The original King Kong film came out in 1933, while the original Godzilla film was released in 1954. Since that time, both legendary monsters have appeared in dozens of films. Each creature has been the star of their own franchises, and their influence on the film industry as a whole, particularly the kaiju movie genre, is undeniable.
But for all of these films that have wowed audiences across a nearly 90-year period, the question often arises of which ones are the very best. There have been high and low points for each monsters’ career, but it’s easy for any fan to recognize which films have stood tall among the others as the best of what these kings have to offer.
10 King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s remake of the 1933 classic film was an ambitious undertaking. He and his studio’s goal was to deliver their interpretation of the film that began Jackson’s interest in movies and update it for the 21st century.
Though some fans believe that the movie was much longer than it needed to be, Jackon definitely accomplished what he set out to do. The movie was an action-packed adventure, and its special effects were and still are (for the most part) some of the best seen in a major motion picture.
9 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was from the Shōwa era Godzilla films. It was also one of the more memorable and well-made from that period, thanks to the film introducing Mechagodzilla, one of Godzilla’s deadliest and most resilient enemies.
One of the greatest aspects of this film is how it demonstrates Godzilla’s intelligence and resourcefulness. When Godzilla’s might could not directly stand against Mechagodzilla’s defenses and firepower, the king of the monsters figured out a clever way to use his powers to turn Mechagodzilla’s own metallic body against it.
8 Kong: Skull Island (2017)
More than a decade after the release of Peter Jackson’s film, Kong once again returned to the big screen. This time, it was to star in a prequel movie that is part of Legendary Entertainments’ MonsterVerse. This new Kong was an adolescent version of the famous beast and was shown to be still figuring out his place at the top of the food chain on Skull Island.
The film took a different turn from the 2014 Godzilla movie that it is connected to. While the Godzilla movie opted to slowly build to the action and create tension, Kong: Skull Island choose to include as much mayhem as possible. Skull Island is a hostile environment filled with deadly creatures, and the human characters are constantly fighting to escape being maimed or devoured.
7 Godzilla (2014)
As the starting point for Legendary’s series of monster films, Godzilla was tasked with the monumental challenge of re-introducing moviegoers to the king of the monsters. The last Godzilla film to see a major worldwide release was the Godzilla movie from 1998, which earned a mostly negative reception from audiences. This new film needed to make Godzilla feel like the imposing titan he’s meant to be.
And for the most part, the film succeeded. Many fans disliked how little of Godzilla is actually in the film, but the movie was still entertaining and gave fans hope to witness the kaiju return to his full glory in future films.
6 Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
This sequel to the 2014 film had a goal to fix what many people saw as the largest flaw of its predecessor, which was not showing enough of the titular creature. And it certainly accomplished this goal. Seeming to take inspiration from Kong: Skull Island, this movie offered almost non-stop action.
King of the Monsters also delivered what its name implies: more monsters. Rather than fighting a male and female version of a single monster species never seen in the films before, Godzilla has to defend his title as king from two other titans, Rodan and the rival alpha predator, King Ghidorah. The fight was challenging enough that Godzilla ultimately needed to receive help from both the humans and his longtime ally, Mothra.
5 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Not to be confused with the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla is the film from 1962 that first introduced the idea of having the famous monsters battle for dominance. While some humans were traveling to the mysterious Faro Island in hopes of uncovering its secrets, Godzilla awoke from his frozen slumber beneath an iceberg. The humans, who managed to capture King Kong during their expedition, came up with the idea to have Kong fight Godzilla to prevent him from threatening humanity.
It was impressive how well this movie blended the two franchises, especially at the time. It was also only Godzilla’s third appearance in a film, so his identity as a protector of humanity had not been established yet. This made it easy to pit the two monsters against each other since Kong was already known to not be an aggressive or malevolent creature.
4 Shin Godzilla (2016)
Two years after the release of the 2014 Godzilla film, fans were treated to the first Japanese-made Godzilla film in over 10 years. Shin Godzilla was a re-telling of the original Godzilla film’s story, returning Godzilla to his more terrifying, and dangerous origins.
Blending computer-generated images with the puppetry and suits that the Godzilla films are known for, Shin Godzilla delivers an intense and at times terrifying rendition of the monster. Godzilla goes through multiple transformations throughout the film, with each new version of the beast being deadlier and more aggressive than the last.
3 Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
The last entry in the Millennium series of films, Godzilla: Final Wars acted as a send-off that featured a plethora of monsters that had appeared across the franchise’s, at the time, 50-year run. When an aggressive species of humanoid aliens capture and brainwash earth’s kaiju to use them as tools for world conquest, Godzilla makes it his mission to face these monsters one-by-one and remind them and everyone else who the true king of the monsters truly is.
Final Wars was a grand tour of sorts through the history of the Godzilla films. Monsters from every era made an appearance, many of which had not been seen in the films in decades. At the time, this was meant to be the last Godzilla movie, so the goal was to pack in the most content as possible to give the fans what they wanted.
2 King Kong (1933)
The film that in many ways started it all, King Kong is the classic masterpiece that popularized the giant movie monster genre. Using what was at the time mind-boggling special effects, the film went on to be a massive hit and has lasted as a legendary part of cinema history.
As shown by the 2005 King Kong film, the original movie’s influence on the industry has not diminished. It is still an enjoyable film that continues to inspire newer filmmakers – whether they be writers, directors, or special effects artists – to begin their careers and master the craft.
1 Godzilla (1954)
Though King Kong did come before it, Godzilla‘s influence on cinema, its themes, and its overall craftsmanship have made it the premier monster movie for more than 60 years. There’s something primal about the fear of reptiles, and when a movie grows them to massive proportions and gives them the ability to breathe fire like a dragon, it makes for a memorable and gripping viewing experience.
The film’s aesthetic choices also played a huge part in its success. Godzilla was kept mostly in the dark during the film. This added to his already menacing demeanor, and it set the mood that this is a borderline horror story that tells a cautionary tale about the dangers of messing with nature.