The complete Planet of the Apes timeline is actually made up of four separate continuities established over the course of the entire franchise. To date, the Planet of the Apes movie franchise spans nearly 50 years and includes the original pentalogy, a 2001 remake directed by Tim Burton, and a reboot trilogy starring Andy Serkis.
Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La Planète des Singes served as the template for 1968’s Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall. The original story follows three explorers who land on a planet orbiting the star Betelgeuse and discover a world where apes run the civilization while humans have been reduced to slave laborers. Both Boulle’s novel and the 1968 film launched a hugely popular sci-fi movie franchise, which ran through the early 1970s. There was also a 1974 Planet of the Apes TV series, albeit a short-lived one, which only lasted for 14 episodes and heavily reworked the circumstances of the first film.
The Planet of the Apes movies of the late ’60s and early ’70s were just the first in what’s evolved into a sprawling franchise. The release date timeline for all of the Planet of the Apes movies, including the more recent remake and reboot trilogy, is as follows:
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
- Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
- Planet of the Apes (2001, remake)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Below is a breakdown of the four distinct timelines which make up the entire Planet of the Apes movie franchise.
This original Planet of the Apes timeline only accounts for the first two films of the pentalogy, Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes. There are some discrepancies with the original timeline; Planet of the Apes establishes the starting point in the year 3978. However, Beneath seems to retcon this, placing the action several months after the events of Planet of the Apes but moves it to the year 3955. Some argue a technical malfunction on Brent’s spaceship in Beneath led to a false computer reading, stating the year was 3955 when he crash lands in his search for Taylor. As such, the year 3978 is the authoritative starting point where the original timeline is concerned.
- 1972: Astronauts Taylor, Landon, Stewart, and Dodge leave Earth. The crew is on a mission which involves traveling 700 years into the future.
- November 3978: The team’s ship crash lands on an unknown planet. Stewart dies. The crew has survived thanks to going into hibernation while traveling at light speed and only feeling the effects of a slight time dilation, aging approximately 18 months. Their ship sinks.
- After determining they’ve landed on an alien planet, Taylor and Landon are taken captive along with a group of primitive, mute humans. Their captors are gorillas on horseback who walk, talk, and act like humans. Taylor sustains a throat injury, rendering him unable to talk.
- Taylor is held captive with other mute humans and is studied by chimpanzee scientists Dr. Zira and Dr. Zaius. He soon learns the planet he’s landed on is inhabited by talking apes who have all settled into a distinct social hierarchy and have developed their own society. They consider humans inferior and use them for menial labor or study them for science.
- Zira and her fiancée, Cornelius, take an interest in Taylor. Cornelius shows Taylor artifacts from when humans existed on their planet. The apes also tell Taylor about the Forbidden Zone, a place outside of Ape City where Taylor believes he may find more information about the lost human civilization.
- After a confrontation with Zaius, Taylor and his female human compatriot, Nova, take off to search for the Forbidden Zone. Zira and Cornelius are charged with heresy for helping Taylor and Nova.
- As Taylor and Nova ride on horseback on their search, they come across the Statue of Liberty, buried in the sand. Taylor makes the horrifying realization he has somehow crash-landed on Earth, centuries after humans destroyed the planet.
- 3979: Just a few months after Taylor and Nova’s escape, an astronaut named Brent crash-lands on the same planet. He and another astronaut (who dies in the crash) were commissioned to locate Taylor and his crew after their disappearance.
- Brent encounters Nova, who is wearing Taylor’s dog tags. Nova takes Brent to Ape City, where he sees General Ursus calling for an invasion of the Forbidden Zone while Zaius protests. Brent is injured by a gorilla solider and Nova takes him to Zira and Cornelius’ home to care for him. There, Zira and Cornelius tell Brent about their time with Taylor some months ago and reveal where he might have gone.
- Zira helps Brent and Nova evade capture by the gorilla army. They take refuge in a cave Brent realizes was once the Queensboro Plaza subway station in New York City. Brent and Nova separate from Zira and make their way through the cave system to what used to be St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There, they find a group of mutated human survivors with telepathic abilities who worship an atom bomb similar to the one which destroyed Earth centuries ago. Brent is reunited with Taylor, who is being held captive by the mutants.
- The ape army invades the caves and a battle between the apes and mutant humans ensues. Nova is killed. The bomb is activated by one of the mutant leaders. Taylor and Brent attempt to stop the bomb from going off. Brent is killed and Taylor is fatally injured. Taylor collapses and sets off the bomb, destroying the entire planet.
An alternate timeline is established in the final three films of the original Planet of the Apes pentalogy (Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes). This begins with Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo escaping Earth in the year 3979 in one of the repaired spaceships used by Taylor or Brent and going through a time warp back to Earth in 1973. Their attempt to save the planet from the destruction at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes by going back in time, in addition to Zira arriving pregnant and almost ready to give birth, sets off a series of events that create a new timeline, which features Zira and Cornelius’ son, Caesar, leading an ape uprising. A key difference with this timeline is the ending, which shows apes and humans living together in peace rather than destroying each other, as well as Earth, as seen in the previous timeline.
- 3979: Zira (now pregnant), Cornelius, and Dr. Milo escape in a spaceship and go through a time warp opened up by the atom bomb explosion on Earth at the end of Beneath.
- 1973: The trio of apes land on Earth and are immediately taken into custody when it becomes clear they are highly intelligent and communicative apes.
- They spend a brief amount of time in a secluded ward of the Los Angeles Zoo, where Dr. Milo is unfortunately killed in a terrible accident with another gorilla. Zira and Cornelius befriend human doctors Branton and Lewis. Zira and Cornelius are then taken to a Presidential Commission assembled to figure out what happened to Taylor and his crew. The apes reveal they can speak but don’t share their connection to Taylor.
- Zira and Cornelius privately tell Branton and Lewis about their intentions to prevent the coming war, how apes came to rule Earth, and that they knew Taylor.
- Government officials grow suspicious of Zira and Cornelius. After extensive questioning while under the influence of truth serum, Zira informs the President’s Science Advisor, Hasslein, how humans cause their own destruction in the future, how apes form a social hierarchy, and how apes subsequently come to rule over the decimated human race. She also reveals she experimented and dissected humans, causing panic among officials who take Zira and Cornelius into custody.
- Branton helps Zira and Cornelius escape, handing them over to a circus run by Armando. Zira gives birth to a son, Milo. Armando works to help Zira, Cornelius, and Milo escape to avoid being killed by Hasslein. Before the escape, Zira switches Milo with another newborn gorilla so he can stay safe under Armando’s care. Zira, Cornelius, and the gorilla baby are killed in a final standoff with Hasslein and his men. Milo begins to talk.
- 1983: A pandemic sweeps across Earth which kills all cats and dogs.
- 1991: The U.S. government has now divided the nation into a group of police states reliant on ape slave labor. Armando has renamed Milo, now calling him Caesar and training him to be a horseback rider. Caesar hates performing menial labor for humans. Armando tries to protect him and hides from others the fact that he can speak.
- Caesar is sold to be the slave of Governor Breck. He learns that Armando has died while in official custody after being forced to reveal Caesar is actually the son of Zira and Cornelius.
- Caesar begins secretly training apes how to fight and orders them to gather weapons. He intends to lead an ape uprising against their human owners. Caesar and his growing army establish their dominance by taking over Ape Management, freeing other apes and killing humans who stand in their way. They also set their city on fire.
- Breck is taken as Caesar’s prisoner and is meant to be executed as a show of the growing strength of the ape rebellion. Caesar’s mind is changed when his love interest, an ape named Lisa, reveals she can also speak when she shouts “No!” as a way of stopping him. Instead of killing Breck, Caesar declares to the governor and to the humans watching he intends to establish Earth as a planet ruled by apes.
- 2001: Human civilization has collapsed after a nuclear war and Caesar’s uprising. Caesar, Lisa, their son Cornelius, and the apes who follow Caesar have established a new society. They attempt to establish peace with the remaining humans and being life anew. Caesar is opposed by Aldo, a gorilla who wants to imprison humans and have them perform slave labor for apes in Ape City, just as the apes were once subjected to slavery.
- Through archival footage of Zira and Cornelius’ testimonies preserved in the radioactive ruins of a location known as the Forbidden City, Caesar watches his parents tell government officials what will happen to Earth in the future and what fate awaits the apes.
- A group of human survivors led by General Kolp (one of Caesar’s former captors) tracks the whereabouts of Caesar and the other apes to their Ape City home. Kolp declares war on the apes to prevent the surviving humans being killed off by Caesar and his army.
- Aldo also plans a gorilla uprising against Caesar. He critically wounds Cornelius and takes advantage of Caesar tending to his son by having his gorilla supporters raid the Ape City armory.
- Kolp and his men launch their attack on Caesar and the apes. Caesar leads the apes against Kolp, driving humans away from Ape City. As Kolp’s army retreats, Aldo and the other gorillas kill them off.
- Aldo and Caesar face off after another ape reveals Aldo is the one who killed Cornelius and violated the law, which states that apes should not kill each other. Caesar chases Aldo up a tree and they fight before Aldo plunges to his death.
- Seeking peace, Caesar orders all weapons to be stored away and only used for coming battles.
- 2670: An ape named Lawgiver is seen recounting Caesar’s story to a group of ape and human children.
Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes takes the basic conceit – astronaut crash-lands on a strange planet ruled by an advanced ape society – but makes it an entirely separate story with new characters, a new inciting incident, and a different ending. Burton’s Planet of the Apes changes the time period, too, shifting the plot further into the future than the original pentalogy. This results in huge change: the planet that protagonist Leo Davidson lands on is actually an alien planet, not a future version of Earth, which figures prominently into the end of the movie.
- 2029: While aboard the space station Oberon, astronaut Leo Davidson sends one of his fellow astronauts, a chimpanzee named Pericles, on a solo flight into what looks like an electromagnetic storm to gather information. Pericles’ signal is lost and Leo goes in a separate space pod to find him.
- Ashlar, 5021: Leo crash-lands on the distant planet of Ashlar in the year 5021. He quickly learns the planet is ruled by advanced apes who can talk and ride on horseback, as well as have their own social hierarchy, government, and human slaves.
- Leo meets Ari, an ape sympathetic to the human slaves. Ari buys Leo and a human woman, Daena, as slaves for her father, Senator Sandar. Leo and Daena lead other humans in an escape from Sandar’s home and take Limbo, a human slave trader, hostage. Human-hating General Thade leads a group of soldiers in pursuit of the humans.
- Leo and the wandering humans, Limbo, and Ari (who tracked them down) discover the sacred temple of Calima. Leo realizes Calima is part of the ruins of the space station Oberon, which he guesses crashed on Ashlar while searching for Leo and Pericles.
- Using the Oberon log, Leon pieces together that the surviving apes being used as astronauts, just like Pericles, banded together and evolved over time into the advanced ape society of 5021. Meanwhile, the descendants of the humans working on Oberon were turned into slaves.
- Later, Leo and the humans face off against Thade and his army. In the heat of battle, Pericles lands on the battlefield. The apes stop fighting, believing Pericles to be the second-coming of their ape ancestor, Semos, who was aboard the Oberon.
- Thade attacks Pericles and Leo. Leo traps Thade in a compartment of the Oberon ruins, leaves Pericles with Ari, and commandeers a spaceship back through the electromagnetic storm.
- Leo returns to Earth, crash-landing on the steps of what he thinks is the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.. After exiting his pod, he discovers a statue in honor of General Thade and is soon swarmed by policemen, reporters, and regular citizens, all revealed to be apes. The implication of the ending is that Thade managed to commandeer the other Oberon pod and crash-landed on Earth a few hundred years before Leo’s arrival, leading to the shift in power from humans to apes.
The Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy includes Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes. A new inciting incident is introduced in this trilogy to explain how the apes rise to power. Instead of nuclear war wiping out most of the humans and allowing apes to rise up in their place, a virus is accidentally created that kills humans but improves the intelligence of apes. This allows the story to unfold in the near future with Earth remaining as the primary location. Despite these changes, the Planet of the Apes reboot timeline eventually builds towards the same ending as the other continuities: the apes establish themselves as the dominant species on the planet.
- The near future: In San Francisco, Gen-Sys scientist Will Rodman searches for a cure for Alzheimer’s, using chimpanzees as his test subjects. Will believes his drug, ALZ-112, is the answer after seeing one of the chimps, Bright Eyes, display increased intelligence. Will’s presentation with Bright Eyes goes awry after she goes on a rampage and is killed. It’s discovered Bright Eyes had a baby who was exposed to ALZ-112 in the womb and has the same distinct eye color as his mother. Will takes the baby chimp in and names him Caesar.
- Five years later: Will treats his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, with ALZ-112 and sees improvements. Meanwhile, Will raises Caesar. The young chimp questions his environment and displays a curiosity for humans’ way of life. A disastrous incident with Will’s neighbor forces him to put Caesar in a primate shelter.
- After being bullied by other chimps and one of the shelter employees, Caesar allies with one of the largest gorillas in the shelter and establishes dominance over the other apes.
- Meanwhile, Gen-Sys develops a new form of Will’s Alzheimer’s drug, ALZ-113. A scientist accidentally exposes himself to the drug while testing it on a bonobo named Koba. Later that night, the scientist becomes increasingly ill.
- Will tries to take Caesar home but Caesar refuses. He later breaks into Will’s home, steals canisters of ALZ-113, returns to the shelter and exposes the other apes to the drug. This makes them stronger, more intelligent, and solidifies their loyalty to Caesar.
- Caesar and the apes escape the primate shelter. They head over to Gen-Sys labs, where they free Koba and the other apes being used as test subjects.
- Caesar leads the apes to the Golden Gate Bridge, where they fight off police as they try to make their escape into the Redwood forest. There are casualties but the apes are successful. Will, watching the scene unfold from afar, approaches Caesar and asks if he will come home. Caesar tells Will he is already home, gesturing to the apes going into the forest. Will lets him go.
- It is revealed the infected Gen-Sys scientist later boards a plane to Paris, which leads to the spread of the Simian Flu pandemic that targets humans.
- 10 years later: The Simian Flu has drastically reduced the human population, leaving approximately one in 500 humans immune to the virus.
- Caesar and the apes he freed have established a society in the Muir Woods near San Francisco.
- Malcolm, a human survivor, leads a group towards a hydroelectric dam, which they believe will restore power to San Francisco. Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes, and his friend, Ash, encounter the group, and one of the humans injures Ash. Caesar orders the humans to leave.
- Koba encourages Caesar to show the apes’ strength to the humans. Caesar goes into the human settlement and forbids them from entering into ape territory. Malcolm talks to a fellow human leader, Dreyfus, asking for time to make peace with the apes so they can access the dam. Caesar and Malcolm reach an understanding. Caesar allows Malcolm and his team to work on the dam. They successfully restore it.
- Dreyfus prepares for a confrontation with the apes and arms the humans with weapons from a local armory. Koba and a few other chimps discover the weapons and take some. Koba shoots Caesar and tells the apes that the humans were the ones responsible.
- Koba leads a charge to San Francisco, taking humans as prisoners. Malcolm and his family find Caesar and take him to Will’s house, the place where he grew up. Malcolm goes to the ape settlement to get medical supplies, encounters Blue Eyes, and tells Caesar’s son it was Koba who shot his father. Blue Eyes locates the human prisoners and apes who dissented against Koba, freeing them.
- Malcolm leads the apes, including Caesar, to a tower where they encounter Dreyfus. It’s revealed Dreyfus used the restored electricity to radio another military base with survivors and they are en route to defend the humans against the apes. Dreyfus then goes on a suicide mission to destroy the tower, because the group of apes led by Malcolm are still there. The plan fails.
- Koba confronts Caesar. After a heated fight, Caesar kills Koba. Malcolm warns Caesar of the coming war against the new group of humans coming from the other military base.
- Two years later: Caesar and the apes find themselves in a heated, extended battle with a U.S. military faction called Alpha-Omega, led by a man known only as The Colonel.
- Blue Eyes returns for a recon mission where he reports the apes could make a new home in the desert. Caesar doesn’t want to leave the woods until the apes have eradicated the Alpha-Omega threat.
- During a scouting operation, Caesar and his men discover a young human girl hiding in a cabin who is mute. They later name her Nova and she is made a part of the ape community.
- Caesar’s group encounters another intelligent chimp named Bad Ape, who leads them to Alpha-Omega’s base. Alpha-Omega soldiers take Caesar and his group prisoner. Caesar discovers that the rest of the ape community has been imprisoned and are being forced to build a wall to fortify the base against the U.S. Army who are coming to take out Alpha-Omega.
- The apes, Alpha-Omega, and the rest of the U.S. Army engage in a heated battle. Caesar manages to blow up an army tank which causes an avalanche, killing the Alpha-Omega forces and the Army. The apes survive by climbing trees.
- Caesar and the apes make it across the desert to the oasis and make it their new home. Caesar eventually dies from wounds sustained in battle.
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