05 / TAYLOR DISCOVERS A HOME TRUTH
PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
The fifth-greatest sci-fi moment is also cinema’s greatest twist ending. Having escaped his oppressors on this crazy, ape-run planet, misanthropic astronaut Taylor (Charlton Heston) has set off on a beach ride of discovery, which concludes with a revelation that resets the context of everything that’s gone before.
Upon the discovery of a half-buried Statue Of Liberty, Taylor’s struck by the true reality of his situation: he’s not on some distant world, but back on a terra firma his descendants managed to destroy. Heston’s anguished, sand-punching breakdown says it all: “We finally really did it! You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” Even a cynic like Taylor can’t handle this truth.
Time, and parody (none better than The Simpsons’ Stop The Planet Of The Apes, I Want To Get Off!), have done little to lessen this moment’s impact, but imagine how it must have felt watching it in America in 1968, in the midst of the Cold War, with Vietnam raging and civil unrest rife, as the screen faded to black, and the credits rolled to only the sound of crashing waves.