Film: King Kong

And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead.
(Fictional) Arabian Proverb

"The Eighth Wonder of the World!"

With those words, RKO Pictures introduced one of the most well-known and enduring movie monsters of all time. "Kong" is a giant gorilla living on a hidden island in the South Pacific. When a charter ship travels to this island, the oversized primate becomes enraptured by the crew's sole blonde woman, whom the island natives offer up to it in sacrifice. The crew rescue the girl and even manage to capture Kong, bringing the creature back to Manhattan for a spectacle. However, Kong escapes and causes mayhem in the streets of New York before being shot off the top of a skyscraper.

The original 1933 film has had two official remakes, along with numerous spin-offs, sequels, crossovers, and spoofs. Retellings in other media range from a Direct-to-Video animated feature in The '90s to an Australian stage musical in 2013 (a Broadway production of this version has been announced, though the opening date is currently in limbo). The three major films are:

Other Appearances
Between the 1933 and 1976 films, King Kong also famously appeared in King Kong vs. Godzilla, released in 1962 and featuring King Kong battling Godzilla, in an exemplar of Cool Versus Awesome. King Kong was beefed up by a hundred feet or so and given lightning-based Eleventh Hour Superpowers so that he could manage an incredible turnaround against the Big G after getting a bad case of The Worf Effect, infamously getting him to eat his goddamn veggies. The movie ends with both of them falling into the ocean, but King Kong emerging alone.

King Kong would return in King Kong Escapes, also produced by Toho.

Kong: The Animated Series involves a much more heroic, cloned version of the original ape helping a group of plucky teens race an evil mastermind to be the first to collect all of a series of magical stones. There was also an earlier animated series about a heroic King Kong in the 1960s, The King Kong Show.

Legendary Pictures, fresh off their success with Gareth Edwards' Godzilla remake, announced that they're producing a movie titled Skull Island, which will be an Origin Story to the Eight Wonder of the World himself. It's currently unknown if the movie is a prequel to either the original 1933 or Peter Jackson's 2005 remake, or is a completely stand alone film.

General tropes for all films

  • Anti-Villain: Even though Kong is a destructive force and responsible for killing extras in every film, he doesn't really comprehend the damage he's causing: he just wants Ann/Dwan. As such, King remains sympathetic in all film versions, and in some interpretations is the hero compared to the more greedy humans (Denham, Wilson the oil exec).
  • Artistic License Paleontology: Flesh-Eating Apatosaur (aka brontosaur) in the original. Most likely due to Rule of Cool.
    • The brontosaur didn't actually eat anybody. It just shook around a man in its mouth and then left the guy's body on the ground. It was, however, a common cinematic depiction at that time.
    • The 1976 version averts this because there is only a giant snake. The 2005 version makes its own dinosaurs.
    • See also Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In the original film, the stop-motion Kong models used on Skull Island were scaled to look 18 feet tall, but the one used in New York was made to appear 24 feet tall. The life-size hand, foot, and head props were built with a 40-foot Kong in mind, and RKO's marketing said Kong was 50 feet high. In the first remake, he's ranges from 42 to 55 feet, in King Kong Lives, he's 60 feet, in King Kong vs. Godzilla he's 148 feet, in King Kong Escapes he's 66 feet, and in Peter Jackson's remake, he's 25 feet tall, but would probably be closer to 35 if he stood upright like the others instead of walking on his knuckles.
    • Jackson's Kong is closest to what the Square/Cube Law allows: a bit larger than a large African Elephant, walks on all fours most of the time, to distribute weight evenly, proportionately short hind legs with huge feet, like largest modern bears have to support them when walking upright. A 50ft Kong would be unrealistic, an 148ft Kong downright impossible.
  • Badass: Are you kidding? You can hardly get a more badass main character than a giant Killer Gorilla that wrestles dinosaurs and fights airplanes on top of a skyscraper.
  • Beast and Beauty. Also counts as Arc Words.
  • Behemoth Battle: King Kong fights giant monsters in every installment.
    • 1933: King Kong (giant ape) fighting a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This might be the Trope Codifier for modern giant monster fights in movies.
    • 1976: King Kong fights giant snake.
    • 2005: King Kong fights no less than three Vastatosaurus rex, a fictive descendant of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted in the '76 film, wherein black crew member Boan is the only member of the search party besides Prescott to survive. The first man to die in the 2005 film was a man who got a native spear through the chest. Ben Hayes died a bit later.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Look out!
  • Bring It Back Alive: What happens to Kong.
  • Cataclysm Climax: Notably, the destruction of Skull Island in both the 1933 and 2005 versions does not happen in the main films themselves (in 1933, it happened in the sequel; in 2005, it is described only on the website and the special features on the DVD.
  • Chained to a Rock: the natives tie a young maiden to stakes outside the village and leave her as an offering for Kong. Ann Darrow becomes the last 'bride of Kong' to be offered.
  • Climbing Climax: Each film's climax takes place on top of the currently highest building in New York (the Empire State Building in the 1933 and 2005 movies, the World Trade Center in the 1976 one).
  • Clothing Damage: Sustained by Ann/Dwan, particularly in the '33 version when Kong tries to "peel" her like a banana.
    • This is taken to insane extremes in the little-known Don Simpson "Monster Comics" adaptation. She's stripped completely down to her bra and panties. Likewise, Jack consistently loses bits and pieces of his clothing throughout his travails. By the time he and Ann get back to the wall, he's shirtless and his pants have been shredded to the point where it looks like he's wearing daisy dukes.
  • Creator Cameo: In the original, the aircrew that downs Kong was played by the director and producer, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack. In the 2005 remake, Jackson puts himself in the fatal plane in a deliberate homage. Also with him in that plane is Rick Baker, who played Kong in the suit in the '76 version.
  • Damsel in Distress: Played straight in the original; subverted/deconstructed in the later films with the girl's Stockholm-esque/Koko-and-Kitten bonding with Kong.
  • Darker and Edgier: The original was pretty dark as it was, but the '76 version is a bit darker, with much more blood and gore (unsurprising, considering the difference in decades and moviemaking standards). And the '05 version is the darkest yet, with its savage natives, tons of violence, and nightmarish creatures.
  • Downer Ending / Bittersweet Ending: Both the '76 and '05 versions, as a result of making Kong even more sympathetic and having Ann/Dwan form a bond with him. The 2005 version in particular gets bleaker and bleaker the more you think about it: Kong's dead, and since he's the Last of His Kind, his whole species is now extinct. Several civilians and many of the soldiers who tried to bring him down and protect the city were killed. Carl Denham's career is ruined for sure, and he'll never be able to donate the proceeds of his film to the families of the Venture's deceased crew members. And of the Venture's crew that survived, most of their friends (and in Jimmy's case, his father figure) are dead. One of the only really bright spots to come out of the whole deal is Ann and Jack's relationship, and there's a feeling that it won't last. Granted, a lot of the same points could also apply to the original, but the fact that the story of the '05 version is more "developed" just makes it even sadder. The bittersweet part to this is that at least New York is saved from destruction.
  • East Indies: Skull Island is located here.
  • Epic Movie: Especially the Peter Jackson version.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: After Kong arrives in New York City he is exhibited in a theater. When he escapes he terrorizes the city and... well, you know the rest.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: ...particularly during the "shaken log" sequence, which both the 1933 and 1976 versions have. Subverted at first in the 2005 remake, where Denham and most of his crew survive the fall, but then double-subverted when the insects attack and consume his entire crew.
    • Originally, this was supposed to happen in the 1933 version as well. The scene, now known as "Spider Pit Sequence", was actually shot, but removed because according to Cooper "it stopped the story".
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: As much a staple of the films as Kong himself.
    • King Kong '33 features the famous fight between Kong and a T-Rex, as well as plenty of other dinosaurs.
    • Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla (he's kind of a dinosaur).
    • Gorosaurus in King Kong Escapes.
    • Oddly, the '70s movies featured no dinosaurs whatsoever, though Kong did fight a giant snake.
    • The V-Rexes and the stampeding Brontosaurs in King Kong '05.
      • The RAPTORS! Oh, and the ceratopsian Ferrucutus in the extended version, as well as other dinosaurs.
    • Gaw and her Death Runners in Kong: King of Skull Island, an illustrated novel that serves as a prequel to the film.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Especially 50-foot gorillas. Which aren't really monkeys.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Skull Island. So much.
  • Forced Perspective: Used constantly in the 1933 original and occasionally for the 1976 version.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Ann Darrow in both the original and Peter Jackson remake.
  • Helicopter Flyswatter: Probably the Trope Maker.
  • The Hero Dies: While it's hard to call Kong a hero, it counts as such in the sense that he is the title character himself.
  • Hollywood Natives: All versions feature savage natives who capture Ann / Dwan and sacrifice her to Kong.
    • In the original 1933 film, they are as typical Hollywood Natives as possible.
    • Played with in the 2005 remake; the natives of Skull Island look more like orcs, while the "natives" in the New York stage show use the same costumes, dance and music as the natives of the 1933 film.
  • Hulk's Cooldown Hug Corollary: A rampaging Kong can be calmed down if Ann / Dwan is around.
  • Human Sacrifice: Ann / Dwan is offered to Kong by the natives as this.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover with Godzilla: Kong fought the Monster King in 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla. See that film's page for more of its history, to avoid a Flame War.
  • Island of Mystery : Skull Island.
  • Jawbreaker: Kong's signature finishing move in all three movies. The only monster who doesn't get it is Godzilla.
  • Kaiju: Though misses out on being the first monster to rampage across a city, he's the one people think of as the first proto-kaiju.
  • Killer Gorilla: One of the most famous examples.
  • "King Kong" Climb: The Trope Maker, naturally.
  • Lost World: An uncharted island in the original story; hidden by a perpetual fog bank in the 70s version.
  • Mars Needs Women: More accurately, Kong needs a blonde wife. (Well, the Islanders think he does...)
  • Monster Shaped Mountain: Several fictional homages to the original film have taken Skull Island's name literally, depicting either its central mountain peak or the actual shoreline as skull-shaped.
  • Monumental Battle: Always the tallest skyscraper in New York (Empire State Building, World Trade Center)
  • New York Subway: The 1933 classic with Fay Wray features Kong wreaking havoc on the 6th Avenue El, and shows the interior of a Low-V El car.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Kong, who rampages in New York and kills numerous citizens only because he is taken into an alien and hostile environment. Especially notable in the 2005 version, but present in all incarnations.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: If you think about it, Kong is not the real monster here. Kidnapped, dragged away from home, put on display and gawked at...he's more a victim than Fay Wray was.
  • Out of Focus: Englehorn in the '33 and '05 films, and Ross in the '76 one.
  • Pretty in Mink: In the original film, Ann wears a chinchilla cape. In the 1976 film, Dwan wears a chinchilla jacket.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Kong often does it; most iconically after defeating the giant reptile (Tyrannosaurus rex / giant snake / V-rex), and when fighting the planes on top of the building.
  • The Remake: Most people agree the '76 film was a Remake Decay; the '05 version has been mostly favorably received.
  • Screaming Woman: Fay Wray, of course.
  • Single Specimen Species: How come you don't see more like Kong in his island?
    • Explained in the 2005 A Natural History of Skull Island. Kong is the Last of His Kind. Further, in the 2005 film, we see the bones of others of his kind, further cementing the idea that he is all alone.
    • Lampshaded in a Robot Chicken skit, among other questions.
  • Starring Special Effects: While all movies feature human actors, the real star is Kong, created with the most modern visual effects of the age (stop motion in 1933, animatronic suit in 1976, CGI / motion capture in 2005).
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Used in the 1933 (as well as averted) and averted in the remake (we get modern equivalents that have the stock dinosaurs as ancestors). Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Plesiosaur and Pteranodon all show up in the 1933 film (with the sequel having Styracosaurus, A Cave Bear, a different Plesiosaur and a dragon-like monster). The 2005 remake has descendants of Tyrannosaurs, Sauropods, Horned Dinosaurs, Duck Billed Dinosaurs and Raptors in it. It also has Giant centipedes, land-crocodiles and other weird thing.
    • The 2005 version further subverts this by replacing the Pteranodon (which is not a dinosaur, but its "stock" anyway) with flying rodents, which look like a cross between a bat and a naked mole rat with large eyes and hindlimbs like those of a hawk.
  • Title Drop: For most of the movie everyone just calls the ape "Kong," and it's not until near the end that we see "KING Kong" written on a huge sign in New York. After that they still don't say the whole thing in dialogue.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: He likes that little blonde girl.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kong