Top 10 Monkey Movies

This week’s League topic asked us to list our top ten movies. Coming up with a top 10 list of my favorite movies was just too daunting, so I figured I would have to break it down into a smaller segment. If you’ve ever spent more than two minutes on this site, you probably know about my affinity for King Kong, but my monkey love doesn’t end there! There is absolutely nothing better than Simian Cinema, so here are my top ten “Monkey Movies.”

top 10 monkey movies mighty joe young

10. Mighty Joe Young
Poor Joe Young. A recurring theme in most of my picks is that I always sympathize with the ape and end up rooting for him to stomp on some puny humans. in this movie, Joe gets treated so poorly in captivity, you just want him to run riot on his captors. This movie was remade with dazzling CGI not too long ago, but Charlize Theron’s version lost all the heart that was evident in the original.

top 10 monkey movies Project X

9. Project X
Remember when Ferris Bueller was an Air Force pilot and was demoted for stealing a plane, and then had to train chimps to fly them instead? This movie actually holds up pretty well and if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye when old Bluebeard gets exposed to the radiation, there is something seriously wrong with you.

top 10 monkey movies Every Which Way but Loose

8. Every Which Way But Loose
There is NOTHING funnier than Dirty Harry with an orangutan–except for maybe Lancelot Link. This movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I grew up with it, and to this day can be found saying “Left turn, Clyde,” when dealing with annoying people.

top 10 monkey movies  beneath the planet of the apes

7. Beneath the Planet of the Apes
I tried really hard to keep this list from being dominated by all of the Planet of the Apes movies, so I opted to have this one over Escape from the Planet of the Apes, but it was a toss-up. Beneath the Planet of the Apes earned its place on this list mainly because it gave us General Ursus and the Lawgiver statue. All the PotA movies have jaw-dropping endings, and this one is no exception–you don’t leave these movies feeling triumphant.

top 10 monkey movies King Kong 1976

6. King Kong (1976)
A lot of people don’t care for this version of Kong, but if you can get by Lana Lang’s dreadful performance, it’s actually pretty watchable. This is one of the first “grown up” movies I ever saw as a kid and it left a pretty indelible mark in my memory banks. I enjoy watching it now and imagining Jeff Bridge’s Jack Prescott as “the Dude.”

top 10 monkey movies Rise of the Planet of the Apes

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (or as I like to call it, Project X: part 2)
I was seriously concerned when I heard they were going to reboot the beloved Planet of the Apes series after seeing the atrocity that Tim Burton unleashed, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a refreshing take on the Apes franchise–one of my favorite movies in recent memory. And I didn’t even mind James Franco that much.

top 10 monkey movies King Kong 2005

4. King Kong (2005)
I honestly didn’t care for this movie the first time I watched it for the exact reason that a lot of other people liked it–those bugs. I could do without that scene in the canyon with the prehistoric bugs. Over time, I have grown to love this movie. Sure, it’s overly long and drawn out, but I’m old, so I don’t mind spending an entire evening with one movie. The effects are astounding, the action is intense, and the final death scene is almost as tragic as the original. Almost.

top 10 monkey movies Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

3. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
This is my second favorite PotA film after the original. Seeing the backstory, set in 1996, about how Caesar came to rule is chilling and fascinating. Sure the movie is anything but subtle with its racial overtones but I think films like this hold an important place in our society, as sort of mockumentaries of the time they were produced.

top 10 monkey movies King Kong 1933

2. King Kong (1933)
It boggles the mind that this movie was made 80 years ago. The stop motion effects are spectacular and I can only imagine what it must have been like to see it on the big screen in 1933. There is more emotion packed into this gem than anything Hollywood has produced in decades.

top 10 monkey movies Planet of the Apes

1. Planet of the Apes
Love, love, love this movie — a true genre-defining classic. What can be said about this movie other than the fact that everybody should see it at least once. Even if you know the amazing twist at the end, there are plenty of reasons to watch those “damn, dirty apes!”



league logo This is the latest post in response to the weekly blog challenge presented by the League of Extraordinary Bloggers



    • says

      Virgil and Clyde should have made a movie together. 😉

      I can’t believe how similar the plotlines are between Project X and the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes–right down to the final scene.

    • says

      They’ve been showing Project-X a lot lately. I remember seeing it the first time when I was young and thinking Yay Ferris! Yay Flight Simulators!! Yay Monkeys!!! . . . and then the ending. So depressing, I still can’t bring myself to watch it.

      I’ve been waiting to see Rise of the POTA when it comes on HBO, but if it’s similar AND has James Franco, it looks like I’ll have to pass :(

      • says

        No, don’t pass on Rise of the Planet of the Apes! It is an incredible movie. No ninjas, but a massive monkey fight on the Golden Gate bridge. Awesome.

  1. says

    Wonderful list!

    I know it doesn’t qualify for this, but I’m curious what you think of the live-action PotA TV show. In many ways, I like it even better than the films, so I’m wondering if I’m crazy.

    • says

      It’s been many, many years since I watched the TV shows, but I remember enjoying it. I’ve actually been looking for the set on DVD for a while, but I guess I should just order it.

      BTW Michael, you would be amazed at how many Google searches I do for various topics and find your site showing up in the results. Kindred spirits. 😉

    • says

      Loved beneath the POTA. Probably may favorite of the bunch (maybe a close tie with conquest – hard to beat a movie where they get a pregnant monkey drunk ). Something about it always reminded me of Zardoz – in a good way.

      • says

        You’re thinking of Escape from the Planet of the Apes where they get Zira tipsy on champagne. The ending to that movie is a gut wrencher!

        (I’ve seen these movies a ton of times and still get them mixed up after the first one!)

        • says

          Yes, you’re right. I love how it starts out with – “hey, remember all those characters and settings you go to know in the last movies? Yeah, there all dead now – except these three, and we’re working on that.”

          If you’re a Star Trek fan, though, the ending is great – Kahn finally gets what’s coming to him.

  2. says

    Project X is the opposite of nostalgia for me and I can’t believe you included it in your list!!! What a gut wrenching feel-bad film. This has shaken me to the core sir! Good job on every which way but loose though!

  3. says

    I can never think of PotA anymore without thinking of that Simpsons episode featuring the musical:

    “I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzee, oh they’ll never make a monkey out of me!”

    “He can talk! He can talk! He can talk! He can talk! I can SIIIIIINNNNNGGGGG!”

  4. says

    Great list! I’m surprised at how many of these monkey movies I have seen. Heck, I even seen The Monkees Head 😛

    Loved the original POTA movie. I have been looking to watch the entire series at some point and want to re-watch the documentary I saw about the series on the History Channel at some point.

    Whenever I think of King Kong, I think of Thanksgiving. Back in the 70’s and much of the 80’s, WOR-TV used to show King Kong and Mighty Joe Young after NBC showed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I never missed it. Then on Friday, WOR showed all the Godzilla movies. Wish they still did that.

    Beneth the POTA had one of my all time favorite scenes when Dr. Zauis was saying “You humans are capable of nothing but distruction” while the apes are behind him, destroying everything in site. Classic. Also the look on the General’s face when the truth about the Statue was reveled was priceless too.

    • says

      I vividly remember being exposed to King Kong and the Wizard of Oz at a young age by a babysitter. The Wizard of Oz creeps me out to this day, but I have loved King Kong ever since.

      The other great aspect of that final scene in Beneath the PotA is what taylor does right after Dr. Zauis’ proclamation. BOOM! 😉

  5. says

    Interesting list, but you’re leaving out anything before 1969 … How about Monkey Business with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. It’s classic and it’s hilarious!


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