Initially based on the novel La Planète des singes by French author, Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes is a hugely successful movie franchise. The initial entry was a big hit when it was released back in 1968 and over the years it has spawned sequels, TV shows, toys and comics, as well as multiple movie reboots!

Yep, Planet of the Apes has been rebooted more than once and as such it can be difficult to keep track of all the films. This often leads people to ask the question: What is the best order to watch the Planet of the Apes films?

If you’re asking this very question, then don’t worry, you’re not alone! But hopefully today I can reduce some of the confusion and provide you with the best order to watch the movies.

Read on for more details… ya damn dirty ape!

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The original Planet of the Apes movie series

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

OK, so let’s start at the very beginning – the original run of Apes movies.

The first entry in the Apes series is Planet of the Apes – a science fiction tale about an astronaut who crash lands on a planet dominated by intelligent apes. The film – released by 20th Century Fox – stars Charlton Heston as astronaut George Taylor, alongside a cast that includes Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall.

Released in 1968, Planet of the Apes was both a critical and commercial hit, and led 20th Century Fox to green light a follow up, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Heston returned for the sequel, but in a reduced capacity, and James Franciscus became the focus of the movie.

A third outing followed in 1971 (minus Heston and Franciscus), and this led to a fourth entry in 1972 and finally a fifth in 1973.

The best order to watch the original Planet of the Apes films is as follows:

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

The above list is the best order to watch the movies, but it should be noted that the films have a rather convoluted timeline. As such, you may wish to know the following:

  • Planet of the Apes initially takes place in 1972, before jumping forward in time to 3978, where the majority of the film takes place.
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes is set shortly after the events of Planet of the Apes.
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes sees three apes travel back in time to 1973.
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is set two decades after Escape, with the action taking place in the 1990s.
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes moves the story on by another decade, largely taking place in 2000s. However, the conclusion of the film takes place in the 2600s.

It sounds a little confusing, doesn’t it? Don’t worry – if you watch the films in production order (as noted above) it will all make sense. Trust me.

And now for something a little different…

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The Planet of the Apes TV shows

In addition to a successful run of movies, the popularity of the original Planet of the Apes films resulted in two television spin-offs. The first – simply titled Planet of the Apes – is a live-action show set hundreds of years after the events of Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes ran for 14 episodes, but was cancelled due to low ratings. In spite of its cancellation the show has re-aired countless times over the years, with some episodes re-edited into films (more about that in a moment).

The second television show based on the Apes movies is an animated series called Return to the Planet of the Apes. The show – which originally aired on NBC – comprises 13 episodes and is loosely based around characters and situations from the first two Apes movies: Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

If you are planning to watch the original run of Apes movies you don’t need to watch the TV shows if you don’t want to. The shows are inspired by the original film series but do they their own thing and effectively take place in an alternate timeline.

The two Planet of the Apes television shows are:

  • Planet of the Apes (1974)
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975)

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The Planet of the Apes TV movies

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

During the early 1980s, ten out of 14 episodes of the aforementioned Planet of the Apes live-action TV series were edited together to form a collection of television movies. In total, five movies were created, with each film composed of two episodes.

While these ‘movies’ are not films in the strictest sense, they were presented as such and include some new material not seen in the show.

The order for the Planet of the Apes TV movies is as follows:

  • Back to the Planet of the Apes Created from the episodes Escape from Tomorrow and The Trap
  • Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes Created from The Gladiators and The Legacy
  • Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes Created from The Horse Race and The Tyrant
  • Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes Created from The Surgeon and The Interrogation
  • Farewell to the Planet of the Apes Created from Tomorrow’s Tide and Up Above the World So High

These ‘movies’ effectively end the first era of the Apes movie series. Now onto Phase II…

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The remake of Planet of the Apes

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

In 2001, after years of attempting to reboot the Apes franchise, 20th Century Fox finally moved forward on a project that the studio hoped would kick-start a new era for the films. The movie tasked with rebooting the series was Planet of the Apes, an updated remake of the 1968 film.

Tim Burton was on directing duties, with Mark Whalberg taking the lead role of astronaut Leo Davidson. The remaining cast included Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tim Roth and Paul Giamatti.

Did it work?

Nope!

Despite improved effects, and a few of Tim Burton’s visual touches, Planet of the Apes was not a success. As a result, no sequels followed, leaving the movie a solo offering for the second era of the Apes films.

Should you want to watch Tim Burton’s take on Planet of the Apes, then check out:

  • Planet of the Apes (2001)

And now for Phase III…

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The reboot of Planet of the Apes

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

Although Tim Burton’s Apes movie failed to take off, it didn’t deter 20th Century Fox from pursuing more films in the series. Keen not to continue where the previous series left off, the decision was made to reboot the movies once more.

The first entry in this new run of films was Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). The film focused largely on establishing how the apes became more human-like and starred James Franco, John Lithgow and Andy Serkis.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was both a critical and commercial hit and led to a sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). In turn, Dawn was hugely successful, taking over $710 million at the worldwide box office, and was followed by a third entry, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).

If you wish to watch the films in order, then watch them as follows:

  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

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Production order

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

And finally, if timelines, remakes, and reboots are not something you concern yourself with, then you can simply watch all of the films in order of release. To do this, simply follow the production order for the Planet of the Apes films:

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  • Escape from the 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)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

And should you wish to add the TV ‘movies’ to the list, then go with this order:

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
  • Back to the Planet of the Apes – TV movie
  • Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes – TV movie
  • Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes – TV movie
  • Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes – TV movie
  • Farewell to the Planet of the Apes – TV movie
  • Planet of the Apes (2001)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Wow, that’s a lot of apes!

Whether you choose to include the TV movies or ignore them completely, the Planet of the Apes film series offers hours of primate action. The movies are at their best when they act as an allegory for modern society, but there’s much to enjoy throughout the series if you simply love sci-fi stories about humanity’s struggle with evolution.

Happy viewing!

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