A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that King Kong is a 1976 remake of the classic 1930s movie. This version is part of the "disaster movie" genre that was popular for a time in the 1970s, with an all-star cast (Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Charles Grodin), and bombastic violence and cheesy special effects. Brief nudity -- breasts. Scantily-clad natives thrust suggestively during a ritual. Kong's in love with his female hostage and, as hard as it is to believe, some of their scenes together are erotically charged. Some talk of sex, and sexual references. Mention that Kong intends to rape a woman. Helicopters crash into the World Trade Center. Kong throws a subway train. Men fall to their death while trying to make a perilous crossing between two high cliffs. Some drinking (whiskey, beer), and cigarette and pipe smoking. Some profanity throughout ("a--hole," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "bitching," "goddamn," "candy-asses," "bastards"). Kong tears the jaw off a fake-looking giant snake. The shootout finale goes overboard on squirting blood.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In KING KONG, an expedition to a mysterious fog-shrouded island turns up not fuel oil as Petrox emissary Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) had hoped, but a giant ape, which only stowaway Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) had anticipated. The ape, who the natives call Kong, falls for the crew's only female, Dwan (Jessica Lange), and stomps off with her. Not wanting to leave the island empty-handed, Wilson comes up with a scheme to capture Kong and use him as a Petrox promotional gimmick. They capture him and ship Kong to New York, where he breaks loose, nabs Dwan again, and shimmies to the top of the World Trade Center for the inevitable final showdown.
Is it any good?
Stars Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange do what they can to keep this film afloat, but a hokey script and uneven effects nearly sink the boat they rode in on. The overblown love angle between Dwan and the giant monkey is laughable, with scenes of Kong leering at his little blonde handful, washing her in a waterfall, and blow-drying her with his hot simian breath. The scene in which Kong's giant unwieldy finger tries to peel her like a banana made the cover of TIME Magazine and helped make the movie a huge success. That Jessica Lange overcame this debut to become a serious actress is a testament to her strength.
By today's standards, the pacing and the effects in Kong Kong are less than dramatic, certainly no match for Disney's Mighty Joe Young (another remake of a classic giant ape movie). Still, there's plenty here for young viewers to enjoy. They won't mind the tacky dialogue, or seeing Charles Grodin inexplicably cast as the unfunny villain who exploits Kong for money. Kids might even come away with an appreciation for the movie's vague environmental message, that rare animals should be treated sensitively, not paraded around in cages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about monster movies like King Kong. What's the fascination with seeing oversized, threatening monsters on screen? How is this one different from and the same as other monster movies you've seen?
Is Kong scary -- or do you feel bad for him? Why or why not?
Compare the "native islander" rituals surrounding Kong with the commercialism and fanfare that surrounds Kong when he arrives in the United States. What comments, if any, do you think the filmmakers may have been trying to make here?
- In theaters: December 17, 1976
- On DVD or streaming: July 27, 1999
- Cast: Charles Grodin, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange
- Director: John Guillermin
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: May 10, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love monsters
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch