Monkey Business: 10 Best Movie Primates

     April 22, 2015


Animals have always been a source of entertainment for us humans, and few more so than the monkey. Is it fascination with our evolutionary heritage that makes monkeys such a frequent source of interest, or are they just irresistibly adorable? It’s likely some combination of the two, but their intelligence not only makes them curious companions; they’re camera-friendly ones.

The latest documentary effort from Disneynature, Monkey Kingdom, opened in theaters last weekend and gave us an intimate view of primates in their natural habitat. The film subsequently inspired yours truly to consider the history of monkeys in the movies, and it turns out it’s quite vast. From the goofy to the loving to the scary, monkeys have been a part of cinema for most of its existence, and subsequently there are plenty of memorable “monkey movie stars” to consider.

Without further ado, I present the definitive, absolute, final, official list of the Top 10 Movie Monkeys:

10. Dunston – Dunston Checks In


Image via 20th Century Fox

Monkey + hotel = box office gold. Or so thought the makers of the little-seen 1996 comedy Dunston Checks In, in which a young boy (Eric Lloyd) befriends an orangutan at a hotel. Dunston, however, is no ordinary orangutan—he’s a jewel thief. The prospect of a jewel-heisting orangutan is in and of itself worth consideration for our super official list, but Dunston gets a full, human-like character arc in Dunston Checks In, as he finds himself dismayed by the thievery business and wanting out if only his abusive owner (played by Rupert Everett) would set him free. Enter Lloyd’s young character to the rescue, and wacky hotel-centric antics ensue. On the list it goes.

9. Rafiki – The Lion King


Image via Disney

In Disney’s animated classic The Lion King, the monkey gets to take on the role of the wise, somewhat eccentric oracle-like character in the form of the (probably insane) mandrill Rafiki. He plays a vital part in the story, sending Simba on his way to claim his destiny as the titular Lion King, but he does so in a hilariously boisterous manner, making for one of the more memorable supporting turns in a movie full of memorable supporting turns. “Asante sana squash banana!”

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