All the King Kong Movies ... Ranked

The big, furry guy is back on the big screen this month.

King Kong returns to movie houses courtesy of “Kong: Skull Island.” The new adventure doesn’t connect directly to previous Kong incarnations. Didn’t Kong die after that precipitous Big Apple drop?

It’s simply Hollywood’s attempt to jump-start a new franchise. And it just might work. Consider the cast: John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly and Tom Hiddleston.

Not bad.

It reminds us all the same of the past King Kong films. We’ve been watching Kong fall off buildings, flirt with blondes and snare airplanes out of the skies for decades. Which Kong movies are the best, though?

We’ll leave out the Japanese Kong versions. Those films, with their ludicrous FX and bad dubbing, deserve a category unto themselves.

5. “King Kong Lives” (1986)

Not exactly. This easily forgotten chapter in the Kong saga drew nasty reviews and tepid box office results. They didn’t exactly trot out the A-team for the gorilla’s closeup. The movie starred Linda Hamilton and Brian Kerwin and, of course, Lady Kong.

We’re still looking at men (and maybe ladies?) in gorilla suits. And the modest budget made that oh, so obvious.

The delayed sequel to the 1976 blockbuster-of-sorts killed any hopes of a sustaining franchise … for a while.

4. “Son of Kong” (1933)

No, this didn’t become a classic like its predecessor, even if it hit theaters mere months after the 1933 original.

This Kong isn’t as ferocious as his pappy. He’s funnier, too, a change in tone that didn’t sit well with critics of the era. Given the FX limitations, the presentation wasn’t atrocious, and star Robert Armstrong is always watchable.

3. “King Kong” (1976)

The movie may have brought Kong back from the cinematic grave. Today it’s better known as Jessica Lange’s first big break.

Hollywood pulled out all the stops to make this Kong as realistic as possible. Yet having an actor in a gorilla suit can only create so much movie magic. The results still netted the production an Oscar for special effects and a place in that year’s Top 10 box office list.

Lange, plus a deep cast (including Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin), gave this Kong gravitas. It couldn’t dislodge the original from its secure place in our hearts.

2. King Kong (1933)

The original still rocks, from the classically odd love story to stop-motion animation that proved years ahead of its time.

Young and old can appreciate sturdy storytelling, no matter the year. Yes, the passage of time has rendered elements of the movie hopelessly quaint. So what?

“It was beauty killed the beast,” Armstrong’s Carl Denham declares in the film’s final moments. And chances are you’ll shed a tear or two for Kong in short order.

1. King Kong (2005)

Director Peter Jackson’s film got hammered by some upon its release. It was too long, they cried, and too reliant on the latest CGI tricks. And they were right. The home video version is even, gasp, longer. Still, Jackson pays as much attention to the glorious FX as he does the central tension.

Can a beautiful woman (Naomi Watts) and her larger than life BF make a go of it in the Big Apple?

It takes forever for us to actually set foot on Skull Island. Yet Watts strikes the perfect tone for a potentially batty romance. And some sequences are flat-out gorgeous, like Kong finding his footing on a frozen lake.


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