Four of the original five “Planet of the Apes” films were rated “G”, while the fourth, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”, received a single “PG” for violence. Yet this series features some of the most sinister and optimistic endings to ever go to celluloid.
The 1968 original’s ending is iconic: Charlton Heston, thinking he’s landed on a distant planet where apes are the dominant species and humans are savages, encounters a ruined Statue of Liberty and surrenders. realizes that he is back on a future Earth from the beginning. 1970’s ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ ends with a war between apes and human mutants and a massive world-destroying doomsday weapon, while 1971’s ‘Escape from the Planet of the Apes’ culminates with two lovable talking chimpanzees – who travel back to our time in Heston’s spaceship – ruthlessly slaughtered to prevent the future shown in the first two films.
Their son Caesar (Roddy McDowall) survives, however, and leads a bloody ape revolution in 1972’s “Conquest,” which begins with the apes enslaved by humanity and ends with burning human cities. Although Caesar does his best to avoid the path that will lead to the eventual destruction of Earth in 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” the film leaves it open whether he succeeded in changing the future or not. Later remakes and reboots of “Apes” would also end on bleak notes, but the original quintet’s endings are still shocking today.