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King Kong Franchise (1933–present)

King Kong Franchise
By Unknown author –, Public Domain,

King Kong is an American media franchise featuring King Kong, a character initially created by Merian C. Cooper at RKO Radio Pictures and now owned by Warner Bros. (owners of 1933 film), Universal Pictures (owners of 2005 film) with more recent films being licensed to Legendary Pictures for production with Warner Bros. handling distribution. Films featuring Kong over the years are currently owned by various studios, including TohoParamount PicturesUniversal Pictures, and Warner Bros. The film franchise consists of twelve monster films, including seven Hollywood films, two Japanese kaiju films produced by Toho, and the first three direct-to-video animated films.

The first film, King Kong, was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack and released by Radio Pictures in 1933 and became an influential classic of the genre. Toho was later inspired to make the original Godzilla after the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong and the success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). The success of King Kong would go on to inspire other monster films worldwide.

The popularity of the films has led to the franchise expanding to other media, such as television, music, literature and video games. King Kong has been one of the most recognizable symbols in American pop culture worldwide and remains a well-known facet of American films. The character of King Kong has become one of the world’s most famous movie icons, having inspired a number of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, imitators, parodies, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides, and a stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero.

Following the release of the original film, a sequel was produced that same year with Son of Kong, featuring Little Kong. In the 1960s, Toho produced King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), pitting a larger Kong against Toho’s own Godzilla, and King Kong Escapes (1967), based on The King Kong Show (1966–1969) from Rankin/Bass Productions and pitting Kong against Mechani-Kong and Gorosaurus. In 1976, Dino De Laurentiis produced a modern remake of the original film directed by John Guillermin. A sequel, King Kong Lives, followed a decade later featuring a Lady Kong.

 Another remake of the original, this time set in 1933, was released in 2005 from filmmaker Peter Jackson. The second-most recent film, Kong: Skull Island (2017), is a reboot set in 1973 and is part of Legendary Entertainment‘s MonsterVerse, which began with Legendary’s reboot of Godzilla in 2014 and continuing with Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, in which Kong made multiple guest appearances, and a second crossover sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, released in 2021, once again pitted the characters against one another.

#FilmU.S. release dateDirector(s)Story byScreenwriter(s)Producer(s)Distributor(s)
1King KongMarch 2, 1933Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. SchoedsackEdgar Wallace and Merian C. CooperJames Creelman and Ruth RoseMerian C. Cooper and Ernest B. SchoedsackRadio Pictures
2Son of KongDecember 22, 1933Ernest B. SchoedsackRuth RoseErnest B. Schoedsack
3King Kong vs. GodzillaAugust 11, 1962Ishirō Honda (Japan)
Thomas Montgomery (U.S.)
Shinichi SekizawaTomoyuki Tanaka (Japan)
John Beck (U.S.)
Toho (Japan)
Universal International (U.S.)
4King Kong EscapesJuly 22, 1967Ishirō HondaArthur Rankin Jr.Kaoru MabuchiTomoyuki Tanaka and Arthur Rankin Jr.
5King KongDecember 17, 1976John GuillerminLorenzo Semple Jr.Dino De LaurentiisParamount Pictures
6King Kong LivesDecember 19, 1986Ronald Shusett and Steven PressfieldMartha SchumacherDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group
7The Mighty KongJune 16, 1998Art ScottWilliam J. KeenanDenis deVallance
Lyn Henderson
Warner Bros.
8Kong: King of AtlantisNovember 22, 2005Patrick ArchibaldPatrick Archibald
Sean Catherine Derek
Chuck Patton
Sean Catherine DerekAllen BohbotBohbot Entertainment
9King KongDecember 14, 2005Peter JacksonFran WalshPhilippa Boyens and Peter JacksonJan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Fran Walsh and Peter JacksonUniversal Pictures
10Kong: Return to the JungleNovember 14, 2006Stuart EvansSean Catherine Derek
Rick Ungar
Allen Bohbot
Rick Ungar
BKN International
11Kong: Skull IslandMarch 10, 2017Jordan Vogt-RobertsJohn GatinsDan GilroyMax Borenstein, and Derek ConnollyThomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia and Mary ParentWarner Bros.
12Godzilla vs. KongMarch 24, 2021Adam WingardTerry RossioMichael Dougherty, and Zach ShieldsEric Pearson and Max Borenstein
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