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There have been three King Kong movies over the years. The first is, of course, the classic 1933 original, which memorably stars Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray. The second was made in 1976 and isn’t regarded in anywhere near as favourable a light as the original, but Peter Jackson’s 2005 attempt is much more well-liked by the movie-going public. All three are essentially similar in their DNA; they’re all about a giant ape who is brought to New York from his home, naturally leading to chaos. All three movies have inspired many filmmakers over the years, so here are 15 movies similar to King Kong.
1. Kong: Skull Island (dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017)
Another King Kong reboot, Kong: Skull Island nevertheless does plenty to differentiate itself from its predecessors. This time around, the action takes place during the dying days of Vietnam, with a group of soldiers being recruited to travel to Skull Island and search it for signs of primeval life. What follows is a kind of mixture of Apocalypse Now-style war movie and classic monster tale, with Kong cast as a peaceful creature dragged into a conflict between humans.
2. Godzilla vs. Kong (dir. Adam Wingard, 2021)
After Kong: Skull Island made a play for profundity, Godzilla vs. Kong did away with any suggestion that this approach might continue. It’s a big, dumb monster movie in all the best ways; it eschews character drama and narrative in favour of the kind of colossal, breathtaking fight scenes you’d expect from a movie called “Godzilla vs. Kong”. As you might expect, there’s more to the conflict than just these two monsters duking it out, but you’ll get to see plenty of titanic punches thrown between the two.
3. Planet of the Apes (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)
Alright, so Planet of the Apes is only tangentially related to King Kong; both of them are, after all, about apes to some degree. However, there are more similarities than there might initially appear to be. They’re also both about what lies beneath the surface, and about not taking nature for granted. Planet of the Apes is a more pulpy tale than King Kong, but it’s also got its serious side. If you want to see how this franchise improbably continued into the 2010s, then check out the excellent modern Apes trilogy, too.
4. Rampage (dir. Brad Peyton, 2018)
King Kong isn’t just a giant ape movie, of course, but it’s arguable that Rampage absolutely is. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an effortless charisma machine, alongside a CGI albino gorilla, with whom he must work in order to stop mutants from levelling his city. It’s based on a video game, and you can tell; the action sequences are clearly where the money is in this movie, with character drama and narrative pushed to the side. Still, it’s huge fun while it lasts.
5. Jurassic World (dir. Colin Trevorrow, 2015)
The whole Jurassic franchise is something of a sister series to Kong in some respects. Both of them concern humans meddling in something they were never meant to be involved in; the decision to exhibit fearsome creatures in both movies backfires horribly, leading to the events of the story. Jurassic World is a continuation of the hugely successful Jurassic franchise, and it does a good job at reviving that series’ pulpy adventure schtick, although Chris Pratt’s charisma can’t quite save some of the dialogue.
6. The Lord of the Rings (dir. Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)
If you love 2005’s King Kong, then you should definitely revisit Peter Jackson’s excellent The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It doesn’t have the same focus on colossal creatures, but it does feature its fair share of breathtaking landscapes, and it has that intangible Peter Jackson “feel” that makes everything on screen feel epic and expansive. Frodo and the Fellowship’s journey needs no introduction; it’s touching, grand, and funny, with plenty of incredible combat sequences.
7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (dir. Jake Kasdan, 2017)
Continuing the Jumanji franchise seemed like an impossible task, but it proved to be one for which Jake Kasdan was more than well-equipped. 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a similar setting to the first half of King Kong, but this time, it’s all about the character interactions. Whip-smart dialogue and some truly hilarious moments complement the excellent casting of Jack Black and The Rock, as well as Karen Gillan, who proves herself a more than capable comic actress.
8. Godzilla (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2014)
Gareth Edwards’ 2010 feature Monsters is a highly underrated movie, although one rather gets the impression that the producers of 2014’s Godzilla didn’t realise that Monsters isn’t really about monsters when they appointed Edwards to direct their movie. Godzilla very much is about monsters, but the humans are compelling and likeable, too (how could they not be with Bryan Cranston involved?). The monster at the centre of proceedings feels appropriately huge, so this is one to check out if you want Kong’s sense of awe.
9. War of the Worlds (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2005)
We’re moving into more overt disaster territory with War of the Worlds, but it’s got Kong’s sense of massive scale and awe, so we’re including it on this list. Spielberg is a reliably great filmmaker, and War of the Worlds is not the misstep some feared it would be. Tom Cruise brings his strange charisma to a story that feels surprisingly modern and current; aliens simultaneously possessed of great intelligence and devoid of empathy invade Earth, and Cruise must survive in the wake of their arrival.
10. Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
Arrival might seem like a sideways move from Kong, but think about it: both are about creatures hitherto unknown by humanity, and we must communicate with them in order to truly understand that they aren’t just monstrous in nature. Arrival is a masterful science fiction movie; it’s thoughtful, emotionally resonant, and gripping from start to finish. We don’t want to spoil this movie’s surprises, so if you haven’t seen it, make sure to add it to your list right now.
11. Pacific Rim (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2013)
During interviews for Pacific Rim, del Toro described it as his boyhood dream; he’d always wanted to see a movie like this, and so he made that movie as an adult. Like Kong, Pacific Rim is all about giant monsters, although the kaiju in this movie are explicitly enemies to humanity. This is just as much a human film as it is about its monsters, though; humans cannot pilot the massive Jaeger robots without being emotionally connected to one another, so the story is as much about building connections as it is about fighting monsters.
12. Troll Hunter (dir. André Øvredal, 2010)
Presented as a mockumentary, Troll Hunter follows a poacher who turns out to be, well, a troll hunter. The movie is shot in a very clever way, never quite showing trolls in their entirety; somehow, it manages to make them feel like truly hulking and terrifying beasts because of this decision rather than in spite of it. Just like the first half of King Kong, Troll Hunter is all about finding a massive creature in the woods, and it builds a satisfying feeling of intrigue and suspense even during its opening moments.
13. The Legend of Tarzan (dir. David Yates, 2016)
Let’s get one thing out of the way: The Legend of Tarzan is not a great movie. It’s slow in places, and its plot has been played out a thousand times and better elsewhere. Despite this, Yates directs competently, and great performances from Christoph Waltz and Margot Robbie make this an eminently watchable movie. It shares Kong’s implicit environmental message, too; the more humans interfere with the natural order of things, the more the natural order of things will fight back.
14. Mighty Joe Young (dir. Ron Underwood, 1998)
Another movie about a giant gorilla brought into the midst of humans, Mighty Joe Young’s effects were transcendent for the time, helping to bring the titular gorilla to life. The story may be somewhat predictable – from its opening moments, you can pretty much tell where it’s going to go – but that won’t stop your eyes from misting up when Joe’s trials and tribulations are being presented to you. Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron give spirited performances here too.
15. The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau, 2016)
This remake of the 1967 animated movie (don’t let anybody tell you it’s another adaptation of the book) has a star-studded cast; Christopher Walken, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Giancarlo Esposito are just some of the stars you’ll hear voicing iconic animals like Baloo and King Louie. The Jungle Book is a decidedly more cuddly and anthropomorphic jungle story than Kong, but it has its darkness too (“man’s red flower”, anyone?), and this live-action remake has some truly delightful special effects to differentiate it from the animated original.