In the original Planet of the Apes movie, long before Charlton Heston's character, Taylor, has his big moment of realization at the base of the remains of the Statue of Liberty, he encounters a bunch of talking apes, and non-talking humans.

I suppose one could suspend their disbelief and suppose that Taylor found it reasonable to assume that some kind of convergent evolution explains the remarkably similar species.

But... there's no way one could reasonably propose that the English language, and particularly American English, could have just popped up somewhere else by chance. To call the coincidence staggering wouldn't even come close to conveying the effective impossibility of it.

Shouldn't Taylor have realized he was on Earth the first moment an ape said anything to him?

Obviously, the decision to depict the apes as speaking English was a decision based on factors to do with production, and accessibility for the audience.

But was any kind of explanation in or around the story offered to justify how Taylor just seemed to take English for granted?

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    British comedians Lee and Herring addressed just this issue with an "extra final scene" from the film in their '90s show This Morning With Richard Not Judy, with Taylor rationalising: "Well, if I was able to believe that the apes spoke perfect English, I should be able to accept there's a perfect replica of the Status of Liberty..." and goes on his way happily. May 22, 2012 at 12:27
  • @DanielRoseman: Nice. :) That's more consistently logical to me than what actually happened in the movie.
    – Questioner
    May 22, 2012 at 15:08
  • He grew up watching Star Trek - where every alien species in the Universe speaks English.
    – John C
    May 22, 2012 at 20:28
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    @JohnC That would be Stargate. Almost all spacefaring civilizations in Star Trek have a universal translator.
    – Izkata
    May 22, 2012 at 23:36
  • @Izkata And then Jack pops out of a Stargate behind him, pats him on the shoulder and says "nope, just a coincidence. Now let's get you home and away from these damn dirty apes."
    – Zibbobz
    Aug 25, 2014 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


From the Wiki (circa 2010 version from archive.org - sadly, some edit-happy Wiki user removed the whole section on 14:25, 4 July 2010‎ as "unnecessary"):

The film deviated from the original French novel in a number of ways:
The apes speak perfect 20th century English, while they spoke a wholly different language in the book. Ulysse has to learn it to get acquainted, while in the movie, Taylor has a throat wound which prevents him from speaking at first.

In other words, in-Universe, they were NOT speaking English, but out-of-Universe, the movie made them speak English for production/moviemaking reasons (just like Star Wars Galaxy all speaks English, etc...)

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    In the movie, even though he does not speak until his throat heals, he understands them perfectly from the first time he hears them. So, I think the movie deviated from the book enough that the "it's actually not English" explanation from the book doesn't excuse the productuion decision for the movie.
    – Questioner
    May 22, 2012 at 4:57
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    @AidanO: Sorry, I just don't think this covers it. The difference in Star Wars is that all characters are speaking the same language from the beginning. So depicting it in English is merely a convenience. I have no problem with the idea that the apes could be speaking another language and depicting it in English, but then Taylor should not know it from the start. There is no depiction in the movie of him having to acquire a language. Thus, it's not another language presented in English, it is English. And therefor it's silly that he just takes that for granted.
    – Questioner
    May 22, 2012 at 15:06
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    @DaveMG - plot hole is really a bad choice of words in my comment. it was a "deliberate plot hole" aka "production choice". That's exactly what my last paragraph states, if in a little gentler wording. May 22, 2012 at 17:22
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    @DVK: Again, though, the answer above is supposing that it is not English that the apes are speaking in-universe. However, if that were true, then all that does is switch the problem the other way and create the issue of how did Taylor know how to speak this new language. So, whatever the production choices, the answer above explains nothing.
    – Questioner
    May 22, 2012 at 17:25
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    Remember this is a 1968 movie, when the fact that the apes spoke English was probably the last thing the audiences asked themselves. Aug 25, 2014 at 9:34

Arguably, the fact that they are apes should suggest the same thing, since parallel evolution of such a complex organism is pretty bloomin' unlikely. He may have expected that these apes were somehow transplanted from Earth at some point.

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    Agreed. And not just the apes, but the humans as well. Not to mention the horses the apes were riding when they were hunting down the humans. Maybe Taylor was so freaked at the sight of humanoid apes that he failed to notice the humans and horses? Jun 7, 2016 at 8:02

The only in-universe answer I could imagine would be that maybe the effects of long-term cryogenic suspended animation during space travel had the effect of slowing down some of the human brain's cognitive processing capabilities, so Taylor's thought processes slowed down a bit, rendering him unable to use the simple deductive reasoning and logic needed to come to the conclusion that he must be on Earth because the apes are speaking an Earth language. Its the only thing I could think of that made any sense, although I don't know if suspended animation would really do that to a person.

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