The first time I saw Planet of the Apes, I must have been very young because it blew my mind. I loved it. And what’s not to love.
When the film was released to audiences in the 60’s it also blew their minds. The quality of the special effects and makeup was head and shoulders above anything else that had been seen yet. Not only that, but it was an in-depth review of society as a whole.
On the other hand, when I saw my first Alien movie it scared me senseless. In only a decade special effects, makeup, and props had advanced far enough to really give science fiction films what they needed to paint a quality picture.
Both films spawned sequels and both are said to be successful franchises. But which is better? It might be an apple and oranges comparison but both are movies of the sci-fi genre so I’m going to go ahead and compare them anyway.
Planet of the Apes was a box office smash, so was Alien, and both are definitely on my list of favourite movies of all time. But when trying to pick one over the other I think I know which one was most impactful…at least for me.
So let’s dive in to these movies and figure out what is what.
Planet of the apes (1968)
The film begins with Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, speaking into a log on a spaceship. He joins the rest of the crew by putting himself into stasis and expects to be woken up by the end of their journey.
They end up crash landing into a lake on a desolate planet, and the crew, minus one member who dies mid flight, must fight for survival.
Fast forward a bit. They encounter smart talking apes. They live in a rigid society of order where humans are looked down upon and are usually treated like animals.
Taylor doesn’t adapt well to his circumstances and resists the apes at every chance he gets. Then he really blows their minds when he starts talking.
Anyway, Taylor revolts and escapes. And in the final iconic scene, he discovers that he has been on Earth the entire time.
Now, that, really blew people’s minds.
Box office success
The film was successfully accepted by critics and audiences alike, earning 32.6 million in it’s life time (that was a lot for the 60’s). The success then fuelled the making of many more films which in total have made over 2 billion dollars worldwide. When all was said and done, there have been five movies in the Planet of the Apes Franchise, which cost a total of 567.5 million dollars to make.
The Franchise includes
- 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)
Each are worth a watch, but for a laugh and not to be taken too seriously. Because when I was watching them I noticed that as the films went on the budget seemed to shrink and things got less believable.
Additionally, each movie is exactly what it sounds like, so I don’t need to go into it here. But the main message of these films is a commentary on race relations, the cold war, and animal rights.
They are cheesy movies so don’t watch them if you are expecting Schindler’s list.
Now on the other hand….
A part of the sci-fi/horror sub-genre this movie was also mind boggling for audiences when it came out.
People had never seen an ‘Alien’ like this before. In the ten years since Planet of the Apes debuted special effects had really taken off and makeup and props were now next level good.
But anyway, this movie starts out with the crew of a spaceship waking up from a deep stasis as they were out in space on a mission for a ‘company’. They respond to a distress signal from a nearby moon, and because it’s company policy they go and investigate.
Fast forward. When they are investigating, one of the crew members discovers some large eggs standing upright. He touches one and a thing jumps out of it and onto his face. You are probably familiar with what I’m talking about.
Anyway, they are all really worried for this guy, when things all of a sudden get better. The alien drops off his face and dies, and he wakes up feeling invigorated.
It’s during his first meal that things go nutso.
This scene is very iconic so you probably know what I’m talking about. This guy starts to experience a case of stomach distress when all of a sudden something explodes out of his chest and flees the scene. It’s an Alien.
From there the crew must fight for their lives as they are picked off one by one by the alien. Eventually, the main character played by Sigourney Weaver, discovers that the company is trying to bring this creature back to Earth. She does everything she can to stop it.
Box office success
The film was met with wide set praise by audiences. They particularly received positive feedback on the set, props, and makeup. Critics gave mixed reviews at first, but they are clearly wrong, since the film was able to gross over 78.9 million dollars, and has since been inducted into the United States National Film Registry. Additionally, the film was ranked by the American Film Institute as the seventh-best film in the science fiction genre, and as the thirty-third greatest film of all time by Empire magazine.
Films from the franchise
- Alien (1979)
- Aliens (1986)
- Alien 3 (1992)
- Alien Resurrection (1997)
All of these films do the original justice. However, the only common thing about any of them is that Sigourney Weaver is in them. They were directed by a different person each time. The directors include, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. That’s a pretty boss list directors.
To summarize the plot line of this franchise, I just have to say that the company keeps on trying to get a hold of the aliens. The series culminates with Sigourney Weaver’s character being cloned way off in the future and she continues to fight the company’s efforts.
Ridley Scott has since released other movies in this franchise, but they are not the originals so I’m leaving them out of the discussion. I’m referring to Prometheus etc.
Alien or ape, who comes out on top?
If we look at awards and box office results, the winner is clear. Alien has been more recognized by awards and audiences than the Planet of the Apes films.
The mistake of the Planet of the Apes movies is that one came out every year for five years and the effort that went into the first one just wasn’t there. It seems they were trying to milk audiences for every Ape dollar they could get.
The Alien franchise on the other hand, took time off between films to regroup, find a director and produce a bad ass movie. There were some terrible cross over films between Alien and Predator but I’m just ignoring that that happened.
I still love Planet of the Apes, but if I wanted to hook a newbie into science fiction, I think I would show them Alien first.