An astronaut crash lands on a planet where apes rule over humans
and must figure out a way to prove his story to the apes in charge.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter,
Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, James Whitmore,
Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton, Lou Wagner
Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
Oscar Nominations - Best Costume Design, Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith)
Planet of the Apes is the original classic that spawned four sequels, a really bad remake, two TV shows, and an epic reboot trilogy. Without this film, we'd have lost hundreds of hours of quality entertainment we never knew we needed in our lives. The first 1968 film still holds up fantastically well thanks to its impressive performances, engaging story, and incredible twist ending that never fails to amaze even if you know it's coming. While Charlton Heston may have chewed the scenery a bit too fine at times, his presence elevates the film from cult classic to cinematic classic. Besides, who doesn't get chills during the "damn dirty ape" scene?
Heston is astronaut George Taylor, one of three survivors of a journey 2000 light-years away from Earth. He soon learns that the planet he's crash-landed on is home to an advanced society of intelligent apes who rule over the less-evolved human race. Seen as a genetic anomaly by the scientific community, Taylor must prove his worth to them with the help of two ape scientists who see him as a gift rather than a threat. For a film that is mostly grand speeches and scientific tribunals, the film is really easy to lose yourself in. The ape makeup remains remarkably realistic even after all these years, especially with the performances of Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans enhancing it.
Planet of the Apes delivers a stinging critique on the structure of human society and the separation of church and state. Its social commentary on class structure and religion vs. science helps keep it relevant even today. While I'm still personally a bigger fan of the Rise/Dawn/War trilogy, I do think the original is a fantastic movie that deserves its place in the annals of science fiction history.