Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, loosely based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle. The film stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, and Linda Harrison. In the film, an astronaut crew crash-lands on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. The apes have assumed the role of the dominant species and humans are mute creatures wearing animal skins.
The outline Planet of the Apes script, originally written by Serling, underwent many rewrites before filming eventually began. Directors J. Lee Thompson and Blake Edwards were approached, but the film's producer Arthur P. Jacobs, upon the recommendation of Heston, chose Franklin J. Schaffner to direct the film. Schaffner's changes included an ape society less advanced—and therefore less expensive to depict—than that of the original novel. Filming took place between May 21 and August 10, 1967, in California, Utah, and Arizona, with desert sequences shot in and around Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The film's final "closed" cost was $5.8 million.
Planet of the Apes premiered on February 8, 1968, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City, and was released in the United States on April 3, by 20th Century Fox. The film was a box-office hit, earning a lifetime domestic gross of $33.3 million. It was groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers and was well received by audiences and critics, being nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Original Score at the 41st Academy Awards, and winning a honorary Academy Award for Chambers. In 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Planet of the Apes' success launched a franchise, including four sequels, as well as a television series, animated series, comic books, and various merchandising. In particular, Roddy McDowall had a long-running relationship with the franchise, appearing in four of the original five films (he was absent from the second film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in which he was replaced by David Watson in the role of Cornelius) and also in the television series. The original film series was followed by Tim Burton's remake of the same name in 2001 and a reboot series, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011.
Plot: Astronauts Taylor, Landon, and Dodge awaken from deep hibernation after a near-light-speed space voyage. Stewart, the lone female crew member, is dead due to a sleep chamber malfunction caused by an air leak, the look of her remains prefiguring the survivors’ encounters with the apes. Their spacecraft crashes into a lake on an unknown planet; Taylor's estimate places them in Orion's Bellatrix System, 300 light-years from their home Solar System. Before they abandon their sinking vessel, the three survivors read the ship's chronometer as November 25, 3978 – two thousand and six years after their departure in 1972. However, due to time dilation, the astronauts themselves have aged slightly less than one year.
The men travel through desolate wasteland, coming across eerie scarecrow-like figures and a freshwater lake with lush vegetation. While swimming, the men's clothes are stolen and shredded by primitive mute humans. Soon after, armed gorillas raid a cornfield where the humans are gathering food. Taylor is shot in the throat as he and the others are captured. Dodge is killed and Landon rendered unconscious in the chaos. Taylor is taken to Ape City. Two chimpanzees, animal psychologist Zira and surgeon Galen, save Taylor's life, though his throat injury renders him temporarily mute.
Taylor is placed with a captive female, whom he later names Nova. He observes an advanced society of talking apes with a strict caste system: gorillas are the military force and laborers; orangutans oversee government and religion; and intellectual chimpanzees are mostly scientists and doctors. The ape society is a theocracy, while the apes consider the primitive humans as vermin to be hunted and either killed outright, enslaved, or used in scientific experiments. Taylor convinces Zira and her fiancé, Cornelius, that he is as intelligent as they are; one way by making a paper airplane. Dr. Zaius, their orangutan superior, arranges for Taylor to be castrated against Zira's protests. Taylor escapes and finds Dodge's stuffed corpse on display in a museum. He is soon recaptured, in the process revealing that he can speak, which alarms the apes.
A hearing to determine Taylor's origins is convened. Taylor mentions his two comrades, learning that Landon was lobotomized and rendered catatonic. Believing Taylor either is from an unknown human tribe beyond their borders or was the subject of a mad scientist who gave him the power of speech, Zaius privately threatens to castrate and lobotomize Taylor for refusing to reveal his origins. With help from Zira's nephew Lucius, Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and Nova and take them to the Forbidden Zone, a taboo region outside Ape City where Taylor's ship crashed. Ape law has ruled the area out of bounds for centuries. Cornelius and Zira are intent to gather proof of an earlier non-simian civilization – which Cornelius discovered a year earlier – to be cleared of heresy; Taylor focuses on proving he comes from a different planet.
When the group arrives at the cave, Cornelius is intercepted by Zaius and his soldiers. Taylor holds them off by threatening to shoot Zaius, who agrees to enter the cave to disprove their theories. Inside, Cornelius displays remnants of a technologically advanced human society pre-dating simian history. Taylor identifies artifacts such as dentures, eyeglasses, a heart valve...and, to the apes' astonishment, a talking human doll. Zaius admits he has always known about the ancient human civilization. Taylor wants to search for answers. Zaius warns Taylor against finding an answer which he does not like, adding that the now-desolate Forbidden Zone was once a lush paradise. After Taylor and Nova are allowed to leave, Zaius has the cave sealed off to destroy the evidence, while charging Zira, Cornelius, and Lucius with heresy.