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Franchise / King Kong

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"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 parodies. Retellings in other media range from a Direct to Video animated feature in The '90s (The Mighty Kong for those curious), to an Australian stage musical in 2013 (a Broadway production of this version, with significant changes to the song list, spent a few months on Broadway over 2018-19).

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. The show's human hero (who was also a DNA donor for this show's version of the big ape) could cybernetically combine with Kong to make him more of a match for the villain's own monsters. Received a Spiritual Successor in Netflix's Kong: King of the Apes, which even copies from TAS's theme song. There was also an earlier animated series about a heroic King Kong in the 1960s, The King Kong Show.

King Kong has also long enjoyed a presence in the literary world, helped by the original 1932 novelization becoming public domain. Two sequels in particular have been created, After King Kong Fell by Philip José Farmer which places The Shadow and Doc Savage on scene after the great apes fell from the Empire State building; and Kong Reborn by Russell Blackford which has a dried blood sample found on the Empire State building leading to Kong being cloned and brought back to Skull Island.

The most diverse and widespread literary incarnation is by the works of Joe DeVito working in tandem with the Cooper estate. His most famous work, Kong: King of Skull Island serves as both a prequel and sequel to the original film by having the son of Carl Denham returned to Skull Island to find his estranged father and learning of Kong's upbringing as well is the origin of his species and the history of the natives. The story and its accompanying illustrations were adapted into comic book form by Dark Horse Comics. Later on Boom! Studios would partner up with DeVito to create both the series Kong of Skull Island which borrowed heavily from the novel as well is creating a variety of short series and one shots. DeVito's work continues with a variety of illustrations and short pieces set in his novel's universe as well as a crossover story entailing Kong getting free of the transport ship and ending up in Africa in Will Murray's King Kong vs. Tarzan. In 2022, Disney picked up the television rights to the Joe DeVito books to produce a series for Disney+ to be headed by James Wan.

King Kong has been the basis for two attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. The first attraction, known as Kongfrontation, was among the opening day rides at Universal Studios Florida in 1990. Based off the 1976 remake, the ride had guests board the Roosevelt Island trams and come face-to-face with the giant ape during his rampage in New York. The ride was suddenly closed in 2002, a decision that lead to much backlash from both fans and the general public. In response, a new King Kong attraction would eventually be built at the neighboring park, Universal's Islands of Adventure, in 2016. This new ride, titled, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, is loosely based off of the 2005 remake and follows an expedition to Skull Island that quickly goes awry as guests get several close encounters with the island's inhabitants before coming across Kong himself in a battle between him and a Vastatosaurus Rex trio. Both of the attractions were inspired by scenes from the tram-based Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood; the former attraction was modeled after the King Kong Encounter sequence (which operated from 1986 until 2008, when it was destroyed in a backlot fire), while the latter attraction was based off of the King Kong 360 sequence (which was built in 2010 to make up for the loss of Encounter).

Legendary Pictures, fresh off their success with Gareth Edwards' Godzilla remake, produced Kong: Skull Island. Standing alone from previous versions of the character, this King Kong will be part of a Shared Universe, the MonsterVerse with Legendary's Godzilla, with the two meeting in Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021.

Kong remains one of the most iconic monsters of movie history, spawning numerous imitations and parodies.

King Kong media:

Live-action films

Animated films and television

Comic books

  • King Kong (1968)
  • King Kong (1991-1992)
  • King Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World (2007), an adaptation of the 2005 film
  • Kong: King of Skull Island (2007-2008)
  • Kong Of Skull Island (2016-2017)
  • Skull Island: The Birth of Kong (2017), a prequel/sequel to Kong Skull Island
  • Kong: Gods of Skull Island (2017)
  • Kong On The Planet Of The Apes (2017-2018)
  • Kingdom Kong (2021), a prequel to Godzilla vs. Kong
  • Kong: The Great War (2023)
  • Justice League vs. Godzilla vs. Kong (2023-present)


Tabletop Games

  • Kong: Skull Island adventure and rules expansion for the Everyday Heroes RPG (2023).


  • King Kong (2013), an Australian musical based on the original film using the largest puppet ever created for the stage. A re-worked Broadway production premiered in October 2018.

Video games

Theme park rides

Related franchises

General tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Jack's misogyny, arrogance and butchness in the original are parodied in a secondary character in the 2005 version while he is reinvented as a bookish, gentlemanly romantic. Ann, meanwhile, in the remakes, is no longer entirely terrified of the monster but sympathizes with him and is even able to calm him at times.
    • Newer adaptations tend to portray Kong in a much more sympathetic manner, having him go more from a Killer Gorilla to Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Some interpretations of him such as in TAS or the MonsterVerse movies even portray him as a Gentle Gorilla, who only attacks those who disturb Skull Island.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The military in the '05 film have no problem firing on Kong while he's visibly carrying Ann. While the planes hesitate when they see Ann shielding Kong on the Empire State Building, they ignore her pleas and shoot Kong in the back.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Kong himself at the end.
  • 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, Kong 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.
  • 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 appears shorter because he's always walking on his knuckles. TAS gives his size as "forty feet at the shoulder."
    • Jackson's Kong is closest to what the Square-Cube Law allows: not that much larger than a large African Elephant,note  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. That said, the 2005 Kong is still unrealistically strong and especially too fast for how big he is (much more so than prior versions).
    • The MonsterVerse Kong is the biggest one yet, standing as tall as Godzilla himself, the Legendary Pictures version of which stands at 393 feet tall.
  • Beast and Beauty. Also counts as Arc Words.
  • Behemoth Battle: King Kong fights giant monsters in every installment.
  • Beware the Skull Base: Skull Island is the name of Kong's humble abode in many instances. If the name alone doesn't ward off invaders, the mostly hostile fauna and big, hulking gorilla most certainly will.
  • Big Applesauce: The story typically begins and ends in New York City.
  • 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, but in the '05 version Ann had already calmed Kong down before the military attacked them, which makes his death even more senseless.
    • Even worse, A Natural History Of Skull Island tells us Denham led several more expeditions to the island that got even more people killed, after which the whole place sank into the sea in an earthquake. So every exotic species on the island wound up extinct, and the natives too.
  • 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".
      • Weta Workshop actually filmed a brand-new version of the Spider Pit Sequence as an extra for the de luxe DVD edition, using authentic stop-motion techniques, in black and white and Academy Aspect Ratio, to match the look of the film as closely as possible. They even created the sound of a monster's roar by slowing down one of Fay Wray's screams from the original movie..
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Skull Island. Apart from the titular giant gorilla, there are vicious dinosaurs, Big Creepy-Crawlies, bat-creatures and savage natives threatening any visitor's life.
  • Fanservice: Ann/Dwan has their moments in the films.
    • Jack Driscoll in the Don Simpson "Monster Comics" adaptation, who ends up shirtless and with his pants torn by the end of the Skull Island section.
  • Forced Perspective: Used constantly in the 1933 original and occasionally for the 1976 version.
  • Giant Animal Worship: One of the Trope Codifiers in modern media: the natives worship Kong as a god.
  • The Great Serpent: A reoccurring foe in the films (second only to the T. Rexpy):
    • King Kong Escapes: Kong defends the human protagonists from a giant sea snake as they're trying to leave Mondo Island.
    • King Kong (1976): Taking the place of the Meat-Eater dinosaur and Elasmosaurus he fought in the original, Kong has a tussle with an enormous boa constrictor.
    • Godzilla vs. Kong: As a deliberate Mythology Gag, Kong again defends the humans from a serpent monster (known as Warbat), except now there are two of them and they can fly.
  • 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.
  • Isle of Giant Horrors: Skull Island is an island teaming with horrific beasts and dinosaurs, with the titular giant ape reigning as king of them.
  • Jawbreaker: Kong's signature finishing move in all three movies. The only monster who doesn't get it is Godzilla.
  • Kaiju: Though Kong misses out on being the first monster to rampage across a city (that honor goes to the Brontosaurus from Willis O'Brien's The Lost World, 8 years prior to Kong), he's the one people think of as the first proto-kaiju.
  • Killer Gorilla: One of the most famous examples and one of the Trope Codifiers. Kong might be a Non-Malicious Monster, but he still kills numerous people, both island natives and New York citizens.
  • "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.
  • Mammal Monsters Are More Heroic:
    • King Kong (1933): The titular ape is portrayed as a Tragic Monster — whilst the dinosaurs and giant reptiles he lives alongside are portrayed as dumb, monstrous brutes.
    • King Kong (2005): This film features one of the most sympathetic incarnations of Kong, unlike the more monstrous dinosaurs, reptiles, and arthropods. The only other mammalian creatures (the Terapusmordax) are a severely downplayed case - whilst they're hideously ugly and semi-antagonistic (and one glares menacingly at Jack), they only really attack when they're provoked.
    • Kong: Skull Island: Kong is presented as a benevolent protector of the island and the buffalo-like Sker Buffalo are Gentle Giants, whilst the reptillian Skullcrawlers serve as the main antagonists and insectoid kaiju are portrayed in a threatening light.
  • 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)
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: How Kong dies—and then falling off the top of a skyscaper for good measure.
  • 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?
    • Son of Kong later in 1933 reveals another younger and smaller one. Then the whole island sinks...
    • 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.
    • He's also explicitly the last of his kind in the MonsterVerse, as noted in Kong: Skull Island when Marlow explains that his parents were killed by the Skullcrawler matriarch. Godzilla vs. Kong teases the possibility that there are more of Kong's kind still alive in the Hollow Earth, but by the end of the movie, if they're down there, Kong hasn't found them yet.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The movies involving Skull Island.
  • Victorious Roar: Not to be outdone by his longtime cinematic rival Godzilla, King Kong gets more than his fair share in.
    • King Kong (1933). After killing the Tyrannosaurus rex on Skull Island, King Kong roars triumphantly and performs a Primal Chest-Pound.
    • King Kong (2005): After pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment and saving Ann from the jaws of a V-Rex, and a prolonged fight to the death with three V-Rexs, Kong manages to kill the giant predators and retain his position as Skull Island's ruler. Amusingly, Kong plays with his final fallen opponent for a bit, before rising to his full height, and beating his chest and roaring victoriously.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: He likes that little blonde girl.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kong is a poor animal implied to be the Last of His Kind who lives on an island full of hostile predators, then gets captured and taken to an even more hostile environment by greedy humans. He's also a giant monster who escapes from confinement and kills many innocent citizens during his rampage.
  • Worshipped for Great Deeds: King Kong, in most of his incarnations, is worshipped as a god by the natives of Skull Island, both for being a huge-ass monkey, and because he protects them agains the island's less hospitable monsters.
  • Your Size May Vary: In every film continuity (or even from scene to scene within the films), Kong is presented at a different size.
    • In the original 1933 film, he is eighteen feet tall on Skull Island, twenty-five feet tall in New York City, while the full-scale animatronic hands and face were designed with a seventy and forty-foot tall ape in mind respectively.
    • In King Kong vs. Godzilla, he's about forty-five metres tall, while in King Kong Escapes, he's shortened to about twenty metres tall.
    • In the 1976 film he's about forty-two feet tall on Skull Island, and fifty-five feet tall in New York. In the sequel he's beefed up again to be about sixty feet tall.
    • In the 2005 film, he's about twenty-five feet tall (both on Skull Island and in New York).
    • In Kong: Skull Island, he's one-hundred and four feet tall (although usually rounded down to a hundred feet), but by Godzilla vs. Kong, he's grown to over one-hundred metres tall.


Kiko vs. Dragon

The Son of Kong fights a Dragon in the caves of Skull Island

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrimateVersusReptile

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