Planet of the Apes Films Ranked: From Worst to Best

The Planet of the Apes franchise has been a staple in Hollywood for decades, captivating audiences with its unique blend of science fiction, action, and social commentary. With the recent release of “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” the series continues to evolve, offering fresh perspectives on the timeless conflict between humans and apes. But before we delve into the latest installment, let’s take a nostalgic journey through all the films that have come before, ranked from worst to best.

First in the directorial realm of “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” the esteemed Andy Serkis held a pivotal role in the new movie, not just as an actor but as a guiding force, earning him the title of the “godfather of apes.” Serkis’s influence extends beyond his on-screen performances, as he serves as a consultant and mentor to the cast, imparting invaluable wisdom on the intricacies of motion capture and the embodiment of ape characters.

Director Wes Ball emphasizes the significance of Serkis’s involvement, recognizing the legacy established by previous films helmed by Matt Reeves and Rupert Wyatt. Reflecting on Serkis’s contributions, Ball underscores the actor’s generosity and expertise, essential for navigating the complexities of bringing ape characters to life on screen.

Moreover, the collaborative spirit of the filmmaking process is evident, with writers and producers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who played integral roles in the previous trilogy, ensuring continuity in the creative DNA of the project. Serkis’s presence, coupled with the collective experience of the creative team, provides a solid foundation for the evolution of the franchise.

Serkis’s influence extends beyond mere consultation, as he spearheads a six-week “ape school” process, guiding the cast through an immersive journey of physical and emotional exploration. Under the guidance of movement coach Alain Gauthier, actors delve into the nuances of ape movement and anatomy, cultivating a deeper understanding of their characters.

Owen Teague, one of the stars of the film, reflects on the transformative nature of the “ape school” experience, describing it as a “beautiful” process. Beginning with fundamental movement exercises, the curriculum gradually evolves to encompass character development and improvisation, allowing actors to fully immerse themselves in the world of apes.

As Serkis’s tutelage empowers the cast to embody their roles with authenticity and depth, the boundaries between actor and character blur, paving the way for immersive performances that resonate with audiences. Through dedication and collaboration, Serkis and his fellow mentors ensure that each actor rises to the challenge, embracing the physicality and essence of their ape counterparts.

9. Planet of the Apes (2001)

In 2001, Tim Burton attempted to breathe new life into the franchise with his remake of the original “Planet of the Apes.” Unfortunately, despite impressive prosthetic work by Rick Baker, the film fell short of expectations. Mark Wahlberg’s uninspired performance and a convoluted plot left audiences feeling underwhelmed. Despite its flaws, the film remains a curious footnote in the series’ history, boasting one of the most memorable movie twists, albeit for the wrong reasons.

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

While not as egregious as its 2001 counterpart, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” is often regarded as the weakest of the original films. Directed by J. Lee Thompson, the movie suffers from budget constraints, resulting in a lackluster execution of its ambitious ideas. However, Roddy McDowall’s charismatic performance and the film’s underlying heart prevent it from descending into complete mediocrity.

7. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

“Escape from the Planet of the Apes” takes a bold departure from its predecessors, introducing a time-traveling narrative that transports advanced apes Cornelius and Zira to 20th-century Los Angeles. Despite its tonal shifts and occasional missteps, the film offers a compelling exploration of themes such as prejudice and identity. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter shine as the central ape couple, injecting the story with warmth and depth.

6. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Following the success of the original film, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” faced the daunting task of living up to its predecessor’s legacy. While the addition of underground-dwelling mutants may seem excessive, the film manages to deliver a gripping narrative with moments of genuine tension. James Franciscus admirably steps into Charlton Heston’s shoes, anchoring the film with his portrayal of astronaut Brent.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” serves as a refreshing reboot to the franchise, offering a modern take on the classic story. Andy Serkis delivers a powerhouse performance as Caesar, imbuing the character with complexity and emotion through motion-capture technology. The film’s visual effects set a new standard for the series, seamlessly blending CGI with live-action elements. Despite its slower pace, “Rise” lays a solid foundation for the subsequent films to build upon.

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

The final installment in the reboot trilogy, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” raises the stakes to new heights, exploring themes of vengeance and redemption. Matt Reeves’s direction infuses the film with palpable tension, culminating in a climactic battle that leaves a lasting impact. Andy Serkis delivers yet another mesmerizing performance as Caesar, solidifying his status as one of the franchise’s standout characters.

3. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” stands as a pivotal chapter in the series, bridging the gap between past and future. Roddy McDowall delivers a tour de force performance as Caesar, leading the charge in a rebellion against humanity. The film’s uncompromising tone and action-packed sequences make it a standout entry in the franchise, setting the stage for the events to come.

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

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” represents the pinnacle of modern blockbuster filmmaking, marrying stunning visual effects with a gripping narrative. Andy Serkis once again shines as Caesar, navigating the complexities of leadership amidst rising tensions between humans and apes. Director Matt Reeves crafts a masterful blend of spectacle and substance, delivering a film that resonates on both emotional and intellectual levels.

1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

At the top of our list sits the film that started it all: “Planet of the Apes” (1968). Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and written by Rod Serling, this seminal classic remains a timeless masterpiece of science fiction cinema. Charlton Heston’s iconic performance anchors the film, while its thought-provoking themes and unforgettable twist ending continue to captivate audiences to this day. In terms of cultural significance and sheer impact, “Planet of the Apes” stands as the undisputed champion of the franchise.

As we eagerly anticipate the future of the series, let us reflect on the enduring legacy of the “Planet of the Apes” movies, each offering its own unique contribution to the rich tapestry of science fiction storytelling. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or a newcomer to the series, there’s something truly special about experiencing the saga unfold on the big screen. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey to the Planet of the Apes.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now showing in UK cinemas.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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