King Kong

AFI Rank: #43
Year Released: 1933
Director: Merian C. Cooper
Actors: Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot

King Kong is one of the oldest movies on the AFI top 100, and it holds a remarkably high spot of 33 for what is in essence a "monster movie" with fading special effects. The key here is how the movie captured the public's attention back in the 30s, and how it has continued to influence movies even into our modern times.

We all know the story. A crew of movie makers heads out to a remote island, where they encounter a gigantic gorilla. The gorilla becomes transfixed with the blonde beauty. Poor gorilla is captured.

Fay Wray as said blonde screams her fool head off throughout the movie, while the many menfolk valiantly take on dinosaurs, tribesmen, and other horrors to rescue her. The movie definitely fails the Bechdel test. There aren't even two females in the movie with names! Fay is the only one. And mostly what she does is scream :)

Still, despite me feeling sorry for the poor dinosaurs that are slaughtered left and right, the movie is a lot of fun. Fay is actually a strong character, who doesn't flinch when she's accidentally punched in the face and who shows no fear when they enter the strange tribe. So kudos to her for showing a female with strength.

On the other hand, it is fairly scary just how poorly they represent the natives here. They're supposedly near Sumatra in the Pacific, where tribesmen should look like Indonesians (well technically like Sumatrans but most people know what a typical Indonesian looks like). Instead, the tribesmen all look like African-Americans in really hokey outfits. It is as if they simply lifted a "African Jungle" movie and plunked it into a completely different location. The later Peter Jackson version of King Kong does address this issue.

It was also a little creepy to have King Kong stripping Fay's clothes off of her and fondling her. No wonder she was screaming.

Still, definitely a classic, and a must-watch to get a sense of what all the other movies, TV shows, and novels are referencing.

Buy King Kong from

AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100