Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Poster Image
Occasionally violent origin story is surprisingly good.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 105 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 90 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

There are some thought-provoking messages in the movie, especially the idea about whether it's questionable to test animals with drugs that could injure them if it's for the benefit of curing human diseases. Animal equality is brought up via both the character of Caesar, who's of superior intelligence to his human age-counterparts, and the misery of the apes held imprisoned in the animal shelter. Will's decisions to keep Caesar, give his father the experimental drug, and bribe an official show the moral ambiguity of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. The tension between the pharmaceutical industry's drive for profits versus the good of helping the sick is another major theme.

Positive role models & representations

Despite keeping Caesar and giving his father drug-trial medicine illegally, Will is a hardworking visionary who wants to help cure diseases at work and comes home to take care of his ill father. He's not perfect, but he's disciplined, kind, and intelligent. Caesar himself is more "human" than some of the human characters. He's thoughtful, generous, and thinks everything through strategically. He only uses violence when threatened, as opposed to for sport.


In the opening scene, ape poachers are shown trapping apes in nets and chasing them with machetes and guns; shortly after that, a lab ape gets very aggressive with the scientists and is eventually shot and killed. The ape-versus-human violence is usually in retaliation for human-on-ape violence, and it includes apes grabbing and nearly breaking someone's hand, Caesar biting the hand of a neighbor who's pushing his owner, and apes fighting off police officers who surround and shoot them from a helicopter and the ground. The goriest scenes are of a man who's electrocuted (he's hosed down as he turns an electric stunning device on), a police officer who's thrown off a bridge by a gorilla, and a man plummeting into the water from a falling helicopter. An ape also dies protecting his leader. An elderly man succumbs to illness in his sleep, while a contaminated human dies from a strange virus.


A couple of sweet kisses and some flirting between Will and Caroline. They live together (it's not clear whether they're married), and they're shown in bed, but only sleeping.


Language includes one use of "s--t," plus infrequent use of "hell," "ass," "goddamn," and "damn" (as in the famous line: "Get your damn paws off me, you damned dirty ape").


The only brand prominently featured is an Apple MacBook/desktop computer.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

A primate shelter worker and his friend are shown with drinks in their hands.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story that's less sci-fi and more relationship drama, making it a surprisingly equal-opportunity choice for teens and parents. There's not much language, sexuality, or drinking, but the animal-human violence gets intense in the second half of the movie. Humans are afraid of the apes, so they shoot and poke them, and the threatened apes react defensively by smashing cars, throwing spears, pushing police officers off a bridge, and generally wreaking havoc on the Bay Area. There are a few pivotal death scenes for both species, but the movie's focus is less on the action and more on the nuanced question of how animals and humans can co-exist once there's no intelligence barrier.

User Reviews

Educator Written bytheshlaay August 7, 2011

Multi-faceted, Multi-dimensional

There are definitely positive messages in this movie involving human hubris, arrogance, oppression, fair treatment, and consequences to actions. I would recomme... Continue reading
Adult Written byVAharleygirl August 8, 2011

Timely movie with nice homage to its movie-lineage.

I enjoyed it; I thought it tied in nicely w/ the original "Apes" movies, while showing a slightly more plausible origin how those could come to be. Th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBONES&BOOTH4EVER August 6, 2011

Looks Great, previous was amazing

The one before this was so amazing cant wait to see this one
Teen, 13 years old Written byBlueHorse July 23, 2013


This was a heartbreaking movie. Well, to me at least. I have a huge place in my heart for animals and this movie was a real tearjerker. The violence and animal... Continue reading

What's the story?

In RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Will (James Franco) is a pharmaceutical scientist who's discovered a breakthrough drug that could cure Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases. But when his ace lab chimp, who has shown extreme intelligence from the experimental drug, goes berserk during an important meeting, the company boss (David Oyelowo) orders all of the lab animals put down and demands that Will start researching again, but when a hidden newborn chimp is found, Will reluctantly takes him home. Will's father (John Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer's, is instantly taken with the baby chimp, and soon Will realizes that "Caesar" has a higher IQ because of his in-utero exposure to the miracle drug. For eight years, Will gives his father smuggled doses of the drug, and they live with Caesar, who's now a precocious adolescent (and played, in a motion-capture performance, by Andy Serkis). After Caesar defends his family and bites a neighbor, Will is forced to surrender him to a primate shelter. Faced with his own kind for the first time, Caesar climbs the social ladder and eventually leads a climactic bid for freedom.

Is it any good?

This is an entertaining, well-acted origin story. Although some of its plot elements are similar to the fourth Planet of the Apes film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, this reimagining doesn't feature time travel or the widespread domestication of apes. The story is simple and, in this highly medicated culture, surprisingly easy to conceive: Medical experiments that alter animal development aren't a fantasy, they're reality. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is equal parts family drama and sci-fi-lite action, and the poignant, complicated relationship between Will, his ailing-then-improved father, and their beloved Caesar is a bona fide tearjerker in a couple of scenes. This is owed completely to the three actors: Franco, Lithgow, and Serkis, who deserves an Academy Award for his mastery of nuanced motion-capture performances.

The trio of main actors, with help from Oyelowo, who's perfectly smarmy as the profit-driven CEO, and Freida Pinto, who's a distractingly beautiful veterinarian, propels the film above the forgettable dross of raunchy comedies and formulaic remakes that fill theaters. And since they're known to chew up scenery, special mention must be made of Brian Cox and Tom Felton, both of whom are fabulous as an ambivalent primate-shelter owner and his sneering, sadistic bully of a son (Harry Potter fans may feel compelled to yell "Draco Malfoy!" at the screen). Despite all of the fine performances, there are a few missteps (like when the greedy businessman assumes that the apes will offer him mercy) but that really doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. The best part is that, unlike so many "first in a planned series" installments, this one feels complete at the end, with the final image and end credits alluding to how the apes finally rise to inherit the earth.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ongoing popularity of remaking classic older films. What are some series that have outdone their predecessors? Which originals should never have been reimagined? Is Rise of the Planet of the Apes a good addition to the series?

  • How does the violence in this movie compare to other action/sci-fi movies you've seen? Does the fact that it involves animals give it more or less impact?

  • Animals are usually depicted as our friends, but what do the apes want -- to rule the world, or just to be free from cages? How does the filmmaker portray Caesar and Will's relationship? Is Caesar a pet, a child, or something in between?

  • For those familiar with the Planet of the Apes series, how does this compare to the original storyline? Do the changes make sense, considering technological developments since the '70s? Do you think there should be more?

Movie details

For kids who love sci-fi action

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate