The 13th Floor

Scary Simians! The Evolution of Apes in Horror Films

In the movie THE GIFT, Jason Bateman’s character Simon has a major fear of apes. He’s not alone. Many of us can relate.

But why? Why are monkeys so freaking creepy? Is it their cunning and volatile nature? Or is it because we have an innate fear that we’re not much better than them?

Whatever the reason, it’s clear we love to fear them just by the sheer amount of horror movies starring these scary simians.

To prove it, here’s a brief timeline of monkeys in movies that is guaranteed to awaken your inner pithecophobia:

KING KONG (1933)

As one of the first iconic monsters of the silver screen, Kong set the bar high for all the primitive villains on this list. The scary thing about Kong is that you actually like the beast and feel sympathy for him. Remember, a likable monster is the scariest monster!


THE APE MAN (1943)

The master of horror himself, Bela Lugosi, plays a scientist who turns himself into, you guessed it, the ape man. A very furry Lugosi then proceeds to stalk the streets with his gorilla friends and cause chaos. Amazingly, a sequel RETURN OF THE APE MAN was made the following year starring Lugosi again.



PLANET OF THE APES took the human-ape hybrid theme above and beyond…to a different planet altogether. A planet where apes are superior to humans and the manliest man to ever grace the screen, Charlton Heston, is constantly being beat up by ape men. In the late sixties, this film was truly a game changer and helped solidify the career of veteran makeup artist John Chambers.



As the trailer stresses, this is a true story that really happened. A brutal drought in Kenya causes 90,000 thirsty baboons to turn violent and kill everything in their wake. Just another terrifying consequence of climate weirding!


LINK (1986)

The star of this film is Link, a super smart orangutan who falls in love with the assistant animal researcher, Jane, played by Elizabth Shue. Of course, Link viciously murders anyone who gets in his way of courting Shue. But who can really blame Link, everyone was in love with Elizabeth Shue in the 80’s.



This is an under-rated film by the great George Romero. I can still remember the VHS tape at Blockbusters with the scary monkey with the cymbals toy on the cover. The plot centers around a quadriplegic man who gets help from a capuchin monkey named Ella with his daily chores. But the catch is that Ella is an experimental monkey and has been injected with human brain tissue. She develops a human bond with her caregiver so strong that she gets jealous of all the other women in his life and, of course, kills them. Normal girl stuff.


SHAKMA (1990)

Shakma!!!! It started as a study in human aggression but something went wrong. Very wrong. Shakma, the baboon the university was experimenting on, becomes enraged and goes on a killing rampage throughout the building. The real problem with this movie is that Shakma is actually kind of adorable.


CONGO (1995)

This film was loosely based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name. Basically, a tribe of intelligent “grey” gorillas guard a secret mine of diamonds and kill anyone who tries to get near them.  With a cast that includes horror legends Bruce Campbell and Tim Curry, you’d think this movie would be pretty awesome. You’d be wrong.



The latest installment of the PLANET OF THE APES franchise received an unbelievable 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It just goes to show that AK-47 wielding apes can put butts in theatre seats and that the world is definitely not tired of watching primates on the big screen.