It's 1991, twenty-years after Zira and Cornelius, the two talking chimps from the future, arrived in 1970's America. The world is a completely different place. Soon after all of the dogs and cats died because of a virus brought back from space eight years previous, mankind began taking in primates as pets. Now, the apes are being conditioned and bred for slave labor. However, Governor Breck hates apes, and is overly concerned about small uprisings that have been happening lately.
Armando, the circus owner from ESCAPE, brings the adult child of Zira and Cornelius, Caesar, to this undisclosed North American city. But Caesar yells out when he sees an ape being beaten by cops and flees into the crowd. Armando is taken into custody and ruthlessly interrogated. Breck thinks that his missing chimp may be the "talking ape". Armando doesn't want to jeapordize the life of his friend so he jumps out a skyscraper window, to his death. By now Caesar has disguised himself as just another ape in training and made it look as if he arrived with a group of wild Orangutans. Ironically, he ends up as a servant for Breck. Caesar gets an ally in MacDonald, Breck's African-American right hand man. It's MacDonald who actually saves Caesars life, for when he's caught and is to be killed by electrocution, he turns off the power and Caesar fakes his death and manages to escape.
Caesar, now filled with hate, organizes the first ape revolution and they manage to take down Ape Control and break into Breck's headquarters. When I first saw this it ended with Caesar allowing the gorillas to beat Breck and his men to death. But with this recent DVD viewing, the ending is completely different, with Caesar saying they're not going to repeat mankind's violence, Caesar's chimp love interest saying "No!" to the possible killing. So Breck isn't killed. The original ending is much more effective.