King Kong (1933)



Violent but beloved old-school monster movie.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: January 4, 2006
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1933
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know about 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.

What's the story?

In this classic monster movie, 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, the 1933 King Kong moves at a lightning pace. While the stop-motion animation seems primitive, it's 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how later generations of admirers read a lot of messages into this movie 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

Theatrical release date:April 7, 1933
DVD release date:November 22, 2000
Cast:Bruce Cabot, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong
Director:Merian C. Cooper
Studio:Turner Entertainment
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of King Kong (1933) was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bywhovian85 April 9, 2008
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 must have been completely amazing back in 1933. Even by today's standards it's fairly fun and exciting. And as far as content goes, this is a great family movie. There's some violence. Kong breaks a T-Rex's jaw and then smashes in its skull (just like in the 2005 version), Kong snacks on people like popcorn and smashes them into the ground, and Kong destroys things and eats people in New York. This all would be very disturbing if Kong and the dinosaurs looked real, but it's not, you can tell they're puppets easily. Good for kids 7+
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. But it must have been scary in 1933. I don't like how the movie stereotypes natives. I also don't like how nearly every movie from the 30's has romance. That's why I only give it 4 stars.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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