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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Products & Purchases
The King Kong franchise is vast and long-running.
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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.