Primates are known as some of the most intelligent animals on the planet. Like humans, they use tools and often live a very social life. In all their similarities to us, they are often portrayed as characters in stories. Branching out the stories, the monkeys have made themselves movie stars as well.
These animals have been quite popular in sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure genres. The human imagination has seen monkeys as companions, leaders, and even shamans. In the world of film, any animal can be just like us.
Not all cinema monkeys are well-remembered though. Some made bigger ripples than others in terms of their cultural relevance.
10 Amy: Congo (1995)
Based on a novel of the same name, this science fiction, action, and adventure film did not get the best reviews, but is still good entertainment for anyone looking for a jungle adventure movie. The main plot is a team sets out to find out what went wrong in an African Congo expedition.
One of the more memorable parts of the film is Amy, a mountain gorilla who uses sign language and a digitized voice to speak to humans. After some communication, the humans decide to return her to Africa.
9 Moon-Watcher: 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey is an incredibly famous movie with all sorts of awards, interpretations, and with a strong influence in the genre of science-fiction. Even minor characters have been analyzed down to the bone.
There is a section of the movie about man-apes, particularly about Moon-watcher, the leader of the man-ape tribe. The audience gets to see this ape rise as leader of his tribe, discover the use of tools, and defeat his rival, One-Ear. Of course, there is not much to be said about the character, but the man-ape comes from one of the most famous films in history and takes on a pretty big role
8 Abu: Aladdin (1992)
As a creation of one of Disney’s major animated films from its renaissance period, Abu is a fictional monkey recognized by many. Like a true Disney animal companion, Abu mostly serves as a comedic character. He is Aladdin’s partner-in-crime. Unlike Aladdin though, Abu often grabs anything shiny before thinking too much about it. He can be a bit of a mischievous character, but he is cute enough to stay likable.
For any who are curious, Abu is a capuchin monkey. Capuchin monkeys often live in large groups of their fellows with distinct social hierarchies.
7 George: Curious George (2006)
What makes George so special is not exactly the 2006 movie but the children’s books. His first ever appearance was in the 1939 book, Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys and since then, he has appeared in television films, animated movies, video games, and plenty of other children’s books.
George is like an amalgamation of everything cute about monkeys. He is loving, curious, innocent, and loves to play. In terms of what kind of monkey he is, he is a Barbary Macaque.
6 Rafiki: The Lion King (1994)
Rafiki is a mandrill, though most call him a baboon. He lives in the hearts of many due to being in one of Disney’s best films, The Lion King. Rafiki plays the role of shaman for the royal lion family, and dispenses a ton of wisdom and uses the natural resources around him to quickly figure out what is going to happen next.
He is eccentric, which makes many of the other characters think he is crazy. In Swahili, his name translates to “friend.”
5 The Flying Monkeys: The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Flying horses or pigs are one thing, but flying monkeys? The Wizard of Oz had boundless creativity. The monkeys originally stem from the book by L. Frank Baum, but are most remembered in the 1939 movie. They serve the Wicked Witch, and have little else in terms of character.
Their legacy is major, often being referenced in all kinds of other pieces of pop culture like in The Lego Batman Movie (2017), Once Upon a Time (2011-2018), and even in The Avengers (2012).
4 Kong: King Kong (1933)
This monster adventure-romance film did not receive any Academy Awards, but it won a greater reward: legacy. Due to its cultural significance, it is part of the collection in the United States National Film Registry. While this movie is nearly 100 years old, Kong is one of the most iconic movie monsters and monkeys (technically a gorilla) of film.
Kong has become such a cultural icon that the giant ape has now appeared across almost every genre – Kong is routinely parodied, has been the star of comics and games, and has a whole slew of film and TV appearances.
3 Zira: Planet Of The Apes (1968)
This movie started the mega-franchise that spanned into comics, many more movies, remakes, television series, toys, books, and video games.
The ape from the original movie with the most fans is Dr. Zira. She is a psychologist and veterinarian, who specializes in the study of humans. She is passionate and liberal, often speaking out against war and military operations. While every fan has their own reasons to like Zira the most, a great charm to her character is that she has literally taken on the role that human associates with the opposite in terms of animal species.
2 King Louie: The Jungle Book (1967)
Louie is actually not in the book of The Jungle Book, but was developed as an original character from Disney. He is known as the king of the jungle, and had gotten all other monkeys to serve him. He wants to become like humans, and thinks that to do so, he will need to know how to make fire.
Honestly, Louie’s plan sounds like a good start. It showcases a strange curiosity and greed that fascinates the audience. Louie’s motivations may have been inspired by how much apes and monkeys are like humans. What if one just naturally wanted power like a human?
1 Caesar: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
This movie won awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Feature Film, Best Sci-Fi Movie, Coolest Creature, and Favorite Hero. For coolest creature and favorite hero, the character was Caesar. While its premise is similar to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, it is not a direct remake.
Caesar is underrated because of the many Planet of the Apes movies that came before. However, he is the most human and empathetic character of any other monkey on the big screen. Audiences get to see the innocence of his youth, the dark times, and what emotionally drives him. Also, the attention to detail given to his posture and speech towards the end is amazing.
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