Dusting Off: Chimp Movies
Humans have always been fascinated with our astonishingly close evolutionary link to monkeys—the smartest of which have been known to fashion rudimentary tools and learn sign language.
And, most impressive of all: act in major Hollywood films.
So, in our effort to dust off the chimp movie, we ponder the demise of the great movie genre and present some of the more impressive simian performances on film…
It was 1996, a banner year for simian cinematography (simiantography?), that saw the dueling release of Dunston Checks In starring an orangutan running amuck in a five-star hotel pitted against the Matt LeBlanc pitching-chimpanzee vehicle, Ed. Then it all ended for reasons unexplained. The last chimp-centric movie to hit theaters since—that animated movie about chimp astronauts—was a far cry from the live-action apes of the decades before last. There’s something eerily endearing and impressive about seeing such a humanlike performance from a nonhuman (something the dogs and cats of the cinema world usually require a celebrity voiceover to achieve). Even Clint Eastwood spent 90 minutes hugging it out with an orangutan, forming a relationship between the two so genuine that a sequel was deemed necessary. It’s movie gold, we tell ya.
Let’s take a look at some of the finer performances:
Bedtime for Bonzo (1951)
Every Which Way but Loose (1978)
Project X (1987)
Monkey Trouble (1994)
Dunston Checks In (1996)
Being John Malkovich (1998)
— Najib Benouar