7 Of The Most Iconic Moments In ‘Planet Of The Apes’ History

Before Star Wars, before The Matrix, before Alien, The Terminator, or Jurassic Park, there were the genre-defining sci-fi adventures of the Planet of the Apes series. One of the earliest franchises to catapult science fiction into mainstream popularity, Planet of the Apes forever changed how audiences perceived sci-fi narratives in the late 1960s. Using the genre as a conversational talking point, Planet of the Apes probed into the unsettling issues associated with ‘60s society, from fears over nuclear annihilation to issues related to race, religious fanaticism, and animal rights activism.

Over 50 years since the release of its first movie, the Planet of the Apes series is still going strong, ushering in several sequels that have managed to reboot the Apes saga from the ground up. With the recent release of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, we decided to take a look back at the moments that define the overall Apes universe, including the iconic scenes that live rent-free in viewers’ heads to this very day.

The Mutants Show Their True Colors

20th Century Fox

Without a doubt the weirdest entry in the Planet of the Apes series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes can only accurately be described by two words: “fever dream.” With a plot line that includes telepathic mutants living underground battling a band of militaristic gorillas, Beneath will leave audiences raising their eyebrows in more than a few places. Yet one scene they won’t be laughing at sees the mutants shedding their human masks and showing off their true selves. To this very day, it’s near impossible not to get the heebie-jeebies once the Doomsday Bomb-worshiping zealots start peeling off their faces, exposing their radiated physical features for all the world to see.

“It’s a madhouse!”

20th Century Fox

The fact that Charlton Heston was apparently recovering from the flu when they shot the famous “It’s a madhouse” sequence in Planet of the Apes only further adds to the realism of the entire scene. On the verge of a complete mental collapse, Heston’s physical fatigue matched Taylor’s exhaustion to a T. The results lended a whole new level of believability to this now-famous moment, so that–by the time Taylor’s down getting sprayed by the fire hose–it truly feels like you’re watching a man on the brink of insanity, adding a whole new dimension to Heston’s dialogue delivery.

Taylor Activates the Doomsday Bomb

20th Century Fox

Even when compared to its immediate predecessor, Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ ending makes the final scene of Planet of the Apes appear tame by nature. As Ursus’s forces demolish the mutant shrine to the Alpha Omega Doomsday Bomb, a fatally wounded Taylor makes one last ditch effort to appeal to Dr. Zaius’s humanity, only to be met with indifference and hostility from the human-hating orangutan. Realizing Earth’s future is beyond saving, Taylor uses his dying breath to activate the bomb, destroying this nightmarish planet as a narrator monotonously drones on, “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe lies a medium sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” Talk about a bummer of an ending.

Apes Riding on Horseback

It takes a little while before the apes make their first appearance in the original Planet of the Apes, but the end results couldn’t be more satisfying. As they’re thrust in the middle of a chaotic human hunt, Taylor and his fellow astronauts get their first glimpse at the titular apes now ruling the world. Galloping on horseback, executing advanced strategy maneuvers, and wielding rifles with the precision of a Western gunslinger, we couldn’t imagine a better first appearance from the hyper-violent gorillas in the film, leaving audiences just as baffled and confused as Taylor himself.

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!”

After spending the bulk of Planet of the Apes’ second act struggling to utter a single word, Taylor’s voice returns in grand fashion as he’s swinging from a net in the middle of Ape City. Snapping at the gorilla guards to “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!”, the simian crowd in attendance can only look on in stunned amazement as they realize Taylor is far from the average human they believed him to be. With a rapturous Zira beaming in delight–knowing that all her hokum theories about Taylor’s intelligence have proven correct–everything about this scene just works exponentially well, advancing the stakes of the narrative forward with one major leap.

Caesar’s First Word

Expecting something to happen is one thing, but actually seeing it happen is often a completely different matter. Whether ripping open that guitar-shaped present beneath the tree on Christmas morning or finally seeing Billy Joel live in concert, nothing compares to the sensation of witnessing something with your own eyes. Of course, everyone headed into Rise of the Planet of the Apes expected to see the apes communicate with each other, but nothing compared to the moment where Caesar uttered his first word. Letting out a guttural “No” while brandishing a stun baton, the shocked silence from the human and ape characters pretty much sums up audiences’ collective experience: awe, reverence, and a slight feeling of fear.

“You blew it up!”

20th Century Fox

Is there any other scene that comes close to summarizing Planet of the Apes than the iconic ending to the first film? A plot twist that leaves audiences chilled to the bone over five decades later, nothing can prepare you for Planet of the Apes’ climactic sequence the first time you watch the movie. A stirring condemnation of the nuclear hostilities tied to the ‘60s Cold War, Planet of the Apes’ final scene mercilessly drives home how bleak humanity’s future really is, fading to black on a devastated Taylor as he realizes the truth about the ape-dominated world, as well as how futile his chances of escape truly are.

About the author

Richard Chachowski

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Fangoria, Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Sportskeeda, and MDLinx, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020.