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King Kong and Beyond – Giant Ape Films Ranked

Dec 10, 2022

From the moment he first appeared on screen, the Ape wonder of the world was cinematic dynamite. Legions of sequels, reboots, cash-grabs, homages, rip-offs and parodies have followed ever since, and this Halloween we’re sorting the terrible from the less terrible in a ranking of that goofiest of movie monsters: the giant ape. No more monkeying around, let’s start the countdown.

Honorable Mention: Konga

One of the more passable rip-offs gets itself disqualified from our list, since for the majority of the film Konga is closer to your regular, everyday rampaging Gorilla, and only reaches Kong-esque proportions in the film’s final scene.

16 – The Mighty Gorga

An incomprehensibly small budget results in shoddy… everything, but most notably in that all-important department for any giant monster movie: the special effects, including liberal use of a toy T-Rex.

15 – A*P*E

Worth it for the shot of the gorilla flipping the bird alone, otherwise this is pretty drab. This is a South Korean take on the subgenre, though as always Americans seem to stick their necks into Kong’s business. Or excuse me, as the trailer for A*P*E made clear, the A*P*E is “not to be confused with King Kong”. Don’t worry, despite cast and crews’ best efforts, that was never in the cards.

14 – Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century

The Yeti is the most man-ish of giant apes (hairier beasts can be found at your local sauna), freed from ice and seeming to shift in size as the plot requires. That plot, incidentally, involves a sequence wherein characters attempt to frame the Yeti, who is on life-support, for murder. Light on plywood façade destruction, Yeti: And So On’s greatest flaw is that it weighs in at a hefty 1 hour and 42 minutes. By that time in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick had left the monkeys behind long ago and we was nearing Jupiter.

13 – Queen Kong

Guess which parts of this Kong aren’t covered in fur.

12 – King Kong Lives

Having somehow survived a splay of gunfire and 541-meter plummet to his death in the previous film, Kong requires a blood transfusion from a Lady Kong (her official title), before Linda Hamilton can transplant into him an artificial giant Gorilla heart. The pair commence with baby-Kong-making and break out of the joint, pursued by the army. This all sounds like the fun kind of dumb, but it isn’t.

11 – Rampage

Significantly more competent than some of its betters, but totally sapped of any semblance of fun. The special effects which drive these movies, here are completely devoid of the charm and magic of the original King Kong, and the beast is totally crowded out by extraneous monsters and halfhearted plot threads.

10 – Son of Kong

This lousy follow-up to the original, released approximately 4 minutes after its predecessor, comes in at barely an hour long (off to a strong start). Here we find the series already shifting focus to the realm of kids’ entertainment, but Son of Kong is unwilling to do away with a tragic ending in the vein of the first film. Alas poor Kong Junior, I knew him, Cooper.

9 – King Kong VS Godzilla

Toho’s showdown between the monster mascots of East and West is absolutely ludicrous, featuring the worst Kong-suit of them all, and, unfortunately, a good deal more outdated politics than scenes of monster vs. monster action (which are delightfully cheap, cheesy and childlike). Still, there is something undeniably fun about King Kong VS Godzilla.

8 – King Kong (1976)

This clumsy ’70s update plays up some of the odd sexual tension between its scream queen and giant gorilla. Not a sentence you’d ever expect to read, write, or otherwise encounter.

7 – Godzilla VS Kong

The rebooted monster-verse fully leaning into schlock at last, Godzilla VS Kong is weighed down by unnecessary and annoying subplots, but its fights are satisfying examples of blockbuster mindnumbery.

6 – Kong: Skull Island

Self-seriously silly, Skull Island is derivative but far from bad. For one, it’s much slicker than most entries on this list, and plays to the tune of ‘cooooooool’ rather than grand. Kong here is not yet fully grown, but still the tallest we’d seen him up to this point in the official series, batting down helicopters like a housecat to flies.

5 – The Mighty Peking Man

The Mighty Peking Man trades in flavors of exploitation, including one of the few examples in all of cinema where the heroine’s outfit is as skimpy on screen as on the poster. Despite its pervasive sleaze, The Mighty Peking Man is brought to you by the Shaw Brothers, and if there’s one thing you won’t be during a film of theirs, it’s bored.

4 – King Kong Escapes

After being kidnapped by the despicable Dr. Who, Kong does battle with Mechani-Kong, a giant robot made in his likeness. King Kong Escapes is one long Saturday morning cartoon, its villains have sharply drawn eyebrows, its heroes are clean cut maritime infantry men, there’s an abundance of gadgetry (hover craft, hypno-rays) and a tinge of international intrigue (Madame Piranha). It is terrible and I love it.

3 – King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson’s epic remake is duly reverent to the original, arguably over-reverent, and definitely overlong. The shift to computer graphics is solid, and Jackson wields no restraint whatsoever, lobbing as much entertainment and grandeur at the audience as is possible. We also see improvements to the character of Ann, and an interesting shift in perspective towards a now entirely sympathetic Kong.

2 – Mighty Joe Young (1949)

What some say with cynicism in their hearts, we contend with admiration: Mighty Joe Young is an extended effects showcase. Those effects had come a long way in not so long a time by 1949. The story is unsophisticated but charming, including a ridiculously out-of-left-field climax, but all is grounded in the character (character, not prop) of Mr. Joseph Young of Africa.

1 – King Kong

Imperfect, but towering. You don’t get many movies which can more justifiably be labelled classics than this. Are the effects photorealistic? No. If the 24-foot gorilla on a prehistorically preserved mythic island giving off an otherworldly effect is a dealbreaker for you, maybe don’t bother. But nothing in the film is ‘real’, it’s better than real, it’s the stuff from which movies are made. It’s dreamy black and white, not matter-of-fact colour. It’s melodrama that real life is too worn to indulge in. It’s sweeping adventures that nobody with a brain would get themselves into, and which nobody would be able to get out of, period. It’s beasties that captivate and yet have a right to squirm with the fingerprints of their stop-motion animators because we’re indulging a fantasy. Is Kong realistic? No. Is Kong convincing? Absolutely.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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