''Mighty Joe Young'' is the name shared by a 1949 film and its 1998 remake. The original film combined live action and StopMotion animation. The designs for the animation and effects are credited to Willis O'Brien, better known for ''Film/KingKong1933''. In practice, much of the actual animation was completed by his protege Creator/RayHarryhausen. This was the first major film work of the younger animator. The remake used animatronic models and puppets, with some CGI animation.

The film was produced by Creator/RKORadioPictures and directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, who is best known for co-directing ''King Kong''. The film starts somewhere in Africa. A little girl, Jill Young (Lora Lee Michel), asks her father to buy her a baby gorilla. He does so, against his better judgment. Jill names her new pet "Joe" and treats him like any other baby, feeding him milk from a bottle and singing him to sleep.

The scene shifts to twelve years later. Max O'Hara (Robert Armstrong), a theatrical impresario, is preparing to have a safari in Africa. He plans to collect animals to use for his next project, an exotic Hollywood nightclub. He is need of a decent animal handler. He hires Gregg Johnson (Ben Johnson), a rodeo roper. He is the first of several {{Cowboy}}s hired by Max, who figures he could give a western theme to his nightclub. Weeks later, their expedition unknowingly enters the lands owned by the Young family. An enraged Joe is there to meet them and defend his territory. The baby has grown into an enormous ape. He is followed by a furious Jill (TerryMoore), now [[SheIsAllGrownUp All Grown Up]]. Max manages to calm her down and later convinces her to join him in Hollywood. She and Joe are to become the headliners at his Golden Safari nightclub.

While the duo debuts to great success, Jill is disturbed that her "friend" has to be caged every night. She wants to resign, but Max convinces her to wait until a replacement act could be found. Weeks later, the duo are still waiting. Jill has a new reason to be reluctant to leave - she and Gregg have fallen for each other. At this point, a trio of drunken customers find amusement in performing animal abuse. An intoxicated Joe is sufficiently enraged to go on a rampage. While it doesn't last long, the authorities mark Joe as dangerous and sentence him to death. Jill, Gregg and Max have to co-operate to rescue him.

The film was a commercial flop, one of several that plagued RKO under the administration of Howard Hughes (term 1948-1955). There were plans for a sequel, but these were terminated early. However, the effects were impressive for the time and the film gained an Academy Award for Special Effects. While essentially a tamer and more humorous take on ''King Kong'', the film would later find its audience on television. For decades, it was broadcast alone or with other "giant ape" films, gaining a reputation as a classic.

The film was co-produced by RKO Pictures (a corporate successor which mostly handles old properties) and Walt Disney Pictures. The director was RonUnderwood, better known for ''Film/{{Tremors}}'' (1990) and ''Film/CitySlickers'' (1991). The film established a new back story for Joe and Jill. As a little girl, Jill Young (Creator/CharlizeTheron) witnessed the death of her mother (a zoologist) and a female gorilla at the hands of {{Evil Poacher}}s. Their leader Andrei Strasser (Rade Serbedzija) loses two fingers in the process and has to retreat to get medical help. Joe, the orphaned baby gorilla, is left in the care of Jill.

In the present day, Joe has grown into an enormous gorilla and Jill is worried about his status as a target for more poachers. She is contacted by Gregory "Gregg" O'Hara (Creator/BillPaxton), a wildlife refuge director, who convinces her to move to the United States with Joe. Joe is a great favorite with the staff of the reserve and even attracts the attention of the press. This alerts Strasser to the current whereabouts of the gorilla. He has spent all these years blaming the creature for crippling him. He now wants revenge.

Strasser poses as an enviromentalist who is interested in returning Joe back to Africa. He has henchmen of his use a noisemaker to have Joe go on a rampage. In the process, Joe recognizes Strasser and attacks him. For attacking a human, the authorities condemn Joe to death. Jill wants to smuggle him out of the country and assigns Strasser with the mission. She realizes too late who Strasser actually is. Joe and Jill have to fight their way out of Strasser's hands while Gregg searches for them-partially out for their safety, partially out of falling for Jill.

This film was a box office bomb. It earned an estimated an 50,632,037 dollars in the United States market and underperformed elsewhere, failing to even cover its budget. It settled at only the 44th most successful film of its year. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Special effects, but lost to ''Film/WhatDreamsMayCome''. While some critics praised the added depth to the characters and the special effects, most complained about the rather melodramatic poacher storyline.

!!The films provide examples of:

* ABoyAndHisX: A girl and her (giant) gorilla.
* AnimalNemesis: Joe is this to Strasser after having bite his fingers off.
* AssholeVictim: [[spoiler: You hardly feel sorry for Strasser when Joe electrocutes him to death.]]
* BullyingADragon: The original film has a trio of drunkards give the titular giant gorilla alcohol -- enough to inebriate him. This clears them out of booze and in retaliation, one of them [[TooDumbToLive burns his hand]] [[{{Jerkass}} as Joe begs for more]]. Joe then bursts out of his cage for a drunken RoaringRampageOfRevenge through a nightclub.
* BringItBackAlive
* BunnyEarsLawyer: Max O'Hara all the way!
* BusFullOfInnocents: Played straight to perfect effect in the 1949 version, with the added bonus of the title character saving himself from Death Row. Who would want to shoot him after he saves several orphans from a burning building?
* ChekhovsSkill: Joe playing hide and seek in the '98 version helps him to evade police copters.
* CreditsGag: Two from the 1949 version:
** (Opening credits): "And Mr. Joseph Young AsHimself"
** The only closing credit is the message "Good Bye From Joe Young"
* CruellaToAnimals: Strasser is a male version.
* {{Deconstruction}}: The 1998 version is arguably a deconstruction of ''King Kong''. The ape isn't an island-dwelling monster, but an otherwise normal African gorilla with extreme giantism. The female lead has more in common with Jane Goodall than the screaming DamselInDistress of ''Kong.'' And when Joe finally does go on his "rampage" it's because he's confronted with the poacher that killed his mother.
* DisneyDeath: The 1998 version has this happen to Joe himself.
* DistressedDude: As opposed to the original film's BusFullOfInnocents in the burning orphanage, the '98 version has a single boy who is trapped in a burning Ferris wheel.
* EgomaniacHunter: Strasser combines this trope with EvilPoacher.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Strasser's henchman, Garth, looks genuinely horrified when Strasser is about to shoot Jill in cold blood.
** Earlier in the movie, he is also the one who insists they should help Jill's mother. So he's clearly a cruel man when it comes to animals, but draws the line at killing people.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Featuring a pet gorilla. Technically a great ape, not a monkey.
* EvilPoacher: Andrei Strasser and his followers.
* [[FamilyUnfriendlyDeath Family Unfriendly]] KarmicDeath: [[spoiler: Strasser meets his end when Joe stops him from shooting Jill and then flings him on some wires over a transformer. Strasser, being too fingers short of holding the wire, loses his grip and he falls into the transformer electrocuting him to death, leaving only his half-glove hanging from the wiring.]]
* FauxAffablyEvil: Compared to his outwardly thuggish demeanour when he was younger, Strasser seems rather kind and grandfatherly, which is how he gets Jill to trust him. Indeed his living revolves around getting people to trust him to look after animals at a phoney wildlife reserve, before selling them on the black market.
* FerrisWheelOfDoom: The burning orphanage is replaced by a burning carnival in the 1998 remake, with a young boy trapped on the Ferris wheel and Joe going to save him before it collapses. The rescue is considered one of the most memorable scenes of the film.
* FollowTheLeader: Averted by Creator/PeterJackson, who was about to start raising funds for [[Film/KingKong2005 the remake of]] ''Film/{{King Kong|1933}}'' but held off for several years thanks to this film's release.
* GentleGiant: Joe is a very docile giant gorilla, unless you give him a reason to be mad at you.
* KarmaHoudini: The men who got Joe drunk, thereby causing his rampage, escape the angered gorilla unharmed and are never shown answering for their actions.
* LighterAndSofter: Compared to ''Film/{{King Kong|1933}}''. The giant gorilla is much more gentle and causes very few fatalities, and even rescues a child trapped on a Ferris wheel.
* NiceHat: Strasser's hunting hat that he wears near the climax.
* OrganGrinder: Joe is involved in a humiliating performance playing an organ grinder's monkey with Jill, acting as a little girl, turning the handle.
* OrphanageOfLove: The orphanage in the original film seems to have been one of these, a kindly, concerned staff and a large, well kept building. [[spoiler: Unfortunately, it catches fire. Luckily, Mighty Joe Young is there to ensure all the children are saved.]]
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: O'Hara is greedy, a blowhard, and a bit unscrupulous, but he ultimately has a good heart.
* RemakeCameo: The 1998 remake featured an elderly couple played by Terry Moore (Jill Young in the 1949 original) and Creator/RayHarryhausen (who did the original's special effects).
-->'''Terry:''' "Doesn't that beautiful young lady remind you of anyone, dear?"\\
'''Ray:''' "Yes... ''you'' [[ActorAllusion when you were her age!]]"
* RedRightHand: Andrei Strasser and his missing fingers.
* SeeYouInHell: Strasser's [[spoiler: FamousLastWords]].
--> '''Strasser:''' "Goodbye, Jill. Meet your mother... in Hell."
* UngratefulBastard: In the original film, Joe saves one of the men who harassed him from a lion. When he runs into Gregg, Jill, and Max later on he claims that Joe tried to kill him.