Ranking Planet of the Apes Films
Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite film series. I love it so much, at least those movies that are good as there are some real stinkers here. Ranking them was definitely very easy for me as it was evident which ones are bad, good or great. So I am here ranking all nine Apes films, both the original and the reboot series. And that unfortunate Burton remake too.
9. Planet of the Apes (2001)
Speaking of the devil… Yes, Tim Burton’s Apes remake is the worst and the only truly bad film in this franchise and the only truly bad film in the director’s filmography. I don’t know what he was thinking with this one but everything here is so bad from the characters to that odd romance to action and of course Mark Wahlberg’s infamously terrible performance. A total misfire on every conceivable level.
8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes
This is the final film in the original five Planet of the Apes movies and it is easily the worst one and the only mediocre entry. It has a pretty nice and moving ending, but other than that, it was a very unfortunate film as it should have been a great culmination of the entire series but ended up being disappointing. The action is quite bad as are the make-up effects and the film is rather boring and weakly acted. It’s such a shame that the original series ended on this note.
7. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
But the penultimate installment in the original series was also quite weak. Certainly Conquest isn’t a bad movie as it is an interesting experiment with a more serious tone and racial commentary, but to me that was also its downfall as it was influenced too much by the 70s flicks and thus it looks mediocre visually and it was way too gritty and dark with no sense of fun or excitement whatsoever.
6. Escape from the Planet of the Apes
The sixth place on my list goes to Escape which is the first good movie here. I did find its humor hit-or-miss and the tone is again too serious, but that also led to some pretty fine and thematically rich drama. I loved its ending and I loved the emphasis on Zira who was always one of the franchise’s best characters. The character-driven approach is refreshing and it ultimately led to a singularly different and satisfactory film that can stand on its own.
5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Beneath the Planet of the Apes is too campy and with not that great acting, but I have to say that I really enjoy this movie and it is in my opinion the most underrated of all Apes films. It is of course inferior to the original, but it was different enough and so interesting that it succeeds in spades. Its bold ending is unforgettable. The exploration of the underground tunnels was a lot of fun and I just loved the introduction of mutants. The film features terrific world building.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968)
It pains me so much to put the original 1968 movie on fourth place but I have to as the reboot series is just so amazing and ultimately better. But there is no denying the power and sheer originality of the first film that started it all. Charlton Heston is so great in the main role, the characters are memorable and the storyline is one of a kind, engaging and well thought out. It features a bunch of unforgettable sequences with an awesome twist ending leading to what is inarguably a science fiction classic.
3. War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes is the weakest entry in the new trilogy as it has its minor flaws, but it is still a phenomenal film which made me smile a lot and it also almost made me cry at some points. It is so incredibly emotional and such a wonderful finale to this great journey. I loved its war elements, but I loved the drama even more as it was sophisticated and always emotionally resonant with some great character moments. It serves as a great conclusion to this trilogy as well as a great precursor to the original flick.
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a bit underrated as it isn’t regarded as highly as the rest of the trilogy, but it is just as great in my opinion. It started this whole story superbly and I loved the more simplistic approach this time around. Caesar’s origin story is perfectly told here and the relationship between him and James Franco’s character is the heart of the film. Its scientific approach is great and its action scenes are terrific, but its emotion takes it to the next level.
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
And the best Apes film just has to be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is amazing on so many levels. And it really says a lot that it is the first on this list which is populated with a couple of instant classics. The character development is just spectacular and Koba and Caesar’s conflict is so well established. The humans are also memorable and that last scene between Jason Clarke’s character and Caesar is just so emotional and heartbreaking. The action is great as is the score, but it is its Shakespearean approach and great dialogue that makes it stand out. Complex and sophisticated, but also always hugely entertaining, it is the best Apes film and the best modern blockbuster in my opinion.