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In New York Harbor, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker famous for shooting animal pictures in remote and exotic locations, charters a ship for his new project but is unable to secure an actress. He comes across Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and convinces her to join him on the adventure of a lifetime. Despite stating that women have no place onboard ships, the first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) becomes attracted to Ann.
While sailing, Denham finally tells Driscoll and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) that they’re searching for an uncharted island shown on a map in his possession. Denham then describes something monstrous connected to the island, a legendary entity known to the islanders only as Kong. Arriving at the island’s shore, they find a village cut off from the bulk of the island by an enormous stone wall. A landing party, including the filming crew and Ann, goes ashore and encounters the natives, who propose to trade six native women for Ann. Denham declines and the landing party cautiously return to the ship.
However, later that night, a contingent of natives capture Ann and take her through the wall, where, left tied to columns, she is presented to Kong, a giant gorilla.