The recent success of Jurassic World, which has secured the title of highest global box-office opening ever, has got dinosaurs on everyone’s mind. Whether you’re debating with your friends about whether or not you’d go to an actual dinosaur theme park (even though you know that everyone would possibly die, admit it, you’d go) or you’re considering re-watching a personal dinosaur movie favorite, you are definitely not alone.
There are actually a number of films that feature dinosaurs in one way or another, and now is as good a time as any to revisit those classics. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 25 Dinosaur Films, but as always, certain rules were made to better streamline the choices.
- The film must have at least one major sequence involving a dinosaur and/or a supporting character who is a dinosaur.
- Next, the creature featured in the film must be an actual dinosaur. That means no kaiju (sorry, Pacific Rim fans), no Godzilla, and no Toy Story (although Rex will always remain in our hearts).
- Finally, any franchise installments are counted under the original, but reboots (like Jurassic World) can be considered their own entry. Sound good? Okay, let’s get prehistoric!
25. Caveman (1981)
A slapstick comedy starring Ringo Starr, Shelley Long, and Dennis Quaid tells the heartwarming tale of a scrawny caveman named Atouk (Starr) who hopes to find love and overthrow the bullying leader of his tribe (John Matuszak). When Atouk and his friend Lar (Quaid) are banished, they meet other outcasts and have a number of encounters with ravenous dinosaurs before finding their own happy ending. The film is considered a cult-classic, despite making little money when it debuted.
24. Lost Continent
Lost Continent starring Cesar Romero is a 1951 film about an expedition into the South Pacific to find a missing rocket. Unfortunately, the individuals on the expedition also find a mysterious jungle full of (you guessed it) dinosaurs. Isn’t that just always the way, though? The film was pretty low-budget and not very well received; however, it was featured in an episode of the cult-TV classic, Mystery Science Theater 3000.
23. The Land that Time Forgot
A sleeper hit from 1975, The Land that Time Forgot takes place during World War I, where a group of German and British soldiers stumble upon Caprona, a land populated with dinosaurs and neanderthals. The film is based on the 1924 novel of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and it inspired a direct sequel, The People that Time Forgot.
22. The Lost World (2001)
The Lost World is a made-for-TV adaptation of the novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In it, an expedition is led by Professor George Challenger (Bob Hoskins) to a plateau in the Amazon where he insists dinosaurs still roam. He’s right, of course, and though the film was one of many adaptations of the Doyle novel, it still remains the best.
21. Journey to the Center of the Earth
There are two film versions of note for Journey to the Center of the Earth: one in 1959 and one in 2008. However, the update made it on the list by a hair with its fun-for-the-family vibe and CGI effects (not to mention Brendan Fraser, who can charm anyone, human or dinosaur).
20. 100 Million B.C. (2008)
As the trailer describes, the film centers around “an elite military team sent on a daring mission backward in time. But they didn’t return… alone!” If you enjoy watching dinosaurs wreck Los Angeles, then look no further than this action/disaster film. The movie is basically awful, but Asylum’s direct-to-videos are sort of a bucket list item for any dinosaur movie lover.
19. Meet the Robinsons
Meet the Robinsons is one of Disney’s lesser-remembered but still enjoyable animated features. Although critics were positive in their reviews, the film grossed only $25 million on its opening weekend and came in second behind Blades of Glory. It features one heavily dinosaur-centric scene with a T-Rex named Tiny who menaces the main characters under the direction of the film’s villain, but is later revealed to be quite adorable.
18. Adventures in Dinosaur City
Adventures in Dinosaur City involves a group of teenagers who are sucked into their television set and end up hanging out with hard-partying, sharp-dressed dinosaurs. This (all but forgotten) film received mixed reviews but is still enjoyed as a cult-favorite – especially by those who loved it as kids.
Prehysteria!, and its following sequels Prehysteria! 2 and 3, was a family film series that centered around a group of baby dinosaurs all named after famous musicians. The only actor who shows up in all three installments is Frank Welker, who provided the voices for the dinosaurs as well as Megatron in The Transformers television series.
16. Walking with Dinosaurs
A CGI adventure about dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous period, Walking with Dinosaurs centers around Patchi, a pachyrhinosaurus and runt of his litter, who eventually becomes the leader of his entire herd. Because the film used live settings for its CGI creatures, its visuals were considerably striking. However, the somewhat juvenile choice to use actor voiceovers hurt the film critically.
The story of a mad scientist (Diane Ladd) who wants to end humanity by bringing back dinosaurs, Carnosaur is a cult-classic that was followed by two sequels and two spinoffs. Both miniature and full-sized dinosaur models were created on a shoe-string budget by creature designer John Carl Buechler. However, the best bit of trivia about the film is that it was released four weeks before Jurassic Park, which starred Ladd’s daughter, Laura Dern.
14. Theodore Rex
The ’90s was a time where people wanted two things: buddy-cop films and talking dinosaurs. Theodore Rex answered the call for both, and starred Whoopi Goldberg and the voice talents of George Newbern as Teddy. The film wasn’t considered a hit by anyone, and Goldberg even attempted to back out of her agreement to star before producer Richard Gilbert Abramson filed a lawsuit against her. However, it’s still a fun trip down memory lane for any ’90s kid.
13. The Valley of Gwangi
The Valley of the Gwangi revolves around a group of individuals who find a place called the Forbidden Valley where dinosaurs roam free. They then attempt to capture an allosaurus for their circus sideshow. This is the last of the classic 1960s films featuring Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion work with dinosaurs.
12. One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Another of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion films, One Million Years B.C. is considered to be one of the classic dinosaur films – even if its story is riddled with historical inaccuracies (just like the original 1940 film). In this British remake, live actors were used with the stop-motion Allosaurus portrayed in the film, and it is one of the most impressive uses of special effects of that time. The film did well and also contains the now famous image of Raquel Welch in her fur bikini.
11. We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story follows a group of dinosaurs who are transported to modern-day Manhattan, make friends with two lonely kids, and attempt to avoid the evil plans of the film’s villain, Professor Screweyes. The movie was produced by Steven Spielberg’s animation studio, Amblimation, and was released the same year as Jurassic Park. While it didn’t perform well at the box office, its worth another watch, if just for the hodgepodge of interesting voice talent like John Goodman, Julia Child, and Walter Cronkite.
10. Land of the Lost (2009)
In this 2009 film adaptation of the 1974 television show, a disrespected scientist (Will Ferrell) uses his latest invention to send himself and two others through a time warp and into a strange new dimension. There are several funny sequences of Ferrell running from an angry T-Rex named Grumpy, and while the film won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Prequel, Remake, or Sequel, it remains good for a laugh.
9. The Flintstones
The Flintstones, and its prequel The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, is a fun film despite receiving negative reviews when released. It of course features Dino, one of the most beloved dinosaur house pets of all time. Dino was created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, voiced by Mel Blanc, and shows up in both installments.
8. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur film, the original actors (Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo) all reprise their roles as Manny, Diego, and Sid encounter dinosaurs in a tropical world buried beneath the ice. The film earned $886.7 million globally and is the seventh highest-grossing animated movie of all time.
7. Night at the Museum
The T-Rex fossil in all of the Night at the Museum installments ranks this franchise among the top ten for certain. The sequence in the first film where Ben Stiller runs in terror from the living dinosaur skeleton is still outstanding today, and the series is also one the whole family can enjoy.
6. King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake was one of the top five highest-grossing films of the year, and there is much to enjoy about its visual effects. One scene in particular involves Jack Black, Kyle Chandler, and Adrien Brody’s characters running to avoid a dinosaur stampede, but the big show comes when King Kong has to battle two T-Rex’s in order to protect Naomi Watts’ Ann Darrow. Watching the film can also help you get excited for the upcoming 2017 film Kong: Skull Island, set to star Tom Hiddleston, Michael Keaton and J.K. Simmons.
5. Disney’s Dinosaur (2000)
Thirteen years before Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, Disney’s Dinosaur told the story of an orphaned iguanodon that is raised by a group of lemurs. The film was a box-office success and was lauded for its magnificent CGI effects, although some critics were not fond of the celebrity voices for the dinosaur characters provided by D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, and Hayden Panettiere.
4. The Good Dinosaur
Just hedging our bets, but it’s probably fair to assume that Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur will deserve a place on our list – and a high one at that (if history is any indicator). With a trailer that presents a concept like “What if all the dinosaurs didn’t become extinct?” it’s definitely a film we can get behind.
3. The Land Before Time
The first of The Land Before Time films was released in 1988 and directed by Don Bluth (An American Tale, Rock-a-Doodle, Anastasia, and about twelve other classics). Although it has twelve sequels to the date (and another one in production), the original Land Before Time tells the story of an Apatosaurus named Littlefoot, who will probably always be one of our favorite dinosaurs of all time.
2. Jurassic World
Love it or not, Jurassic World is definitely a dinosaur-sized smash at the box-office today. Okay, yes, the romance may be hollow, and the humans in the movie do tend to fall into two categories – “cookie-cutter” personalities and “dinosaur food” – but there is really no point where the movie offends overly, and it remains entertaining throughout. However, the film’s dinosaur scenes, while its biggest strong suit, are second to only one other film…
1. Jurassic Park
The 1993 original still takes top prize, partly because of its own global box-office success and major critical acclaim, and partly because the special effects remain impressive and impactful, even today. The film used both CGI and animatronics to create its groundbreaking special effects, and it contains nearly all of the most well-remembered movie scenes involving dinosaurs. It was also directed by Steven Spielberg at the height of his abilities, and based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 bestselling book of the same name, which everyone was still frantically reading at the time of the film’s release. And while it has been followed by three sort-of sequels (of which Jurassic World counts as a soft-reboot), it remains any dinosaur film lover’s top choice.
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