A Timeline of the "Planet of the Apes" Franchise
Imagining a world where apes can talk and think like humans is about as surreal as it gets in science fiction lore. That's probably why the "Planet of the Apes" franchise has endured for nearly five decades as a bankable movie money maker. There is no other franchise quite like it, and since humans and apes share a common ancestor, it is eerily more viable than, say, robots or aliens from another planet trying to subjugate humans the way the apes do in this film series. The franchise has been rebooted twice, so it may be confusing to new viewers, but this timeline of the various films should help clarify things.
"Planet of the Apes,"1968
In the granddaddy of the franchise, Charlton Heston stars as an errant, time-traveling astronaut who ends up crash landing on a planet in 3978. At first, he believes he is on a planet other than Earth, especially after witnessing the upright, talking apes. He realizes later that he is indeed on Earth, just far into the future after apes have taken over the planet.
"Beneath the Planet of the Apes," 1970
This sequel is set sometime after "Planet of the Apes, because Heston's character appears to have already been through the events of the first film. The year is never confirmed, so there is no exact place to pin this film on the timeline. The film explores an underground city where a bunch of humans are holed up and worshipping a nuclear missile while the apes rule above ground.
"Escape from the Planet of the Apes," 1971
The timeline for the series gets back on track as ape scientists Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) try to escape a looming nuclear apocalypse ten years after the events of "Planet of the Apes." They accomplish this by using Heston's ship from that film to travel back in time. They land in the year 1973, when Earth was still run by humans, and become instant celebrities. That is, until they accidentally let slip that in their future time they keep humans in cages like lab rats, at which time the human race turns on them. It turns out that during these events, Zira is pregnant and gives birth to a baby named Milo (Sal Mineo).
"Conquest of the Planet of the Apes," 1972
It is 20 years after Milo, who is now renamed Caesar, lost his parents. The film is set on Earth, where a virus has killed all cats and dogs, leading humans to start adopting apes as family pets. Soon, they start to train the apes to do housework, and what follows is ape slavery. Caesar, the most intelligent of all the apes, leads a revolt against the human slavers to free his fellow apes.
"Battle for the Planet of the Apes," 1973
The film starts 600 years after the events of "Conquest of the Battle of the Apes," as a wise old ape recalls the tale of the ape revolt against their human captors. He begins his tale by explaining that Caesar (now played by Roddy McDowell) has led a successful revolt against the humans, and it is now ten years after the battle ended. Caesar, in a seeming reversal from his previous stance, implores his fellow apes not to enslave or hurt humans in any way. He wishes for a peaceful coexistence, which would be in direct opposition to the future as was already revealed in the original "Planet of the Apes."
"Planet of the Apes," 2001
Director Tim Burton decided to reboot the first film, with plans for an entire new series of rebooted sequels. Unfortunately, the sequels never came to fruition, so this 2001 film is all there is of his vision. In it, Mark Wahlberg takes the Heston role, crash landing his ship in the year 5021 after taking off from earth in 2029. This timeline is a huge change from the original, where the present day was only set a few years into the future, rather than nearly 30 years. The events remain very similar, but the timeline is different.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," 2011
This is more of a reimagining of the original series, rather than a proper reboot like the 2001 film. James Franco stars as Will Rodman, an obsessed researcher who is working in a probably illegal capacity doing gene therapy. He experiments on chimps, including one named Caesar (Andy Serkis), in a nod to the original series. He brings baby Caesar home with him on the sly one day when his lab orders all the chimps to be euthanized and injects him with an experimental serum that makes him super smart. When Caesar is sent to live with other apes at the mercy of a deranged keeper, he revolts and gets all the apes, chimps and monkeys trapped with him to join in.
The next film in the rebooted franchise, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," comes out in July 2014, and is set 10 years after "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." War is about to begin between people and primates over a virus that eradicated many humans. There will again be nods to the original series, but this is still a timeline and storyline that stands on its own.