King Kong Through the Years: How the Giant Gorilla Has Evolved Since 1933

8:00 AM 3/9/2017

by Kara Haar

With 'Kong: Skull Island' set for a March 10 release, THR takes a look at 11 incarnations of the overgrown beast since his first big-screen adventure.

King Kong first scaled the Empire State Building in 1933, and he's back in theaters this weekend in Kong: Skull Island.

The first King Kong film was released in 1933 with great amount of success. The movie focused on a film crew who visited Skull Island and discovered a monster in their paths, also known as King Kong. The giant gorilla is captured and taken to New York City, where he develops a bond with a woman played by Fay Wray.

After 1933, the movie's success resulted in several remakes, sequels and television series. The newest installment will tell the tale of a group of explorers who travel to an island and encounter Kong with a cast that includes Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston and John Goodman.

Check out how Kong has evolved over the years, from his very first big-screen incarnation.

  • King Kong (1933)

    In 1933, the monster-adventure began with King Kong. Fay Wray played the leading lady as Ann Darrow in the film, which also starred Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. The movie was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, based on an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Rotten Tomatoes named the first King Kong the greatest horror film of all time and it was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry. The spawned a sequel just nine months later, called Son of Kong.

  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

    King Kong is being held in captivity in Japan, where he escapes and then must fight Godzilla. This is the first time a King Kong movie was seen in color. Originally released in Japanese, an American production company used new scenes for an English version. 

  • The King Kong Show (1966-69)

    ABC aired this anime series, which was produced by a Japanese company. The series follows King Kong as he befriends the Bond family, saving them from monsters and other evil characters.

  • King Kong Escapes (1967)

    In this film, King Kong is brought in by an evil scientist to look for gems and fight a robotic MechaKong. This film was the second and last King Kong film produced by a Japanese company.


  • King Kong (1976)

    The remake of the 1933 original featured a similar story line. Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin starred in the film, which also marked Lange's feature film debut. The film won an Academy Award for best visual effects.


  • King Kong Lives (1986)

    This film is a sequel to the 1976 King Kong. Kong is kept in a coma for almost 10 years and needs a heart transplant. A female gorilla is found and a surgery is attempted to save King Kong's life. Linda Hamilton, two years after The Terminator, starred alongside and Brian Kerwin


  • The Mighty Kong (1998)

    An animated, musical version of King Kong was created for a family-friendly audience. Jodi Benson, Richard Newman and Dudley Moore (in his last project before his 2002 death) all starred as voice actors in the direct-to-video movie. 

  • Kong: The Animated Series (2000)

    The animated adventure takes place following the 1933 film. The TV series included musical numbers for a kid-friendly version and also spawned two direct-to-DVD movies based on the show.

  • King Kong (2005)

    Peter Jackson's modern remake of the 1933 King Kong stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. The film won three Academy Awards, for sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects. The movie took in $551 million at the worldwide box office.

  • Kong: King of the Apes (2016)

    In the animated web series, King Kong is saved as a young ape by a boy named Lucas. However, Lucas' twin brother tries to get rid of the gorilla out of jealousy. This Netflix original, which counts Avi Arad as an executive producer, is set for second season debuting in 2017. 


  • Kong: Skull Island (2017)

    The latest version of King Kong will open in theaters this Friday. Kong: Skull Island, which is set in the 1970s, is part of a planned trilogy that includes Godzilla 2, set for release on June 8, and Godzilla vs. Kong, arriving in theaters in 2020.  


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