King Kong (1933)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
King Kong (1933) Movie Poster Image
Violent but beloved old-school monster movie.
  • NR
  • 1933
  • 100 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 16 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There is an argument to be made about the plundering of nature for man's consumption as an underlying theme, but most of this is drowned out by the consistent violence, offensive stereotypes, and dodgy special effects. Watch it for what it is, a classic Hollywood monster flick, but don't hope to learn anything from it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroine Anne Darrow is a helpless figure throughout, needing rescuing by both man and ape. Though initially woman-hating, sailor Jack Driscoll turns into a fearless savior for the heroine. The other white male characters come across to modern viewers as pretty exploitive and insensitive. The black extras lean heavily toward barely differentiated native-savage stereotypes.

Violence

Frequent peril for the ever-screaming heroine. Considerable monster-on-monster fighting, not to mention human beings being stomped into the ground, flung to their deaths, trampled and even chewed by dinosaurs and other primordial creatures. A streetcar crash is caused by Kong, and the giant ape is himself jabbed with spears and knives, and peppered with gunfire from planes before he falls to his doom.

Sex

Kong peels the clothes off his female captive. He seems to stop at her underwear, but a minor furor over the scene in bygone days has given rise to urban legends of censored sequences with more explicit nudity.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the original King Kong contains abundant violence, not only monster-on-monster fights (inevitably ending in death for one of the combatants), and also that many innocent bystanders are brutally killed, both in the jungle and in New York City. The natives (who are black) are portrayed as face-painted, bone-wearing tribesmen.

User Reviews

Adult Written bywhovian85 April 9, 2008
Adult Written byClassicCultReviewer June 17, 2009
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008

A Great Old Movie!

King Kong is a true classic, and one of the best adventure movies ever made. I prefer the 2005 version because it's a lot more intense, but the original mu... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 4, 2012

An Almost Perfect Action Movie

When I saw this movie, I could see why it's a classic. There was less violence than the new version, and the special effects looked cheesy compared to 2005... Continue reading

What's the story?

In KING KONG, showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) goes on a South Seas expedition to find the rumored beast "Kong," get it on film, and make a fortune. Along for the ride is actress Anne Darrow (Fay Wray), the pretty girl for his film. On Skull Island, they find natives protected by a huge wall from prehistoric monsters including Kong, a 50-foot-tall gorilla. The tribe kidnaps Anne and offers her as a sacrifice to Kong, who is smitten by the gorgeous blonde and runs off with her. After a long, action-packed chase, sailor (Bruce Cabot) and the ship's crew get Anne back safely to the ship. Denham manages to knock the monster unconscious with gas bombs and brings Kong, in chains, back to New York City. He exhibits "King" Kong in a Broadway-style setting, but Kong breaks loose and, following his jungle instinct, takes his beloved Anne to the highest ground in the metropolis -- the Empire State Building, for a classic climax with WWI-style fighter-biplanes.

Is it any good?

Though it was remade in 2005 by director Peter Jackson with all the modern talent and special effects of the 21st century, this classic monster movie moves at a lightning pace. While the stop-motion animation seems primitive, the 1933 version of King Kong still very watchable. The savage Kong has a primal fury about him that makes him a real threat, even if his lovelorn looks to Anne turn him into a slightly more sympathetic monster.

The human characters are fairly one-dimensional by comparison. Anne screams a lot, famously so, faints, and that's about it for her womanly survival skills. Denham doesn't seem to have learned any lessons in the end. Modern black activists have denounced the old-school portrayal of face-painted, bone-wearing tribesmen, though Skull Island natives fight back against the rampaging gorilla-god, and a black baby is one of the few characters of any color snatched safely from beneath the primate's trampling feet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how later generations of admirers read a lot of messages into King Kong about civilization vs. the primal jungle, about the poignancy of the tropical ape-giant brought captive to modern Manhattan.

  • The old-fashioned point-of-view here doesn't seem to make any obvious objections to the brash white-hunter heroes and their not-very-scientific mission. You can ask kids if they think Kong is a sympathetic character who should have been left alone or a raging monster who had to be destroyed, and compare Kong to the genetically-engineered dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park series.

Movie details

For kids who love monsters, beasts, and aliens

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