The King of Kong
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Reviews & Ratings for
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters More at IMDbPro »The King of Kong (original title)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Great film

9/10
Author: micmonty from United States
19 March 2008

I don't care if this documentary isn't fully true. What I got out of it was a great storyline that I could watch over and over again. It was the Rocky of documentaries. It was inspiring and fun to watch. I would recommend this to anyone. Even if you don't like video games, the characters in the film will make you laugh your butt off, hate some, and like others.

Amazing job of editing. One of the best Documentaries I have seen in years.

While watching the film you noticed how poorly designed the "Twin Galaxies" website was developed. If you go their now its an amazing improvement. Doesn't look like a high-schooler D&D newsletter site.

9 out of 10.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Awesome.

10/10
Author: stodruza from United States
11 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The video game world comes alive as a slew of people traverse it, through the eighties up to today. What's great about it is: that it creates that raw eighties energy from back in the eighties, (that same great energy I realized I miss so much), and, it actually tells an epic, even Shakespearean story of success, struggle, surprise, relative failure, camaraderie, companionship, and heroism.

The only thing that I would have done different is blew it up in the opening scene(s), and not begin the film with Billy Mitchell interviewing at Burger king. Like a phantasmagoric video game montage to open the film with, don't you think? The great thing about it is, the film actually has a compelling story to tell. Wiebe is a fantastic gamesman, a polymath, and a great guy. It's interesting to see him fight through his illusions, and finally come out on top. The story anchor's just as much with Mitchell not showing up for the head to head competition. He is a neat guy too, but he has been champion, and famous, for so long, that not only is he not willing to risk defeat, he can't do it. His ego won't let him. That's fantastic. That's Shakespearean. It would have been tremendous if he accepted Steve as a formidable opponent and been gracious about it, but he can't do it. He does, however, concede in a wonderful way when he says at the end of the film, again, that "You have to keep doing it on game day, otherwise it doesn't mean anything." So, in his own way, the only way he can, he calls Wiebe a champion. Billy Mitchell is awesome. Steve Wiebe is awesome. The referee, Walter Day is awesome. This film is awesome. The music is awesome.

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Loved it - but then discovered that it was completely fabricated

7/10
Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
3 February 2008

This is the kind of documentary that makes me really dislike the entire medium. I tell you, I hate to say that, because when I was watching it, it seemed like an amazing movie. I love the picture of the competitive video gaming subculture, and it tells a compelling story about a lovable, meek fellow battling against a debonair villain and an evil empire. This was the only documentary ever to bring a tear to my eye (well, okay, let's not count ones about the holocaust and other such horrors). The problem is, I found out the day after, the underdog story was completely fabricated. Seth Gordon manipulates facts and events ridiculously. I suspected that there might be some manipulation while watching it, but Gordon is really inventing a fictional story involving real people. Which must suck for some of the people, especially video game champion Billy Mitchell, whom the film makes look like an utter jerk. Some of his meanness might have been real, for all I know, but with all the stuff I now know Gordon did to make him look worse, you can't trust the movie whatsoever. The real story isn't bad, and if Gordon had stuck to the facts and not tried to create a gamer version of Pumping Iron (which at least never made any pretenses about not being phony), it wouldn't have irked me so much. The depiction of the subculture and the detail into which the film explores Donkey Kong still make it worthwhile.

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Classic

8/10
Author: GALOPP
17 April 2017

I can't believe it's been nearly a decade since KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS was released. Seth Gordon's now-classic documentary is a superfunny documentary whether you are wild about vintage video games like Donkey Kong or not. Actually it's funnier if you don't care. Watch it. Now.

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Turns "Man vs. Machine" Into "Man vs. Man"

10/10
Author: zkonedog from United States
10 March 2017

Usually, the appeal of video games is "man vs. machine". In this documentary, however, it is reconstituted as "man vs. man" when an arrogant old champion is challenged by an "everyman" competitor on perhaps the most difficult arcade game of all-time: Donkey Kong.

For a basic plot summary, "The King of Kong" starts out with a bit of history of the Donkey Kong game, as well the rise to dominance of one Billy Mitchell, who owned the high score for more than two decades. However, in the deep recesses of his garage, middle school science teacher Steve Wiebe begins putting together a run of his own at the high score. The resulting conflict is between Mitchell (the egotistical, reclusive jerk) and Wiebe (just a guy who wants to be the best) played out on the arcade joystick.

There are two simple reasons why this is such a great documentary:

First, the nostalgia factor. Even if you have never played a video game in your life, you have probably heard of Donkey Kong, and for those who remember it well this doc will bring back a flood of memories.

Secondly, this is a human-drama story at its heart, complete with heroes, villains, and even moderators (a video game ref!) to separate the two. Over something so trivial as a video game, a truly emotional human-interest struggle results, making you really care about the major players (one way or the other) in the end.

So, while "King of Kong" will obviously appeal the most to hard-core gamers (especially those who grew up in that era), it can also at least be appreciate by those just looking for a compelling, fun, interesting documentary. It has all the drama of a Hollywood production...but in real life.

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An anthropological study that puts Margaret Mead to shame

9/10
Author: kg_tucker from Toronto, canada
3 October 2016

From the bad hair to the political machinations around something that virtually no one cares about, this is definitely a case of truth being stranger than fiction. A fascinating look into a community that most would think no longer existed. It is like going back in a time machine. This is an anthropological study that puts Margaret Mead to shame.

The story is pitted as a classic tale of Good vs. Evil, and it holds up for the most part except Mr. Good is some guy who's ignoring his kids so he can sit in front of an arcade game in his garage for hours on end. And he's the most normal person in the film! (with the exception of his poor wife).

Highly entertaining, highly recommended.

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Mega Drama in the World of Kong

7/10
Author: Rebecca Bradeen from Boston, MA
18 June 2016

I have to admit that I don't understand what makes these people so driven to conquer this game and go down in the history books for being so great at it. It was casual curiosity that made me watch this. But I was surprised by how interested I became. Billy Mitchell is the reigning Donkey Kong champion, and classic video game legend, and Steve Wiebe has been chasing the record. You may not understand the obsession but you find yourself enthralled in the drama and rooting for these guys (well, one of them anyway). As the documentary goes along there develops a good guy and a bad guy. There is the drama of the taint of cheating and the possibility of conspiracies and the emotions of a lifetime of striving and falling just short so many times. There is a cast of quirky supporting characters on one side or the other, some conflicted and some just interested observers but all woven into the surprisingly complex and intense world of competitive gaming.

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tremendous human drama

8/10
Author: SnoopyStyle
13 November 2014

Billy Mitchell set the Donkey Kong record back in the 80s that stood for almost 20 years. Walter Day founded Twin Galaxies which keeps track of the world records of the old original arcade games. Billy is a cocky skilled gamesman who is part of the Twin Galaxies establishment. Steve Wiebe is the newcomer from Redmond, Washington. He is a regular slob struggling to reach the top of anything. It's a game of back and forth as records are challenged and personalities clash.

The movie starts off as a David and Goliath competition. Billy Mitchell is such a fascinating character. I don't think he's a hated cartoon. Instead he's a real human being with real ego and real fears. Steve is more of the classic quiet nerd. But the movie takes unexpected turns and brings weird personalities like the crazy nemesis, the sycophant, and the rest of the nerds. It shows that no matter what the competition or the stakes, the emotional drama remains the same.

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Game Over! King of Kong is King of video games documentaries!

8/10
Author: ironhorse_iv from United States
28 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the Rocky of old school video games tournaments! A great watch! Directed by Seth Gordon, the movie was originally supposed to be a documentary about competitive gaming in general. It wasn't until the film was well into production, that the crew discovered the events surrounding Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell in the Donkey Kong high score tournament. Seeing how tense it was becoming. They decided to re-focus the film entirely on this rivalry. This largely accounts for the amount of coverage the film gives to minor players, such as the elderly Q-Bert champion, and other champions in several parts of the film that has nothing to do with the same plot. Those scenes serves as filler space. Without spoiling too much. Most of the movie follows the struggles of Steve Wiebe in his attempt to become the leader of the world high score of the popular 1980s arcade game Donkey Kong. Good at many things, but never number one in anything, the movie follows this underdog of a person, as he takes on, the reigning champion of the time, Billy Mitchell. The movie portray them in different light, as Steve Wiebe is portray as new comer normal family man, who just happen to come across, this sub-culture looking for a challenge. We're learning through him. Billy Mitchell took a more villainous role due to his arrogant and egotistical nature. I have to say, meeting Billy Mitchell in person. He isn't as annoying as he is in the film and really friendly. Still, he's a bit cocky. I believe Brian Kuh was portray in a negative light as well, and makes him look like Mitchell's lackey, than Mitchell's friend. Every shot of him was taken out of context. The film also makes Walter Day & Twin Galaxies look bad, as the film makes them look a bit biased. I do find the movie, a fascinating reel character study. Most of those depicted in the documentary are not film accurately. It should never be taken as real. For example, Wiebe and Mitchell were, and still are, on friendlier terms than is suggested in the film. Also, no mention of Tim Sczerby's scoring from 2000 that broke Billy Mitchell's record. Instead, the movie plays it off that Wiebe is after Mitchell's score. Also no mention of plastic surgeon Hank Chien who broke the record during the filming of the documentary and after. As of this writing, he's the current champion. I do like how they do show the history of Walter Day and the Twin Galaxies high score on arcade games board, because it shows why these people take the scoring seriously. The reason why the documentary works is because all the people on the film, while are die-hard arcade fans, they not made out to be losers. You see that some of them are very successful in other part of their life. Even if video games isn't your cup of tea, you see that these people are just as driven as the rest of society. They just want to be champion of Donkey Kong. You feel for Steve Wiebe after all the sh*t, he had to deal with before entering the Funspot Arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire for the showdown. You feel for him when things don't go his way after it. You admire his mentality. The movie could had been made to play off of how awkward these people might be, but the film was made with respect and heart. I like how the documentary doesn't need narrating to tell the story, but rather allow the art of editing, to do it. Indeed, the fictionalized account is more entertaining. It does bug me a bit, that it's less a documentary, and more script-based reality show, here. I know a scripted film adaptation is in the works since this film was really popular, but I would rather see a sequel to this documentary, then a fake movie. I really hope Director Seth Gordon doesn't make a fake remake in the future. Instead, I would rather have the sequel tells how the story of the King of Kong changed both men's lives, as well show their continuing rivalry. I have to say, this is a must-watch on DVD as it has lots of special features. The first commentary has the director and producer talking about the movie and telling what inspired them to make the movie, how certain scenes were shot and so on. The second commentary has nobody that work on the production, so it's pretty awful and pointless. For a 79 minutes movie, it was entertaining as hell. If you like this movie, watch 2007's Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade. Overall: The film is full of gripping twisting of reality, but you can't help loving the film for it. A great watch.

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Nice guy underdog takes them all on

7/10
Author: duncplus
19 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie started a little slowly for me, perhaps because I've never really played arcade games. It was only about halfway in that I found myself really caring what happened, essentially because the challenger, Steve Wiebe, emerges as a really nice, sincere guy and I found myself wanting him to win.

To me, most of the other characters seemed clearly to be rooting for the champion, Billy Mitchell, even willing Wiebe to fail. I thought it was telling, for example, the way Brian Kuh seemed basically to try to distract Wiebe as he was approaching the record. Another scene that comes to mind was when the challenger and another guy show up at Mitchell's restaurant. The others are all there. They hadn't invited Wiebe and from their comments, they had plainly decided to exclude him from their clique.

They talked about how mental strength was essential, but no one played mind games on their friend, the champion. They talked about how you had to prove yourself in public rather than just on video at home, but it seemed that requirement only applied to the challenger.

Some reviewers have suggested all of this reveals how competitive the whole thing was, but to me, a group of the characters just came across as somewhat petty and mean spirited.

Mitchell was the worst of all. Whereas at the beginning, he seemed quite likable, the impression of arrogance and entitlement he increasingly gave off as the documentary went on became quite unattractive.

It's impossible to say whether all of this reflects the reality of what went on, or if the narrative emerged primarily out of the way the footage was edited. Whatever the truth, I found myself siding with Wiebe, agreeing with his comments that he wasn't being allowed to compete on a level playing field.

The way the film builds the viewer's support for the underdog challenger is effective. There are moments of suspense and drama. Most notably, I found myself engaged in and caring about a documentary on a topic I have little knowledge of and virtually no interest in. In my eyes, that's an achievement.

So why not more than seven stars? Just an attempt to avoid hyperbole. I see a lot of ten-star reviews on this page. This is a good documentary, not a great one.

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