I love gorillas. Just love them. So noble, so beautiful, so willing to be silly when the want takes them. Yet they can also be incredibly dangerous, terrifying creatures when they want to be. Their black and luxurious hair is envy-inducing. One of my life goals is to meet and hang out with a gorilla. A man can dream.
Until such time, I have to make do with the occasional zoo visit, Google image searches and anything else I can watch or play that will satiate my gorilla quota for the day. Luckily, there are a fair number of gorillas featured in films, TVshows and video games that I can enjoy the presence of when I’m feeling the gorilla-withdrawal-shakes coming on. Join me as I take you through some of my favourite gorillas in pop culture!
King Kong – the King Kong movies and various other media
You can’t have a list about gorillas in pop culture without including King Kong, so where better to start? King Kong isn’t just any old gorilla of course, King Kong is a gigantic ape who is frequently referred to in-universe as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Depending on what you’re watching, King Kong can either appear to be nothing more than a rampaging monster bent only on destruction, or something of a hero who fights monsters that might otherwise do considerable harm to the planet if they were to get loose. From a design standpoint, I must admit I lean towards Peter Jackson’s 2005 incarnation of King Kong as my favourite. It’s arguably the most grounded in reality and least ‘monstrous’, literally just resembling a giant Silverback Gorilla, but it’s that grounded design I find myself most drawn to across all the incarnations. Definitely could have been bigger though, the sheer size of the King in Kong: Skull Island for example is breath-taking.
Donkey Kong – The Donkey Kong series and countless other Nintendo properties
From the King of Kong to the ass of Kong…. Wordplay aside, Donkey Kong is arguably the second most famous gorilla in the world, and may have even appeared in far more properties than even the King himself has! DK, much like King Kong, has played various different roles across his lifetime. He originally started as the bad guy who stole a princess and threw barrels at Jumpman (later Mario) whilst he was on his way to save her. Nowadays, DK is more commonly seen as a hero himself, starring in his own series of games and several of his own spin-off games (Donkey Konga, anyone?). Of course, he’s something of a Nintendo fan-favourite, and frequently makes the jump to their crossover titles, such as the Smash Bros and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series. Above all else, you can’t deny DK’s incredible dress sense! That iconic red tie may not cover everything it needs to, but by golly, it’s a stunner to look at. I might have to try that look out myself someday…
Kala – Disney’s Tarzan
There’s no getting around it, when it comes to gorillas in pop culture, it’s a bit of a boy’s club. Hopefully there’s a future for us where female gorillas start to take the forefront more frequently. However, that isn’t to say there are no incredible female gorillas out there. In the real world, there was of course Koko, the famous gorilla who learned sign language and had her own pet cat. In entertainment media though, my pick for the best female gorilla goes to Kala, Tarzan’s adoptive Mother. Losing her own child to the leopard Sabor was a horrible ordeal for her, but she later stood up against that same leopard to rescue a human child whose parents had also been killed by it. In the face of the disapproval from the other gorillas in her herd (less commonly referred to as a whoop of gorillas), and her own partner Kerchak, she raised this human who of course went on to kill Sabor and be handed leadership of the herd by Kerchak himself upon his death. She did a damn good job I’d say, and she’s just a lovely lady all around – deeply caring but also very understanding. Plus, her voice is remarkably similar to Glenn Close’s, which is real cool.
An Ape Named Ape – Disney’s George Of The Jungle
I’m just gonna come out and say it – Disney’s George Of the Jungle is one of the most underrated Disney movies. So often overlooked for who knows what reason, I don’t think there’s anyone I know who’s watched the movie recently and not had a great time with it. Brendan Frasier at his best, a hilarious script and a whole lot of fun. And that’s all without mentioning one of my favourite parts of the movie, Ape the gorilla! Ape is George’s best friend, who is both incredibly intelligent and able to speak perfect English somehow (don’t question it, just love it because it’s excellent). Ape loves to cook and serve food, he loves to read and it also turns out he has a love of Frank Sinatra! Incidentally, Ape strangely sounds an awful lot like John Cleese.
Winston – Overwatch
Ok, look, I’ve got a lot of love for Overwatch. It’s one of my favourite games of the last decade, and even now I still enjoy playing it. A massive part of the draw to the game, for me at least, is the characters and their lore – and obviously, Winston is at the forefront of my mind when I say that. Winston is another hyper-intelligent gorilla, who was raised alongside a colony of other gorillas on the Moon. Winston is also capable of speech, and above all else sees himself as a scientist. In game, Winston fits into the tank role, wielding a tesla cannon and his barrier projector. My favourite thing about Winston is the jump pack he wears, which allows him to perform massive leaps to high ground or into battle. And whilst Winston has a generally soft and happy demeanour, you’d best not make him angry or you may end up on the wrong side of his Primal Rage. He’s a cool guy, and definitely deserves his spot on this list.
There we have it, 5 of the best gorillas in pop culture. Believe me, I know there are plenty I’ve not mentioned here. There are a few honourable mentions I’d like to have included, such as DC Comics’ Gorilla Grodd – whilst I think he’s a really cool idea, I have to admit I’m not massively familiar with the character personally so it didn’t feel right to include him. Another shout out to Koko the gorilla too, I’d really like to have met her in real life – fun fact I learned in researching this, Koko apparently had a preoccupation with human nipples, and would often ask human visitors if she could see their nipples. And of course, all praise must go to Harambe – taken from us too soon, but we all know he died so that we all may live.
Hey, if you like gorillas, maybe you also like Dinosaurs? If so, why not check out Tom’s list on the Top 5 Video Games Featuring Dinosaurs
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