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Primate Primer: Your Film-By-Film Guide to the 'Planet of the Apes' Movies

July 11, 2014

Confused by all those Planet of the Apes movies and the Rise, Dawns, Battles, and Conquests that seem to keep happening during them? Before you see the new edition this weekend, read our handy primer on the eight theatrical Apes below:

Planet of the Apes (1968)
The first in the original five-film series delivers on the promise of its admittedly intriguing title: The crew of spaceship (led by a gruff Charlton Heston) find themselves stranded on a suspiciously Earth-like planet ruled by simians.    

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Nothing metaphorical about this title! Much of the action in this sequel — in which a second astronaut seeks to discover the fate of Heston’s crew — does, in fact, take place below the surface of this (spoiler alert!) future Earth, specifically, among the ruins of a New York City subway station.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
Following the climactic nuclear destruction of the future Earth in Beneath, a trio of apes manage to survive by piloting Heston’s spaceship. They make good on their titular escape, but a time-warp sends them back to Earth of 1973. Violence and philosophical musings ensue.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
The Earth of 1991 is no place to live: A global pandemic has wiped out every…cat and dog. Luckily, there is a population of easily trained apes just waiting to be domesticated — and, ultimately, enslaved. An intelligent chimp named Caesar (son of Cornelius and Zira of the previous films) leads a successful revolt and begins a new Planet of the Apes.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
The final entry in the original Apes series takes place a dozen or so years after the events of Conquest. Earth is a post-nuclear wasteland — will we ever learn? — and Caesar seeks a harmonious relationship between apes and surviving humans. But war does come, to the relief of moviegoers who did not pay to see Peace Talks on the Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton’s pointless reworking of the 1968 original, with Mark Wahlberg in the Heston role, represents a tragic waste of both its $100 million budget and of a fine cast that includes Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Paul Giamatti. The retooled ending features a stunned Wahlberg in front of Lincoln Memorial that features a beloved Honest Ape.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
The widely praised first film in a series reboot lifts key elements from 1972’s Conquest — most notably in giving the name Caesar to the super-intelligent chimp who will eventually lead the simian revolution — and makes bad guys out of corporate America. As Caesar, Andy Serkis is terrific in a performance that blends good old-fashioned close-up acting with state-of-the-art visual effects.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Ten years after the violent Golden Gate Bridge confrontation of Rise, a mutant virus has led to the collapse of human civilization. (Damn you all to hell, Big Pharma!) The apes, during this time, have flourished and live not unlike native Americans of the past. Naturally, the two species meet — with predictable results. The film’s ends with Caesar on the literal brink (or should we say dawn?) of a new day poised for both the upcoming war and inevitable sequel.

Want to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Visit our Showtimes page to get tickets.

Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox, Jayme Perry