Who’s Who of Apes in Fiction Films

by on February 26th, 2015
Share Button

Before Caesar roared “Nooo!” in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, other apes had already been featured in fiction films as sidekicks, comical refreshers, or worst guinea pigs in some labs just like Caesar’s mother. Meet many of Caesar’s predecessors and go ahh, ahh, uhh, uhh.

Amy in Congo (1995)

Amy is a 7-year-old, female mountain gorilla trained by primatologist Professor Peter Elliot (Dylan Walsh) to communicate to humans using sign language. She drinks martini, can smoke a cigarette and hates any female humans close to her trainer. Because of her finger painting that reveals drawings of the Lost City of Zinj, where the legendary King Solomon’s mine rich in blue diamond deposit is found, Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), Trevi Com supervisor, and Herkermer Homolika (Tim Curry), a treasure hunter, join Prof. Elliot’s expedition to Africa to return Amy home. In reality, the two have their own hidden agenda; the former to save her colleagues sent in an earlier expedition while the latter to exploit the hidden treasure. Amy’s drawings prove to be an accurate map of the said ancient city, but tragedy strikes the trekkers one after another as they dodge missiles from crashing their airplane, circumnavigate their rubber life rafts from rampaging hippopotami, fight a new species of ferocious “killer gorillas”, and escape from an exploding volcano. Amy, together with Prof. Eliot, Ross and Monroe Kelly (Ernie Hudson), their guide, survives all of them. She decides to stay in Congo to reunite with her fellow primates.

Ape in George of the Jungle (1997)

He is the smartest of all the apes living in Mighty Ape Mountain, Bukuvu, somewhere in Africa. He is simply called as Ape (voice of John Cleese), “brother primate” and mentor of blundering George (Brendan Fraser), the “swinging jungle thing” who is always cautioned to “watch out for that tree”. Ape can speak English and is a learned simian who wears eyeglasses while reading books. He can also play chess, tend a garden with roses, cook food and paint pictures. When Lyle’s (Thomas Haden Church) henchmen “ape-nap” him for poaching, he is rescued by his human friends George and girlfriend Ursula (Leslie Mann), including pets Tookie, a hornbill, and Shep, an elephant who fantasizes being a dog. In the end, he gives up the jungle and performs in a Las Vegas nightclub, singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.

Cheeta (also Cheta or Cheetah) in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

If there is “Tarzan…Jane”*, then there must be Cheeta in between. He is the Ape Man’s trusted chimpanzee who can be funny especially with Jane and can be handy in doing simple household chores. He helps Tarzan ward off their enemies and even rescues his master from the clutches of their villains. (*The famous line “Me Tarzan, you Jane” is never uttered in any Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuler. What he says is “Tarzan…Jane”.)

Clyde in Every which Way But Loose (1978)

Clyde is Philo Beddoe’s (Clint Eastwood) orangutan who is won on a wager. He loves smooching people, provides comic relief for his master and knows “the deepest and darkest secrets” of Philo. Ma Boggs (Ruth Gordon) hates him for his mischief and shouts profanity whenever Clyde kisses her. If his master is involved in a fist fight, he sometimes joins the brawling.

Dr. Zera and Cornelius in Planet of the Apes (1968)

They are the “two simian friends and sponsors” of American astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston), who returns to earth ruled by apes instead of human beings, an “upside-down evolution”, on November 25, 3920. Dr. Zera (Kim Hunter) is an animal psychologist who believes that “man can be domesticated’ while Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) is an archaeologist, “the young ape with a shovel”. They are found guilty of committing contempt of the high court, “malicious mischief, and scientific heresy”. Together with Taylor and girlfriend Nova (Linda Harrison), they have uncovered evidence in the Forbidden Zone that man indeed possesses intelligence far superior than apes, but are stopped by Dr. Zauis (Maurice Evans), minister of science and chief defender of the faith, from revealing the truth to other primates.

Dunston in Dunston Checks In (1996)

He is Lord Rutledge’s (Rupert Everett) orangutan who is trained to steal jewelry. When he and his scheming master check in the Majestic Hotel to commit another jewel theft, Dunston somehow gets tired of his job, decides to turn over a new leaf and flees from Rutledge. He is befriended by Brian (Graham Sack) and Kyle (Eric Lloyd), hotel owner’s naughty young boys. His master is caught and he clears his name.

Isabelle in Hollow Man (2000)

She is a 126-pound gorilla injected with an experimental invisibility serum created by molecular biology expert Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) for US military secretive operation. The process of re-visibility proves almost fatal to her that results in her cardiac arrest; however she survives the ordeal and the experiment is a success.

General Thade in Planet of the Apes (2000)

General Thade (Tim Roth) is the highest ranking officer of the simian army. He loathes humans especially Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), USAF space pilot, and is given “absolute power to rid of this planet of humans once and for all”. However, he has a special attraction to Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), a senator’s only child and an animal activist who “takes in stray humans” while her “family indulges in her whim”. Together with second officer in command Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the entire ape force, he stages his plan of annihilating all homo sapiens in CALIMA, the forbidden area for apes. In the middle of the battle, Attar rebels against his general when he discovers that Thade’s ancestors had betrayed the ape race by sowing the seeds of disdain for humans.

Joe in Mighty Joe Young (1998)

He is a 15-foot gorilla owned by Jill Young (Charlize Theron). He, with Jill and wildlife preserve director Gregg O’Hara (Bill Paxton), travels to Hollywood in search of donors who can help the mighty primate be put in a wildlife sanctuary. However, when poacher Andre Strasser (Rade Serbedzija) learns of their coming, he resolves to revenge the loss of his fingers to Joe when the ape bit them. When Strasser’s henchman blows a noisemaker, Joe goes in frenzy, is tranquilized, and is confined in a bunker. However, Joe escapes and gets even with Strausser by tossing him into electrical fences. He even saves the lives of people in a wrecked Ferris wheel, making him a hero. Joe is saved by donors for his good deed, transporting him to a refuge to live the rest of his life.

Kong in King Kong (2005)

Perhaps this 25-foot gorilla is the most famous ape of them all. He is captured by the Venture ship crew in Skull Island and is exhibited to a public in New York as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. However, he breaks from his chrome-steel chains and goes rampaging through the city, smashing vehicles and hurling female pedestrians in search of his dearest Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts). He meets his doom on top of the Empire State Building as fighter-planes riddle him with bullets until he plunges to his death. However, “it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty [that] killed the beast,” says Carl Denham (Jack Black), the filmmaker responsible for bringing Kong to human civilization.

Lady Kong in King Kong Lives (1986)

She is the giant gorilla that saves Kong from death in a blood transfusion. After Kong’s heart surgery performed by Dr. Amy Franklin (Linda Hamilton) and her medical staff, he and Lady Kong escape from their confinement to Honey Ridge where they mate. However, when the military headed by Colonel Nevitt (John Ashton) steps in to isolate them from each other, Kong goes amok and is killed in the process. In the end, Lady Kong gives birth to Kong’s son, and the mother and her baby are sent to a preserve purchased by Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin) in a Borneo Island away from the fraying humans.

Unnamed gorilla in Old Dogs (2009)

She is the angry gorilla that business partners Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams), and their assistant Craig (Seth Green) encounter in Burlington Zoo when the trio attempt to attend the birthday party of Dan’s twins. While the best friends successfully skedaddle from the beast, poor Craig is captured by the ape and is mistaken as her baby. To pacify her, the “little man with reddish hair that looks like a hobbit” must sing Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” while she cuddles him.

Virgil in Project X (1987)

He is a chimpanzee confiscated from Teri MacDonald (Helen Hunt), a sign language trainer. He will be used by USAF as a subject in testing flight simulators while being exposed to high dosage of radiation. With the help of Teri and Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick), a military pilot on probation, Virgil, along with other chimpanzees, absconds the air base by flying a stolen plane.


Apes, which include chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons, are not monkeys. Apes do not have tails while monkeys do. Apes are most of the time more intelligent than monkeys and are said to be the closest resemblance to human beings than any other animal.

The film Gorillas in the Mist (1988) is not a fictional one but is based on the real life of primatologist Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver).

Prev Article: »
Next Article: «

Related Articles