Film

Ranking the 'Planet of the Apes' Films

They represent some of the best (and worst) movie metaphors in the history of cinematic speculative fiction. Here's how we rate the Apes' films, from worst to first.

It's all based on a book by French author Pierre Boulle. In said novel, an interplanetary expedition comes across a planet where apes rule and humans are used for slave labor and experiments. Famed writer Rod Serling took the first crack at the screenplay, though his ideas were deemed too expensive and incendiary to film. Blacklisted scribe Michael Wilson was then brought in to bring the concepts down to budgetary (and moviegoer) limits, and soon a sci-fi classic was born.

Audiences were not prepared for Planet of the Apes when it first came out in theaters. The Civil Rights Movement was reeling from advances and assassinations and Serling's subtext made the roots of said racism all too real. While further script doctoring decreased some of the more provocative material, the notion of Apes as an allegory for its time remained. It was a box office smash, jumpstarting a franchise which saw four initial sequels, two reboots, one follow-up to same, and even a TV series.

Just this past weekend, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from filmmaker Matt Reeves became the latest box office triumph in this decades long deconstruction of modern political problems merged with outsized future shock designs. From the hated Tim Burton update to Rupert Wyatt's skilled reimagining, Hollywood has long wanted to give this early '70s franchise a polish.

Now, thanks to CGI and the abilities of actors via motion capture, we have a new series to celebrate. In that regard, we've decided to rank the Apes films from worst to first. At least one placement will surprise/anger/offend most in the fanbase, while the rest can be reconfigured to fit your own personal preferences. One thing remains certain, however: As movie metaphors go, the Planet of the Apes films are solid social commentary... most of the time. Let's start with what we consider to be "the worst" of the eight efforts:

 
#8: Battle for the Planet of the Apes
As the "final" link between the first film in the original series and the state of the world circa Conquest, this otherwise journeyman placeholder has some decent ideas and far too much lame early '70s action. Director J. Lee Thompson, who helmed the last two efforts, was very British and very stagy in his confronts. Instead of the kind of carefully controlled and choreographed chaos of today's thrillers, he used long sequences of exposition to set up equally languid moments of murderous warfare. Unlike the current pre-battle blockbuster dominating the box office, there's no real brutality here, just a once vital franchise limping to a close.

 
#7: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

A mysterious disease has wiped out all the cats and dogs on the planet. With people needing pets, adopting apes becomes the next best thing... or is it? They soon become our "slaves" (talk about your obvious metaphors -- sheesh) and, as a result, gain a leader in the form of an intelligent simian named Caesar (played by Roddy McDowall) who just so happens to be the son of original apes Cornelius and Zira from the first three films. Set within a dystopian police state, there is a lot of ambition here. Sadly, due to shrinking budgets, director J. Lee Thompson can't truly develop most of them.

 
#6: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Yes, yes. This is a controversial placement for the otherwise thin Tim Burton reboot, but hear us out. Over the course of the previous series, one of the most troubling elements was the make-up. The first film earned its Oscar. By the time of the TV series (did you know there was a Planet of the Apes TV series???), the masks were looking ratty and dated. So we place this above Battle and Conquest for one reason and one reason only...Rick Baker. Along with some initial input from Stan Winston, the ape concepts are so amazingly great here that it's a shame the rest of the film them down.

Next Page

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image