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
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.
There have been three major film adaptations of the original story (along with numerous spin-offs, sequels and cross-overs):
- King Kong (1933 film): (See the recap here.)
- Followed later that year by Son of Kong.
- King Kong (1976 film)
- King Kong (2005 film)
- Always Save the Girl
- Animals Lack Attributes: Kong has no nipples.
- 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).
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In the 1976 version he was 50ft, in the 2005 version he was 25ft, in the original 1933 film he was 21ft in New York and 18ft on Skull Island. In Japan, he was 45m (147ft) when he battled Godzilla, and 20m (65ft) in King Kong Escapes.
- Badass: Are you kidding?
- Beast and Beauty. Also counts as Arc Words.
- Big Applesauce
- 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.
- The demise of Skull Island is further discussed in A Natural History Of Skull Island.
- Chained by Fashion
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Downer 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 even then 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.
- East Indies
- Epic Movie
- 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.
- 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, of course (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.
- Don't forget the RAPTORS! Oh, and the ceratopsian Ferrucutus in the extended version, as well as other dinosaurs.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Especially 50-foot gorillas. Which aren't really monkeys.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Skull Island. So much.
- Helicopter Flyswatter: Probably the Trope Maker.
- Hulk's Cooldown Hug Corollary
- Human Sacrifice
- Intercontinuity Crossover with Godzilla: Kong fought the Monster King in 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla. See the Godzilla page for more of its history, to avoid a Flame War.
- Jaw Breaker: 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.
- The oldest Kaiju in cinema? A Brontosaurus from Willis O'Brien's The Lost World (1929).
- 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...)
- 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.
- The 1976 remake substitutes the destruction of the Astoria El between Astoria Blvd and Ditmars Blvd in Astoria, Queens. The train used in this scene is the R16-type cars (The interiors scenes were sets though).
- Non-Malicious Monster: Kong. Especially notable in the 2005 version, but present in all incarnations.
- Pretty in Mink: In the original film, Ann wears a chinchilla cape. In the 1976 film, Dwan wears a chinchilla jacket, possibly as a Mythology Gag.
- The Remake: Most people agree the '76 film was a Remake Decay; the jury is still out on the '05 version.
- Screaming Woman
- 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.
- Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: 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.
- Starring Special Effects
- 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.