Facial expressions are a critical mode of non-vocal communication for many mammals, particularly non-human primates. Although chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have an elaborate repertoire of facial signals, little is known about the facial expression (i.e. mimetic) musculature underlying these movements, especially when compared with some other catarrhines. Here we present a detailed description of the facial muscles of the chimpanzee, framed in comparative and phylogenetic contexts, through the dissection of preserved faces using a novel approach. The arrangement and appearance of muscles were noted and compared with previous studies of chimpanzees and with prosimians, cercopithecoids and humans. The results showed 23 mimetic muscles in P. troglodytes, including a thin sphincter colli muscle, reported previously only in adult prosimians, a bi-layered zygomaticus major muscle and a distinct risorius muscle. The presence of these muscles in such definition supports previous studies that describe an elaborate and highly graded facial communication system in this species that remains qualitatively different from that reported for other non-human primate species. In addition, there are minimal anatomical differences between chimpanzees and humans, contrary to conclusions from previous studies. These results amplify the importance of understanding facial musculature in primate taxa, which may hold great taxonomic value.