How did man evolve? Are we descendants of apes? Or is it true our ancestors were indeed like Jack Black and Michael Cera? The upcoming comedy Year One would like us to believe these two goofballs helped to start it all, but forgive us if we are a little dubious. Still, this gives us pause to reflect on how Hollywood has protrayed early man over the years. Here are some of our best-loved prehistoric peeps.
By Kit Bowen
The Flintstones (1960)
Created in the '60s as a sort of caveman version of “The Honeymooners,” Fred Flintstone, his loyal wife Wilma and their best friends Barney and Betty Rubble lived the ultimate in modern Stone-Age living -- complete with stone cars, woolly mammoth household appliances and drive-ins with brontosaurs-sized steaks served at your car. “The Flintstones” even got two big-screen, live-action treatments, the 1994 film starring John Goodman and Rick Moranis being the better of the two. Yabba-dabba-doo!
One Million Years BC (1966)
According to this cult classic, traveling back one million years means getting to see a cave chick -- clad only in an animal hide bikini and fur-lined boots -- hook up with a wandering cave dude and together, face any number of prehistoric carnivores. The tagline says it all: "Travel back through time and space to the edge of man's beginnings...discover a savage world whose only law was lust!"
Quest for Fire (1981)
This well-made, realistic look at prehistoric man from French director Jean-Jacques Annaud follows three backwater tribe hunters (Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Nicolas Kadi), who set out on a treacherous journey to find a flame after their main source of fire is destroyed. Along the way, they meet a woman (Rae Dawn Chong) who shows them how to make their own fire. With the actors speaking an un-subtitled primitive language, Quest for Fire makes you feel like you’re watching the real deal.
Come on, what could be better than Ringo Starr playing a caveman? This spoof centers around Atouk, kicked out of his tribe for being a loser but who manages to become the leader of a group of other outcasts -- including a blind man, a gay couple, a dwarf, and other oddball rejects. But Atouk still longs to be with Lana (Barbara Bach), the beautiful mate of the tribe’s leader who kicked him out. Can you say Revenge of the Cave Nerds?
Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)
Speaking of being more evolved, poor Darryl Hannah. Playing an advanced Cro-Magnon named Ayla in this film adaptation of the popular Jean M. Auel novel, she gets stuck being raised by Neanderthals. Not only does Ayla look entirely different, with blonde hair and blue eyes, she’s also a lot smarter and feistier, clashing with her step-kinsmen on a regular basis. As much as she is grateful for their hospitality, she has GOT to find her own people, pronto!
What a bummer. You’re a prehistoric man living life as best he can in the cold Arctic tundra when all of a sudden, you’re accidentally frozen alive, only to be found and revived some 40,000 years later. The excellent John Lone portrays Charlie, the Iceman whom modern scientists want to dissect to figure out how he managed to stay alive while being frozen. Thank goodness a kindly anthropologist (Timothy Hutton) does everything in his power to set Charlie free.
Encino Man (1992)
As in Iceman, the prehistoric hero in this comedy is also encased in ice. But this early man (Brendan Fraser) is thawed by a couple of Encino teenagers (Sean Astin and Pauly Shore) who find him in their backyard. They clean him up, dub him Link, and watch as he thrives as the popular guy at their high school. Let’s just say, Link loves “wheezin’ the ju-uice, Bud-dy!” For all its silliness, Fraser stands out as a primitive dude with a heart.
Ice Age (2002)
OK, so this may be a delightful animated movie more about prehistoric animals, but there’s still that cute little lost caveman baby. Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the Sabre-Toothed Tiger (Denis Leary) have to transport the kid across miles of hazardous territory to get him back to his tribe. When Manny finally hands the baby to his father, you can see they have an understanding.
The Geico Insurance Cavemen (2007)
Cavemen have feelings, too, so don't call them stupid – at least not to their face. To the Neanderthals still struggling to live in modern-day America, they have to deal with prejudice everyday and take particular offense to the peeps over at Geico Insurance, who once said, “It’s so simple, a caveman can do it.” Of course, Geico had to apologize because they didn’t know those guys were still around. Apology was NOT accepted.
10,000 BC (2008)
Love conquers all – even in prehistoric times. This epic follows a young mammoth hunter (Steven Strait), who, along with a small group of his fellow tribesmen, must journey through uncharted territory to rescue his heart's desire, the beautiful Evolet (Camilla Belle), after she is kidnapped by warloards. The best part is watching these intrepid cavemen with pointy spears battle nasty looking tigers and giant birds.
Land of the Lost (2009)
Of all the really strange things in Land of the Lost – things like Sleestaks, Big Bob statues, motel swimming pools, crystal pylons – there’s Chaka, a helpful little prehistoric guy who looks more monkey than man. At least that’s what Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) thinks, anyway. We just like the fact we finally get some background on Chaka in this bigscreen version – he’s a prince and can have any monkey girl he wants! Who knew?
Which Prehistoric People movie do you like best? And did we miss any of your personal favorites? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.