It’s been twenty-five years since Steven Spielberg unveiled an island of living, breathing dinosaurs to the world – at least that’s how it seemed at the time, the ground-breaking special effects producing (to paraphrase John Hammond) sights so astounding that they captured the imagination of the whole planet. Jurassic Park quickly became the biggest film of all-time at the worldwide box office (knocking Spielberg’s own E.T. from the top spot) and reignited a love of dinosaurs in popular culture that, if the record-breaking box office of 2015’s Jurassic World is anything to go by, has never gone away. In honour of the original’s quarter centenary and in advance of the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, here’s a look at the top ten dinosaurs in the franchise.
“Consumers want them bigger, louder. More teeth.”
Much like how a musical artist’s best of compilation isn’t a real album, the Indominus Rex isn’t a real dinosaur per se, but it’s got enough of the hits in there to make an impact. Turning up as the big bad in Jurassic World, this corporation-created creature mixed T-rex, raptor and giganotosaurus DNA and could camouflage, command raptors and even had opposable thumbs. In the end though it’s taken down by the real thing(s).
“Oh my god – it’s a birdcage.” “…For what?”
First glimpsed at the end of The Lost World, these winged beasts made a proper appearance in Jurassic Park III. Stalking out of a fog, the first sighting of one is the scariest image in the film and the resulting battle over land, sea and air is the film’s best set-piece. By Jurassic World they’re attacking entire herds of tourists and give one character one of the cruellest deaths in the series.
“Ooh, ah”, that’s how it always starts. But then later there’s running and screaming.”
A classic dinosaur that’s underused by the series, these plate-backed beauties turn up in The Lost World and are the first dinosaurs the group encounter on the island. Still, there’s a reason Spielberg chose the iconic species for the big wow reveal of the film – but, just as Dr. Malcolm predicts, that awe soon turns to terror and we see that even veggiesauruses can turn vicious when threatened.
“It gives me the creeps. It’s like it’s not scared.”
These chicken-sized carnivores open The Lost World by attacking and mutilating a small girl but they later won the audience over by brutally murdering Peter Stomare, one tiny bite at a time – only a year after his odious turn in Fargo. Disarmingly cute for such a vicious creature, they had a larger part in the original Jurassic Park novel where they tore apart a less-genial John Hammond.
“It sounds bigger…”
Jurassic Park III may be the runt of the franchise litter but it has one thing no other film has – a dinosaur announcing its arrival with a ringtone. Wary of re-using the same dinosaurs, the writers of the second sequel introduced the spinosaurus by having it kill a T-rex to show it wasn’t messing around. It’s arc then involved eating a phone and, later, passing a phone but in the hands of writers such as Election’s Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor and a game cast including William H. Macy, it comes across as B-movie fun. (In a fun little moment, Jurassic World features the T-rex smashing her way through a spinosaurus skeleton – so, draw?)
“She was always my favourite when I was a kid and now I see she’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw.”
Like the stegosaurus, the triceratops may not have featured as heavily in the films as one might think but her appearance in Jurassic Park is one of the moments where the beauty of these animals can be fully appreciated, an aspect later films fell short on. The first – and, arguably, only – dinosaur the group see on their tour, the scene combines a beautiful John Williams score and a truly stunning animatronic dinosaur that looks so real it’s impossible to doubt the joy on Sam Neill’s face as he interacts with it.
“This makes Dilophosaurus a beautiful, but deadly addition to Jurassic Park.”
One key reason the Jurassic sequels can’t match the original is the lack of dilophosaurus. It’s easy to see why they weren’t used after Jurassic Park – not only is it harder to imagine how characters would interact with a herd of these in the wild, spitting their venom at all and sundry but her scene in the original is just about perfect, from her playful harassment of the treacherous Nedry to the moment where her hoots turn to terrifying screeches and she attacks. With her ridged head and iconic attack frill, it’s a beautiful design (and practical effect) that translated into many a child’s doodle in 1993. Plus, the toy filled up with water and could really spit and it was awesome.
“It’s…it’s a dinosaur!”
Apart from a brief glimpse of a caged velociraptor, the brachiosaurus is the first dinosaur Spielberg reveals to the audience – and Hammond reveals to the guests. It’s obvious why both decided to do so – though why Hammond chose an animal with a 30ft neck to be his big surprise is less clear (surely there’s some risk of being seen over the trees as they approach?). Their appearance is the first classic moment of the franchise and as the wonder of Williams’ score matches the awe on the cast’s faces, it’s hard not to picture audiences in 1993 having similar expressions to Doctors Grant and Sattler as Spielberg changed cinema forever.
Pre-Jurassic Park, the velociraptor was barely known by the general public. But thanks to the decision to use them as the most vicious dinosaurs in the Park, they and their six inch claws soon became iconic. They dominate the film before we even see one – It’s a raptor attack that opens the film, it’s a raptor skeleton Grant and Ellie are digging up, it’s a raptor baby we see hatch… Hell, as Muldoon points out, “even Nedry knew better than to mess with the raptor fences”. So when they start bursting out of pipes, deceiving veteran hunters (“Clever girl…”) and – in the tensest scene of the franchise – stalking children through kitchens, their reputation has preceded them and the danger they present is palpable. They returned in main roles for each of the sequels – silently picking off extras in the long grass in The Lost World, being used as trained hunters in Jurassic World and talking to Grant – on first name terms, no less – during a vision in Jurassic Park III. Again, it’s B-movie fun.
“T… T-rex? You said you’ve got a T-rex?”
It’s a predictable winner but it’s at the top for a reason. If it had only appeared in that mid-film attack sequence in Jurassic Park it would likely still win first place. Put simply, the shot of the T-rex exiting the fence with a triumphant roar is one of the greatest shots in blockbuster filmmaking and the entire sequence that follows – the destruction of the children’s car, the flare, the undignified end to Gennaro – matches it. Had Spielberg gone with the original idea that may have been all we had, the T-rex having been originally set to perish halfway through the film before he realised what an error that would be. So we get the car chase, and the gallimimus hunt before she returns for the finale, killing the upstart raptors and getting the hero shot of the film in what is perhaps the most iconic image of the whole franchise.
The rexes returned of course for the sequels, visiting San Diego in The Lost World and fighting a Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park III before the original returned in Jurassic World, saving her until the climax where she again came out to save the day. In the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer, her roar now appears to be so impressive it sets off volcanoes. It’s a shot that seems designed entirely to say “Look how awesome this creature is” and it’s a statement that’s fully earned.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in cinemas now.Find your cinema and book now