Ranking The Terrible To The Epic

Grab the popcorn and soda, because monster movies are bigger than ever. There isn't much that is more ingrained in American cinema culture than the monster flick. Thousands of filmgoers have memories of staying up past bedtime, dimming the lights, snacking on some candy, and turning on a monster marathon or tw, perhaps the Universal Studios monster flicks or even massive monster blockbusters like Gamera and the iconic Godzilla — who has become an icon in American cinema just as he is in Japan. But no giant monster is more iconic in American cinema than the king of American monsters, the massive ape himself, King Kong.

Kong has found new life with Legendary Pictures' Monsterverse with Kong: Skull Island and the remake of Toho's King Kong vs Godzilla. However, not many younger fans know the classic Kong three-act structure that has been used and reused for almost a century at this point. A film crew goes to a mysterious island, the protagonist gets abducted by the local tribe and is offered to Kong, the film crew subdues Kong and takes him to New York to present the monster to audiences all over as the eighth wonder of the world — only for everything to come crashing down off of the Empire State Building. It's the skeleton that almost all renditions of the story have used from movies to Broadway. But which Kong is King?

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King Kong (1976)

The first and the worst among the films is Dino De Laurentiis and John Guillermin's King Kong remake from the 1970s. Although Laurentiis and Guillermin wanted to bring something new to the King Kong story, for the most part, this movie is the same as the original with nothing different about the skeleton. Still, it does get points for trying to become its own, with the crew no longer being a film crew. Much like the other reboots, this movie is very much a product of its time. The plot revolves around a research crew looking for oil and, in perhaps the most memorable change, Kong falls off of the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building. There are other changes to the presentation of the classic King Kong story, but they aren't that meaningful, and it doesn't quite work.

Overall, the movie does fall flat, especially regarding the emotional core of the movie. The connection built between Dwan — this film's protagonist — and Kong is inconsistent and poorly developed. Even while Kong is being hunted and is alone, Dwan and Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) have drinks together while they talk about life. It lacks emotional depth and is mostly a dull rendition of King Kong.

Kong: Skull Island

This action-packed reboot sways so heavily off the path of the King Kong story that it is questionable to even put it on this list. But with that said, this Kong is definitely made for today's audience and fits perfectly alongside Godzilla in the Monsterverse. It is a massive action flick with a superstar-filled cast that features some of the best cinematography that can be seen in giant monster movies. That checks every box of the epics that studios and audiences are looking for at the theater.

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But beyond some amazing monsters, visuals, and comedic interjections by John C Reilly, it doesn't offer anything else, especially anything else that resembles a classic King Kong movie. But what else would fans want in a popcorn movie? For what it is, it is an enjoyable experience that is made simply to let its viewers have fun.

King Kong (2005)

The best way to describe this movie is in two words: "too much." It is huge, bold, loud, and excessive. Yet, it's still a lot of fun, with a great assortment of characters and exciting action sequences. Beyond the excessive amount of Brontosauruses and far too long a runtime, this movie that shows a great amount of respect to its predecessor by sticking close to what the original Kong was, while expanding upon that and giving the story a technological upgrade filled to the brim with monsters and dinosaurs. If fans went into this movie without ever seeing the original, they would walk out mostly knowing what the 1933 film was, all while experiencing something new.

This movie wouldn't nearly work as well as it does if it hadn't been directed by Peter Jackson. Not many living directors really know how to make massive stories work as well as Jackson does, especially with his experience making The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson really is the best director for a King Kong remake, and although it isn't the best of the Great Ape's films, it is a respectable second place.

King Kong (1933)

What can be said about this movie that hasn't already been said? There is nothing shocking about seeing the original 1933 King Kong on the top of this list. As far as impact goes, not many get more significant than this movie. Just to list some of its accolades, the American Film Institute has put it in the top fifty American films ever made, the Library of Congress has deemed it "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant," and it has beenselected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry.

Even with today's technological advances in cinema, King Kong holds up shockingly well, with some of the greatest stop-motion in history and extremely impressive compositions that will leave many wondering how such feats could have possibly been accomplished in the 1930s. It is a marvel to see and should be on everybody's must-watch list, even if it is only once.

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