8 Movies That Inspired War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and a prequel to Planet of the Apes. But when it came time for Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback to write the script, the Apes movies were far from the only ones they looked to for inspiration. War for the Planet of the Apes is a war film, of course, but it’s also got shades of a Biblical epic and a Western drama. Below, let’s look at eight movies that inspired War for the Planet of the Apes

During the Comic-Con panel for War for the Planet of the Apes, Reeves touched upon the writing process. He revealed he’d had the opportunity to sit with Bomback and watch a bunch of movies early on, in order to inform their script — and he rattled off some specific titles to give us an idea of where they were looking. Here’s a look at the films he named, along with our thoughts on how they might be reflected in War for the Planet of the Apes.

movies leaving netflix

The Bridge on the River Kwai

This film came up a few times during the panel, basically any time the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) came up. The filmmakers likened Caesar and the Colonel’s antagonistic relationship to the “battle of wills” in Kwai. (Fun fact: this is also one of the films that Rian Johnson cited as a specific inspiration for Star Wars Episode VIII.)

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

Like Apocalypse Now, War for the Planet of the Apes digs into the dark psychology of war. “Caesar has to confront a war he doesn’t want,” Reeves told us. “Caesar is haunted by Koba and what he had to do” and “devastated to the point where he wants revenge.” In past films, Caesar has been an empathetic character, “but this is where he loses that,” said star Andy Serkis.

The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line is a more philosophical take on war, ruminating on human nature and the meaninglessness of war. “This is a darker, more nuanced reflection of human nature,” said Reeves of War for the Planet of the Apes. That applies to both Caesar and the Colonel, as the former comes to understand the latter. The Thin Red Line is also quite beautiful, not unlike War — the footage we saw showed giant glittering fields of snow and shimmering empty beaches during the magic hour.

platoon

Platoon

Based on Reeves’ picks, War for the Planet of the Apes seems like a movie more interested in the horrors of war than in the nobility and heroism of it. Platoon is another one in the “war is hell” genre.

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments is the story of Moses, and Reeves has said in the past that War for the Planet of the Apes would follow Caesar’s trajectory as he evolves into “the seminal figure in ape history and almost becomes sort of like an ape Moses of sorts, a kind of mythic ascension.”

ben-hur

Ben-Hur

Another Biblical epic, Ben-Hur follows a hero who is cast out of the life he knew, and returns to get his revenge on the people who wronged him. Sounds not unlike Caesar’s own journey: raised by humans, betrayed by humans, and now in search of vengeance against humans. “His desire for revenge becomes obsessive,” teased Serkis.

Unforgiven

Unforgiven

After we saw a scene in which a hardened Caesar shoots and kills a man, Reeves name-checked Clint Eastwood and called Caesar “a little bit of a badass.” But as with Eastwood in Unforgiven, there’s an ugly, tragic edge to Caesar’s badassery. He’s struggling to “transcend the darkness inside of him” in a way that Koba (the ape antagonist from Dawn) could not.

The Outlaw Josey Wales

The Outlaw Josey Wales

The Outlaw Josey Wales stars Clint Eastwood (him again) as a man who is driven to revenge during the Civil War after his family is killed. While on the run, he accumulates an unlikely band of companions. Reeves teased an “unlikely posse” for Caesar, and in the footage we saw, the apes encountered a human girl and Maurice insists on taking her along with them. Could she be part of that circle?

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