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The Ultimate Battle of the Movie Monkeys

In honor of the new ‘Planet of the Apes’ film, we put all the primates of the big screen head-to-head to see who’s top banana

War for the Planet of the Apes draws to a close the epic tale of Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), a sweet chimp who became the reluctant leader of a ferocious ape rebellion that has squared off with humanity for control of the planet. Caesar is one of the most nuanced characters Hollywood has ever concocted, but he’s hardly alone in being one terrific cinematic primate. As such, we decided to pit Caesar’s onscreen simian predecessors against one another to determine who is the greatest chimp of them all. Our staff has filled out their brackets, along with providing a justification for their top ape. Below in the comments section, give us your picks.

Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: One of my early-round upsets is the Winged Monkeys over Betsy. I know that Betsy is carrying the very Ebola-esque Motaba virus, but that wouldn’t be such an issue when she’s taking on a group of vicious flying monkeys. (If it was flying humans, that would be another story.) Planet of the Apes’ Cornelius is a scrapper who’d be able to take care of Clyde in an exciting second-round matchup. But keep an eye out for 2001’s Ape-Men. Sure, they can’t talk, but now that they’ve mastered the ability to stand upright and use bones as weapons, they’re peaking at the right moment, which will help them squeak by the Winged Monkeys and earn a spot in the championship. Still, nobody beats the King. No matter which movie version you’re talking about, Kong is the great ape: big, dynamic, soulful, complicated, unstoppable. Give him his crown.

Jeff Gross, Social Editor: In my mind, there was no way the apes from Planet of the Apes were going to make it past Round 1. My favorites were Amy, the “talking” (and blunt-smoking, martini-drinking) gorilla from Congo, Motaba-carrying Betsy from Outbreak and the bone-chucking Ape-Men from 2001. In the end, however, I couldn’t get past how unintentionally funny and awful Amy’s computerized voice and remote-controlled expressions were. That made the winner an easy choice for me.

Andrew Fiouzi, Editorial Assistant: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” Those were my criteria for who was going to be crowned the Ultimate Movie Monkey Champion. And for me, Dunston from Dunston Checks In climbed into my heart and swung from my aorta at an early age. He was loving, mischievous and naive — much like I am (as both a kid and an adult). Still, it wasn’t easy deciding between Dunston and Curious George. George and I also have history. Those yellow-covered books, filled with the sort of white paper pages that doubled as a light musk were omnipresent throughout my childhood. Ultimately, though, Dunston’s my main primate, if only because he looks better in a fedora than George does in a safari hat.

Sam Dworkin, Art Assistant: I had mixed feelings about how I would fill out my bracket, due to the fact that my pitch for “Monkey” from Grandma’s Boy was axed. IMHO, a much better choice than “Virgil” from Project X — by a long shot.

My criteria for the ultimate movie monkey then were then based upon which movies Tim Grierson disliked the most, which is how “Monkey” from The Hangover Part II was crowned the champion of my bracket.

Nick Leftley, Senior Editor: I had George triumph over King Kong in the very first round, because I’ve watched about 500 episodes of the Curious George cartoon with my toddler and everything always turns out just fine for that annoying, squawking fucking primate asshole. After that, no one else seemed like they’d give him much competition besides the flying monkey army he faced in the finals, but let me reiterate: There was an episode where he survived accidentally being shot into space in a rocket, so I assume his luck would hold.

John McDermott, Staff Writer: I’ve always appreciated monkeys for their subversive natures. Whether it’s causing global pandemics, rising up against mankind or stealing from unsuspecting bazaar merchants, monkeys have a rebellious, devil-may-care streak to them that I’ve always admired and emulated. Curious George is the obvious winner by this criteria, because he’s always causes mischief but never being punished for it. That’s quality monkeying.

Josh Schollmeyer, Editor-in-Chief: Early in my career, I worked at a place called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which had been founded in 1945 by a bunch of Manhattan Project scientists and most famously serves as the keeper of the Doomsday Clock. Originally, it was meant to track how close the world was to nuclear annihilation. During my tenure there, though, the apocalyptic global threats the Doomsday Clock measured were extended to climate change and biosecurity. I learned a lot, obviously, but the thing I took away the most: Don’t fuck with nuclear weapons, rising sea levels and (maybe most of all) super-viruses. So by my count, no one could take down everything (and everybody — man or monkey) in their path quite like Betsy from Outbreak.

Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer: At first glance, this bracket reminded me that my movie monkey knowledge is mediocre at best. But that’s when I saw the primate I always wished I had by my side. The furry fellow who would hand me a beer while listening to me rant about the girl who got away. The orangutan who taught me how to deal with bullies. Clyde: He punched his way through this bracket like he punched his way through a bunch of asshole bikers in Every Which Way but Loose. Then he flipped off the competition.