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How Many ‘Planet of the Apes’ Movies Are There?

It all started back in 1968. Renowned actor Charlton Heston, along with Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall, starred in a new science fiction movie with one heck of a premise: An astronaut lands on what appears to be a desolate planet, but as it turns out, it’s actually inhabited by intelligent apes. The name of the movie? Planet of the Apes. It was a huge hit for its time, and spawned a number of sequels that continue to the present day. So how many movies are there?

The franchise is based on a 1963 French novel called La Planète des singes from 1963 by Pierre Boulle. The English translation is also “Monkey Planet,” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. Also, primate classification-wise, monkeys and apes are not the same. Anyway, after the success of the movies, several sequels were made, which weren’t quite as critically successful but did well commercially. There was also a TV series and a cartoon. All together, the movies have pulled in about $2 billion on a budget of around $567.5 million combined.

Boulle’s science fiction novel was inspired by classic adventure tales by Jules Verne and Jonathan Swift. In 1964, Twilight Zone creator Rod serling had penned a screenplay, but studios were initially apprehensive to fund a movie about monkeys and astronauts. Tunes changed, however, when the 1966 science fiction movie Fantastic Voyage ended up being a huge hit.

The premise is sort of an inverted world where gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are the at the apex of the food chain and human beings are enslaved, lobotomized, and beaten. It was a cultural satire that played to its time. By 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and it became clear that America didn’t really have a good handle on the it. Racial tensions at home were simmering, and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had recently been assassinated. The movie explored the idea of nuclear holocaust as well.

It was such a salient premise that these movies are still being made today, with the latest one primed for a May 2024 release. In honor of that, here’s a list of all the movies released so far.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The original movie that started it all. Charlton Heston plays George Taylor, an astronaut who awakens from a cryo-sleep to find himself on a planet inhabited by intelligent non-human primates. This movie had the big twist ending where you find out Taylor is just on Earth. There’s also the classic line: “Get your stinkin’ paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Heston was only back for a brief time in this sequel, which followed an astronaut named Brent (James Franciscus) tasked with bringing Taylor home. The plot involves telepathic humans who worship a nuclear bomb. It was fine. A little crazy.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

This is a bit of a switcheroo as Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) end up on 1973 Earth, and are faced with the full brunt of society’s ill will toward anything out of the ordinary. It’s a bit more character based but it gets really, really dark, and introduces a number of ethical quandaries and existential realities.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

This one sees the return of Roddy McDowall although this time he’s playing the son of Cornelius and Zira, named Caesar. That’s the same Caesar from the reboot prequels kind of (it’s complicated). In this film, humans are fascists and slavers and Caesar leads a rebellion. It’s open to interpretation whether this is an alternate timeline or not.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

The end of an era. This one picks up after humans have been conquered, and deals with the consequences of that. The theme revolves around the idea that power is a heavy burden to bear, and things never turn out the way they’re supposed to. While not necessarily warmly received, it did finish off the narrative of the series.

Planet of the Apes (Remake, 2001)

This 2001 remake is basically a retelling of the original film with new actors, with Mark Wahlberg in the starring role as astronaut Leo Davidson. It also stars Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, and Paul Giamatti. There’s also a new kind of twist at the end, which is a little confusing, but understandable considering the source material.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

This wasn’t a remake as much as a prequel that told a different story from the original movies. The movie moved past the costumes and practical effects of the original into a more CGI-based spectacle, and that proved to be a hit with critics and audiences alike. It stars James Franco, John Lithgow, and Brian Cox, among others.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

This movie takes place a few years after the last one, with the Simian Flu having basically decimated Earth’s population and the apes all living in a colony in San Francisco. The two sides try to find common ground, but due to trickery on both sides, it erupts into all out war.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

This movie picks up when things have gone too far to fix diplomatically. Andy Serkis makes his third appearance as Caesar in a fiery turn of vengeance for his lost comrades. This last prequel was supposed to set the table for the 1971 movie, but it was more successful than expected, so there had to be a sequel. Them’s the rules.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

This upcoming movie is set generations after the last one, so Ceasar unfortunately does not carry this one. From what we know, the Simian virus that wiped out most humans is the same one that made apes super intelligent. We don’t know everything about the plot, but it does look like astronomy is going to play a big role. We’ll see when it comes out on May 10. If it’s successful, expect at least two more movies.

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