Godzilla and King Kong are two of our oldest movie icons. Kong made his debut in 1933, starring opposite Fay Wray. Godzilla, meanwhile, debuted in 1954. Both have gone strong in multiple different films and series franchises ever since. The latest entry in the modern monster franchise, Godzilla vs. Kong, debuted March 31 in theaters and on HBO Max, and it was a huge hit. It brought in $48.5 million its first five days in release, showing fans are still rooting for the characters, and moviegoers are ready for the spectacle to return to our lives.
I saw the film on IMAX, and I wasn’t disappointed. But it also got me thinking about how it ranks in the current Monsterverse. This week for Binge Watch, I’m looking at these four interconnected films, plus a bonus Godzilla and Kong feature from the modern era. If you’re looking to do your cinematic homework, let this week’s journey be your guide! The current Monsterverse rankings appear in descending order!
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
About: Maybe it’s a little about seeing a big production movie in a theater again, but this film was a great time. The human characters—played by Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry, among others—are fine, but it’s really about these two titans finally clashing. This film moved at a decent pace and had good action sequences, which is really all you want here. It delivered on its promise and was a blast to see back in theaters. I hope this modern Monsterverse has a few more chapters up its sleeve.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
About: It’s hard to believe this film was only a couple years ago since so much has happened in the world, but this follow up to the re-boot of Godzilla was a lot of fun. Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler lead the cast, and do a nice job. Some didn’t appreciate the plot and different pace here, but this was the first of the films before the most recent entry that grabbed my attention and pulled me in. I loved the look of this film as well.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
About: This one took the action back to the Vietnam era and gave us a loaded cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly, among others. It has a fun story and plenty of good action. I liked the shots and the way the whole thing was put together as we’re introduced to King Kong and his world. I recently re-watched the film and I think I liked it even better on re-watch.
About: A year before Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor Johnson played super-powered twins in the Avengers, they played a married couple trying to survive a massive attack in San Francisco. This re-boot of Godzilla re-launched the Monsterverse and is anchored by a decent performance from Bryan Cranston in the first act. It’s uneven at times but a decent take on the world, one that rectified a lot of the wrongs from the last time Godzilla came to America on the big screen. It’s a decent film but remains the weakest of the new wave.
Titans from Eras Past
King Kong (2005)
About: Peter Jackson, fresh off his Lord of the Rings trilogy, delivered a period piece that runs more than three hours. It was released in December of that year and meant to be an awards contender, boasting a cast that included Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody, among others. It did manage to get four Academy Award nominations and win three Oscars (for sound and visual effects). Ironically, Chandler is in this too, meaning that the latest film isn’t his first big screen blush with King Kong. This one is about a movie director (Black) and star (Watts) attempting to make a classic film on mysterious Skull Island when they stumble upon something no one expected. It’s a decent movie, just overly long. It feels more like an homage to the roots of King Kong than the direction our recent films have gone.
About: Roland Emmerich is no stranger to a good disaster movie, and in between Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow he decided to tackle making a modern Godzilla film. Matthew Broderick takes the lead as Godzilla attacks New York City, looking an awful lot like a T-Rex from Jurassic Park. To say this film has a campy tone is an understatement. It’s also not very good as it doesn’t seem to know what it really wants to accomplish while wearing out its welcome at 139 minutes. It’s probably not often thought of or remembered, but if you want a different take on Godzilla (really different), it exists.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.