Here's Where You Can Stream Or Rent Every Planet Of The Apes Movie

(Welcome to Where to Watch, which provides a clear and simple answer to the question, "Hey, where can I watch this thing?" In this edition: the Planet of the Apes movies.)

Like any long-running franchise, the "Planet of the Apes" movies share a fascinating developmental history and a colorful selection of very high highs set against infamously low lows. Anyone interested in embarking on a tour through the original movies and the new trilogy can expect to go from one of the unquestioned pillars of sci-fi and one of the most famous plot twists in cinema, to some lesser but uniquely compelling sequels that pull no punches, to one of the most effective and inspired franchise revitalizations in recent memory. Oh, there's also a Mark Wahlberg-starring remake somewhere in there but, uh, proceed with caution on that one. 

Perhaps you've been thinking about finally dealing with a certain sci-fi blind spot or simply wish to revisit a series of movies that are unlike any other. Either way, here's how you can stream or rent every "Planet of the Apes" movie.

Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: HBO Max

You know how some movies are commonly held up to be "classics" but don't quite live up to those lofty expectations? Yeah, well, this ain't one of those movies. The original "Planet of the Apes" was a game-changer in every sense of the word in 1968, telling the story of how a shirtless Charlton Heston ended up running around the Grand Canyon and other desert locales with a bunch of people dressed up in rubbery apes costumes. Admittedly, there's a little more to it than that. The genuinely groundbreaking imagining of a world where humans and apes have switched places in the evolutionary food chain pairs seamlessly with the downright radical approach to race, religion, and science — fitting, given that it's from a script co-written by Rod Serling of "The Twilight Zone" fame. Chances are that fans of a certain age found out about the twist ending before they were actually able to watch the movie, but it remains a powerful and stunning watch nonetheless.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: HBO Max

The shocking twist ending of "Planet of the Apes" doesn't necessarily lend itself to four sequels (let alone even just one), but boy did 20th Century Fox try their hardest to make it happen anyway. The result: "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," the 1970 sequel that bends over backwards to retread the same basic beats of the first film and somehow manages to be even weirder, even more cheaply-made, and conclude on an even darker note than the original. Setting aside the actual movie itself, that's an impressive feat no matter how you slice it. Notoriously, Charlton Heston only agreed to make the film if his character was killed off, so the solution was ... well, I won't spoil it here, but it's definitely a choice! Thanks to the runaway success and residual goodwill from the original, the sequel performed well enough to justify even more sequels. History maybe hasn't fully redeemed this one, but the bold and audacious concepts on display have inspired its fair share of fans.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: HBO Max

How's this for a course-correction? After the tepid critical response to "Beneath," the third film of the franchise returned only a year later and firmly established the true heroes of the original movies as Roddy McDowall's Cornelius and Kim Hunter's Zira. The plot machinations that allowed the husband and wife ape-scientist duo to survive the events of the previous film and star in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" are ... a stretch, to say the least. But it's amazing what audiences can be willing to go along with when given charismatic, interesting characters to follow and a bittersweet story that lives up to many of the themes of the original. Naturally, time travel plays a key role and the fish-out-of-water plot provides the opportunity to explore many of humanity's collective failings. The gut-punch conclusion hits hard all these years later and maintains the impressive tradition of ending "Planet of the Apes" films on a somber note.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: HBO Max

Another sequel, another shake-up to the status quo. "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" follows Caesar, the son of Zira and Cornelius (still portrayed by Roddy McDowall). The dystopian police state of this near-future world features humanity standing on its last legs, having enslaved the ape population but inadvertently set up a powder keg of a situation that takes Caesar's actions to explode into a full-blown revolution. The budget is as low as ever and the scope of the film suffers as a result, but much of "Conquest" is redeemed by one show-stopping monologue near the end that reorients the early "Planet of the Apes" films as thought-provoking, slow burn entries in a franchise that gets its messages across through quiet moments of introspection rather than action.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: HBO Max

Think of this one as a trial run, of sorts. "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" brings the original films to a close, focusing on the aftermath of nuclear war and a final battle between ape-kind that viewers would later see expanded and loosely remixed on a grand scale throughout Matt Reeves' two "Planet of the Apes" films. McDowall makes his final appearance here as Caesar and, despite the shades of anti-war messaging and allegory that defines the series, the events of the film pale in comparison to the heights the franchise had previously reached. But like the rest of the sequels, there's imagery and creative choices made (particularly in the final act) that aren't easy to shake off. "Battle" brings things to a more hopeful conclusion, but one still tinged with regret and melancholy.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Look, I'm really only including this one for the sake of consistency and I cannot be held responsible for any poor viewing experiences that follow. A rushed and troublesome production led to an absolute misfire of a remake, with Tim Burton's wildly ambitious ideas clashing with a shoddy script and poor execution. The meme-worthy ending didn't do "Planet of the Apes" any favors, leaving audiences on an unintentionally humorous note. The creative disappointment led to the cancellation of a planned sequel and a ten year hiatus before the franchise would be reborn in impressive fashion.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Where to rent: Apple TV ($3.99), Amazon ($3.99)

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" tends to fly under the radar these days, but the trilogy that followed never would have worked half as well if it weren't for the careful bricklaying on the part of director Rupert Wyatt, screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and mo-cap performer Andy Serkis. In this prequel/remake, a virus is largely responsible for both the advanced evolution of apes and the resulting demise of humanity. Never before has the series been more grounded in emotion, though the trade-off came at the cost of the social messaging that had previously been an inextricable part of the franchise's identity. Nevertheless, "Rise" gets the fan-servicey references and homages out of the way relatively quickly to focus on making audiences truly invested in the plight of Serkis' Caesar (no relation to the character from the original movies), his cadre of ape companions, and their initial steps taken toward outright revolution.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Where to rent: Apple TV ($3.99), Amazon ($3.99)

Enter: Matt Reeves. The "Felicity," "Cloverfield," and "Let Me In" director proved to be the perfect match between filmmaker and material. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" instantly elevated the franchise to heights it hadn't reached in decades, detailing Caesar's more advanced ape society and their conflicts with the encroaching humans outside their reclaimed habitat. The almost Shakespearean tragedy brings back the pessimism of the earlier movies, but without sliding into outright cynicism or hopelessness at the prospects of two groups being able to transcend their differences and reach a mutual understanding. "Dawn" takes clever advantage of leftover plot elements from "Rise" to turn Koba (Toby Kebbell) into a formidable enemy and bring things full-circle with a quick trip to Caesar's childhood home. Despite some underdeveloped human characters, it's a favorite among fans for good reason and serves as a representative addition to "Apes" canon.

War for the Planet of the Apes

Where to stream: FuboTV

Where to rent: Apple TV ($3.99), Amazon ($3.99)

Did I call "Dawn" Shakespearean before? In "War for the Planet of the Apes," Matt Reeves returns to take things in a truly biblical direction. Reminiscent of "Lawrence of Arabia" or Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" more than anything else, Caesar is as brutal and haunted as we've ever seen him before. Though we are still limited to following the specific group of apes from "Rise," "War" opens up the scope and scale of the post-apocalyptic world to give us a glimpse into how humanity at large has been faring. (Spoiler alert: not very well.) It's hard to watch this film and wrap one's mind around how such humble beginnings ended up with an epic final journey, complete with Caesar embracing his role as a Moses-like figure to his apes, but somehow Reeves pulled it off. We haven't heard much lately about the future of the franchise, but director Wes Ball is set to take over and it appears to be set after this most recent trilogy.