It’s been more than five decades since the original Planet of the Apes film was released, and the years have only served to reveal more and more of this storyline. Planet of the Apes is a massively popular film franchise that was originally inspired by the novel La Planète des singes by French novelist Pierre Boulle. The iconic American science fiction franchise chronicles the struggle for existence between humans and intelligent apes.
However, with nine films bearing similar titles and the franchise having been rebooted many times, it may be tough to keep track of all the films. This frequently leads to the question: What is the best order in which to watch the Planet of the Apes films? Let’s see which is the ideal order to watch The Planet of The Apes and what each movie’s storyline is like.
Planet of the Apes Watch Order at a Glance
There are two ways to view Planet of the Apes: chronologically or in order of release. You may watch the Planet of the Apes series in either sequence, but watching it chronologically will help you comprehend and follow the tale from its inception to the world’s eventual demise. Here is the list of all Planet Of The Apes Movies in Chronological order:
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
- Escape from 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 (2001) – Reboot of Planet of the Apes (1968)
That leaves just the 2001 reboot. You may either watch it immediately following the 1969 Planet of the Apes to compare the two, or reserve it until the end as a bonus viewing. Since it is a complete reboot, it is the only film in the series that does not have a predetermined location in the chronology — you get to decide where you believe it fits best.
Planet of the Apes Movies in Order
Keeping in mind that the rebooted trilogy has its own timeline, it still makes sense to watch them in order, even if you may notice some rather significant discrepancies when you reach the original films. This is the ideal chronological watch order:
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Rise, the first film in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, put a whole new twist on the franchise. The motion capture technology was one of the most impressive parts of this trilogy, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Andy Serkis portrayed Caesar using motion capture.
Serkis’ raw passion, along with his character’s connection with James Franco, elevated this film to must-see status. Will Rodman is a scientist who works for a large pharmaceutical company in search of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
His most recent experimental medication appears to have been effective on a chimp. Unfortunately, the monkey goes insane on the same day as an investment presentation, and the animal is euthanized.
Will discovers after the event that the chimp has given birth and has been acting erratically to protect her young. He brings the animal, which he names Caesar, home as a pet and quickly discovers it is very clever, most likely due to the drug’s effects on his mother during his pregnancy. Caesar leads an animal uprising against his human captors and humanity after Will is compelled to secure the animal following an attack on a neighbor.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
The sequel to this series improved on the already excellent first film. Andy Serkis’ performance improved significantly. Additionally, motion capture technology has improved. While the apes were not precisely realistic, their performances seemed very authentic, allowing the audience to emotionally connect with these animal characters.
Ten years after the fatal virus ALZ-113 causes a worldwide pandemic, human civilization is utterly destroyed. Caesar has developed into the leader of evolved apes in San Francisco and has a son named Blue Eyes. When Blue Eyes and his companion Ash come upon a bunch of humans led by Malcolm, they come into conflict.
Caesar, on the other hand, instructs the human to return to the abandoned San Francisco City. Then he travels to the city with a troop of apes to convince them to stay, despite his second in command Koba’s dislike of humans.
Malcolm, on the other hand, returns alone to the woods to meet Caesar and explain that they must rebuild the hydroelectric dam to restore electricity to the city to save the survivors. Caesar accepts his reasoning and allows him to work in the dam with his family and a few technicians. Meanwhile, Dreyfus, the human commander, chooses to arm the survivors since he disbelieves in apes.
However, Koba desires war against humanity and so creates an atmosphere of hatred and subsequent confrontation.
3. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
By far the greatest film in this Andy Serkis trilogy is the last installment. It may even be superior to the original 1968 masterpiece. This film’s ultimate perfection helped establish Andy Serkis’s Planet of the Apes trilogy as one of the finest in both the science fiction genre and film history. None of these three flicks comes close to being a letdown.
Two years after the misanthropic bonobo Koba assaulted the human survivors in San Francisco, Caesar and his tribe of intelligent apes are pitted against a renegade United States military unit called Alpha-Omega, commanded by a vicious colonel. Alpha-Omega also employs other apes that were formerly devoted to Koba, which they derogatorily refer to as “donkeys.”
An Alpha-Omega platoon attempts but fails to attack an ape base, resulting in the capture of four men, including one named Preacher and a “donkey” gorilla named Red. Caesar frees the troops in the hope that the act of kindness would convince the Colonel that the apes are not savages; Red flees by wounding the albino gorilla Winter.
Later in the episode, Caesar’s eldest son Blue Eyes and lieutenant Rocket return from an extended voyage. Blue Eyes says that they discovered a perfect location for the apes across the desert. Despite an uncomfortable Winter’s insistence that the apes depart quickly, Caesar determines that they must first prepare.
That night, the Colonel leads a team of troops into the apes’ home, murdering Blue Eyes and Caesar’s wife Cornelia; Caesar attempts but fails to stop the Colonel’s escape. Following that, the apes lose track of Winter, whom they assume betrayed them out of fear.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Where it all began in the late 1960s, Planet of the Apes is still a wonderful watch 42 years later. While the deadly revelation at the end is no longer as shocking as Luke’s father reveals in Star Wars, that does not diminish how enjoyable this is. A cinematic triumph at the time, this is still an excellent introduction to the ape-filled universe created, and by far the finest film in the original series.
In the year 3978 A.D., a spaceship carrying a crew of four collides with a faraway planet. One of the crew members perished in space, and the remaining three embark on an exploration of the planet. They quickly discover that the planet is very similar to their own. They are then surprised to discover that the planet is populated by intelligent apes. One of the soldiers is shot and killed, and the other guys are brought to the city of the apes.
There, one has brain surgery and is placed in a coma. The other ape befriends some but is terrified by the majority. He flees with a female human native to the planet after being put through an ape trial.
After assisting his ape companions in evading a religious heresy trial, he and the female flee into the forest. There he discovers that the planet may not be as far away as he thought.
5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
In comparison to the original, this film fell well short of the original’s grandeur. It was a complete failure at replicating the essence of the original picture, starring James Franciscus and Charlton Heston in a minor part. Although the movie was a box office smash, Beneath the Planet of the Apes received harsh criticism from reviewers.
Brent is an American astronaut sent to a crew tasked with locating a missing American astronaut named George Taylor. The search and rescue team, following Taylor’s known flight path, crash lands on an undiscovered planet similar to Earth in the year 3955, with Brent as the crew’s sole survivor.
What Brent initially does not realize, just like Taylor did when he came here before to Brent, is that he has returned to Earth in the future, near what was formerly New York City. Brent discovers proof that Taylor has visited the planet.
Brent discovers during his quest for Taylor that the planet is ruled by a savage species of English-speaking apes whose purpose includes the annihilation of the human race. Brent ultimately locates some of those telepathic humans who live underground to avoid detection by the apes.
These humans, who are equally cruel in their own way as the apes, wish to defend their own species. Brent must devise a means to save himself under the given conditions, which may be more difficult in the war between the planet’s main species.
6. Escape from Planet of the Apes (1971)
How do you tackle an issue like nuclear annihilation of the world in which your franchise is set? Time travel of course. Escape from the Planet of the Apes is the silliest of the bunch, with three apes time traveling to the 1970s and discovering that talking apes are quite the rarity during this era.
However, the authors take the subject matter rather seriously, and it succeeds as an entertaining, and oddly realistic, third picture. Escape from the Planet of the Apes was the most highly lauded of the original five Planet of the Apes sequels.
While the first film had Taylor journeying from the present to the titular Planet of the Apes, this film has Cornelius and Zira traveling back in time to 1973 using Taylor’s spaceship.
Escape From The Planet Of The Apes opens with three apes arriving in modern-day America after escaping the holocaust via the same time warp in the astronaut’s repaired spaceship.
The three intelligent apes, Zira, Cornelius, and Milo, are first praised by society and treated as visiting royalty, but when Zira becomes pregnant, they become viewed as a possible threat, which an ambitious Presidential candidate exploits.
After Milo is unintentionally slain, Zira and Cornelius flee to a compassionate circus owner for shelter. Zira gives birth to a boy, but she and Cornelius are subsequently apprehended by police and put to death.
However, the circus owner rescues their offspring, and the film concludes with the newborn ape saying “Mama, mama,” eerily similar to the human talking doll discovered towards the conclusion of Planet Of The Apes.
7. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Acceptance of this fourth Apes picture will rest heavily on your ability to stomach the microcosmic portrayal of its universe — a technique frequently used in science fiction to avoid the ‘big ideas vs. little budget’ problem. If you don’t, you’ll be perplexed as to how a riotous swarm of simians on what appears to be a Thamesmead housing estate correlates to world dominance.
Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, emerges from hiding after almost two decades and prepares for a slave uprising against mankind in a futuristic society that has accepted ape slavery.
The film chronicles the ascension of Caesar, a legendary character and savior who is credited with bringing about the genuine Planet of the Apes. In this futuristic planet of 1991, a spaceborne disease has killed off cats and dogs, forcing people to adopt apes as pets.
However, even for those who have been more tolerant of the plot so far, Conquest seems a little like going through the motions. As we trace Caesar’s progress from secretly clever but calm little ape to furious revolutionary, parallels between slavery and Nazism are established, and a few crucial Ape law events are ticked off.
It also marks the end of the series’ most compelling feature — the depressing endings. When the opportunity for another memorable disaster is given but not taken, it is a signal to everybody concerned to retire their simian costumes.
8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Caesar and his soldiers eventually won their independence in the concluding film of the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Caesar resolves at the film’s conclusion to break the deadly cycle and spare the humans. Rather than that, the two races coexist as equals.
Caesar must now maintain peace between humans and apes after overcoming the tyrannical humans in “Conquest for the Planet of the Apes.” Aldo, the gorilla general, has a different perspective and attempts to spark an ape civil war.
Meanwhile, additional human survivors discover the ape metropolis and resolve to reclaim civilization for themselves, laying the stage for conflict between ape tribes and humans.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes was the series’ lowest-grossing film. Roger Ebert, a renowned cinema reviewer, described the picture as “the last gasp of a dying series.” While the concept of Caesar’s revolution would eventually be revived with far more success, this original attempt failed miserably.
9. Planet Of The Apes (2001)
The Tim Burton-directed relaunch of the series was surrounded with anticipation. Many believed that this would be a good sequel that showcased excellent filmmaking, but alas, this was not the case.
Leo Davidson works closely with monkeys prepared for space missions onboard the United States Air Force space station Oberon in 2029. His favorite simian coworker is Pericles, a monkey. With a lethal electromagnetic storm bearing down on the station, Pericles uses a tiny space pod to investigate the storm. Pericles’ pod gets swallowed by the storm and vanishes.
Leo grabs a second pod against his superior officer’s instructions and searches the storm for Pericles. Leo loses communication with the Oberon as he enters the storm and lands on the planet Ashlar in the year 5021. He finds that the planet is governed by humanoid apes capable of speaking the human language and enslaving primitive human humans.
Leo encounters Ari, a female chimp who protests against humans’ inhumane treatment. Ari purchases Leo and a female slave called Daena as servants for her father, Senator Sandar. Leo breaks away from his cage and liberates other people.
Ari witnesses them, but Leo persuades Ari to join a human revolt against the apes. Colonel Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and General Thade (Tim Roth) dispatch ape soldiers to hunt down the humans. Leo discovers Calima (the shrine of “Semos”), an apes-only yet sacred location.
Calima turns out to be a corruption of a partially covered sign reading “Caution, Live Animals” amid the wreckage of Leo’s old space station, the Oberon. It looks to have crashed on the planet’s surface and has been destroyed for an extended period. Leo can examine computer logs since the spacecraft is fueled by limitless fuel cells.
According to the logs, the space station crashed millions of years ago while on the lookout for him. Leo deduces that when he entered the vortex, he was accelerated in time, while the Oberon was not, crashing on the planet long before he arrived.
According to Oberon’s log, the apes on board, led by Semos, staged a coup and took control of the spacecraft following its collapse. The survivors of the fight, both human and ape, escaped the ship, and their descendants are the individuals Leo has met since landing. The apes make their appearance and attack the people gathered to meet Leo. Leo quickly recognizes a familiar vehicle that falls from the skies.
Pericles, the chimp astronaut, pilots the pod. Pericles, like Leo, had been accelerated in time and had just recently arrived on the planet. When Pericles lands and the pod opens, the apes perceive it as the return of Semos, the first ape and their deity. They bow, and hostility between humans and apes comes to an abrupt halt.
Pericles flees into the wreckage of the Oberon, chased by Leo and General Thade. Thade and Leo engage in combat. Pericles attempts to assist Leo, but Thade hurls him against a wall. Thade seizes Leo’s rifle and attempts to discharge it at him. Leo notices Thade inside the pilot’s deck and automatically locks the door, locking Thade within.
Thade continually shoots the weapon at the door, but the ricochets generate sparks, which drive Thade to cower in fear under a control panel. Leo makes the decision to flee the Planet of the Apes and make his way back to earth. He hands Pericles over to Ari, who assures him that he will look after him. He bids Daena farewell and kisses her.
Leo hops onboard Pericles’s intact pod and goes through the same electromagnetic storm as Pericles. Leo crashes on Earth in his own time in Washington, D.C. He raises his eyes to discover the Lincoln Memorial has been transformed into a memorial honoring General Thade. A swarm of police officers, firefighters, and news reporters converge on Leo, but closer examination reveals that they are all apes.