Played by Jeff Goldblum in the multi-billion dollar Jurassic Park franchise, Dr. Ian Malcolm is a noted mathematician who is brought in to assess the viability of the dinosaur theme park on the remote Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica. When things go famously wrong, he’s associated with the issue of dinosaurs living in the modern world and considered an authority on the subject for surviving the first catastrophe.
Described by John Hammond as suffering from a “deplorable excess of personality," Malcolm’s acerbic wit and overall humorous nature made him an instant fan favorite character. He’s often remembered for being one of the wisest, most reasonable, characters in any of the movies, dropping truth bombs and pearls of wisdom left and right. Here are our picks for his ten most iconic quotes from the series.
10 “Genetic power’s the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid who’s found his dad’s gun.”
Ian Malcolm, both in the original Jurassic Park and Crichton’s original novel, acts as a kind of voice of reason to the mad science going on at the heart of the story. Over the course of the movies, he fixates, particularly, on what he calls “genetic power” and its flagrant misuse.
Having seen what the park is about and offered his initial misgivings, Malcolm gets into it with the park’s founder, John Hammond, in a scene bursting with memorable quotes. The long and short of it, as shown here, is that Malcolm doesn’t believe that Hammond has truly quantified the unpredictable variables that he's unleashed. The movie soon proves him right.
9 “I’m always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.”
As Hammond light-heartedly points out when we’re first introduced to him, Malcolm has somewhat of a “rockstar” persona. His outfit is all black, with shades and boots, and he can’t seem to stop himself from strongly flirting with Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler.
When he gets paired up alone with her partner, Dr. Alan Grant, they get to talking about love lives, where Malcolm mentions his several children by several failed marriages, but it seems like Malcolm is mainly probing for info on how much of a shot he has with Ellie.
8 “Mommy’s very angry.”
In a relatively rare Spielberg sequel, audiences not only got to see Goldblum return to the role of Ian Malcolm but also play the lead, in an unusual upgrade from his supporting role in the original. After the roaring mainstream success of the original Jurassic Park and the previous summer’s equally barnstorming Hollywood spectacle, Independence Day, it was great to see Goldblum taking the reins of an action adventure blockbuster. Not just because of his unique look compared to conventional stars of that type of movie, but also because of his talent for short, emphatic, statements that sound great when you put them in a trailer.
This one comes about as the result of a good-natured, if somewhat naive, plan to bandage a baby T. Rex with a wounded leg. When the parents come looking for it, things get tense.
7 “Change is like death. You don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates.”
Ian Malcolm returned to the franchise after a two-movie absence in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Sadly, he only appears in two bookending scenes set in government hearings regarding the main incident of the movie: the discovery of the imminent eruption of the hitherto-unspoken-of volcano on Isla Nublar.
True to his character, Malcolm advocates for non-action and the death of the remaining dinosaurs on the island, his belief being that the escape of the animals would cause “man-made, cataclysmic, change.” When asked to elaborate, he freely admits that he doesn’t know exactly what would happen, which is precisely why people should be wary.
6 “Must go faster.”
This line comes from one of Jurassic Park’s many iconic action sequences, in which a rescued Malcolm is sped away from a chasing T. Rex in a jeep. The surprisingly speedy monster is holding its own in the race. The usually-articulate Malcolm reduced to almost broken English by the sheer terror of a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex running straight for its dinner.
Any version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex-like creature being able to run that fast, of course, made no sense at all on a physical, biological, level. Not that we can say exactly how fast the vehicle was supposed to be going, but still. Sometimes you just have to throw scientific accuracy and/or realism out of the window in a movie about a dinosaur theme park.
5 “Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here. It didn’t require any discipline to attain it.”
In their hugely-quoted lunchtime debate, John Hammond’s boyish optimism and Ian Malcolm’s unwavering realism go head to head. Hammond is so enthralled with the wonder of his accomplishment that he’s clearly blind to the immense danger that it creates. Malcolm, not believing for a moment that anyone could hope to control the complex system that Hammond birthed into the world, lets him have it.
Malcolm’s putdowns and observations are often so astute that they can be applied to a number of situations and disciplines beyond the premise of Jurassic Park, as this one often is.
4 “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
There is something so oddly satisfying about the premise of Jurassic Park, beyond the set up for a monster movie. It sounds like a random combination of ideas at first, but it becomes almost semi-believable as an idea that someone would attempt if it were even remotely possible. There is a peculiar kind of poetry to the hubris at the heart of the story, as Malcolm’s humorous philosophical observation highlights.
The line is mostly remembered, however, because of Ellie Sattler’s response: “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the Earth.”
3 “...your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Towards the end of Malcolm’s diatribe against Hammond and the park, he begins to highlight the source of Hammond’s entire folly and arrogance (in his opinion), which is that it’s entirely motivated by money. “You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and, before you even knew what you had, you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox.”
Hammond retorts that his scientists have accomplished things that no-one has ever accomplished before. This is true enough, but, as Malcolm so succinctly points out, without a decent reason to do so, the project was doomed from the start.
2 “That is one big pile of s***.”
Jeff Goldblum’s performance of Malcolm reacting to a large pile of dinosaur excrement is precisely why GIFs were invented. It comes about as Ellie Sattler attempts to understand what’s ailing a sickly Triceratops by examining its droppings.
The one-liner is a timeless moment of cinematic perfection that can be retrofitted for all occasions. Need to react to a bad opinion, photograph or product? It really does have a million potential uses.
1 “...life, uh, finds a way.”
After witnessing the birth of a baby velociraptor and coming to grips with what Hammond has created, Malcolm immediately voices his concerns to him.
Still in somewhat of a state of shock, his first plea to Hammond’s reason attempts to explain the inherent scientific, natural, flaw in Hammond’s plan and his final words have become the de facto motto of the entire series. So, a group comprised solely of females can't breed? Well, life found a way.