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With Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes out now, here's how to watch all the Apes movies

Dive deep into the cult classic, simian dystopia movies with Popverse

Image credit: 20th Century Fox

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When it comes to post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction franchises, it’s hard to compare with the Planet of the Apes series — a series that includes multiple versions of how society collapsed across its 50+ year span, each one responding to the very real concerns of audiences at the time. Coming from the '60s and '70s, which birthed a staggering amount of classic sci-fi, including international mega franchises like Star Wars, the pulp-y cult classic Planet of the Apes has maintained their foothold in pop culture for decades.

Originally based on a French novel, Planet of the Apes first crash landed onto big screens back in 1968 where it painted a fantasy world in which time-displaced astronauts crash landed on a world populated by sentient, humanoid apes -- and that was only the beginning of the twists and turns. Throughout the '70s, the franchise leaned heavily into themes like time travel and even started poking at the idea of branched timelines and alternate universes which carried on through multiple reboots as the series progressed.

Now, we've got a modern incarnation of the franchise with three entries under its belt. Kicking off back in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave way to two sequels, with a third out now. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes may or may not kick off a new Apes-based trilogy, depending on its box office results, but the series continues to push the world building and ideas of the franchise further. But with so much time travel, and such dense lore, where exactly should a burgeoning Apes fan start?

We're here to help. Take a look at our guide to watching the Planet of the Apes franchise in both release order and chronological order according to the series' topsy-turvy timeline.

Planet of the Apes movies & TV show in release order

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Image credit: 20th Century Fox

The Planet of the Apes live-action franchise has gone through several distinct itterations with multiple continuities. But here is the order they were released, so you can watch as the creators intended:

Planet of the Apes in "chronological" order

Planet of the Apes
Image credit: 20th Century Fox
The vast majority of Planet of the Apes includes some amount of time travel, meaning the chronological watch order can look a bit intimidating. This also means these films can be broken up into their own timelines and universes!

The Original Movies & Timelines

The original Planet of the Apes franchise can be broken up into two "unique" timelines -- scare quotes around unique because you could definitely make the argument that these are actually two overlapping and competing timelines that close one another off, functionally making a loop. That's because these time travel stories actually run into one another, and, depending on your own understanding of how time works, either over write one another or splinter off into their own thing.

Yes, it's all a little confusing but we promise it's not really too bad, especially if you're someone used to devling into the multiverse of a franchise like the MCU. The important part is to understand that Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) created a version of 1992 that would not have happened or existed in the original Planet of the Apes, revolving around the Ape uprising and the super smart chimp Cesar with his family.

  • 1972 - Planet of the Apes (Original Timeline, introduction)
  • 1973 - Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Alt Timeline, main plot of the movie)
  • 1993 - Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (Alt Timeline)
  • 2003 - Battle for the Planet of the Apes (Alt Timeline)
  • 2600 - Battle for the Planet of the Apes (Alt Timeline)
  • 3978 - Planet of the Apes (Original Timeline, main plot of the movie)
  • 3978 - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Original Timeline)
  • 3978 - Escape from Planet of the Apes (Original Timeline, introduction)
  • 3085 - Planet of the Apes (TV Show) (Original Timeline)

The Burton Timeline

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes
Image credit: 20th Century Fox

Thankfully, the rest of the Apes franchise is relatively straightforward. Tim Burton's take on the series, for example, is its own standalone movie set in a completely isolated version of events. It does, however, feature some time travel because of course it does. This movie recharacterizes the origins and events of the original franchise, updating the concept for the insighting action to kick off in the future, rather than in the 70s. As such, the jump forward in time is exponential.

  • 2029 - Planet of the Apes (Burton Timeline, introduction)
  • 5021 - Planet of the Apes (Burton Timeline, main plot of the movie)

The Reboot Timeline

War for the Planet of the Apes
Image credit: 20th Century Fox

The most straight forward of all the Apes timelines is the Reboot arm of the franchise. These events have, thus far, been completely linear with no real time travel or alternate dimensions to speak of. These movies present the Ape uprising and downfall of humaninity in chronological order, starting things in the 2010s and progressing on from there. The first three (Rise, Dawn, and War) all zoom in on the uprising itself, while the upcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes jumps about a hundred years in the future.

  • ~2010 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Reboot Timeline)
  • ~2020 - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Reboot Timeline)
  • ~2022 - War for the Planet of the Apes (Reboot Timeline)
  • ~ 2100 - Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (Reboot Timeline)

How do these is timelines work together?

It's easiest to think of the Planet of the Apes franchise as having multiple distinct takes on the same sequence of events, whether through reboots and revamps of movies for modern audiences, or through in-universe mechanizations like time travel. The original movie, released in the '70s, saw three astronauts time traveling from the year 1972 to the far-flung future (3978). Later, movies like Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from Planet of the Apes used the same time travel ideas to retroactively go back and start messing with the timeline post-1972.

The end result of this original time travel plot was two distinct timelines, one following the birth of Caesar the chimp and the downfall of mankind, one following the events of 3978 and beyond.

To make things even more complicated, Tim Burton did a full reboot of the franchise back in 2001, taking the general conceit and idea of the original movie but updating it to be set in 2029 with the time travel bit taking the characters into 5021.

Then, finally, the second run of reboots, the Rise of the Planet of the Apes line of films that we're currently in, did a similar thing but updated the origins and ideas from both the original franchise and the alternate Caesar timeline to create something new. This new franchise kicks off in the 2010s and follows the downfall of humanity in real time, rather than exploring the idea of time traveling into the future.

You can certainly make the argument (and many fans have) that there are ways to slot all of these movies together into one cohesive and intertwined multiverse that loops back into itself over and over again as well -- it really just depends on your taste!

Will there be more Planet of the Apes movies?

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the fourth entry into the modern reboot arm of the franchise which kicked off back in 2011, and, with a seven year gap between the release of this movie and 2017's War for the Planet of the Apes, it's difficult to say whether or not the franchise will push ahead or reboot all over again. There have been reports that studios are considering Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes as the first entry in a brand new trilogy, presumably set within the modern reboot timeline, but there has been no confirmation of development on that front just yet. It is likely that the future of the franchise will come down to Kingdom's performance in the box office.


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