From Skull Island to New York City, Kong tries to save his beloved blonde, Ann, from a sacrificial altar and then from reporters’ flash bulbs but causes mass destruction in the process. The film is known for its iconic scene of the 50-foot Kong atop the Empire State Building. Film critic Mordaunt Hall wrote, “At both the Radio City Music Hall and the RKO Roxy, which have a combined seating capacity of 10,000, the main attraction now is a fantastic film known as King Kong.” Critics today also found the film fantastic, granting it a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Eighty-six percent of audiences liked it.
Photo by: 'Bedtime for Bonzo' (1951)
'Bedtime for Bonzo' (1951)
Before Ronald Reagan took his oath of office in 1981, he starred in Frederick de Cordova’s Bedtime for Bonzo. Reagan, who plays a psychology professor, uses Bonzo the chimp to prove personality development stems from the environment, not heredity. Bosley Crowther praised Bonzo’s role but not so much the movie, “For without this frisky character, there would have been little comedy in this antic.” While most critics enjoyed this movie, only 32 percent of viewers on Rotten Tomatoes found it entertaining.
'The Jungle Book' (1967)
The animated Disney film is about a boy who is rescued in the jungle and brought up by his animal friends as he hopes to return to his human village. Critics loved The Jungle Book, giving it an 85 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences came up behind with an 82 percent rating.
'Planet of the Apes' (1968)
The box office takeover by a world dominated by hyperintelligent, "damned dirty" apes all started here with Charlton Heston. Planet of the Apes was a game changer for prosthetic makeup, back when the monkeys weren't CGI, and hooked both fans and critics. Looking back on the film 43 years later, Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich said it was "as illuminatingly bleak a statement on human hubris as a Hollywood superproduction has given us." 87 percent of fans on Rotten Tomatoes enjoyed the film, too.
'The Barefoot Executive' (1971)
Kurt Russell stars as Steven Post, an employee at a low-rated television station who dreams of being higher up the network’s ladder. When he realizes his girlfriend’s pet chimp is able to figure out which TV shows will be hit series, he uses that to the best of his ability. The Disney film garnered a critics rating of 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a lower audience rating of 52 percent.
'Every Which Way But Loose' (1978)
Clint Eastwood made his comedy debut when he starred in Every Which Way But Loose, a story about a boxer, his orangutan Clyde and his friend Orville who travel together from one fight to the next, battling motorcycle gangs and following true love. Janet Maslin wrote, “Every Which Way But Loose … is the slackest and most harebrained of Mr. Eastwood’s recent movies.” The film received a 31 percent rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, while viewers gave it a more-than-majority vote of 56 percent.
'Project X' (1987)
The government wants to train chimpanzees to use a flight simulator, but when Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick) realizes his chimps are to endure high levels of radiation, he gets together with Teresa Teri McDonald (Helen Hunt) to save his monkeys. “How much you enjoy Project X depends on how much monkeying around you can take … The stars of this show, upstaging Matthew Broderick all the way, are a chatter of chimpanzees, an aptitude of apes,” wrote Walter Goodman. Other critics gave it a 78 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
'Gorillas in the Mist' (1988)
Sigourney Weaver stars in Gorillas in the Mist as Dian Fossey, a naturalist who was killed before filming commenced. The movie follows Fossey’s life as she went to Africa to study the behaviors of mountain gorillas in Uganda. Roger Ebert reviewed the movie saying, “I left Gorillas in the Mist feeling cheated, somehow, as if the story had no more insight into Fossey than she apparently had into herself.” It seems that 82 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes disagree with Ebert’s claim and 75 percent of audiences do, too.
'Monkey Trouble' (1994)
A young girl tries to reform her secret pet Dodger, a kleptomaniac monkey that ran away from its drunken master who forced him to steal. Roger Ebert was one of the few critics to give the film a thumbs up, calling the film a "quirky, bright, PG-rated adventure that's as entertaining as Free Willy." The public wasn't entertained, though, giving it 41 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The quest for powerful diamonds in The Congo hits a standstill when all contact is lost between a man and his team, and it’s up to a former CIA operative, her gadgets and a researcher with a talking gorilla to find him. Congo, which was adapted from Michael Crichton’s book of the same name, received three stars from Roger Ebert. “The result is not a movie that is very good, exactly, but it’s entertaining and funny. False sophisticates will scorn it. Real sophisticates will relish it,” he wrote. Only 29 percent of Rotten Tomato viewers liked the film.
'Dunston Checks In' (1996)
Most people know Jason Alexander from Seinfeld, but during his time on the '90s sitcom, he also starred in Dunston Checks In. As the hotel manager of the five-star The Majestic Hotel, Alexander must ensure all inspections for a new six-star rating go well. But when a jewel thief and his orangutan sidekick, Dunston, check in, everything goes awry. Stephen Holden wrote, “A golden opportunity for colossal comic mayhem is thrown away. That’s because the movie … is too busy chucking its simian title character under his hairy chin and proclaiming how adorable he is. Icky-cute is no substitute for maniacally destructive.” Despite the criticism, the film was “icky-cute” to 39 percent of Rotten Tomato viewers.
Joey Tribbiani leaves New York City for some time in the minor leagues when Matt LeBlanc stars in Ed. When LeBlanc's character is traded to a new baseball team, he must come to terms with his third baseman — and new roommate — a chimp named Ed Sullivan. “One thing you can say for Ed … : his behavior is a lot more human than any of the other characters in this flimsy, laugh-free family comedy,” Stephen Holden wrote. According to Rotten Tomatoes, most viewers sided with Holden, while 22 percent of viewers seemed to enjoy LeBlanc’s first starring role in a feature film.
'Mighty Joe Young' (1998)
Disney's remake of the original 1948 film didn't only have a larger ape; it was also a bigger bust. Charlize Theron plays a Jill Young, who's committed to protecting the mountain gorilla from the same poachers who killed both Young and Joe's mother 12 years earlier. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman called the movie "phony and pseudo-inspirational," which most critics agreed with, giving it 52 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience is even less kind with 40 percent.
Much like The Jungle Book, Tarzan follows the story of a baby left in the jungle who is raised by a family of apes. When he comes face-to-face with other humans, Tarzan realizes he is one of them and must decide which family he belongs to. Roger Ebert wrote, “I saw Tarzan once, and went to see it again. This kind of bright, colorful, hyperkinetic animation is a visual exhilaration. Animation cuts loose from what we can actually see and shows us what we might ideally see.” Eighty-eight percent of critics gave Tarzan a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 73 percent of viewers liked it.
'MVP: Most Valuable Primate' (2000)
How this spawned a three-movie franchise makes less sense than a chimp playing, and succeeding at, ice hockey. The Globe and Mail's Kevin Courrier conceded that "children may be entertained by this movie, but it doesn't mean that their imaginations have been engaged." Both critics and viewers weren't impressed, with respective scores of 20 and 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
'Planet of the Apes' (2001)
Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg couldn't deliver a reboot as beloved as the original, even with a $100 million budget and 30 years of technological advancement. The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt said the 2001 version "fails to rise to the high emotional and imaginative standards Burton has set for himself in such films as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and the first two Batman movies." Critics gave it 45 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the public hated it more with just 27 percent approval.
'Curious George' (2006)
Loaded with stars like Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore and Eugene Levy, this story about the first adventure the man in the yellow hat has with his monkey George was criticized by some for appealing only to young children. Roger Ebert, however, lauded the film for doing it well, saying “children enjoy more or less the same things ... vivid drawings, encouraging music, a plot that is exciting but not too scary, and a character they can identify with ... If that doesn't describe what you liked when you were 3 or 4, then I blame your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chainsaw.” Apparently there aren't too many Chainsaws in the yellow pages; viewers gave the film a 70 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
'Space Chimps' (2008)
Another animated film loaded with voice acting talent (Andy Samberg, Stanley Tucci and Cheryl Hines), the story of a NASA Chimp who ventures to a far-off planet and becomes its unlikely hero, struggled to succeed in a summer filled with blockbusters such The Dark Knight, WALL-E, Kung Fu Panda and Mamma Mia!THR'sKirk Honeycuttconceded, “The adventures are inventive enough but do lack the genuine sense of jeopardy and humor that made Fox's Ice Age movies box-office champs.” The film received a 34 percent fresness rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 33 percent of viewers liked it.
'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (2011)
Developed by the same visual effects team that created Avatar, the prequel story to Planet of the Apes “closes the door on the makeup-and-hairpiece monkeyshines of the original Apes sequels once and for all,” writes THR's Todd McCarthy. After the 2001 reboot flopped, Rise broke the mold and decided to blend science fiction with scientific fact in a story about a pharmaceutical researcher (James Franco) who accidentally pushes a lab chimp to new heights of intelligence with a drug meant to cure Alzheimer’s disease. The bold choice paid off with an 82 percent fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of 4/5 from audiences.
'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' (2014)
In this follow-up to the 2011 reboot, an eclectic community of genetically evolved simians teeters on the brink of war with the few humans whom have survived the devastating virus introduced at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. THR’s Todd McCarthypraised the film in all respects, proclaiming, “In the annals of sequels, Dawn is to Rise of the Planet of the Apes what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars — it’s that much better.” And other reviewers seem to be just as enthusiastic; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes received a 95 percent fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 98% of viewers have reported that they want to see it.