Top 10 Famous Monkeys in Popular Culture

Monkeys have been part of popular culture for decades, some have been on TV and many others were featured in cartoons and movies. Over the years they’ve made us laugh, cry and have even become the most hated antagonists in the oddest cases. One thing is for sure; all 10 famous monkeys on this list deserve a special mention: they are all remembered for making things comedic and fun to watch. So let’s give them a round of applause as we celebrate their space in our hearts.


1. Abu in Aladdin:

Abu in Aladdin

Abu is Aladdin’s kleptomaniac monkey. He can talk and is based on the character of Abu the thief in the 1940 version of the Thief of Baghdad. Abu may be a thief, but he is kind hearted. In the first film, he steals food to live, but when he sees two children looking for food in the garbage, Abu is forced to give the stolen food to them.


2. Curious George:

Curious George

Curious George is the protagonist in popular children’s books and TV Show of the same name. He is a brown monkey, brought from Africa by a man with the yellow hat to live with him in the big city. The book series was written and drawn by Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey. They were rumoured to have fled Paris in June of 19040 on self-made bikes carrying the manuscripts with them. The books were and still are an instant success.


3. King Kong:

King Kong

He is a giant movie monster that resembles a big gorilla and has appeared in many movies starting with the ground-breaking 1933 movie. There were two remakes in 1976 and 2005 and many other sequels of the first two films.

The character was created by film maker Merian C. Cooper. In the original film, the character was named the Kong, a name given to him by the people of Skull Island in the Pacific Ocean, where Kong lives along other oversized animals.

Who can forget how he escaped and climbed on to the Empire State Building in order to protect Ann Darrow? The graphics were stunning and still replays in my head over and over again.


4. Rafiki in Lion King:

Rafiki in Lion King

Rafiki (meaning friend) is a mandrill who assists the Lion King as the Grand Vizier. Since Ahadi ruled the Pride Lands, Rafiki was an advisor to Mufasa and even Scar and now serves Simba.

Rafiki is best described as old and hunched over primate. Along with these features, he has wide eyes and a big smile. Though he somewhat resembles a mandrill, Rafiki has a long tail, lacks an idiosyncratic crested head and is usually referred to as a baboon.


5. Dexter in Nights in the Museum:

Dexter in Nights in the Museum

Dexter the Monkey is played by Crystal in the Nights in the Museum. She is most famous for slapping Ben Still while her trainer encouraged her to “Get him. Get him!” During the shooting of the movie, she decided to defecate on Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams). If you are wondering where else Crystal appeared…she also played the drug dealing monkey in The Hangover II and Donald the Monkey in the Zookeeper (voiced by Adam Sandler).

Another memorable scene was when Dexter stole Larry’s keys and Larry began to chase her around. The monkey is definitely a good actress.


6. Ishmael:


Ishmael is a philosopher gorilla that is captured from the wild and sent to the zoo where he is sold off to a menagerie who can communicate with him through his mind.

7. Precious on Passions:

Precious on Passions

In March of 2003, NBC’s Passions hired an orangutan named Precious in the role of the private duty nurse of one of its supporting characters–a bold step in the wrong direction in the already slow evolution of the media’s portrayal of nurses. The desperate character Beth Wallace hired Precious to nurse Beth’s invalid mother’s and replaced the human nurse in order to prevent any nurse-related disclosure of Beth’s nasty secrets, many of which relate to her ongoing efforts to get back with former sweetheart Luis and to get rid of the beautiful Sheridan, with whom Luis is actually in love.


8. King Louie in Jungle Book:

King Louie in Jungle Book

If you are a fan of Jungle Book, you’d remember King Louie. He is voiced by Louis Prima, but producers considered Louis Armstrong for the role. Producers avoided hiring an African American because of the controversy it could stir. This led to much criticism over the character being an example of a racial stereotype.

The character does not appear in the original book because orangutans are not native o India and also because the author believed that monkeys do not necessitate a king.

King Louie has become a popular franchise, appearing in Fables such as Vertigo Comics. He is one of the revolutionaries who wish to overcome resentment at the apparent second class status.


9. Shift in The Chronicles of Narnia:

Shift in the Chronicles of Narnia

Shift is the main antagonist in The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically in The Last Battle, which is the last book of the series. Shift is an ape that cannot talk. He lives near his friend Puzzle, the donkey, at the base of the Great Waterfall. C.S. Lewis, the author, describes Shift as a clever, cunning, most wrinkled and also the ugliest ape you can imagine.

If you are wondering where the name came from? It is a typical Narnian animal name but it can also be described as a Jewel or a Puzzle. It can also signify themes of deception and development.


10. Cheeta in Tarzan:

Cheeta in Tarzan

Who can forget Cheeta in Tarzan? This chimpanzee character is a great sidekick and ally and occasionally leads to Tarzan’s rescue whenever Tarzan is in trouble. There is no sex for Cheeta, as it can be characterized as both male and female. It was mainly cast to provide comic relief in the TV show and books.

My cousin, who is now 20, used to love watching Tarzan. His favourite character was Cheeta and of course Zena.


There are many other monkeys worth mentioning and they are the apes from Planet of the Apes (1968) film, Bubbles, the monkey who worked alongside Michael Jackson and Albert, the Monkey Astronaut.

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