Released 1968 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Franklin J. Schaffner
Stars - Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowell, Maurice Evans
An American space crew returning from a long-haul mission crash lands on a planet ruled by talking, intelligent simians who treat the local mute, primitive human population like animals. Heston stars as George Taylor, one of the astronauts; Hunter as Zira, the animal psychologist who becomes convinced that Taylor is intelligent; McDowell as Cornelius, Zira’s fiancé; and Evans as Dr. Zaius, the Minister of Science, who is intent on taking Taylor down.
Male nudity (butt only, although there are a few scenes where if you were so inclined, I suppose you could freeze frame and perhaps see a little peen); violence; minor gore.
It’s a little too long. I think a few scenes could use some tightening.
It’s occasionally too cutesy. For example, the see-no-evil/hear-no-evil/speak-no-evil scene made me roll my eyes. Also, the “don’t trust anyone over 30” nonsense - that really dated the film.
I’m not convinced that, 2,000 or so years in the future, simians would not only evolve to have a very similar culture to humans, but also that they would just so happen to speak English & speak it in such a way that a man from the distant past would be able to understand it.
The characterization is really good. It’s consistent, which I think is a rarity in fiction. I particularly liked how Dr. Zaius was presented. I hated his guts, but his character made sense.
The ending is great. Good reveal, and the exact right kind of open.
I think it’s a thoughtful film, not only in the questions it asks about human nature and where we’re heading, but also in terms of plotting. One thing I appreciated most was that it took the time to explain that the space shuttle was launched in 1972 and set to return in the distant future, which accounted for the old technology. A lot of times in sci fi films, I sit there thinking, “If this is supposed to be happening 400 years from now, would they really have this technology that looks exactly like the technology from the time this movie was made?”
I like this film. It’s really solid, with a good story, good acting, and good practical effects. As with anything, I can nitpick, and I do think it gets a bit dull at times, but overall, it definitely deserves its spot on this list.
I give it 4 stars.
Random Fun Fact: Now that we’re in the Top 30, there are only 10 of these films I’ve never seen before. While this isn’t one of them, I last saw it probably well over 20 years ago.