Planet of the Apes Movies Ranked! (Only the Good Ones)

War for the Planet of the Apes has finally hit theaters across the country and to no surprise at all has amassed massive amounts of critical and commercial praise. The franchise that began in 1968 with the original Charlton Heston classic Planet of the Apes, is no stranger to the sequel and reboot process having spawned several sequels in the early to mid-70s and of course the infamous 2001 reboot by Tim Burton. 2011 brought about the arrival of arguably the biggest surprise of the year in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and also our next attempt at a revival of the beloved cult classic franchise. In honor of the conclusion to the prequel apes trilogy, the writers here at Men vs. Movies have decided to rank the Apes films from worst to best.

To save you all from the unnecessary pain of even remotely thinking about the dreaded 70s sequels, we will not include them in our rankings. The lists will consist of the Andy Serkis prequel trilogy along with the original 1968 classic. Alright, enough talk. Let's talk some monkeys. 

Sean CHandler Ape Rankings!

#4 – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes is a tricky film to review in the year 2017. On the one hand, it’s a clever sci-fi film, exploring ideas of prejudice and humanity; but, on the other hand, the film’s out-dated style and production are large hurdles to actually enjoying the film.

It’s understandable why the film became such a huge hit at the time. Charlton Heston gives a charismatic performance, and the script (which was worked on by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling), creates a sense of curiosity and wonder. Unfortunately, so much of the film consists of expository dialogue scenes that set up on-the-nose discussions on racism, bigotry, evolution, faith, and the characters’ worldviews. It doesn’t help that the pacing is all over the place. The first 30 minutes consists of three men walking through a desert, talking about life. And, while the production design and costumes were Oscar worthy in the 60s, they look bad when watched on a modern HD TV.

It’s certainly a classic with some great ideas, but the pacing, dialogue, and production have not aged well at all.

#3 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

If I’m being honest, I was not looking forward to this movie at all upon its release. I didn’t even go see it in the theaters. To me, it looked like another cheap Hollywood cash grab with a popular star of the day as the lead and safe premise.

Boy, was I wrong. This was a wonderfully crafted blockbuster drama about a CGI ape, not a popular star of the day.

When I first watched the film, I was simply wowed by how much I cared for that cute little ape and his journey. As the story progressed, I loved how they managed to craft a narrative that presented believable antagonists who aren’t really antagonists…well, other than Draco (Tom Felton); he was awful. The good guys had character flaws, which led them to do things with horrible consequences, and the bad guys had very human motives.

This was a great kick off to a rebooted universe where you could believe that apes could become intelligent and take over the earth. My only real issue with the film is that there are a few plot conveniences. For the sake of the plot, certain events conveniently happen on the same day, at the same time, to make the story possible.

#2 – War for the Planet of the Apes

If you ask me, with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes, the rebooted Apes series has become one of the great film trilogies of all-time.

This film beautifully completes the story of how the apes would come to take over the earth. As a standalone film, it’s a compelling tale about the nature and consequences of war and hate, with great characters and stunning visuals. They also add a fun character for comic relief which somehow worked perfectly in this otherwise dire film. But, this isn’t just a standalone film, it’s the logical continuation of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while completing the story started in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

When deciding whether this film would be first and second, it simply came down to which film resonated with more on an emotional level.

#1 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

For me, this is a very special film. It understands both spectacle and drama. Whereas most big blockbusters aim to please audiences through entertainment and humor, Dawn chose compelling storytelling and complicated characters. 

Once again, the characters are all multi-dimensional. Each character has a legitimate worldview and a set of values. As the story progresses, the values and beliefs of each character come in conflict with one another. This is at the core of what makes for great drama and conflict. Even the hate and bigotry of the main villain, Koba, feels justified in light of how he was treated for years.

One of the things that makes this film special is that it’s a totally different film from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, while being a logical follow up to it.

This is a great film, and I hope Hollywood continues to produce big budget tragedies like this.

Tyler Tompkins Monkey Rundown!

4. Planet of the Apes (1968)


Coming in at number four, I have the original Planet of the Apes. I actually just watched this movie for the first time a few days ago and was thoroughly impressed. The movie holds up with the practical effects, costumes, and acting. Charlton Heston was fantastic as the main lead and I was surprised to see how small in scale this movie was compared to the other one’s in the series. The reason I have it at number four is because aside from the great effects and acting, I don’t enjoy the actual “ape world” in this movie as much as I do in the other films. In some ways this movie is a courtroom drama in a science fiction world.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Coming in at number three, I have Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This movie is responsible for launching one of the greatest trilogies of our time. Rupert Wyatt is often forgotten about because of what Matt Reeves did with the next two films in the series. However, Wyatt should be remembered for kick starting this thing and crafting a well-told story about the beginnings of Caesar.

Plus, James Franco is in this one… how could it not be above the original apes because of that?!

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Coming in at number two, I have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. What a change in pace this movie was compared to Rise (which is a great film). Matt Reeves drastically changed the tone from what we saw in the first movie…and it works. Caesar is much more complex and we begin to see much more division between the apes themselves along with humans, too. Great actions scenes with an awesome fight sequence between Koba and Caesar at the end. What’s not to love?

1.  War for the Planet of the Apes

Coming in first place is War for the Planet of the Apes! I knew this movie would be great going into it, but I hadn’t realized just HOW great is would be. Much like Dawn, this movie is MUCH darker in tone than both of the previous films and has a very dreary and somber tone throughout its entirety. The characters in this movie continue to struggle with even more complex and moral issues that really resonate with things from the second film. Thanks to a great supporting cast, this movie is perfect in every way and concludes one of the best trilogies of all time.

Nick Castro Chimp Composition

4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

Rise kick-started the new Planet of the Apes franchise and in my opinion one of the greatest trilogies of all time.  This movie set up the story of Caesar incredibly well and showed a very emotional and interesting side to the Planet of the Apes "mythology" so to speak.  I loved the way they showed how and why the virus was developed.  This started out a story that had breathtaking visuals and was an awesome character study of the character of Caesar.  

3. Planet of the Apes (2001) 

This is not a very common choice and seeing as I have not seen the original Planet of the Apes (1968) movie, this movie was my introduction to the series as a whole and it is the reason I had an interest in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes in the first place.  This is not a critically acclaimed Tim Burton movie but this movie has a very interesting story in my opinion and it is an actual Planet of Apes movie because it the planet itself has been established.  I liked the mythology presented in this movie as well as the deeper meanings that were layered throughout the film.  It was incredibly difficult to determine whether to put this above Rise or not, but from a nostalgic perspective this is the movie to introduce me to my love of this science fiction idea and thus I will say that it makes it to the number three spot.

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

These next two spots were again very difficult to determine because these movies from a critical standpoint are very much so on the same level but their enjoyment differs from person to person.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an amazing sequel to Rise of the Apes, it gets significantly darker and it shows the conflict between apes that hate the humans and those that simply want to survive.  This dynamic led to a movie that made you feel for Caesar as he made choices against his own kind in an attempt to stop a war for coming.  Unfortunately, as the next title shows this was not a success story.  

1. War for the Planet of the Apes

Finally, War for the Planet of the Apes came out just this past week and it was an incredible conclusion to the trilogy of this new franchise.  This movie was one of the most satisfying conclusions to a trilogy I have seen in a long time.  I think that this movie has to be my favorite of the year, I loved all the emotions that were flying around in the theater during the viewing of this movie and I thought the themes presented throughout it were perfect for this type of a science fiction story.  Rise, Dawn, and War will go down in history as one of the greatest trilogies of all time (on par with the original Star Wars trilogy) because it is just a perfect character study of the character of Caesar and has a near perfect beginning, middle, and end.  Check this movie out as soon as possible it is not somethnig to be missed. 

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