release. Jackson's remake quotes it in dialogue.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film was inspired by an actual expedition to Komodo Island led by W. Douglas Burden in 1926, to collect and study the isle's giant lizards. It's pretty much what sensational newspapers of the day half-jokingly speculated Burden's venture might run into.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The spider pit sequence was cut to avert this.

Alternative Title(s): The Son Of Kong