Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Planet of the Apes (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Planet of the Apes (1968)

In Franklin J. Schaffner's original, thought-provoking and engrossing sci-fi film of the long-running series, a twisting time-travel adventure with an effective, politically-charged message of social commentary - about a post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear futuristic planet (Earth) with evolved, highly-intelligent talking apes. It was a loose adaptation (by formerly blacklisted Michael Wilson and Twilight Zone's Rod Serling) of the Pierre Boulle novel La Planète Des Singes (Monkey Planet).

The G-rated, 112-minute sci-fi adventure film became well-known for its iconic, chilling, and startling twist-ending - no longer a secret. The ending depicted a post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear futuristic planet (Earth) - revealed in the film's conclusion by a half-submerged Statue of Liberty.

The colorful Panavision film provided solid entertainment value and created momentum for science-fiction cinema. Its advanced make-up techniques reversed the social positions of intelligent humans and brutal apes to slyly criticize and satirize racial and class stereotypes. It also examined the effects of technology upon humankind.

The Vietnam War, Cold War and Civil Rights era film made many subtle points about race, animal rights, the establishment, class, xenophobia and discrimination. The film was most celebrated for its Oscar-winning make-up artistry of the civilized, evolved yet dictatorial ape-like creatures.

  • in the film's pre-credits opening sequence, a US spacecraft (with four NASA astronauts) was launched in early 1972 from Cape Kennedy; and now, six months later, in terms of Earth-time, it was 700 years later (March of 2673)
  • during a brief interlude in the flight, the lead astronaut Col. 'George' Taylor (Charlton Heston), a misanthropic who had left Earth because he hated humanity, wondered if humans on Earth were still engaged in warfare, or enabling starvation of their neighbor's children
  • after completing his final log report and a fully-automated touchdown-landing sequence was initiated, Taylor joined his fellow astronauts in deep sleep as the ship went into auto-pilot; twelve months later at the end of the journey (marking a total of 18 months in space), over two thousand years had passed on Earth; it was now the year 3978 - a total of 2,006 years later and almost two millennia after blast-off; the astronauts had traveled for centuries in cyrogenic suspension (and deep sleep) and at the speed of light, and had aged by only 20 months - proving the theory of relativity

John Landon (Robert Gunner)

Dodge (Jeff Burton)

Escape From Sinking Spacecraft on Yellow Raft
  • after the title credits, the astronauts' spacecraft crash-landed into a lake (and sank) on a strange, Earth-like, desolate planet; only three had survived the journey: Col. Taylor, John Landon (Robert Gunner), and African-American Dodge (Jeff Burton); blonde female astronaut Lt. Stewart (uncredited Dianne Stanley) had died in stasis
  • although they didn't know it, they had landed in a strange and remote Earth-like area that would later be known as "The Forbidden Zone"; Taylor hypothesized that they were about 320 light-years from Earth on an unnamed planet in orbit around a star in the constellation of Orion
  • as the ship sank, the three stranded astronauts paddled in a yellow raft to the shore of a rocky desert, and assessed that they had three days of food and water, a pistol with ammo, some medical supplies, and a camera; before heading off, Landon planted a small American flag into the rocky soil; as they proceeded along, Taylor admitted that he had forsaken Earth altogether, and was optimistic about a better world elsewhere: "I can't help thinking somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be"
  • they discovered signs of life - flowering desert plants - and also suspected that they were being watched by hidden figures atop the rocky cliffs; in a more lush area, they came upon a fence-like or border structure of five wooden crosses - humanoid scare-crow figures; they approached a waterfall oasis, and the threesome took time out for a skinny-dip swim, discovered humanoid footprints in wet sand, and soon after, realized that primitive (feral and mute), bi-pedal men, women, and children had ripped up their clothing and damaged their supplies; the harmless people wore animal skins and loin-cloths; they appeared to be vegetarians - stripping a fruit tree and gathering food from a cultivated cornfield

One of Primitive Natives Later Named 'Nova' (Linda Hamilton)
Humans, Including Astronauts, Hunted by Ape-Gorillas
  • suddenly, there was a ferocious roar from the woods, scaring the primitive creatures who created a stampede as they were hunted and pursued in a cornfield by horse-back riding, armed and uniformed, hairy-faced gorillas (apes of the film's title); during the cavalry charge on horseback, the desperate, fleeing primitives were caught by various nets, traps, and snares; Taylor was shot in the throat (damaging his throat's voice-box), Dodge was shot and killed (and later placed as a display in a museum), and Landon was knocked unconscious with a severe head wound and captured (and later subjected to a lobotomy); the apes posed for photos with their captured prey
  • the injured Taylor was put into a crude, horse-drawn wooden wagon-cage by the brutal apes, taken prisoner and transported along many natives, including a black-haired female, to "Ape City" (composed of a complex of adobe huts); the injured primitives were regarded as stinking dirty "animals" or "beasts" by their ape-captors, and by two chimpanzee scientist-doctors who treated them: Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter), an animal psychologist, and Dr. Galen (Wright King), a surgeon; Taylor was operated upon and treated for his neck wound (removal of the bullet), while he was at first paired up in a cage with the pretty captive, mute female primitive with black hair, who was later named Nova (Linda Harrison)
Main Ape Society Characters

Chimpanzee Surgeon Dr. Galen (Wright King)

Chimpanzee Animal Behavioral Psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter)

Gorilla-Jailer Julius (Buck Kartalian)

Minister of Science Orangutan Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans)

Scientist-Archaeologist Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall)

Animal Affairs Commissioner Dr. Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey)
  • Taylor shockingly realized that he had been temporarily rendered mute; the imprisoned and rounded-up caged humans were also mute and inarticulate and could only grunt; Zira's nickname for recovering patient Taylor was "Bright Eyes" - jailkeeper-gorilla Julius (Buck Kartalian) noticed about Taylor: "He keeps pretending he can talk," but Dr. Zira thought more was happening: "He's keeps trying to form words"; Julius sarcastically believed it was only mimicry: "You know what they say. Human see, human do"; Dr. Zira was fascinated by "Bright Eyes" and his intelligence
  • Dr. Zira's higher-up administrative boss, an orange-colored orangutan named Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), the Minister of Science, was summoned to see the unique human prisoner; the malevolent, arrogant, government leader mocked Taylor's attempt to talk: "Yes, amusing. A man acting like an ape...He has a definite gift for mimicry"; he was disapproving of Dr. Zira's behavioral animal studies: ("To suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense"), and also spiteful of all humans: "Besides, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supplies in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It's a question of simian survival"
  • shortly later, Dr. Zira ordered Nova to be caged with Taylor so that they could pair up or mate - but the pretty, expressionless female primitive could only sniff at him
  • the ape society appeared to be dominated by English-speaking simians who lived in a multi-layered civilization. Humans (who possessed few rights) had been reduced to primitive, subservient mute slaves and were even hunted for sport as animals. The three layers of society included gorillas (war-like enforcers, military, police, guards, hunters and common laborers), orangutans (gov't leaders, administrators, politicians, the ruling elite, lawyers and religious figures), and chimpanzees (the intellectuals, scientists and doctors); at the bottom were humans, considered feral animals (for experimentation and slave labor)
  • later, outdoors in a large caged enclosure, Taylor attempted to communicate by writing in the dirt in big capital letters: "I CAN WRITE," but Nova innocently wiped away the message; after Taylor found that he couldn't speak and explain himself to Dr. Zaius and to Dr. Zira (with her fiancee - archaeologist Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall)), Taylor was suppressed with a painful neck restraint and led back to an indoor cage
  • now confined in an indoor cage, Taylor scribbled on Dr. Zira's stolen note pad: "MY NAME IS TAYLOR" and stunned her; she immediately ordered his release to her own home to study him further, even though it was against the rules; Dr. Zira and her fiancee Dr. Cornelius were intrigued that "Bright Eyes" appeared to be a very intelligent, rational human who could understand English, read and write; Taylor tried to convince them that he had arrived in a space vehicle from another planet, and created a paper airplane to demonstrate flight; Taylor was then shown a map of the local area, including the "greenbelts" of the ape civilization's communities in the west, and further to the east a lifeless desert and barren mountain known as "THE FORBIDDEN ZONE" that Taylor claimed he had traversed to get to the ape-inhabited area
  • Zira and Cornelius speculated about the idea that the apes had evolved from a lower order of primate, possibly man, who had lived in the area of the Forbidden Zone and developed a culture older than recorded time; Dr. Cornelius had already conducted an archaeologist expedition into the so-called 'Forbidden Zone' where Taylor's ship crashed, to search for artifacts and evidence of a civilization predating the Apes; it was possible that Taylor was an evolved "mutation, a missing link between the unevolved primate and the ape"; Taylor insisted with another note: "I AM NOT A MISSING LINK"
  • suddenly, Dr. Zaius entered with Animal Affairs Commissioner Dr. Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey) after they had learned of Dr. Zira's infraction of the rules by bringing the subject to her home; Dr. Zaius noticed the "toy" paper airplane on the floor and crumpled it up; Dr. Zaius was fearful that the human had both the ability to reason and to understand technology - two major threats to the ape society; Taylor was muzzled and gorilla-guards led him back to his indoor cage in the compound
  • in one of the cages, Taylor overheard that Dr. Zaius had personally ordered him to be gelded (emasculated or castrated) within five minutes; during Taylor's attempted escape from "Ape City," he first took refuge in a church during an ape funeral, and then discovered a simian natural history museum display or exhibit of his fellow astronaut - Dodge, now a stuffed and eyeless corpse; after struggling to getr away, after he was finally caught in a net in the marketplace and was taken under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science, Taylor delivered snarling and defiant insults toward the ruling apes, and spoke for the first time, now that his throat had healed: ("Take your stinkin' paws off me, you damn dirty ape!")
  • after a number of weeks, Taylor had been recaged with Nova and was under observation; but then when it was decided that the two - regretfully - should be separated into different cages (and Julius restrained him by spraying him with a high-powered water hose to keep him at bay), he wildly screamed out: "Damn you, you hairy scum!...It's a madhouse. A madhouse!"
  • gorilla-guards strapped a leather collar (with leash) around Taylor's neck, bound his wrists behind his back, and led him to a chamber inquiry room and assembly hall to be investigated by an ad-hoc tribunal hearing of the National Ministry - it was to rule and decide on his fate; three main presiding officials (all orangutans) entered, mounted the dias and took their seats (l to r): Dr. Zaius, Academy-Ministry President (James Whitmore), and Commissioner for Animal Affairs Dr. Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey), in addition to the state's prosecutor, Dr. Honorious (James Daly), the Deputy Minister of Justice; Taylor was to be defended by his counselors Zira and Cornelius; Taylor was forced to stand in the middle of the room during the hearing in the kangaroo court
  • it was soon clear that Dr. Zaius' real purpose for convening the tribunal was to indict Zira and Cornelius for scientific heresy (for promulgating the theory of evolution); although Taylor was able to speak and wished to defend himself, the gorilla-Bailiff forcibly restrained and silenced him; Dr. Honorious went into a long diatribe about how the ape was created in God's image and was a superior being with a "divine spark," and that humans had no rights and no soul; he also proclaimed that only apes should study apes
  • to prove that the ability of "Bright Eyes" to speak was only a hoax after his surgical operation by a "corrupt" surgeon named Dr. Galen, Dr. Honorious proposed a direct examination of Taylor by asking questions about Ape history and culture and the Apes' Articles of Faith that he simply could not answer
At the Tribunal Hearing of the National Ministry

Taylor Defended by Zira and Cornelius

Three Tribunal Judges

Dr. Honorious (James Daly) - The State's Prosecutor
  • Taylor could also not prove, through a written statement briefly read by Cornelius, that he had arrived in a spaceship (that had sunk) with two "talking" and "intelligent" astronaut-companions; a group of "all the surviving humans that were captured in the hunt" were assembled in the outdoor amphitheatre, including Nova and Landon; a fresh, large scar on his forehead revealed his crude lobotomy and his severe catatonic state; Taylor shouted at Dr. Zaius: "You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!"
  • back inside the courtroom, Zaius testified (falsely) that Landon suffered a head injury due to being shot and never could talk; again, Taylor spoke out: "You cut out his memory! You took his identity! And that's what you want to do to me," before he was gagged
  • Dr. Cornelius affirmed that there wasn't enough proof of Taylor's interplanetary travel, but there was proof that the human had come from somewhere in the past in the Forbidden Zone, because he had accurately described it; he described how he had dug up human artifacts during an archaeology trip a year earlier to the Zone; his theory that Taylor had come from a civilization predating the apes that lived in the Forbidden Zone was denounced as heresy; Dr. Zira even speculated that Taylor might have sprung up from their own planet!
  • the three officials at the front of the tribunal assumed the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" pose imitating the wise monkeys of Japanese culture - they could not face the truth of Dr. Zira's theories, and denounced Dr. Cornelius' idea that Taylor was the 'missing link' between humans and their evolved ape superiors; Zira and Cornelius were charged with contempt of court, and the hearing was promptly adjourned, and they would later be brought to trial for heresy
  • in Dr. Zaius' private office after the verdict was in, the noble and arrogant Science Minister pronounced judgment on Taylor as a "final disposition"; he theorized to Taylor that he must admit that he was a member of a mutant tribe, and admitted that he was probably a "missing link"; he also suspected that Taylor was from some other area beyond the Forbidden Zone; Taylor kept insisting that he came from the past from another planet in a different solar system, and then asked pointedly: "I know who I am. But who are you? How in hell did this upside-down civilization get started?"
  • to silence him for being a problematic "menace, a walking pestilence," Taylor was given six hours to make a "full confession" (or fabricate lies) about his origins, or he would be emasculated and the subject of experimental brain surgery
  • Dr. Zira's young nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) helped Taylor escape from his cage, along with Nova, to take a journey-expedition with Dr. Zira and Dr. Cornelius (also now fugitives) into the quarantined area known as the Forbidden Zone, to return to the dig-site where Cornelius had excavated over a year earlier, and the location of Taylor's crashed spacecraft

Escape and Journey Into the Forbidden Zone

Dr. Cornelius' Beachfront Archaeological Cave Dig-Site

Pursuit by Dr. Zaius and Armed Gorillas
  • Dr. Zaius and armed gorilla-police mounted on horseback pursued them to their beachfront campsite; Taylor held them off with a rifle and a truce was called; under pressure, Zaius agreed that if Cornelius could prove his theories and show evidence of a civilization or another culture older than the 1,200 year-old "Sacred Scrolls" written by the ape's Lawgiver, Zaius would release him from heresy charges
  • with the highly-skeptical chief-of-state orangutan Dr. Zaius accompanying the group into the excavated cave site, Cornelius revealed the artifacts he had earlier found there - bones and remains from a civilization about 2,000 years ago - including remnants of a dirty, porcelain human doll, that was found beside the jawbone of a man - scientific proof that an advanced culture of humans had existed first before the apes became masters; the remnants also included a set of false teeth, a twisted pair of eyeglasses, and a pre-fabricated heart valve
  • when the battered human doll spoke: "Mama, Mama!", Taylor asked the speechless Zaius: "Would an ape make a human doll that talks?"; his assertion supported Cornelius' work that proved the superiority of humans over apes - although for some reason, the superior humans hadn't survived due to some catastrophic event
  • the group was interrupted by a brief firefight outside when the gorilla-apes threatened to seize them; Taylor forced a promise from the apes to retreat (by holding Dr. Zaius as a hostage), and to let him and Nova escape (with a horse, a week's supplies, and ammunition) further into the Forbidden Zone
  • Taylor also summarized for everyone that there were humans like himself before the apes who once held superior technology, but were somehow wiped out, and apes had somehow descended from humans; Dr. Zaius confirmed that the apes' Sacred Scrolls (29, verse 6) had revealed a cover-up for the masses about a dangerous, ancient human civilization - the truth was that savage, murderous, war-like Earth dwellers had destroyed the planet; a reading of the scroll by Dr. Cornelius confirmed Dr. Zaius' fear of the humans' need to destroy each other: "Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death"
  • before leaving and while saying his goodbyes, Taylor gave an incredulous kiss to sympathetic chimpanzee Dr. Zira: (Taylor: "Doctor, I'd like to kiss you goodbye" Dr. Zira: "All right, but you're so damned ugly")
  • Dr. Zaius added a final footnote about his knowledge of the destructive nature of the earlier human race: "I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself...The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago"; Taylor wanted to know more, but Zaius cautioned ominously - presumably he knew that ages ago, the human race had destroyed civilization: "Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find"
Dr. Zaius' Confirmation of the Earlier Human Race's Destructive Nature
  • after Taylor and Nova departed, Zaius ordered explosives detonated to seal up the cave (with evidence of humans and their earlier society: "In a few minutes, there will be no doll. There can't be"); Zira and Cornelius were arrested and would both stand trial for heresy, without evidence or proof of previous human origins to exonerate them; Dr. Zaius attempted to shift blame and claimed his actions would ensure the future of the ape society: ("I may just have saved it for you"); he also stated that Taylor would find "his destiny"
  • in the startling, twist-surprise ending, as Taylor (and Nova) left the group to explore further into the out-of-bounds Forbidden Zone, he rode down a beach on horseback when he suddenly stopped, dismounted, and stared upwards; as the camera panned toward Taylor, through a spiked object, he had two major reactions; he first exclaimed: "Oh, my God! I'm back, I'm home. All the time, it was...", but then he sank and dropped to his knees: "We finally really did it"
The Twist Surprise Ending: Taylor on Horseback Riding Down a Beach Shoreline in the Forbidden Zone With Mute Nova, Before Dismounting and Staring Upwards
  • he pounded his fist into the sand and railed against Earth's generations almost 2,000 years earlier that had destroyed his home planet's civilization with a devastating nuclear war, and that apes had become dominant on Earth - as Dr. Zaius had mentioned; he uttered the film's final line of dialogue: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!"
  • in a final shocking revelation, the full object came into view as the camera panned backward - it was the spiked crown of a battered Statue of Liberty that was buried waist-deep in beach sand, signifying that Taylor was still on Earth!
  • the end title credits played without musical accompaniment; the only sound was the ever-present rhythmic waves pounding the shore

In Space, It was the Year 2637 (Measured in Earth Time), But It Was Only Six Months After the Early 1972 Launch

Lead Astronaut: Col. 'George' Taylor (Charlton Heston)

Crash-Landing Before Rowing Away in a Yellow Raft

Five Wooden-Cross Scarecrow Figures - A Border Fence?

Realizing Their Clothes Were Stolen During Swim

Primitive, Feral Native Humans in Cornfield

Dodge Shot Dead

Taylor Shot in Throat

Natives Captured by Gorillas

Injured Taylor Struggling to Speak

Taylor's Note Written in Sand: "I CAN WRITE" Wiped Away By Nova

Taylor's Scribbled Note on Dr. Zira's Stolen Notepad: "MY NAME IS TAYLOR"

Dr. Zira's Stunned Reaction to Taylor's Note

Cornelius Holding Taylor's Paper-Airplane Demonstrating Flight

Cornelius' Map of the Local Area

Taylor Muzzled and Led Back to an Indoor Cage

After His Escape, Taylor Hid in a Church During an Ape Funeral

Taylor Shocked by Stuffed Corpse of Astronaut Dodge Displayed in a Museum

Taylor Caught, and His Rebuke Toward the Apes: "Take your stinkin' paws off me..."

In a Cage, Taylor Restrained With a High-Powered Hose: "It's a madhouse!"

Taylor's Insult to Dr. Zaius Regarding Landon's Lobotomy Scar: "You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!"

Taylor: "You cut out his memory! You took his identity!..."

Taylor's Tribunal Hearing - and The Pose of the Three Judges: "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil"

Taylor Sentenced in Private by Dr. Zaius for Being a Problematic "Menace"

Human Doll Found in Cave Artifacts by Dr. Cornelius

Taylor: "Would an ape make a human doll that talks?"

Taylor Seizing Dr. Zaius and Taking Him Hostage

Taylor Making Preparations to Leave with Nova

Taylor's Departure Kiss with Dr. Zira

"Oh my God!"

"I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was..."

"We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!"

The Shocking Final Image


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