The five greatest monkey movies of all time (2024)

The five greatest monkey movies of all time (1)

(Credit: Warner Bros)

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Throughout the course of cinema, there have been several animals who have captured just as much attention as their human being counterparts. From heroic dogs to talking pigs, animals have often provided some brilliant moments of entertainment on the big screen, a testament to our fascination with our furry little friends.

However, there’s one animal who seems to have dominated the cultural sphere of cinema over the years: the primate. Whether it be huge gorillas, dopey orangutans or cheeky chimpanzees, the monkey characters of countless films have endeared themselves into our hearts and minds on countless occasions.

After all, it’s the primate that we human beings evolved from, so perhaps there’s always been an interest in documenting the behaviour of monkeys on screen, with the loose hopes of getting closer to just what it is that makes us human and separates us from our jungle-dwelling hairy ancestors.

We’ve compiled a list of the greatest-ever monkey movies, from cute animated wonders to fearsome beasts thrashing through urban environments. So, with that in mind, peel your bananas, beat your chests and hold on tight to your vines; we’re about to swing through the best primate pictures ever made.

The five best monkey movies of all time:

Curious George (Matthew O’Callaghan, 2006)

We begin with a lovely little animated adventure number in the shape of Matthew O’Callaghan’s theatrical directorial debut, Curious George, based on the children’s book series written by H.A. and Margaret Rey. With an all-star voice cast including Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore and David Cross, Curious George is brimming with quality.

The film focuses onthe story ofhow a museum tour guide befriends the inquisitive titular monkey and begins taking wild adventures with him in New York Citywhiletrying to save his museum from being closed down.A wonderful treat of a monkey movie, this one has the whole family swinging through the trees.

George of the Jungle (Sam Weisman, 1997)

While not strictly a monkey movie as such, the main character of Sam Weisman’s 1997 comedy film George of the Jungle, played by Brendan Fraser, is so cheeky that he may as well be a primate himself. Based on the animated TV programme from the 1960s of the same name, Weisman’s film also serves as a parody of the legendary Tarzan.

Also starring the likes of Leslie Mann and John Cleese,George of the Jungletells of a young man raised by wild animals who saves an heiress from danger in the Burundi jungle and, after falling in love with her, must contend with her brattish fiancé.Aclassicof 1990s comedy cinemathat is just about as bananas as it gets.

Every Which Way but Loose (James Fargo, 1978)

It appears that monkey movies often take a lighter tone, and even someone as renowned for their masculine bravado as Clint Eastwood has turned up in a film of primate proportions. In 1978, Eastwood appeared in what would become his most financially successful movie in the shape of Every Which Way but Loose, eclipsing his more iconic efforts in the likes of The Dollars Trilogy and Dirty Harry.

The against-type role saw Eastwood play a bare-knuckle fighting boxer and trucker by the name of Phil Bedoe, who sets off on a journey to find his long-lost love, accompanied by his brother and his pet orangutan, Clyde. If this sounds bizarre, that’s because it’s precisely that, and even though Eastwood was slated for appearing in such an offbeat movie, one can’t deny that it somehow possesses a unique genius.

Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

One of the longest-standing movie franchises is undoubtedlyPlanet of the Apes, and whileseveral brilliant movies have arrived under the name (as well as some admittedly awful ones), it would be crazynot to go for the film that kicked off the entire enterprise.In 1968, Franklin J. Schaffner released the firstPlanet of the Apesfilm, forever changing the future of the monkey movie.

Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes tells of an astronaut crew who crash-land onto a strange planet and come across a society of apes who have evolved into having the ability to live and communicate like human beings. A ground-breaking film in terms of its prosthetic design and a classic of the science fiction genre, the first Planet of the Apes film should not be missed.

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, 1933)

But there can only be one monkey to rule the best primate movies of all time, and, of course, it has to be the giant gorilla from the 1933pre-codeadventure horror filmKing Kong, directed by Merian C. Cooper. The first film in theKing Kongfilmfranchise, starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot, Cooper’s movie has gone down in cinematic history and is atrulyiconic work of the screen.

Telling of the capture of the titular ape from the mysterious, uncharted Skull Islandfor the purposes of showcasinghim on Broadway in New York City,King Kongstands asa towering achievement of filmmaking and is widely considered one of the best horror movies ever made. A mesmerising viewing experience even today, let alone in 1933, Cooper’s film is the pick of the bunchwhen it comes tothe best primate pictures.

Related Topics

Brendan FrasercinemaClint EastwoodMoviesPlanet of the ApesWill Ferrell

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