Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Entire Planet Of The Apes Timeline Explained

Let's be honest here: The premise of the Planet of the Apes franchise, which has been chugging along since 1968 and undergone more than a few reboots, is silly. Apes taking over the world? Let alone running their own planet? That sounds like the kind of science fiction best left in the past.

At least, that's what we all thought when it was announced that the series (last visited in 2001 with, uh, mixed results) would be rebooted in the 2010s. Doesn't Hollywood have any new ideas, we protested? And then we actually saw the movie. Long story short, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than director Rupert Wyatt and his stellar cast and crew. And they didn't stop there: The 2014 sequel was even better, and neither was as good as the 2017 finale. Turns out we were wrong: The Planet of the Apes series is as fresh as ever. But with so many installments, how is one meant to keep track of the story?  We've got you covered. Here's a crash course in The Planet of the Apes timeline since 2011.

Intelligence in a pill

We'll start with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Will Rodman, a researcher on the cusp of an Alzheimer's cure, hopes his promising ALZ-112 treatment (a retrovirus that repairs and enhances brain cells) can be rolled out in time to save his ailing father Charles. For testing purposes, the team selects Bright Eyes, a caged chimp captured in the West African jungle. To the team's excitement, the treatment works. Stunningly well, in fact — to the point that Bright Eyes is catapulted from standard chimp intelligence to that of a human. 

Sadly, Bright Eyes goes on a violent rampage not long after, and is put down by security in front of the traumatized board of directors. By the time it's made clear that she lashed out to protect her child, it's too late: The project is terminated and Rodman finds himself out of a job. Robert Franklin, tasked with killing off the remaining test chimps, struggles when he reaches Bright Eyes' baby, and instead sneaks him to Will, who names him Caesar, and raises him at home.

All hail the mighty Caesar

Caesar, exposed in the womb to ALZ-112 and having inherited his mother's enhanced intelligence as a result, learns at a pace that exceeds that of a human child. After three years, Caesar's cognitive strength has rebuilt Will's confidence in ALZ-112, and he decides to administer a dose to his father. He rebounds from his illness, but it's a temporary improvement: When Charles' body fights off the retrovirus, the dementia returns, causing him to wreck his neighbor's car in a confused stupor. The enraged neighbor knocks him around until Caesar rushes to intervene, biting off the attacker's finger. At this point, Will is forced to realize Caesar is neither a pet nor a child, and that he lacks the resources to house and protect him adequately while still taking care of his father. 

Caesar is moved to the San Bruno Primate Shelter, where he is abused not only by the other caged apes, led by Rocket, but by the owner's son, Dodge. While being taunted by the kid and his friends, Caesar manages to pickpocket a small knife without being caught, and uses that to free himself and several other chimps. With them, he confronts and beats Rocket into submission with a gas canister. He then steals cookies for Rocket, winning his friendship along with the loyalty of the rest of the apes.


Caesar, now leading the San Bruno apes, heads back to Will Rodman's house and smuggles samples of a newer (and, though Caesar doesn't know this, deadlier) ALZ-112: ALZ-113. Upon returning to the facility, he releases the treatment, elevating the cognitive abilities of the other captive apes to his level. Caesar then cages Dodge after refusing to get back in his own cage, and works to free the remaining apes. After escaping through the facility's roof, Caesar splits his forces in two, sending half to rescue the apes at Rodman's former lab, and the rest to free those housed at the San Francisco Zoo. 

Buck, one of Caesar's lieutenants, leads the latter group on a riotous stampede down the streets of San Francisco before meeting up with Caesar's crew at the Golden Gate Bridge, which they'd planned to cross to get to the relative safety of the Muir Woods National Monument. Unfortunately, a police barricade blocks the way forward. The resulting battle is fierce: Buck is killed protecting Caesar, and Koba, a murderous chimp with a hatred for humans, establishes himself as Caesar's chief rival for command. The apes do manage to break through, but not before Will arrives to say goodbye to Caesar, and give his blessing after the chimp refuses to return home with him.

Civilization's collapse

The apes aren't the only thing that stage a breakout, however. In the decade between Rise and 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a deadly "Simian Flu" virus, originating from Will's ALZ-113 compound and unwittingly spread by the neighbor who'd attacked Charles, decimates mankind. World governments scramble, unsuccessfully, to develop a cure. But their efforts are in vain: The virus is so deadly and spreads so fast that civil unrest overwhelms even the best efforts. 

Unsurprisingly, there is significant tension between the apes and remnant human factions. The violent nature of Caesar's breakout, the simian origins of the flu, and the fact that what's left of mankind must now compete with increasingly powerful apes for dominance has not led to warm relations between the two. Both groups have enough strength to seriously threaten the other: Apes are much more physically powerful, but humans still wield advanced technology. It's a tense relationship that frequently turns deadly, although well-meaning members of both sides have been known to seek each other out, in the hopes of building bridges. The effort, to put it politely, produces rather mixed results.

An uneasy coexistence

Caesar now leads a colony in the Muir Woods, consisting of many apes he'd freed in the first movie, as well as their offspring. There's also Koba, the disfigured, human-hating Bonobo brute from the lab, who harbors his own ambitions of leadership, along with plans for war with the humans. Caesar's eldest son, Blue Eyes, accompanies Rocket's son Ash to a part of the woods in which a group of humans are patrolling. Startled, one of the men opens fire, wounding Ash and drawing Caesar and a small army of apes to the area. Caesar demands the humans leave immediately; they do. 

That night, a War Council is convened in which Caesar argues against a war with the humans, citing the accomplishments such a conflict would jeopardize. Koba, however, eager for a brawl, humbly suggests they need to display strength to discourage a further attack. Caesar agrees to this, and in the morning, he leads a war party into run-down San Francisco to find and confront the humans: A small group of virus-immune survivors In a tower. There, Caesar demands the humans and apes steer clear of each other, before leaving. Malcolm, a man who'd been in the party that'd wounded Ash, realizes he needs to access ape territory to secure a hydroelectric dam the humans desperately need. He decides to lead a team to Caesar to bargain for rights to the dam. Members on both sides prepare for war.

Breaking point

Malcolm, promising peace, gains Caesar's permission to access the dam. But time and again, tenuous goodwill on both sides is undermined by behind-the-scenes scheming. Carver (the man who'd shot Ash earlier and nearly triggered an all-out war) had held onto a weapon he didn't turn in when the party met with Caesar a second time. He nearly kills Caesar's children, but war is averted when Malcolm's wife treats Caesar's sick one with antibiotics, saving her life. However, tensions are climbing, and while both sides recognize the existence of good members of the other, it's clear they're standing on the brink of war. 

At this point, Koba stumbles upon a human armory that had been stockpiled in secret, in case of an ape attack. He brings this news to the apes and suggests Caesar's "love for the humans" will get them all killed. Caesar severely beats Koba, but spares his life since "ape not kill ape." That's not enough for Koba, though. Furious and humiliated, he sneaks back to the armory, kills the human guards, and steals an assault rifle. Upon returning to the ape village, he kills Carver, then sets the place on fire. In the chaos, he shoots Caesar, then blames the humans for the death of the ape leader and the burning of their home. Assuming command, Koba leads the apes to war.

All-out war

Koba leads the apes on a vicious nighttime assault against the humans in which they manage to breach their compound. Casualties are high for both sides. Dreyfus, a co-founder of the human colony, flees underground while Koba's apes kill or capture every remaining human within the sanctuary. At one point, Koba orders Ash to kill an unarmed human. Ash refuses, saying Caesar wouldn't do such a thing, and Koba kills him. "Caesar gone!" he roars, "Apes follow Koba now!" With that, Koba turns his rage on any ape he suspects of harboring loyalty for Caesar, and jails them alongside humans who need to "know life in a cage". 

The captives watch Koba's apes continue their rampage, killing and capturing any humans they run across. Meanwhile, Malcolm, Ellie and Alexander (their son) find a barely alive Caesar, who says Koba, not Carver, had shot him. They take Caesar with them but, upon discovering Koba now rules the compound, follow Caesar to his previous home, where they learn about his upbringing with humans. When Ellie points out Caesar's wound and lack of surgical supplies, Malcolm agrees to sneak into the city to retrieve them. He returns with them and Blue Eyes, who reunites with his father as Ellie nurses him back to health. When he's healthy enough, Caesar, Malcolm, and Alexander, newly aware of the similarities between their species, head to the city to settle the score.

Koba down

Caesar and Blue Eyes free the caged loyalist apes while Malcom tracks Dreyfus down. Dreyfus says he's contacted a group of approaching humans who are en route to assist, and goes on to explain that he's planning to use C4 to blow up the tower that had served as the human compound, now serving as Koba's seat of power. Malcolm, knowing Caesar is heading to the same tower to confront Koba, holds him at gun point to buy time. 

Above, the apes watch as Caesar and Koba fight ferociously. Dreyfus manages to steal the detonator and blow the charges, killing himself and his men (Malcolm dives for cover just in time), wounding and killing several apes, and disrupting the battle of their leaders. While Caesar helps the injured, Koba steals a firearm and blasts away, wounding Maurice, Caesar's closest friend. Enraged, Caesar tackles Koba to the edge of a suspended beam. Koba begs for mercy, citing Caesar's "ape not kill ape" rule. Caesar initially reaches to help him, but decides to punish him for the madness he's wrought. Claiming he's no ape at all, Caesar lets him plummet to his death, ending the conflict. As the apes cheer his victory, Caesar and Malcolm embrace a final time: Malcolm warns Caesar of approaching human reinforcements, and Caesar says conflict can no longer be avoided. Malcolm leaves for his family while Caesar prepares his apes for war.

A new home

Many of Koba's loyalist apes are forced to become slaves to the humans in 2017's War for the Planet of the Apes, which opens with a surprise assault on Caesar's forces by a fanatical remnant of the US military known as the Alpha-Omega. The apes win, but Caesar releases the four humans they capture back to Colonel McCullough as a token of peace. Shortly after, his son Blue Eyes, accompanied by Rocket, returns with the location of a potential new home for the apes, in a desert oasis far away from Alpha-Omega. Before the apes can depart, however, McCullough leads a night-time attack that kills Caesar's wife and several other apes. 

Caesar has no choice but to order the evacuation to proceed the next morning, far sooner than he would've liked. While the other apes head for the new sanctuary, he takes Maurice, Luca, and Rocket off to keep the humans away from the migrating clan and, hopefully, lure McCullough into the open, where Caesar can kill him. Early in their journey, this squad stumbles upon a nearly abandoned village housing a lone Alpha-Omega deserter (whom Caesar shoots) and a mute young girl who they befriend and take with them. Later, they encounter the traitorous Winter, an ape working for the humans, and accidentally kill him when he screams for help after divulging the Colonel's location and intentions.

Mutated flus and prison-zoos

Later, the group encounters Bad Ape, a neurotic chimp who leads them to the Alpha-Omega camp. Luca is killed while scouting the area with Caesar, who's captured by the Alpha-Omega. Soldiers drag Caesar through camp, in which hundreds of captive apes are being forced to build a wall in terrible conditions, and throw him at the feet of Colonel McCullough. The colonel explains that the Simian Flu has mutated; its victims (like the young girl) now lose the ability to speak and devolve into a primitive state. When the Colonel goes on to explain he's killing any human who shows signs of this illness (including his son), Caesar realizes McCullough is building the wall to protect himself against the rest of the approaching military, who see him as a rogue cult leader. 

The Colonel is impressed at Caesar's deductive skills. He claims to be fighting a "holy war" for humanity, and orders Caesar to be caged outside and put to work. Caesar refuses to work, and is tortured and starved nearly to death, only kept alive when the mute girl smuggles food to him. To protect the girl, Rocket accepts responsibility for the smuggling and allows himself to be captured. Together, he and Caesar work out a way to escape using a tunnel system beneath the camp.

The final escape

With the help of Rocket, Maurice, and Bad Ape, Caesar manages to evacuate the imprisoned apes via an underground tunnel system, before rushing off to kill McCullough. When he finds him, however, Caesar realizes he's been infected with the mutated flu that he'd launched his crusade to eradicate in the first place. Unable to deliver better justice, Caesar hands the man his gun back — he kills himself with it — and heads outside, where Alpha-Omega forces are firing on the fleeing apes, despite being shelled themselves by the northern army. When Caesar tries to attack them from behind, he's wounded by Preacher, one of the captive humans he'd released in the beginning of the film. 

Red, a human-allied ape slave, saves his life by firing a grenade launcher at Preacher just before he is killed himself. A wounded Caesar manages to win the battle for the northern forces by detonating the Alpha-Omega's fuel depot, but inadvertently triggers an avalanche that the apes climb trees to escape. At long last, the apes are free to migrate to their new home in peace. Maurice, however, discovers that Caesar is mortally wounded. In private, he assures Caesar that he'll see to it that his youngest son, Cornelius, will be informed of his father's accomplishments and carry on his fight. Thus ends The War for the Planet of the Apes: bloody, brutal, and brilliant.