We’ve learned a lot about dinosaurs thanks to fossil discoveries and paleontologists’ and geologists’ know-how in getting information on how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, and what they looked like.
And with the birth of cinema, many directors have tried to depict and bring to life the age of the dinosaurs before our eyes. Some of these productions were successful, while others missed the mark. We will be looking at a few movies that were based on dinosaurs and see why they were ranked worst and good according to viewers and movie critics.
Let’s start with one of the movies that made a hit in the past. The Movie Gorgo was released in 1961 and directed by Eugène Lourié. When you look at the movie trailer now, you can see that the special effects weren’t as developed as it is today. You need to understand that in 1961 that was quite something, and it was considered a big movie at that time. The story is based in Ireland, where a marine captain is looking for treasure on the coast, but then a volcano erupts and brings some sea creatures out of hiding.
One of these creatures is captured and exhibited in a circus, not knowing this creature is a baby and the adult is 200 feet bigger. Mommy dearest comes searching for her offspring and destroys everything in her path. It does have a happy ending that you can go and see for yourselves. Gorgo is a good pick if you’re into a good old movie and love dinosaurs.
The land before time
This animated movie came out in 1998 and was directed and produced by Don Bluth. This film is centered on a vegetable-loving Apatosaurus called Little Foot, who is orphaned when his mother tries to defend him from a vicious Tyrannosaurus (Sharp Tooth). Before she passes, she tells Little Foot to look for the Great Valley, where he will be spared from future danger and will find other Apatosaurus.
During the long journey, he makes friends with different dinosaur species such as the headstrong Cera; the Triceratops, Ducky; the Saurolophus, Spike; the Stegosaurus, and Petrie; the Pteranodon. This group encounters many obstacles and triumphs, but most importantly, they learn a lot about life and friendship. The only glitch with this movie is that the selection of species put together is separated in the timeline by at least 80 million years in evolutionary time, so they weren’t even close to co-existing in real life.
Another fact that may downgrade the authenticity of this film was that Apatosaurus was known to lay their eggs and leave them somewhere without coming back, so Littlefoot wouldn’t even have known his mother, which could have spared us some heartache while watching the movie. But I think we can put these inaccuracies aside and appreciate what a good film this was.
The Dinosaur came in 2000 and included a stellar cast of actors such as Hayden Panettiere, Julianna Marguiles, Alfre Woodard, and Debbie Sweeney, to name a few. Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton directed it. The main character is an Iguanodon called Aladar; a family of Lemurs adopted him after his egg was dropped on a tropical island to escape the attack of a Carnotaurus.
It’s peaceful living for a moment until a meteorite strikes and obliges them to move and look for the “Nesting Ground,” a safer place. The Dinosaur is Disney’s 38th animated feature film, and animation officially started being filmed in 1997. When released, it was the biggest grossing movie of the year, receiving an excellent score for its visuals and vocal performance.
Jurassic World is the fourth film from the Jurassic Park franchise, released in June 2015. I would think by now, we all know that humans and dinosaurs living together is a bad idea, but the producers of this franchise still wanted to go along with the concept a fourth time. Well, it is an intriguing concept, to be honest.
The story is based on a luxury resort situated off the coast of Costa Rica and is famous because it contains different genetically engineered dinosaurs. The main character and newest addition to this group of dinosaurs are the Indominus Rex, which is not a biological species but a fictional creation for this film. It looks like a Tyrannosaurus Rex but is transgenic with added features such as intelligence and the ability to camouflage itself.
However, it lacks social skills like some of the genetically created species. When Indominus escapes from the park, terror strikes again (for the fourth time), and special teams are deployed to capture him. This storyline never got boring as Jurassic received 1.6 billion in Box office revenue and was the thirst for the highest-grossing film of all time (at that time least) and the highest-grossing film of the franchise. Two sequels followed: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, released in 2018, and Jurassic World: Dominion, released in 2022.
We’re back: A Dinosaur Story
The animated film is based on a children’s book by Hudson Talbot of the same name, which came out in 1987. The 1993 animation is based on a group of four dinosaurs: a Tyrannosaurus called Rex, a Triceratops named Woog, a Parasaurolophus named Dweeb, and a Pteranodon called Elsa. These four are brought to modern-day New York City to a box of cereal that helps them travel through time into the present and help them become intelligent anthropomorphized beings.
Upon arrival in New York, they have two problems: avoid being seen by the general public and be caught by a crazy circus master who wants to capture and exhibit them in his horror-themed circus. It’s a warm-hearted comedy that the whole family can watch. It gives some valuable lessons for the younger but didn’t strike gold at the box office as it grossed 9.3 million.
I believe this was because Jurassic park may have overshadowed this one that same year. Secondly, it could have been since director Steven Spielberg had a lot on his plate. Aside from directing We’re back: A dinosaur story, he was also leading Jurassic Park’s debut and two other movies at the time.
We are not talking about one in 2005, but the original King King, which came out in March 1933. At that time, it was quite a big deal for many reasons, but the most poignant was the special effects of Willis O’Brien. He brought Kong and the other prehistoric creatures to life using models, stop-motion animation miniature rear projections, which was quite a strenuous process.
A fight scene between King Kong and Tyrannosaurus took more than seven weeks because they had to include live actors and stop-motion with Faye Wray, who played the damsel in distress. Wray spent 22 hours on a fake tree laying out her observations and emotions from watching the fight scene. The 1933 King Kong movie has always been listed among the greatest horror movies in American cinema, and in 1991 it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in a national film registry mentioned for its historical, cultural, and esthetic importance.
Because of its success, a sequel was released and two remakes, one in 1976 and the most recent film that most know, which came out in 2005. Technically, this film is mainly based on a giant ape but includes different species of dinosaurs. This movie makes this list because it is the first on-screen in history that provides for dinosaurs.
The Valley of Gwangi
This movie is a western/fantasy that came out in 1969 and was directed by Jim O’Connell. This film was supposed to come out a few decades under the direction of Willis O’Brien, the 1933 King Kong special effects genius. O’Brien came up with this idea after reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Lost World, which came out in 1913. The original plot consists of cowboys discovering and capturing an Allosaurus found in the big canyon near a Mexican city.
They bring this creature to be displayed in a show, but it later escapes, bringing terror to the town. It dies at the end by being pushed over a cliff by a man in a truck. With the help of RKO Pictures, O’Brian started to work hard on the movie during the 1940s but unfortunately was canceled because a statistical report showed that the general public did not want to see a film on dinosaurs.
A few years later, Ray Harryhausen decided to remake this film and bought the rights for Valley of Gwangi from Willis O’Brian’s window. He co-produced the movie with Charles H.Scneer. O’Brien didn’t see this movie come to life as he passed away in 1962. The film mainly did receive positive reviews, which notably glorified the special effects.
We could not talk about famous dinosaur movies and not mention the iconic Jurassic Park, which came out in 1993 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Jurassic is based on a novel with the same name by author Micheal Crichton. The classic film is the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise.
The story is about an island theme park filled with cloned dinosaurs created by prehistoric DNA. The initiator of this project, John Hammond, assures everyone that the part is safe until the security system is breached and Tyrannosaurus Rex is let loose along with other vicious predators. There are numerous points that make this movie a success, starting with the impressive CGI, the breathtaking scenery shot in various locations in Hawaii, witty dialogue, and exciting scenes that will not be forgotten.
Spielberg spent a lot of money to get the dinosaurs’ mannerisms, sounds, and shapes as scientifically accurate as possible. He even hired a paleontologist to be a consultant on the film. When released, it was the highest-grossing movie at that time, won three academy awards, and received many from critics and the audience.