All 10 Planet Of The Apes Movies Ranked, Including Kingdom

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is technically the fourth movie in the rebooted Apes franchise, but in truth, this film is functionally a soft reboot of its own. Set “many generations” after the previous three movies and without any returning characters, Kingdom is a whole new world (of the Planet of the Apes) for us to explore, and it brings us a lot closer to the status quo from the original film.

The Apes franchise is a persistent one, having produced 10 movies over the course of more than 50 years. They’ve varied wildly in terms of production quality–the budgets of the original sequel movies fell off hard in the early 1970s–but, honestly, every single film in this franchise has some merit.

To celebrate Kingdom’s arrival as the latest entry in this venerable franchise, let’s take a look at how the latest ape-stravaganza fares in terms of quality against the Planet of the Apes films that have come before.

10. Planet of the Apes (2001)

While the makeup work in Tim Burton’s remake is immaculate and stunning to look at, this flick is crippled by an extreme lack of clarity. At the end of the original movie, Charlton Heston encounters the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, and we all understand that it means that the titular planet of the apes is actually our Earth in the distant future. Burton’s take swaps that easily digestible conclusion for a twist that requires a sequel for answers: Mark Wahlberg’s character actually manages to flee the ape world and return to his Earth in the present day, but it’s an ape society now, complete with an Ape Lincoln statue in the Lincoln memorial. Since there was never a sequel, we never got to find out what it meant, and so the story has always been a big pile of nothing.

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

Matt Reeves’ second Apes movie was a confused effort, taking the racism subtext of the franchise all the way to its final logical leap by putting the apes in a concentration camp–it’s just a little bit much, even for these movies. But it’s not without its merits, like Steve Zahn’s delightful Bad Ape, and mo-cap king Andy Serkis puts in stellar work as Caesar for the third straight film. It’s just one of those movies where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

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

The fifth and final movie in the original series depicts an all-out war between apes and man, though with the budget slashed for the fourth straight sequel, it’s not quite the awesome and epic struggle you’d expect from something more modern. Despite that, Battle takes us someplace interesting: compromise, with the apes and humans actually making peace and potentially living side by side afterward, implying that this timeline is a bit different than the one Charlton Heston landed in and may not be doomed.

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

After Cornelius and Zira showed up and confused the hell out of everybody on Earth, humans got extra jittery about the potential for apes to take over and decided to just enslave them all. But there’s a new talking ape in town–Cornelius and Zira’s son Caesar–and he’s going to help the oppressed apes rise up against their oppressors. It’s a dope story, but this is where we start to feel the shrinking budgets–the makeup is rough, they reuse the same shooting locations over and over for different places, and so on.

6. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

The actual quality of Beneath is something I debate internally every time I watch it. It’s probably not really a good movie, but it is hugely weird and entertaining–taking us deeper into the forbidden lands from the first movie, where we find a group of secret, mutated humans who talk to each other telepathically and live in a cave where they worship a nuclear bomb that’s capable of blowing up the planet. Luckily, Heston enthusiastically detonates it at the climax, marking one of the greatest and most ridiculous endings in movie history.

5. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

While the story echoes Dawn and War in ways that I don’t really understand, Kingdom is nonetheless an immaculate production–it’s two and a half hours of CGI apes hanging out with each other, doing soliloquies and occasionally fighting, and it’s actually convincing despite the humans being few and far between. It’s not perfect, but it hits the spot in ways I didn’t expect, and it adds some fascinating new ape lore to the canon with Noa’s clan of eagle-bearers.

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

I’ve seen this one a bunch of times, but I’m stunned by it every time–it’s such a slow burn, and it wraps up right when the apes make their first move. Most of the time you’d expect a big, expensive, CGI-heavy studio movie to be full of action, but Rise is just a very expensive little personal drama about a guy and his smart chimp. And it works exceptionally well, against all odds.

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

The immensely clever third movie in the franchise saw Cornelius and Zira escape the end of the world by time-traveling to the past and ending up in the 1970s–where, as talking apes, they quickly become TV celebrities. But the more the US government learns about where the pair of apes came from, the worse things get for them. The hilarious role re-reversal in this one–intelligent apes are shocked to be in a world dominated by talking humans–works magnificently, and I doubt any other Planet of the Apes movies will ever be as inventive with its premise as Escape was.

2. Planet of the Apes (1968)

Astronaut Charlton Heston crash-lands on an alien planet and discovers it’s full of talking apes. It’s still one of the greatest movie premises ever, and the twist ending, in which he discovers he’s on Earth but in the future, has been one of cinema’s most defining moments. It’s a relic of its time in some major ways, particularly in how it treats the mute woman Nova, but it’s surprisingly smart, looks gorgeous, and sticks the landing as well as any movie ever has.

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

The Batman director Matt Reeves’ first Apes flick hit all the notes that War for the Planet of the Apes missed, exploring the burgeoning ape society in a deep way while also getting into their troubled relations with surviving humans, who need the apes’ help with some big infrastructure problems. It’s actually the humans that are most crucial to Dawn’s success, because we get to spend similar amounts of time with both them and the apes–seeing both sides of the situation intimately in a way that none of the other Apes movies are able to do.

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