The Ape Planet has become the home of many inspirational voices, leaders and protectors. Their roles in the franchise have propelled other characters and their stories along the journey, whether it’s with a commanding presence or, in some cases, a haunting absence. In celebration of these inspiring heroes, meet the mothers of Planet of the Apes.

Dr. Zira, Revolutionary Mom

Dr. Zira is instrumental in rescuing and helping the human protagonists in Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Her willingness to speak out and do the right thing forces Apes to recognize the humanity, so to speak, of the more primitive humans.

As a mother-to-be in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Zira escapes a dying planet with her husband, Cornelius, and their friend. They wind up in Earth’s past, where Zira must hide her intelligence to maintain their safety from modern-day humans.

After giving birth, Zira is only allowed a short time with her son, Milo (later called Caesar) before switching Milo with an infant circus ape in order to save him from the humans. Zira is defined by her determination in protecting those she cares about, even in the face of danger. Ultimately, she gives her life to ensure the safety of her son, and it’s because of her sacrifice that Milo survives to become Caesar, the king of the Apes.

Lisa, a Voice of Reason

Lisa is the wife of Caesar (formerly Milo) in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, with whom she has a son, Cornelius, in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Though she appears to be mute throughout Conquest, she speaks out against Caesar just as he is about to have a human executed. Revealing her intelligence and empathy at such a key moment causes Caesar to have the gorillas lower their weapons and spare the man, preventing them from stooping to the cruelty of the humans.

As a mother in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, she continues to demonstrate this nonviolent, level-headed approach, reminding her husband of his responsibility to both humans and Apes--as well as discouraging her son from playing war.

Bright Eyes, Always Watching over Caesar

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Bright Eyes is one of the initial ape test subjects for the experimental drug ALZ-112, and also the mother of modern Caesar. She gives birth to Caesar while in captivity, and fiercely protects him, overpowering two human handlers and wreaking havoc in Gen-Sys Laboratories. Bright Eyes is willing to sacrifice it all if it means her son is safe, demonstrating the irrepressible strength and selflessness of motherhood.

Cornelia, the One Who Holds It All Together

Cornelia appears throughout the modern Planet of the Apes movies as Caesar’s mate and mother to Blue Eyes and Cornelius. Throughout the films, she’s an emblem of compassion and empathy, particularly in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where she manages to remain a supportive and calming presence to Caesar and their son Blue Eyes, even in the face of her illness. She encourages Caesar to worry less about the humans, and her trust in them helps foster an alliance between the two species.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, her death precipitates Caesar’s lust for revenge, and the war that ensues. In the absence of a compassionate and resolute mother figure, any hope for a peaceful solution vanishes.

Mothers Make the Story

Whether they’re serving in leadership roles, providing invaluable help as supporting characters, or influencing events simply due to their absence, the mothers in Planets of the Apes, more often than not, make the story happen. Without them, the humans of the classic movies wouldn’t have survived, and the Apes in the modern movies would still be test subjects, or worse: eradicated. When celebrating Mother’s Day, it’s worth remembering the actions of these powerful and distinct figures who embody all different aspects of motherhood.