Planet of the Apes (1968)
While remakes abound of this classic, it was the 1969 original in which the idea of apes walking and talking just like human beings first hit the public consciousness. Tapping into the fear that we could be overthrown by our primate cousins, Planet of the Apes prophesied a world where humans were the disenfranchised party. Thankfully, a trip to the zoo to see apes being, well, apes, was an easy way to dispel that fear.
But that doesn’t work now that we’ve started to discover just how smart primates really are. Across the world, research projects have shown examples of abilities assumed to be limited to humans such as sign language, syntax comprehension and theory of mind. In Japan there’s a chimp named Ayumu who regularly outperforms humans on memory challenges. A zoo in Wisconsin has begun distributing iPads to the orangutans for cognitive stimulation, which are happily used to watch videos and play on paint applications.
The biggest step towards a planet like that in the movie is with an orangutan called Tilda in Germany. Tilda has begun to communicate with keepers using whistles, clicks and grunted vowels. This requires her to utilize a fine control of lips and tongue, which was previously assumed to only be a human ability.