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Film / Planet of the Apes (1968)

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"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"
Colonel Taylor

Adapted from Pierre Boulle's novel and co-scripted by Rod Serling, this classic 1968 sci-fi film launched a screen franchise that has continued, with various sequels and reboots, into The New '10s.

A team of astronauts flies into space at near light speed. They are influenced by time dilation: eighteen months for them is over two thousand years for the Earth. They crash onto a mysterious, seemingly desolate planet (losing the sole female on the crew in the process), specifically into a dead lake; this loses them their spacecraft and most of their supplies.

On this planet, there is a mute race of human-like creatures, treated as animals by a race of sentient English-speaking apes. Caught in the middle of an ambush between Ape and Man, one of the astronauts is killed, another lobotomised and a third, Col. George Taylor (Charlton Heston), is shot in the throat, which renders him mute like the other men. He is among the captured men, and taken back to the apes' mostly pre-industrial city. As the talking ape civilisation learn that Taylor, "Bright Eyes" to them, can (eventually) speak and write, they put him on trial for heresy against the ape civilisation's sacred scrolls.


Notable for its famous Earth All Along ending: Taylor escapes from the apes, finding a new life with his love Nova, and eventually discovers the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. He realizes that Man destroyed himself in some iteration of World War III, sent the planet back to the Stone Age, and allowed the apes to conquer.

The sequel to this movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, was released in 1970.


The first movie contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: When the movie starts out, the year on the ship's onboard calendar reads 1972. When they crash-land on the titular planet, it's 3978.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: This was actually the initial plan. It was scrapped when the only female crew member was killed in the crash landing.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the original 1963 novel, La Planet De Singes, the titular planet really was an alien planet the whole time, which Taylor (named Ulysses in the novel) and Nova escaped by sneaking into an experimental space flight, only to discover that Earth had undergone a similar ape revolution as the alien world. A similar ending was eventually used in the 2001 remake.
  • Adaptational Modesty: The wild humans were nude in the book. In the film, they wear loincloths.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Ulysse from the book becomes Taylor.
    • Antelle becomes Landon.
  • After the End: As revealed at the end of the movie.
  • Agent Mulder: Zira; she instantly believed Taylor was more than special the second he first demonstrated writing "My name is Taylor". She then believed that there were more intelligent humans like Taylor out there somewhere.
  • Agent Scully: Cornelius; unlike Zira, he doubts his theories even after Taylor kept demonstrating intelligence. He refuses to believe there’s more beyond civilization due to not wanting to get in trouble by Ape law.
  • Aliens Speaking English: It should have been Taylor's first clue...
  • Animal Is the New Man: The astronauts land on a planet where apes rule the world while humanity takes on the role of animals. Since the planet is Earth All Along, it makes more sense.
    Taylor: Man preceded you here. You owe him your science, your language, whatever knowledge you have.
    Dr. Zaius: Then answer me this—if man was superior, why didn't he survive?
  • Anti-Hero: Taylor is a misanthropic, rather vicious Jerkass. However, he is not without sympathetic traits, such as his affection for Nova and his disgust with Landon's lobotomy. He also seems disappointed that the apes are no better than humans (or vice versa)
  • Anti-Villain: Doctor Zaius can be ruthless when pressed though he has fundamentally good intentions as he seeks to prevent humanity from causing another apocalpyse and is at least reasonable enough to try and talk Taylor into making a false confession in exchange for his safety.
  • Apocalypse How: "You maniacs! You blew it up!"
  • Arc Words: "Somewhere in the universe, there must be something better than man..."
  • Arch-Enemy: Dr. Zaius to Colonel George Taylor, Cornelius, and Zira.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • "Dr. Zaius, would an ape make a human doll that TALKS?"
    • "You do this out of fear. Because you're afraid of me! WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF, DOCTOR??"note 
  • Artificial Gravity: In the opening scene; we clearly see Taylor walking over to his cryosleep pod to get inside.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • A major contributor to the stigma between the humans and the sentient apes is the idea that humans are not apes, and (to some) not animals. While the apes in the first film may be forgiven for it by not being advanced enough to be able to prove the former through genetic sciences, the humans in the modern day in later films have no excuse whatsoever.
    • The ship with the protagonist is sent into space to colonize a new planet. That's why it contains three males and one female. A population that low would die out from inbreeding within several generations, even assuming the single female would reproduce constantly.
      • In addition, for breeding it would be far more efficient to have several females for each male, since a single male can impregnate multiple females, whereas a single female can only undergo one pregnancy at a time.
    • Gorillas are portrayed as warlike and violent, chimpanzees as reserved and rational, and orangutans as wise and social. Gorillas are very gentle and docile animals (though angering them is an extremely bad idea) while chimps have been known to exterminate other tribes, including the infants, to take the females and food. Orangutans have a completely anti-social society; males leave upon puberty and live on their own, attacking anyone that comes into their territory. Again, probably a case of Primatology Marched On.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The fact that most of the landscapes resemble the American southwest (namely Arizona and Utah, along with California) given both the ending and Cornelius' map, which shows NYC's islands, only with less water around them.
  • Awful Truth: Dr. Zaius, and possibly the entire orangutang caste, knows the true history of their world and the origin of ape society.
  • Big Applesauce: The end of the film, which lets Taylor know where he really is.
  • Big Bad: Doctor Zaius. He spends pretty much the whole film plotting against Taylor. Though in the end it is revealed that he is an Anti-Villain.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Technically (in more ways than one) averted, but Dodge didn't live up to his name.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Taylor, even when mute. Also Cornelius.
  • Dead Guy on Display: This is what happened to Dodge, whose body is placed in an ape museum about humans.
    • In the comics, it's revealed he's an interesting display because he's the only dark-skinned human they've seen.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The ending.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: It's at least half hour until we encounter the title characters, and all but one of the humans you meet till then either end up dead, or worse, lobotomized.
  • Downer Ending: After Zira and Cornelius get hauled away to be tried for heresy, it is revealed the planet of the apes is actually Earth, thousands of years after World War III. Taylor was home all along.
    Taylor: You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
  • Dub Name Change: Of all the characters, Cornelius alone got his name changed for the Spanish dub. He was renamed "Aurelio."
  • Earth All Along: The Trope Codifier. The "planet of the apes" is Earth, thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust.
  • Eerily Out-of-Place Object: The Statue of Liberty on the beach.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Again, the Statue of Liberty.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Used as a plot point. The apes in an archeological site are freaked out when a human doll talks.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: A funny inversion occurs when Taylor the human escapes from a medical lab where apes do experiments on humans and runs amok, scaring the innocent residents of Ape City.
  • Eternal English: It's 2,000 years in the future, and the apes are still speaking perfect English. Although they don't call it that...Cornelius just says it was the language taught to him by his father and his father before him.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Apes, actually. The whole series, really.
  • Evil Laugh: Not really "evil" so much as mockingly cynical, but Taylor's laughter at Landon planting a tiny U.S. flag on the planet has a similar effect.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The apes' evolution to intelligence in a couple of thousand years. RetConned in the sequels.
  • Expy: The Lawgiver is basically Ape Moses.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Gorillas are soldiers, police, and blue collar workers. Chimpanzees work the medical and academic fields. Orangutans are the lawmaking aristocracy. It's mentioned that the caste system was abolished, but that only pertains to it being officially institutionalized. In practice it's still very much in effect.
  • Fantastic Racism:
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Taylor finds Landon lobotomized by the apes.
    • Taylor himself becomes more desperate to escape after learning that he himself is scheduled to be not only lobotomized and emasculated, but also stands to lose his two best friends.
  • Forbidden Zone: A really notable example.
  • Freudian Threat: Dr. Zaius makes repeated attempts to emasculate Taylor, potentially due to his obsession with the idea of a race of intelligent humans breeding.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: The astronauts' immediate reaction to discovering a (freshwater) lake just outside of the Forbidden Zone is to go Skinny Dipping. While this happens, their clothes and equipment end up being stolen and/or destroyed by the primitive humans.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Charlton Heston and Maurice Evans spend much of the movie engaging in this as Taylor and Dr. Zaius verbally spar over and over.
  • History Repeats: After humanity blew itself up with nuclear weapons, all surviving descendants of theirs have regressed into primitive, dumb animals much like Homo ergaster and Homo erectus. Meanwhile, the Apes are repeating the exact same history of segregation, oppression and violence as the humans they despise so much.
  • Hollywood Science: Averted. This movie shows a great deal of respect and knowledge of science, far more than would be expected from Hollywood.
  • Hope Spot: What was the jungle in the end of the movie? It turns out to be ruins of the Statue of Liberty and it WAS Earth All Along.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: From the description of the film on This Very Wiki:
    At first it appears that the planet is completely desolate, but they look for signs of life anyway. They discover that it has life when they see a small plant growing in the desert. They pull it up - go figure. "Where there's one, there must be more!" so, hope renewed, they keep looking.
  • Human Aliens: The apes and the humans look exactly like the ones on Earth. Justified, since it was Earth All Along.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Eloquently declared in The Sacred Scrolls.
    "Beware the beast, Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport. Or lust. Or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him. Drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death."
  • Humans Are Morons: Unlike other examples of this in Speculative Fiction, this is one example where humanity is less civilized than the apes, as opposed to usually being the slightly more civilized ones. This is because humanity managed to blow itself to damn near the brink of extinction, losing its civilized qualities in the process.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Taylor feels this way at the beginning, but after meeting the apes, he changes his mind. Then comes the ending, which is when it's all but confirmed.
  • Humans Are Ugly: When Taylor wants to kiss Zira goodbye, she says he is "so damned ugly".
  • Human Popsicle: The four astronauts.
  • Humiliation Conga: Taylor spends the bulk of the film enduring this. Serves him right though, considering what a Jerkass he is.
  • In Name Only: Adaptation of the novel. Pierre Boulle was apparently impressed enough with the adaptation that he submitted his own proposal for a sequel titled Planet of the Men, which would've ended with the humans taking over the planet and ultimately turning Dr. Zaius into a zoo exhibit.
  • ...In That Order: "If they catch you, they will dissect you. And kill you. In that order." note 
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Dr. Zaius explains to Taylor that his bigotry against humans is because they ultimately destroy any environment they settle in. Towards the end Dr. Cornelius (who is actually sympathetic to Taylor) even reads from a religious scroll that warns of "that harbinger of doom — man". The ending reveals that Zaius was completely right, since it's really a post-apocalyptic future.
  • Irony:
    • In the prologue, Taylor wonders if there's a sentient race out there that's "better than man." It turns out most of the Apes are hardly any better than the humans they claim to be superior to.
    • He also starts off as a cynical misanthrope who couldn't wait to get away from the human race. By the halfway point of the movie, he's forced to become humanity's vocal proponent. And then the ending reveals he was right about humans being bastards all along.
    • There's also a distinctly harsh moment where Taylor is roughly tying up Doctor Zaius near the finale, despite the protests of Zira and Cornelius; Taylor blithely remarks that it's no different from how he was treated, suggesting that he's no better than the Apes.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Taylor: Dr. Zaius, I know who I am But who are you? How in hell did this upside-down civilization get started?
    Zaius: Huh! You may well call it upside-down since you occupy its lowest level, and deservedly so.
  • Is This a Joke?: The tribunal dismiss Taylor's claim of being from another planet as "a joke."
  • Jerkass: Most of Taylor's behavior toward the apes for most of the film. He doesn't appear to get along particularly well with his fellow astronauts, either.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Dr. Zaius at the very end, although the point is not made by him
  • Kangaroo Court: Zira and Cornelius vs. the ape government.
  • Killer Space Monkey: The apes, and the gorillas in particular. Until the truth is revealed at the end.
  • Land of One City: The planet is implied to have only one civilized area surrounded by a continent of wilderness: Ape City.
  • Large Ham: Charlton Heston ("It's a MAAAAAAADHOOOOUSE!!! A MAAAAAAADHOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUSE!!!!!!!!")
  • Laser-Guided Karma: At the end of the film after being repeatedly attacked, beaten, caged, stripped and tied up by the apes, Taylor exacts a small measure of revenge by capturing Dr. Zaius, arguably the Apes' main spokesperson, and tying him to a log.
  • Last-Name Basis: Taylor's first name doesn't even pop up in the film, it was revealed later.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: The religious myth held by the apes in the first movie turns out to be a distorted version of ape rebellion and the human war that allowed apes to come to power, as depicted in the sequels. Kind of. Zira and Cornelius' mucking about with Time Travel in Escape from the Planet of the Apes changes the course of history, causing the rebellion to happen in a different way - and with a different leader - than it had in this timeline.
  • Lobotomy: One of the astronauts gets lobotomised and by the apes.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: The apes wield repeating rifles (the movie props are modified M1 carbines), at least a century more advanced than any other tech they're shown using.
  • Meaningful Name: Played with with Dodge, who gets shot, failing to live up to his name.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It gets a 5, due to the disturbing nature of some of the violence, like humans being mercilessly hunted for sport, Dodge's (Jeff Burton) stuffed corpse being seen in the museum, and Landon (Robert Gunner) being lobotomized offscreen.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: The Three Wise Judges. Meant to be a private gag for the film crew, but Executive Meddling meant the shot stayed in the movie.
  • Monumental Damage / Monumental Damage Resistance: In the 40th century, the Statue of Liberty - though severely damaged - is the only part of New York City still recognizable (until Beneath the Planet of the Apes, anyway).
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Zaius: Ethically questionable... OK, very unethical. In fact, an antagonist. He routinely performs lethal experiments on those inferior humans, although he later explains why he's so wary of man.
  • Motherly Scientist: Chimpanzee Zira, notable psychologist and zoologist, calls Taylor "Bright Eyes", at least until he manages to write his own name, to her surprise. She ends up kissing him goodbye - even though, as she tells him, "You're so damned ugly." She's sort of like a reverse Jane Goodall.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Taylor. He goes Skinny Dipping along with the other astronauts during the above-mentioned Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen scene, and his state of dress doesn't really change from there on out. We also get to see his naked ass on at least two separate occasions.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In the "What have you done" variant.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Dr. Zaius. Despite being the high-ranking Science Minister, he is still consumed by the ideology that Apes are the superior species and Humans are nothing more than corrupt violent savages, "the Devil's pawns", and therefore it is his duty to pacify them. It is revealed that he knows Humans used to have a great civilization, but believes that since they destroyed themselves, Apes are still the superior species.
  • No Ending: The movie abruptly ends after the Earth All Along reveal. Until Beneath the Planet of the Apes came out, the audience had no idea what was next for Taylor.
  • Nubile Savage: Nova, who spends most of her time in scantily-clad clothing.
  • Only Sane Man: Taylor has the only rational response to a world where apes rule over men.
    It's a madhouse! A madhouse!
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The apes are only familiar with unintelligent, non-speaking humans. So when Taylor starts writing, it scares Cornelius and Zira before it impresses them. Everyone is scared when his throat wound heals and he's able to say his iconic line: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape."
  • Outside-Context Problem: Despite being captive, enslaved, and thought to be mute, Taylor is out of context to the apes once they realize that he can write, is quite intelligent, and eventually talk once his throat is healed. All the other humans in the film are kept as pets who can't talk or think intelligently.
  • Persecution Flip: The apes keep humans in cages and using them for experiments.
  • Pet the Dog: Dr. Zaius warning Taylor when the latter sets off to find more about the planet. Even calling Taylor by name, acknowledging him as his equal.
    Taylor: A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
    Dr. Zaius: Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.
  • Post-Historical Trauma: You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you!! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!!
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Delivered as only Charlton Heston can say it. All together now: GOD! DAMN! YOU! ALL! TO! HELL!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The ape society was originally going to be more technologically advanced, akin to the book it was based on, but it proved too expensive and the ape society was made more primitive to cut costs.
  • Really 700 Years Old: When Taylor, Landon, and Dodge leave Earth, it is 1972. When they crash-land on the planet, 2,006 years have passed (Taylor says that Landon is now 2,031 years old), and they still look like they're in their mid-30's/-40's. Given a rather snarky lampshade by Taylor.
  • Sacred Scripture: The Sacred Scrolls, written by the deified Lawgiver.
  • Scary Scarecrows: Just before leaving the Forbidden Zone, the three astronauts find several things that could be scarecrows, but might in fact be human corpses that were strung up by the apes, long ago.
  • Scenery Porn: For starters, the Forbidden Zone scenes, shot around the Colorado River and Lake Powell in Utah.
  • Schizo Tech: The objects in the ape society have varied levels of technology.
  • Secret Police: Dr. Zaius is essentially running an Inquisition. He knows full well that ape society's view of humanity is not entirely true, and because of what he knows, he's deeply involved in making sure that that stays true, prosecuting Taylor's collaborators for heresy rather than letting out the fact that humans are actually sentient beings.
  • Shout-Out: To Animal Farm. When asked if he knows why all apes were created equal, Taylor replies that "some apes seem to be more equal than others".
  • Silent Credits: One of the most famous silent end credits (except for the sound of waves crashing on the shore) as Taylor realizes he's been on Earth all along.
  • Sleeper Starship: The crew hibernate during the trip, though apparently the method doesn't entirely stop them from aging. And if something goes wrong with the process, they age normally.
  • The Smart Guy: Dodge, for the brief time we knew him. Landon says that he'd walk naked into a live volcano if it meant he could learn something that no one else knew.
  • Spiritual Successor: As James Rolfe pointed out in his review of the film, it's easy to consider this story a missing episode of The Twilight Zone. Many of the same themes pop up: a fantastical (and somewhat goofy) science-fiction situation, An Aesop about the follies of Man, and the Mandatory Twist Ending. It helps that the initial draft of the screenplay was actually done by Rod Serling, and that a previous episode of The Twilight Zone ("I Shot an Arrow into the Air") dealt with the same story situation and even had a similar Twist Ending. Additionally, a lot of Planet of the Apes actors would later turn up on The Twilight Zone's other Spiritual Successor, Night Gallery.
  • Spoiler Cover: There were videotape covers showing the Statue of Liberty on the cover, spoiling the Twist Ending.
  • Status Quo Is God: At the beginning of the film, Taylor believes humanity to be bastards, but changes his mind after meeting the apes, but goes right back to thinking it after seeing the ruins of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Teleportation Misfire: A misjump takes the astronauts to the eponymous planet. Which is actually Earth thousands of years into the future.
  • The Theocracy: Ape society runs pretty heavily on laws created by the ape version of Moses, and is fairly intolerant of acts of heresy. It's also implied that the ruling caste are deliberately holding back scientific progress to prevent Society Marches On.
  • Time Dilation: Taylor's crew ages 18 months while 2006 years have passed outside.
  • Time Machine: The spaceship slows down the passage of time within it, and so allows one to travel into the future.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Taylor sports one when he comes out of hibernation.
  • Time Travel: Taylor and his crew are on a near light speed traveling, which results in them being transported 2000 years into the future whilst the spaceship and everything in it only ages 18 months
  • Tomato Surprise: Earth All Along.
  • Twist Ending: Earth All Along. Considering Rod Serling had a hand in the 1968 screenplay, it really shouldn't have been that surprising...
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Viewers are expected to understand the subtleties, such as slowly making new discoveries and realizing that apes' cruelty towards humans represents our monstrous, self-destructive acts.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Zaius, to an extent. In any case, he obviously already knows what Taylor would discover in the ending.
    Dr. Zaius: All my life I've awaited your coming and dreaded it. Like death itself.
    Taylor: Why? I've terrified you from the first, Doctor. I still do. You're afraid of me and you hate me. Why?
    Dr. Zaius: Because you're a man! And you're right, I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself.
    Taylor: What evidence? There were no weapons in that cave.
    Dr. Zaius: The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago.
    Taylor: That still doesn't give me the why. A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
    Dr. Zaius: Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.
  • Wham Line: "TAKE YOUR STINKING PAWS OFF OF ME, YOU DAMNED DIRTY APE!!!" Made all the more powerful when you realize that Charlton Heston was sick with the flu at the time, but the director felt that the hoarseness of his voice would add impact to that line. It did.
  • Wham Shot: The Statue of Liberty at the end. (At least, if you don't already know the ending.)
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Publicly, Dr. Zaius insists that Taylor must be an animal trained in mimickry or some other fraud, and insists on calling him by Zira's original nickname for him, Bright Eyes. When meeting privately with Taylor to negotiate, however, Zaius dispenses with all such political double talk, talking to Taylor as a fellow intelligent being, and calling him by his real name. Taylor even thanks him for it.
  • You Can Talk?: When Taylor says the above mentioned Wham Line, all the apes go dead silent. They don't say this quote word for word, but their expressions sure do.


Video Example(s):


Planet of the Apes- Beware the Beast Man

The Sacred Scrolls declare the nature of the most dangerous beast: man.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / HumansAreTheRealMonsters

Media sources:

Main / HumansAreTheRealMonsters