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All 9 Planet of the Apes movies, ranked

The Planet of the Apes franchise has had many installments throughout the last 60 years and went from being classics in the sci-fi genre to still being huge blockbusters literally today. Their social commentary throughout the years, especially in the 1960’s, about racism, nuclear weapons, and manifest destiny done in such a fictional way influenced the sci-fi genre forever. It’s really frustrating keeping track of all of these films, especially because of their repetitive names. With the new installment, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, I thought I would rank every installment throughout their confusing timeline filled with reboots and sequels.

There are 5 original movies made in this order:

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

There is one lone reboot directed by Tim Burton: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Then there is the modern series:

  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

9. Planet of the Apes (2001) ⭐1/2

“In 2029, an Air Force astronaut crash-lands on a mysterious planet where evolved, talking apes dominate a race of primitive humans.” –IMDb

Being the first Planet of the Apes film in almost 30 years, it is a completely fresh take commanded by Tim Burton. In typical Tim Burton fashion, the costume design is quite interesting, but that is where the pros for this movie end. The sets are on par with the original 1968 film, which is a pro until you realize that this came out decades later and should reimagine this franchise with better effects at the very least. On top of this, Mark Wahlburg is not able to play the part of the astronaut well enough to hold this film above the water. The make-up looks very weird and creepy not in a typical Tim Burton way, but in a childhood fear way and the dialogue is so bad that I would say the 1968 film aged much better. While I do respect the creative effort, this movie tries to take a path with the ending which combines the story of the 1968 film and the original book that was based on, and that just creates a mess of an ending that doesn’t make much sense.

8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) ⭐

“Ten years after a worldwide series of ape revolutions and a brutal nuclear war among humans, Caesar must protect survivors of both species from an insidious human cult and a militant ape faction alike.” –IMDb

For a movie all about this “battle” meant to end the series, the action is completely ruined by a lack of budget and truly takes you out of the film. This movie completely loses itself with terrible dialogue, especially when they try to villainize General Aldo, with the cheesiest acting and worst writing. The whole human story line is also terribly done as they are never fleshed out enough to help make this film a “battle”. There is no one character that gets enough screen time in this movie and it feels like the movie wasted most of its runtime on useless stuff. Truly one of the most forgettable movies that you could stop watching at any time and never think of again. After all this slander, it still manages to be better than the 2001 atrocity.

7. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

“A second astronaut crashes through the time barrier searching for the missing Taylor. The daring rescue mission leads to a subterranean city where mutant humans, who practice mind control, worship a weapon capable of destroying the entire planet.” –IMDb

The first 30 minutes of this film (the entire first third) is literally a beat for beat copy of the first film, even replaying the final 5 or so minutes as the first 5 minutes of this film. After that, the new character, Brent, looks EXACTLY like Charlton Heston and by the time this movie makes something of itself, it is almost over. It dives into a completely new theme about the consequences of humans using nuclear weapons, and barely features any apes after the first half. This was mainly due to the significant drop in budget compared to the first film, despite it being a massive success. What I like about the new trilogy, featured higher on this ranking, is that it mainly focuses on apes, but at least when there are humans, they are done well. In this movie, they are not done very well, and, aside from copying the first film to a tee, it is not able to make itself into anything memorable

6. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)  ⭐1/2

“In a futuristic world that has embraced ape slavery, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost twenty years of hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity.” –IMDb

A complete turn-around from the previous film, this movie goes back to the dystopian elements of the original. This movie features a lot of action and an amazing human character, Armando, as well as what really carries this movie: the character of Caesar, who is very much a flawed hero but you still find yourself rooting for him. This action, however, is quite cheesy as this movie, just like Battle for the Planet of the Apes, has extreme budget issues and tries to do too much with too little. Showing these apes literally in captivity definitely helps to show the commentary in these movies, but it feels like they are spoon-feeding it to you in this one. The sets in this were all filmed on a single campus, but are meant to cover an entire city. This is not felt, though, as the sets are very weak and feel like the movie was filmed in and around a single building.

5. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)1/2

“The world is shocked by the appearance of three talking chimpanzees, who arrived mysteriously in a U.S. spacecraft. They become the toast of society, but one man believes them to be a threat to the human race.” –IMDb

     A surprising massive step up from its predecessor. It solves the low budget problem by not just cutting out apes altogether, but by focusing on a select few, and making a compelling story filled with commentary on human’s greed. Zira and Cornelius are two great characters established in the original 1968 film, and expanding on their story in this movie is definitely welcome. Making the villains just regular humans is a really smart decision and is executed very well through the film’s script. This is definitely the odd one out of this series as it takes away all dystopian elements of the previous two films, and settles for a more (literally) down to Earth take on the story of these apes. Ultimately, this movie just felt like the script and budget were handled very well compared to the previous film and that helps elevate this story which very easily could have been mishandled.

4. Planet of the Apes (1968)

“A second astronaut crashes through the time barrier searching for the missing Taylor. The daring rescue mission leads to a subterranean city where mutant humans, who practice mind control, worship a weapon capable of destroying the entire planet.”- IMDb

Being the very first Planet of the Apes film, it definitely suffers from aging practical effects and some cringeworthy dialogue. This film, however, has the best social commentary out of any of the movies, and one of the best endings ever. It was deservedly nominated for a Best Original Score Oscar and was a huge box office success. Charlton Heston and Roddy Mcdowell are amazing in this, and it is a really good film, however it’s not aging so well holds it from being a top tier film in this franchise.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) ⭐1/2

“A substance designed to help the brain repair itself gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee who leads an ape uprising.” –IMDb

A strong entry to the newest series of films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes creates a very solid backstory to what we saw in the original 1960’s-70’s films. The connection between the two series of films is very loose however, as there are multiple instances in these new movies that seem to cut ties with the originals. There is a very, VERY slight connection that can be made if you disregard the last 3 from the original series, but that is a whole other rabbit hole, so it is better to think of the new ones as just a complete reimagining. Anyways, I am a big fan of James Franco and Andy Serkis delivers outstanding motion capture performances in all three of his new movies.

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

“A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.” -Twentieth Century Fox

This is a pretty big step up in quality from the first in the series, Rise, and also undergoes the biggest change as it really dives into the dystopian nature of these movies. It brings on Matt Reeves as director, who also did The Batman, and features one of my favorite villains of all time. The other huge step it took was taking the franchise from focusing on one ape, to having hundreds, including almost a dozen major ones. The action is also ramped up, and it has breathtaking sets to back that up. It was also deservedly nominated for Best Visual Effects just like the previous film.

1. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

“After being constantly attacked by the humans, despite asking for peace, Caesar and the Apes decide to find a new home safe from the humans. But after the tragic deaths of the most recent attack from the humans, Caeser embarks on a mission to kill the ruthless human Colonel.” –IMDb

Just barely beating out Dawn, this is my favorite of the ten films as it features the most emotional moments of the franchise, as well as the best CG out of any of them. The story arc of Caesar, the main ape, is perfect coming into this film, and this only enhances it by capping it in the best way possible. Like Dawn, this also features an outstanding villain, played by Woody Harrelson, and some of the funniest moments of the franchise with the inclusion of Bad Ape. What mainly carries the trilogy of Rise, Dawn, and War to the top for me is the fact that they are extremely cool, while still heavily focusing on the characters, like Caesar, one of the best characters of all time, and even the side characters, like Maurice.

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