Astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunnar), and Dodge (Jeff Burton) awaken to a submerged ship. They have landed on a planet and are sinking in some water. Turns out it is an ocean and they are the surviving members of the crew. Taylor is able to take a glimpse at the clocks before they leave the ship.
They are able to get to land as the ship slowly disappears. They have a couple of days of food and water and a pistol. Not much to live on and that is their first thing to do, find food.
They travel over a dessert and finally come to a place with water and trees. They find some fruit and are able to eat. They realize that they have crash landed in the future but as to how much they are not totally sure. It could be as much as seven hundred years.
All of sudden they see humans, but they are dressed in skins. They are being hunted by apes. The three men scatter and will later be captured or killed. Taylor is shot in the neck and is captured. He falls unconscious not understanding what just happened.
Taylor awakens in a cell of sorts and is astonished to hear voices until he realizes it's coming from apes. He tries to talk but because of the neck wound, he is not able to communicate. He wants to show them that he can talk but they make fun of him as they think that he is trying to imitate them. You see on this planet apes rule, man is the lower species.
The ape scientists Cornelius and Zira (Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) will eventually put a female called Nova (Linda Harrison) into his cell in the hopes that they will mate. Taylor escapes one day, and actually makes it out of the building. He is chased all around the village until he is captured. He makes one mistake. He tells his captors "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty apes".
Well the cat is out of the bag and from this point on you will not believe what happens. This film brings to us a new way of possible thinking, what if. Could this happen in real life? You know what, if man can think then anything is possible.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner brings us cinematic history with this film. There will be five films in the story, but it is this one that starts it all. There will even be remakes years later, but this is the beginning and it gets no better than this. So sit back and see the possible future of man where APES RULE.