The top 10 movie apes and monkeys

The top 10 movie apes and monkeys. By Simian Miraudo.

No more monkey business. We’ve been putting off this list for a while, but it’s now time to “marmoset” the record straight. Primates have always played an important part in cinema (and not just the humans) from the “old world” to the new. To celebrate the release of the documentary Project Nim, we’re “gibbon” it up and tipping our “capuchin” to the top 10 movie apes and monkeys. We understand that this is a contentious subject, but if all “howlers” could please temper their judgment and complaints in the comments section; there’s no need to be a baboon now. (We make no apologies for those puns, but promise there will be no more in the remainder of this article. “Bonobo” lie.)

10. The white-headed capuchin from Outbreak

Classification: Monkey

Actor: Betsy

Although best known for playing Marcel on Friends, Betsy first made a name for herself in Hollywood as the unnamed antagonist in the viral thriller Outbreak. In a surprisingly meta moment in Friends history, Marcel was hired on the show to star in the fictional Outbreak 2: The Virus Takes Manhattan starring Jean Claude Van-Damme (the not-thinking man’s Dustin Hoffman).

9. Chim-chim from Speed Racer

Classification: Chimpanzee

Actors: Willy and Kenzie

The Wachowskis super-charged Speed Racer is not for the faint of heart (or rather, those with weak hearts, or epilepsy), but it has plenty to enjoy. Particularly, the performance of twins Willy and Kenzie as Chim-chim, the eternal companion of Speed’s brother Spritle. He may only rank eighth on this list, but he’s number one in terms of fashion sense.

8. Clyde from Every Which Way But Loose

Classification: Orangutan

Actor: Manis

It takes a lot of charisma to hold the screen alongside a legend like Clint Eastwood, but Manis did just that in this comedy hit. Sadly, he was unceremoniously replaced by an unnamed orangutan (his identity likely shielded to keep him safe from Manis’ devoted groupies) in the sequel, Any Which Way You Can.

7. Man-apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Classification: Man-apes

Actors: John Ashley, Jimmy Bell, David Charkham, Simon Davis, Jonathan Daw, Péter Delmár, Terry Duggan, David Fleetwood, Brian Hawley, David Hines, Tony Jackson, John Jordan, Scott MacKee, Laurence Marchant, Darryl Paes, Joe Refalo, Andy Wallace, Bob Wilyman, and Richard Woods.

Stanley Kubrick tracked the precise moment of evolution from ape to man in his iconic 2001‘s opening moments. We like to think of it as ‘Part 1’ to Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ ‘Part 2’.

6. Nim Chimpsky from Project Nim

Classification: Chimpanzee

Actor: Nim Chimpsky

We couldn’t leave this very article’s inspiration off the list. In James Marsh‘s heartbreaking documentary, we see young Nim Chimpsky adopted by the folks at Columbia University and watch their failed attempts to teach him sign language and raise him like a human baby. They dress him up. They breastfeed him. They give him a toke of their joints. He, rightfully, mauls some of them.

5. Elijah from Being John Malkovich

Classification: Chimpanzee

Actor: Unknown

If you think Nim led a terrible life, consider briefly the plight of Elijah, the depressed chimp being cared for by sad-sack Lotte (Cameron Diaz) in Spike Jonze‘s oddball delight Being John Malkovich. When puppeteer Craig (John Cusack) goes off the deep end and hurls his girlfriend Lotte into one of the animal cages, Elijah flashes back to the moment in which he was kidnapped from his parents in the wild. These animals … (wipes tear) … these animals are damn good actors.

4. King Louie from The Jungle Book

Classification: Orangutan

Actor: Louis Prima

In lieu of a paragraph explaining our choice, please enjoy this video.


3. Dr. Zira from Planet of the Apes

Classification: Chimpanzee

Actor: Kim Hunter

Kim Hunter stirred a lot of confusing feelings in nerds around the world as Dr. Zira in the original Planet of the Apes. She’s a psychologist, veterinarian, and has the most alluring blue eyes you’ve ever seen. What’s not to like? Oh, right…

2. Kong from King Kong

Classification: Gorilla

Actor: Movie magic!

Though critics were falling over themselves to praise Andy Serkis’ motion-captured performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it can’t be forgotten that one of the all-time great cinematic  primates was brought to life without any actor or animal’s assistance. In 1933’s King Kong, a giant, stop-motion gorilla climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, and it remains one of the most lasting images in film history.

1. Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Classification: Chimpanzee

Actor: Andy Serkis

All that about King Kong being said … how good was Andy Serkis as Caesar?! He brought humour, heart, and yes, humanity to this tale of a wronged ape (aided with intelligence) eager to overthrow his human captors, and eventually society itself. The fact that we were rooting for him spoke volumes.

Discuss: OK, who did we miss?

2 Responses to “The top 10 movie apes and monkeys”

  1. What about Jack the Monkey in Pirates of the Caribbean?

  2. and Tarzan chimp? Lisa

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