Movies

A Guide to Godzilla vs. Kong for People Who Only Want to Know Who Wins

A still from Godzilla vs. Kong, showing Godzilla and King Kong squaring off atop an aircraft carrier on the open sea. Kong is throwing a roundhouse punch at Godzilla's face.
Pow! Warner Bros. Pictures / Legendary Pictures

This article contains spoilers for all manner of Godzilla and King Kong movies.

Godzilla vs. Kong, the latest entry in Warner Bros.’ ongoing series of films about giant monsters, is hitting theaters and HBO Max on March 31. This installment was directed by Adam Wingard from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, with Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, and Zach Shields sharing a “story by” credit. Rebecca Hall—

Godzilla.

What?

Godzilla! You were working your way down that endless list of names to ask me who wins, right? Godzilla wins.

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I sort of wanted to build up to that.

Fine. “Build up to that.”

Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, and Brian Tyree Henry star in the latest installment, which pits King Kong, the gigantic ape from RKO Radio Pictures’ 1933 special effects spectacular King Kong against Godzilla, the gigantic lizard from Toho Studios’ 1954 special effects spectacular, Godzilla.

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Wow, great job with all that. Are you going to try to make people watch some old-timey trailers now?

You bet. Here’s the trailer for the 1938 re-release of King Kong, plus the Japanese trailer for the original Godzilla.

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These movies don’t seem to have that much in common, except for the shots of people running in terror. Why did you specify the Japanese trailer for Godzilla?

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Did you notice how, even in the trailer, it was pretty obvious that Godzilla was about nuclear weapons? And not very sympathetic to nations who might, hypothetically, have used weapons like that against civilian targets? That didn’t really fly in the U.S., so they recut it to remove the most pointed references to atomic attacks, added some new scenes with Raymond Burr, and sold it a little differently:

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Well, that’s just terrible.

Agreed! The original version didn’t get distribution in the North America until 2004. But we were talking about Godzilla vs. Kong.

Yeah, it’s amazing it took all these years before someone thought to connect these two monster franchises.

It didn’t! In the 1960s, Willis H. O’Brien, the stop-motion wizard who created the original King Kong, had an idea for a movie where King Kong fought a gigantic version of Frankenstein’s Monster. O’Brien wrote an outline for this terrible idea, and the producer he gave it to took it to Toho without telling him. King Kong vs. Godzilla, the third film in the Godzilla franchise, came out in 1962.

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So who won that time?

Nobody, really. Godzilla and King Kong fall into the ocean and go under still fighting. Kong surfaces and swims toward safety. Although Godzilla doesn’t come back up, one character remarks that he might have survived.

Can you embed nine minutes and 54 seconds from that fight, ideally in poorly-dubbed English?

Sure, but be warned: Special effects have come a long way since 1962.

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Wow.

Wow.

Is that supposed to be the same King Kong who climbed the Empire State Building?

No, this one is bigger, and also still alive.

What about the King Kong in the 1976 remake with Jessica Lange? Is that the same Kong from any of the other movies?

No, that Kong is also dead. But! The King Kong from the 2017 film Kong: Skull Island is the same one who appears in Kong vs. Godzilla.

The Vietnam one.

The Vietnam one.

But in the new movie, they meet and then fight, right? And Godzilla wins?

Right.

Why are they fighting to begin with?

An “ancient rivalry,” according to the movie.

Is it even close?

Not really. Godzilla wins twice, the second time even after King Kong gets a giant, magical axe.

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King Kong gets a giant, magical axe?!

Yeah. It’s made of the giant plates of another Godzilla, and it can absorb the power of Godzilla’s fire breath, but, like I said, Godzilla wins. Then they team up!

Wait, what?

They gain a certain amount of respect for each other over the course of their battle, and after Godzilla kicks Kong’s ass, they have a moment and Godzilla decides to spare Kong’s life.

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That’s ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as Godzilla and King Kong fighting on the same side! What powerful super enemy convinces these two to overlook their differences and pursue common interests?

MechaGodzilla, naturally!

MechaGodzilla.

Right, from the 1974 film Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla! In that one, MechaGodzilla is a fake Godzilla built out of Space Titanium by aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole. In later movies, he’s built by humans. In every movie, he’s completely ridiculous. See for yourself!

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So MechaGodzilla is in the new movie too.

Yes, although he’s a little less goofy than the 1974 MechaGodzilla. Only a little, though.

So who would win in a fight between MechaGodzilla, Regular Godzilla, and King Kong?

That depends: Have Godzilla and King Kong developed a grudging respect for each other?

Let’s assume that they have. Who wins?

The audience, my friend. The audience.

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