From 1968 to 2017, the epic Planet of the Apes franchise has enthralled generations of moviegoers. This sci-fi saga has it all – dazzling adventures, thought-provoking themes, and some of the most iconic imagery in cinema history.
Who can forget the sight of evolved, talking apes on horseback asserting their dominance over primitive humans? It’s the kind of vision that sticks with you long after the credits roll.
In this viewing guide, we’ll break down the ideal order for watching these smart, spectacular films from beginning to end. Whether you’re discovering the Apes for the first time or revisiting the series, this chronology will help you fully appreciate the rise and fall of ape civilization as it unfolds across multiple timelines.
From witnessing Caesar’s uprising in the modern prequels to experiencing astronaut Taylor’s jarring realization at the Statue of Liberty, every chapter adds insight into how apes inherited the planet.
So prime your suspension of disbelief, grab some bananas, and let’s swing through the trees of this epic sci-fi saga from start to finish! With our optimized viewing order, the Apes’ convoluted cinematic timeline won’t seem so chaotic anymore.
Watching the Apes Films in Story Order from Start to Finish
In this viewing guide, we will recommend the optimal order for watching the Planet of the Apes film franchise start to finish to get the full origin story arc. One thing to note is that the recent trilogy starring Andy Serkis reboots the Apes timeline separate from Charlton Heston’s original series. These prequels imagine an alternate future where apes become intelligent and take over Earth.
While not direct prequels to the 1960s films, viewing these modern movies first enriches the Apes world before seeing Heston’s divergent timeline. The rebooted prequels provide helpful backstory for how apes could plausibly become Earth’s dominant species. I suggest watching the prequels first for this fresh take before experiencing the classic films.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Journey back to 2011, when the world of cinema witnessed a resplendent rebirth of a beloved franchise, Planet of the Apes, with the release of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“. This captivating science fiction film, under the masterful direction of Rupert Wyatt, breathed fresh life into the acclaimed series.
The narrative of the movie gracefully takes the audience through the thrilling adventures of a devoted scientist, Will Rodman, marvelously portrayed by the versatile James Franco. Deeply engrossed in the quest to discover a remedy for the crippling Alzheimer’s disease, Rodman takes a daring step in his research, experimenting with apes and enhancing their cognitive abilities.
The spotlight shines brightly on a special chimpanzee named Caesar, brought to life by the enchanting performance of Andy Serkis through groundbreaking motion-capture technology. Caesar stands out as the most promising candidate in Rodman’s experiment, demonstrating an unprecedented increase in intelligence. However, the seemingly successful research takes an unexpected turn when the experimental drug triggers a change in the apes, making them significantly more aggressive.
Following a turn of events, Caesar finds himself confined to an ape sanctuary. Here, he starts to weave the threads of a master plan for liberation, rallying his fellow captive apes to join him. Their daring break-out results in a dramatic face-off with the local police on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Following the confrontation, the emboldened apes escape to the lush forests of California where they establish their own unique colony, thus setting the stage for a new world order.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” marks a remarkable milestone in the world of visual effects, stunning audiences with the lifelike portrayal of the ape characters, made possible through innovative performance capture technology. This high praise was not limited to the visual effects alone; critics also applauded the enthralling performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, adding another feather to the film’s cap.
Boasting such a compelling narrative coupled with pioneering visuals, the film reaped immense success at the box office, thereby jumpstarting a highly successful reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise. The movie reaffirmed its stand as an indelible entry in the cinematic universe, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the planet of the apes movies in order.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
As we navigate through the intriguing timeline of the Planet of the Apes movies in order, our next stop brings us to the year 2014. It is here that we encounter the thrilling sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. This spellbinding continuation transpires in the aftermath of its predecessor, “Rise of The Planet Of Apes”, and delivers an enthralling narrative that cements its place in this cherished franchise.
At the heart of the story, we once again find Caesar, the intelligent chimpanzee. His intellectual abilities, enhanced by a sophisticated, genetically-engineered drug, have positioned him as the leader of a flourishing ape colony. The survival skills and intelligence of the apes come to the fore in this film, showing us a society that has learned to adapt and thrive in the post-human world.
As the storyline unravels, the apes experience a jolting revelation – humans, believed to be on the brink of extinction, are in fact still surviving. The presence of mankind, the very species that once held dominance over the planet, now poses a new, potential threat to the blossoming ape civilization. The question arises – could anyone among the surviving humans pose a menace to their existence?
Caesar and his ape companions are propelled on a mission to uncover the truth. They seek to build bridges with the human survivors in their quest for answers. However, the survivors seem to hold back a secret, creating an air of mystery and suspicion. As they dig deeper, they begin to fear the possibility of a catastrophic, planet-altering virus. The apes are left grappling with uncertainty, not knowing what this new threat might entail.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” sets the stage for an intense clash of survival, spinning a web of mystery and suspense. It’s a critical chapter in the Planet of the Apes movie series, expanding the saga and continuing the captivating narrative that keeps audiences glued to their seats, awaiting the unfolding of the planet of the apes movies in order.
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
In the expansive journey through the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, we eventually arrive at the monumental chapter that brought the rebooted prequel trilogy to an unforgettable conclusion: “War for the Planet of the Apes”, released in 2017. As an epitome of epic science fiction cinema, this installment was deftly helmed by Matt Reeves, a director known for his skilled narrative craftsmanship.
The film’s narrative spotlights Caesar once more, leading his clan of intellectually advanced apes. In a dramatic turn of events, they find themselves thrust into a lethal confrontation with a merciless military faction, the Alpha-Omega. In the backdrop of this escalating tension is the aftermath of the simian virus, which has decimated a large portion of the human population, making the stakes of survival even higher.
At the helm of Alpha-Omega is a brutally vicious Colonel, a role brought to life by the incredibly talented Woody Harrelson. The Colonel, consumed by an unflinching resolve to eradicate the apes, embarks on a relentless hunt through the woods, putting Caesar’s tribe in the crosshairs of his brutal campaign. This all-out war brings devastating losses to the ape community, igniting a fire of revenge within Caesar.
Spurred by his thirst for justice, Caesar steers his tribe on a daring exodus, in search of a peaceful home far removed from the clutches of the warmongering humans. This challenging journey culminates in an adrenaline-pumping showdown between Caesar and the Colonel, which tests the moral compass of both sides. As they grapple with the blurred lines between survival, revenge, and their inherent humanity, they must face the harsh realities of their war-torn world.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” maintains the impressive visual standard set by the previous films, employing awe-inspiring motion capture effects to inject extraordinary realism into the ape characters. The movie paints a rather somber but fitting finale to this deeply engaging and thought-provoking sci-fi prequel trilogy.
This final piece of the saga casts a potent spell on viewers, leaving them with much to ponder over the moral quandaries it presents. And so, the curtain falls on this riveting chapter in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies in order, but the lasting impact of the narrative continues to resonate, keeping the memory of Caesar’s trials and triumphs alive.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
In the captivating chronology of the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, the year 1968 stands as a monumental milestone. This is the year that witnessed the launch of the original “Planet of the Apes”, an iconic science fiction masterpiece that heralded the start of the widely acclaimed Apes franchise.
Helmed by Franklin J. Schaffner, an accomplished director of his time, the film features the legendary Charlton Heston in the leading role. Heston assumes the character of an astronaut who experiences the misfortune of crash landing on a puzzling planet. This world appears to defy the conventional order of nature, with intelligent, talking apes reigning supreme.
Upon being captured, Heston’s character undergoes a shocking revelation. Here, humans are relegated to a primitive existence, serving as slaves, while the apes have evolved to form a structured society. The ape community mirrors human civilization, divided into distinctive roles such as warriors, religious leaders, and lawmakers, thereby offering a unique role reversal perspective.
However, the greatest shock is yet to come. As the narrative progresses, Heston makes a startling discovery. The strange, ape-dominated planet he had been navigating was, in fact, a post-apocalyptic Earth all along! The remnants of Lady Liberty, half-buried in the sands, bring him to this horrifying realization, indicating that humanity had self-destructed through warfare and the deployment of nuclear weapons.
The original “Planet of the Apes” stands out for more than just its clever twist ending. It was a trailblazer in terms of special effects and makeup, with its impressive prosthetic applications transforming actors into astonishingly realistic-looking apes. This film not only entertained but also stimulated thought and discussion, thanks to its impactful themes around discrimination, evolution, and mankind’s penchant for self-destruction.
Even decades after its release, the visually striking scenes of evolved apes asserting dominance over humans and riding horses remain unforgettable. The imagery has entrenched itself in popular culture, becoming a symbol of the franchise. As such, the original “Planet of the Apes” remains a profoundly influential classic, one that spawned several sequels and inspired the modern reboot series that continues to engage audiences with the fascinating Planet of the Apes movies.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Delving further into the sequence of the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, we find ourselves immersed in the intriguing narrative of “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”. This film, released in 1970, claimed its rightful place as the first sequel to the original 1968 sci-fi marvel.
The narrative picks up the thread of the time-bending saga of astronaut Taylor. His bewildering journey continues in a future Earth, where apes have evolved into the dominant species, displaying remarkable intelligence. This sequel introduces us to a new character, another astronaut named Brent, who unfortunately crash-lands on this unusual ape-ruled planet. His journey aligns with Taylor’s as he stumbles upon the militant gorilla army and embarks on a search for his fellow spaceman.
As the storyline progresses, Brent uncovers an eerily fascinating cult of telepathic humans. They reside beneath the ruins of what once was the bustling New York City, worshipping an unexploded nuclear bomb as their ominous doomsday deity. The cult prophesies the impending end of the world, setting a haunting tone for the unfolding events.
The movie builds up to a climactic ending where chaos reigns supreme, and the prophesized nuclear bomb detonates, leading to the catastrophic destruction of the entire planet. This conclusion indeed casts a somber shadow over Brent’s fate!
“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, while it retreads some concepts from the original, remarkably expands the Apes universe. The introduction of the radioactive cult society adds a compelling dimension to the story. The movie also carries forward the thought-provoking commentary from the original, highlighting the perils of atomic weaponry and the disastrous consequences of science without ethical boundaries.
Even though it does not entirely capture the brilliance of the classic 1968 film, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” offers a valuable continuation to the Apes saga. It presents some solid sequel content, contributing an exciting chapter to the well-loved Planet of the Apes movies in order and further exploring the dystopian world that fans have come to appreciate.
Escape from Planet of the Apes (1971)
In the thrilling compilation of the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, “Escape from Planet of the Apes” holds a special place. This installment surprises the audience by transporting the ape characters back in time to Earth in the 1970s, giving the franchise an enjoyable twist.
This movie picks up from where “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” concluded, with the planet being annihilated. Amidst the chaos, three resourceful chimpanzee scientists – Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo – manage to salvage Taylor’s spaceship. They successfully execute a time warp maneuver, transporting themselves back to Earth during an era prior to the rise of ape society.
Their sudden appearance in America’s present day and their ability to communicate verbally stun the public, catapulting the chimpanzees into overnight stardom. The government’s curiosity is initially piqued by these extraordinary visitors. However, as time progresses, fascination turns into paranoia. The authorities begin to fear the potential disruption that these evolved apes could bring to future societal norms. This leads Cornelius and Zira to take evasive action, fleeing their newfound fame and struggling to dodge the dark destiny that history predicted for them.
“Escape from Planet of the Apes” offers a refreshing departure from the somber tone of its predecessors. It injects a lighter, more humorous vibe into the series, with several “fish-out-of-water” comedic moments that ensue from the apes’ interaction with human society. Despite this shift, the film still manages to incorporate insightful themes about prejudice and the fear of the unfamiliar.
Overall, “Escape from Planet of the Apes” serves as an inventive sequel that enlivens the franchise with its unique time travel narrative. It steers the series in an engaging new direction, reaffirming its place in the lineup of the fascinating “Planet of the Apes” movies in order. It brilliantly melds entertainment with thought-provoking content, continuing the tradition set by the franchise’s earlier films.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
When examining the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, the fourth film, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” brings the franchise into a new era. This installment propels the storyline into a period marked by an imminent ape revolution.
The narrative follows Caesar, the progeny of Cornelius and Zira, the pair of escapee chimpanzees from the previous film. A couple of decades have passed since his parents sought refuge from Earth’s prejudiced society, leaving Caesar in a dystopian world where apes are subjected to slavery under human tyranny following a global pandemic.
Caesar, witnessing the oppression and cruelty inflicted upon his kin, decides to rise against the merciless police state that keeps them in shackles. He galvanizes his fellow subjugated apes, leading a rebellion against their tormentors. With this storyline, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” steers the franchise into a grittier terrain, adopting a more militant stance. The movie explores profound themes such as racial discrimination, rebellion, and the heavy-handed reign of authoritarian government regimes.
While the film doesn’t exhibit the light-heartedness found in some of its predecessors, it skillfully builds suspense as it brings the audience closer to the inevitable ape takeover hinted at in the earlier movies. The movie’s initial conclusion, which was darker and more violent, was toned down due to studio interventions.
Despite the alterations, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” infused the Apes series with a dose of hard-hitting social commentary, shedding light on how uprisings are often the response to unjust systems. It adeptly sets the stage for the full-blown ape revolution, teasing the tumultuous events to follow in the line of “Planet of the Apes” movies in order.
By adding new thematic layers and pushing the narrative towards a critical turning point, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” successfully maintains the momentum of the iconic film series while expanding on the universe’s intricate storyline.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
As we traverse through the timeline of “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, we arrive at the concluding part of the original Apes pentalogy – “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” This film paints a vivid picture of the ultimate standoff between apes and humans, battling for dominance in a post-apocalyptic world.
Following the events of the preceding film, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” unfolds years after the powerful ape insurrection steered by Caesar toppled human civilization. The story now presents an era where apes and humans cohabit tenuously under a delicate peace treaty. However, this tranquility is short-lived, with tensions escalating once more due to the mutants dwelling in the underground remnants of once bustling cities who now pose a threat to the ape settlement.
These circumstances prompt Caesar, portrayed by Roddy McDowall (who starred in his fifth Apes film), to organize a last-ditch defense to safeguard his village from the onslaught of both the aggressive mutants and treacherous humans. While this installment has often been regarded as one of the less successful in the franchise, it nonetheless offered the climactic action sequence necessary to bring closure to the epic sci-fi saga of the pentalogy.
The character of Caesar was portrayed akin to a Moses-like figure, leading his ape followers towards a peaceful utopia where they could reconstruct society from the ruins of their past. The mutants introduced in this film also added a fresh element to the narrative, acting as a precursor to the radiation-afflicted characters that would populate later “Planet of the Apes” movies.
While “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” might not be hailed as the most outstanding entry in the series, it effectively tied up the original five-film sequence on a note filled with action and moral undertones. It ensured that the “Planet of the Apes” movies, viewed in order, would offer audiences a complete and satisfying story arc that has remained iconic in the annals of science fiction cinema.
Bonus: Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton’s iteration of the classic “Planet of the Apes,” released in 2001, represents an entirely different take on the iconic sci-fi series. While it doesn’t slot neatly into any existing timeline in the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order, it still offers an interesting divergence worth exploring, particularly after becoming familiar with the foundational 1968 original.
Transposing the classic sci-fi narrative into a fresh era ripe with advanced CGI, Burton’s reboot features the talents of Mark Wahlberg in the leading role. Wahlberg portrays Leo, an American astronaut who unexpectedly finds himself crash-landed on a planet where highly evolved, eloquent apes are the ruling class.
Although this retelling retains the primary plot, Tim Burton, known for his peculiar gothic aesthetic, infuses his unique touch into the visualization of the ape civilization. This results in an increased emphasis on action and adventure compared to the contemplative essence of the original film.
Leo’s journey swiftly intertwines with the intricate political dynamics of the ape society as he piques the interest of several chimpanzee leaders due to his unexpected and intriguing presence. The film persists in probing pertinent societal themes such as animal experimentation, prejudice, and the tribulations faced by an outsider navigating an unfamiliar and somewhat hostile society.
Regrettably, due to a rushed production schedule, the execution of the ape makeup effects wasn’t fully realized, which gave the world an slightly synthetic feel. The film’s surprise conclusion also didn’t manage to reproduce the electrifying shock of the twist ending of the original 1968 film, featuring Charlton Heston.
On the whole, while Tim Burton’s 2001 reboot introduced a distinctive visual style and some interesting reinterpretations, it fell somewhat short in fully honoring the powerful legacy and metaphorical richness of the “Planet of the Apes” title. It can best be described as an ambitious re-envisioning that didn’t fully meet the high expectations set by its predecessors in the “Planet of the Apes” movies in order.
Guide to Viewing the Planet of the Apes Movies in Order of Release
Should you want to experience the movies in the sequence they were originally shown in theatres, the accurate order is as follows:
- 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)
- Planet of the Apes Reboot (2001)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)