Every Planet of the Apes Movie Ranked


The Big Picture

  • The original Planet of the Apes remains a classic and sets the standard for the franchise.
  • The rebooted series, starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is highly regarded for its realistic portrayal of the apes’ rise and excellent CGI.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes is considered one of the best blockbusters of the last decade with strong performances and direction.

It’s been five years since the last Planet of the Apes film, and like every other IP in Hollywood right now, the franchise isn’t resting much longer before its next installment. The next film in one of Hollywood’s oldest franchises, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is set to be released in 2024 directed by Wes Ball and starring Freya Allan, Owen Teague, Dichen Lachman, William H. Macy, and Kevin Durand. The announcement is a great opportunity to look back at this historic and deeply strange franchise. Ranging from technical marvels to complete schlock, the franchise has had its ups and downs over the past 54 years. But no matter how weird the movies got, the franchise has stuck around this long for a reason. All the films are, at their worst, interesting, and, at their best, iconic. Needless to say that director Wes Ball has a lot to live up to when he makes the next entry in the series. With that being said, here is the ranking of every Planet of the Apes movie from worst to best.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Many years after the reign of Caesar, a young ape goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he’s been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

Release Date
May 24, 2024

Main Genre

9 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Roddy McDowall as Cesar the ape looking at Hari Rhodes as MacDonald in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Image via 20th Century Fox

The fourth entry of the original Planet of the Apes series is set in the far-off future of 1991. In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a virus has killed off all cats and dogs, leading humans to start using apes as their house pets. From pets, they eventually became slaves where they were taken to detention centers to be trained on how to serve humans. Caesar (Roddy McDowall) stages an uprising that would eventually turn to the apes taking over the world.

What makes this entry in the franchise at the bottom of the list is largely because of how tone-deaf and on the nose the imagery is. The film deliberately uses imagery to echo the Civil Rights Movement and the Holocaust, including sequences that were shot to echo news reports. The franchise always had themes about social unrest, but this movie has no taste or significant message. Using the apes as a direct stand in for marginalized groups is just repeating racist imagery instead of making any commentary on it. Through the borderline offensive messages and how just about everyone in the film seems to be phoning it in, there isn’t really any reason to seek this one out unless you are a completionist.

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8 Planet of the Apes (2001)

Mark Wahlberg in the poster of the Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

Astronaut Leo Davidson whips through space and time to a world where apes and gorillas rule the humans. Captured, he is nurtured by Ari and hunted by General Thade as he leads a rebel group of humans and chimpanzees in search of his downed craft. This is his only hope of escape and, ironically, the planet’s only hope of shaking off the tyranny of the gorillas, allowing peaceful humans and chimpanzees to co-exist.

Release Date
July 25, 2001



Tim Burton’s remake of the original Planet of the Apes got forgotten to time, it just came and went. This is largely due to the majority of the movie being kind of dull. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Captain Leo Davidson, is not charismatic enough to be a good lead or weird enough to at least be memorable, like his hilariously named Transformers lead character, Cade Yeager. Burton’s direction also leaves much to be desired, with there being very little of his signature style. The biggest problem of this whole film is just that it’s very drawn out and boring. Scenes overstay their welcome and the plot moves at a glacial pace with characters that are difficult to care about. But that doesn’t mean that the film has nothing to offer.

The best parts of this remake are the production design and the effects. The cities and buildings the apes occupy are lived in and extravagant, it truly feels like you are entering another world. It’s a far cry from the barren caves and deserts of the original film. The make up and practical effects are also some of the best out of any Hollywood film. They’re detailed enough to let the actors embody the characters without having to talk through cheap rubber masks like the films in the 70s. To more succinctly describe this movie, it would be impressive but not memorable.

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7 Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Beneath the Planet of the Apes movie poster (1970)

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telepathic humans.

Release Date
April 23, 1970

Ted Post

James Franciscus , Kim Hunter , Maurice Evans , Linda Harrison , Paul Richards , Victor Buono


This movie was the 2nd movie in the original series, with a fast-tracked production, so it could release about a year after the first movie. The movie was so rushed that the film can’t escape how little of thought went into it. The movie follows a new character, Brent (James Franciscus), due to Charlton Heston only agreeing to return for the sequel if his character died. The whole movie is clearly rushed, and it’s difficult to ignore.

But the film is still charming with just how weird it is. The movie introduces an underground society of telepathic humans who all worship an atomic bomb. It’s a wild choice during the last act of the movie that is fascinating, if not disconnected from the original movie. Unfortunately, that originality comes in too late and most of the film just feels like a repeat of the first. But it was bold for a movie in a major franchise end with the planet being blown up by nukes, making any sequels impossible…

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6 Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) talking together as apes in Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Image via 20th Century Fox

Unless there’s time travel! Escape From the Planet of the Apes is the third film in the original series. It was also rushed and made on an increasingly lower budget. To save money, the film is about two apes from the first movies, Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) travelling back in time to America in 1970. Seeing the two intelligent apes interact with then modern humans does come across like the moment the franchise jumped the shark. If the reboot trilogy never occurred and the franchise never continued after the 70s, that is probably how this film would be perceived today.

But, since the franchise did eventually bounce back, this movie is just a weird time capsule of silly early 70s Hollywood movies. The drama of the movie doesn’t really work, but the satire of celebrity culture that happens when Zira and Cornelius become famous is still pretty funny.

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5 Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

One of the apes in Battle for the Planet of the Apes smiling with humans behind him
Image via 20th Century Fox

Often remembered as the worst in the franchise, the fifth entry in the series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, actually has a lot to offer. The movie takes place after apes have taken over. Humans are still around, but they are not slaves or mute like they are in the first film. The movie follows Caesar again, and his family as he navigates the growing political and social conflicts that have started to arise under his rule. It’s mostly a character study, with some action at the tail end to justify the movie being having “Battle” in the title.

This is the cheapest of the movies, and it shows in the increasingly lower quality of the prosthetic make-up. But, if you’re willing to look past the cheapness of the film, it is really charming and well-performed. The downside of the film is it loses itself in the middle and becomes boring for a chunk of the second act. But it still has a strong enough opening and ending that makes the meh middle more bearable.

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4 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Andy Serkis as Caesar looking angry in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Image via 20th Century Studios

From here on out in this ranking the movies switch from being weird time capsules from the era of film they released in, to legitimately great films. This 2011 reboot of the franchise is a loose remake of Conquest, this time having a much better take and confidence in its own story. It handles the story of the apes uprising through the lens of animal testing, which grounds the movie in reality. How the main ape Caesar (now played by Andy Serkis) becomes intelligent is believable. The Alzheimer’s medication that he is the test subject for only makes him slightly more intelligent than an average ape at first. By the time he begins to speak, it sounds more like a guttural roar because they lack the vocal cords for full speech. There is a logical progression of intelligence. The realness of the film is also magnified by the groundbreaking motion capture and CGI that was developed for this franchise. Nowadays, the CGI looks a bit dated, but that’s only because of how much it improved by the end of the trilogy.

Where the movie is lacking is that the main character isn’t Caesar, but Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco). Coming out in 2011, Franco was deep in the phase of career where he just seemed completely checked out in every film he was in. Watching this movie will cause nightmarish flashbacks to that time he hosted The Oscars. The rest of the human cast, particularly John Lithgow as Will’s father, are much more engaging with better performances. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to completely distract from the sleepwalking lead.

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3 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Judy Greer as Cornelia, Caesar's wife, holding their baby in The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Image via 20th Century Fox

This second film of the rebooted series is also the first in the franchise helmed by The Batman director, Matt Reeves. The world Rupert Wyatt built in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was by no means bad, but Reeves took what he built and just ran with it in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This movie takes place after the Simian flu killed off a large portion of the human population, allowing the apes to have their own societies outside of the few remaining human settlements. The primary conflict involves Caesar’s and his people trying to form a mutual alliance with the nearby human settlement.

The movie is an excellent slow burn, showing the different conflicts of both sides internally and externally. Not only does this create amazing and realistic characters, but the movie also has many amazing action sequences sprinkled throughout. The apes don’t just ride horses in this movie, they pilot a tank. How can you not want to watch a movie where an ape drives a tank?

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2 Planet of the Apes (1968)

Charlton Heston as George Taylor surrounded by apes in Planet of the Apes
Image via 20th Century Fox

It’s hard to beat the classics, and as far as Hollywood sci-fi goes it’s hard to get more classic than the original Planet of the Apes. What’s most striking about this movie on a rewatch is how it takes it’s time while still being under 2 hours long. Before the characters in the story reach the ape city where most of the iconic lines and set pieces take place, we spend a lot of time with Charlton Heston’s Taylor just wandering a desert. It provides the audience with a deep understanding of his philosophy on life, why he hates other people, and see just how much of a nihilist he is. It makes it all the more rewarding when his viewpoints begin to change, and he tries to save someone other than himself.

Not much needs to be said about this movie, it’s so iconic. But it would be a crime to not bring up that this film brought us the best Simpsons joke ever, and for that we love it.

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1 War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Summer 2017 was stacked when it came to movies. There were two new marvel movies, new Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright movies, and the first Wonder Woman. It was a great summer for movies, but there was so much that War for the Planet of the Apes seemed to get lost in the crowd. Not nearly as many people talk about this movie as they should, because it is legitimately one of the best blockbuster movies from the last decade.

The movie follows Caesar seeking revenge against one of the last remaining human factions, a militia led by Woody Harrelson. Like the other best movies in the franchise, this movie is a slow-burn character study. It’s almost unfortunate that the title of this movie was War, all three of the titles in the reboot trilogy honestly have the wrong names, and they should’ve swapped titles with each other. This isn’t a war film in the traditional sense. The previous film in the trilogy, Dawn, was closer to one. But disregarding the expectations of war, this film quietly became the best in the franchise. Witnessing the career-best performances from Serkis and Harrelson in this movie, Reeves’ stellar direction, and the groundbreaking animation, it provides a lot of hope for where the franchise will turn to next in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

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