Go ape! Killer simians in cinema – ranked!

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20. Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

Despite the English title, there’s only one “ape” in this cheesy slice of Mexploitation, once labelled a video nasty. A mad doctor transplants the heart of a gorilla into his dying son; the youth turns into a homicidal simian creep who sexually assaults women. Also features a lady luchador.

Joe Cornelius in Trog.View image in fullscreen

19. Trog (1970)

Joan Crawford, allegedly fuelled by vodka, gives it her all in her final film role: as an anthropologist studying a troglodyte, played by an actor in a leftover ape suit from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Inevitably, the creature goes on a killing spree. Camp as a row of tents, but oddly endearing.

18. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

The third sequel to the 1968 film jumps back in time to 1991, when humans are dominant and apes are enslaved. A talking chimp called Caesar (Roddy McDowall) leads the resistance in a heavy-handed and frankly somewhat questionable allegory of the civil rights movement.

Albino ape … Rampage.View image in fullscreen

17. Rampage (2018)

A wolf, a crocodile and an albino gorilla mutate into gigantic monsters, thanks to an evil corporation’s genetic tinkering. But the gorilla happens to be Dwayne Johnson’s best bud, so he rides to the rescue amid the collapsing skyscrapers – albeit not before the rampaging behemoths have squished half the population of Chicago.

16. Phenomena (1985)

Jennifer Connelly plays a schoolgirl who can communicate with insects in this gory Dario Argento shocker in which a serial killer is on the loose in the Swiss Alps. Donald Pleasence and Daria Nicolodi co-star. There’s not as much killer chimp action as one would like, but it’s worth the wait.

Shaken, not stirred … Amy the gorilla enjoys a martini in Congo.View image in fullscreen

15. Congo (1995)

This bonkers adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel features a tame mountain gorilla called Amy who drinks martinis, with killer simian duties consigned to the grey gorillas guarding an African diamond mine. A valiantly straight-faced cast is upstaged by the talking gorilla, an erupting volcano and Tim Curry with a mad Romanian accent.

14. King Kong (1976)

Jeff Bridges plays a hippy paleontologist, but the real hero of Dino De Laurentiis’s blockbuster remake is Rick Baker in his monkey suit. Kong climbs the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State Building. Weakest link is poor Jessica Lange in her acting debut; reviews were so vicious it was three years before she made another film.

Property wars … King Kong Vs Godzilla.View image in fullscreen

13. King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

The first of Toho’s monster mashups co-opts a goofy-looking super-ape as Japan’s last best hope against its resident rampaging kaiju. Kong wrestles a giant octopus and drops a trainload of passengers to their deaths before duking it out in a celebrity smackdown on Mount Fuji.

12. Monkey Shines (1988)

George A Romero’s most underrated film revolves around a capuchin monkey trained to do the bidding of a student paralysed in an accident. Before you know it the simian is operating like his evil id. Not just a nail-biting psychological thriller, but a bracingly honest depiction of living with quadriplegia.

Elisabeth Shue, hired as assistant to anthropologist Terence Stamp, finds herself trapped in his remote mansion when his chimpanzees run amok. Star of the show is Locke, a charismatic cigar-smoking orangutan (in prosthetic chimp ears) who leers at Shue while she is in the bath and kills a visitor by yanking them through the letterbox.

Size matters … Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis in King Kong.View image in fullscreen

10. King Kong (2005)

Andy Serkis gives a superb motion capture performance in the title role of this bloated but intermittently affecting remake. The giant ape is not just a brilliant special effect (courtesy of Wētā FX), but a tragic hero, fatally flawed – he does kill a lot of people – and hopelessly incompatible with the woman he loves (Naomi Watts). Size does matter!

9. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

This lurid pre-code – and very loose – adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story features a glorious scenery-chewing turn from Bela Lugosi as a demented Darwinist. With the help of his simian sidekick Erik, he kidnaps women and injects them with ape blood before dumping their corpses in the Seine.

8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The first of the reboot trilogy, a loose reworking of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is overstuffed with subplots, but breathes new life into the franchise after Tim Burton’s dull 2001 remake, establishes Caesar the genetically modified chimp (Serkis) as a major character and sets the scene for two superior sequels.

Damsel in distress … Konga.View image in fullscreen

7. Konga (1961)

Michael Gough gives a masterclass in mega-acting as a nutty botanist who injects a chimp with plant serum, transforming it into a gorilla who strangles his enemies. One-liners such as: “There’s a huge monster gorilla that’s constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets!” and a finale filmed on Croydon High Street make this one for the ages.

6. Nope (2022)

Hands down, the most terrifying scene in Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror-western is a flashback to Gordy, the chimpanzee star of a TV sitcom (mo-cap ape virtuoso Terry Notary) going berserk and beating co-stars to death. It is all the more disturbing for being filmed obliquely, from the point of view of a child actor hiding under a table.

Chewing the scenery … Kong: Skull Island.View image in fullscreen

5. Kong: Skull Island (2017)

After the 2014 Godzilla reboot, the second (and still the most fun) entry in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse inserts Kong into an Apocalypse Now-type scenario set just after the Vietnam war. The giant ape makes mincemeat of a US army helicopter unit, but the real big bads are the “skullcrawlers” and “psychovultures” that threaten a spiffing cast, including the always welcome John C Reilly and Shea Whigham.

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Second in the 21st-century trilogy deepens the character of Caesar (Serkis) as human survivors of the Simian flu strike an uneasy truce with the apes. Caesar’s thunder is almost stolen by his hawkish lieutenant Koba the bonobo (Toby Kebbell), who provides the film with its most indelible image as he rides a horse into battle, machine gun in each fist.

3. Planet of the Apes (1968)

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Seminal sci-fi starring Charlton Heston as a space jock threatened with vivisection in a world ruled by apes. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall give lovely shaded performances beneath the makeup, and twist endings don’t come any more iconic than this. “You maniacs! You blew it up!”

It’s war … Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes.View image in fullscreen

2. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

The trilogy enters Shakespearean territory in Matt Reeves’ epic blockbuster, as Caesar (Serkis again, better than ever) struggles to consolidate his leadership in the face of last-stand humanity led by Woody Harrelson. Not just a war movie, but a nuanced character study in which it’s hard not to side with the killer apes.

Top of the world … King Kong.View image in fullscreen

1. King Kong (1933)

No modern ape blockbuster can reproduce the swampy subconscious jungles and mythological heft of Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack’s classic. Willis H O’Brien’s effects transcend the limitations of their era to tap straight into the viewer’s psyche. Kong bites the heads off natives, clobbers a pteranodon and feels up Fay Wray with his enormous digit before his poignant last stand atop the Empire State Building. Yes, there is something of the killer ape in us all.

Source: theguardian.com

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