Needless to say, I will be one of those few members of Film Twitter™ that will never, EVER grow tired of seeing dinosaurs brought to life with cutting edge movie magic. Sure, the films are a bit repetitive, after all, how many times can people keep going to dinosaur island, but I’ll always be there for them. Which is what makes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom even more exciting.
For the first time in a while, JW:FK looks to be changing the status quo. Many of the trailers have shown the big volcanic extravaganza, of course, but they’ve also given us a look at claustrophobic, creepy action set inside what appears to be a mansion. It seems like direct JA Bayona has brought his gothic horror sensibilities to the franchise, and I’m extremely excited for it.
So in honor of the 5th film in my beloved Jurassic Park franchise coming out, I’ve put together a handful of brief Top 5 lists focusing on some of my favorite dinos, action, and kills of the series. Give them a look and we’ll see you back here for our review and reaction to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom soon.
Jurassic Top 5: Favorite Dinosaurs
After three Jurassic Park films, we had gotten everything. Big and small carnivores, big and small herbivores, flying dinos, baby dinos, but never an actual aquatic dinosaur. That all changed with literally the first trailer for Jurassic World, giving us a cheeky introduction to this massive meat eater as it devours a great white shark. Starting with a playful homage to Jaws goes a long way in my book, and despite the fact that it turned into a bit of a deus-ex-Mosasaur in the final fight, it’s still pretty badass.
No other dinosaur captured the sheer majesty and awe of Jurassic Park the way that first Brachiosaurus did. From the swelling of John Williams’ iconic score to the reactions of Sam Neill, Laura Dern and the rest of the cast, it did everything right in displaying a beauty not seen on this Earth in a long time. For those in the jeeps, and many in the audience, it marked the first time felt we had actually seen a dinosaur.
No other dinosaur got a pop culture boost the way raptors did after Jurassic Park. By using a little creative fibbing to make the creatures a bit bigger and a lot smarter, Spielberg crafted one of the better animal villains in cinema. Cunning, quick, and devious, Raptors have been around long enough to go from terrifying, to stupid, to being an ally. Nowadays, they’ve gone through a successful rebranding as a heroic pet sidekick, with Blue standing in as a more deadly version of the dog from Turner & Hooch. We’re not complaining, mostly because we’ve always wanted a sidekick that can eat you but is also as smart as a dolphin.
This was my all-time favorite as a kid growing up. Maybe it was because it was the dinosaur with so many accessories. A cool looking double crests on its head, a cool but scientifically inaccurate frill around its neck, and the ability to spit blinding, paralyzing venom at its prey. As mentioned above, its stalking of Nedry was one of the scenes I remember the most, and it’s still great to this day. Only featuring in the original film, I do wish the filmmakers would bring my sweet baby Dilo back for more than just a hologram cameo.
1. Tyrannosaurus Rex
All hail the king, baby. The T-Rex is the champ, and there really isn’t much more than that. Spielberg famously re-tooled the ending of the film (which originally had Grant & Company triumph over the Raptors using a crane) to bring back the T-Rex because he knew it was the hero of the film. The Lost World doubled down and gave us TWO Rexes. Jurassic Park 3 stumbled a bit, not only trying to replace Rex with the Spinosaurus, but then doing her dirty by letting the Spino unceremoniously kill the Rex in the film after a 2 minute skirmish. Jurassic World knew where she belonged though, putting her back on top, and even using the original Rexy from the first Jurassic Park. T-Rex is the best. Accept no substitutes.
Jurassic Top 5: Favorite Deaths
5. Zara Young, Jurassic World
This one is a little controversial, I guess. Lots of people from Film Twitter™ apparently found this death to be “too mean”. I can kinda see their point, as Zara is not only nabbed by Pteranodon, but then dropped into the lagoon, nearly drowned, picked up again, all before being SWALLOWED WHOLE when then Mosasaurus chomps on the Pteranodon that’s grabbed her. It’s maybe the most drawn out death in the franchise, and MAYBE Zara doesn’t deserve it. But I don’t care. It’s bonkers and it’s making the list.
4. Jophery Brown, Jurassic Park
Bet you didn’t know the gatekeeper from the opening scene in Jurassic Park had a name, did you? This set the tone for the franchise, and although it’s one of the most bloodless deaths in the series, it’s also one of the most intense. It’s a perfect, terrifying portrayal of man being knocked down the food chain, at the mercy of something primal and unstoppable that wants to make you its food. It’s a horrible thought, and Muldoon screaming ‘SHOOT HER’ as Jophery screams and gurgles is disturbing and memorable as hell.
3. Donald Gennaro, Jurassic Park
A perfect exclamation point on one of the best scenes in blockbuster history, everyone remembers the cowardly lawyer getting eaten off the toilet. It’s funny because the guy is a douchebag, but still primal and icky in the way the Rex shakes its head to seal the deal. Bonus points for the off-screen discovery of his various bits and pieces later on. If I were ranking on nostalgia alone, this one might be the top. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
2. Robert Muldoon, Jurassic Park
Muldoon was the MAN when I was a kid. His whole look was that of a manly man hunter. The folded brim on his hat. The safari vest. Hell, even the safari shorts and the high socks and boots. This is what it meant to be a man to young, 7-year-old me. He was one of the few people who respected the dinosaurs and their abilities, but unfortunately, he played himself. Even when he realized he was beaten, he still had the balls to give respect to his worthy adversary. Those screams though, barely hidden by a palm fern, makes the imagination wander.
1. Eddie Carr, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
I’ll tell you right now, you and I all know Eddie didn’t deserve this. He was maybe the only actual GOOD dude in The Lost World, and he saved the asses of all his friends while putting his life on the line for it. Yeah his death is brutal and dark, but it’s also AWESOME. An animatronic T-Rex picks up a live actor by the leg! Eddie gets FLIPPED IN MID AIR and caught in the jaws of the first Rex. Then he gets RIPPED IN TWO. This is a PG-13 movie! It’s violent, cruel, and amazing. Points go to style, execution, and finishing maneuver.
Jurassic Top 5: Favorite Action Scenes
5. River Attack, Jurassic Park 3
The best thing to come out of Jurassic Park 3 is the aviary scene that finally introduced us to flying dinosaurs, and this impressive setpiece. Featuring the gigantic amphibious Spinosaurus taking on our crew who wind up locked in a dinosaur cage on a boat, it’s thrilling, well staged, and looks great. Some of the shots of the Spinosaurus attacking William H. Macy on a crane or avoiding the burning oil slick are as good as anything in the series.
4. Mommy's Very Angry, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
If any scene got as close to Spielberg’s original, it’s this one. Several different thematic ticking clocks are running at the same time as our heroes try to escape a trailer dangling over a gigantic cliff. Cracking safety glass, a rope that won’t stay tied, and two pissed off T-Rex parents all add up to another masterful piece of Spielberg tension. I definitely recreated this scene more than a few times by dangling the trailer playset off my bed.
3. The Final Battle, Jurassic World
Jurassic World is not the most subtle film in the world, I’ll admit. But I’ll be damned if seeing Blue and Rexy team up to take down that abomination Indominus Rex isn’t cool as hell. Watch the action choreography on display here. Keep your eyes on Blue, then rewatch the scene focusing on Rex, then rewatch it. Keep changing your focus. There is so much going on that it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer scope of it all. Blue jumping on Rexy’s back and waiting for a chance to strike is just so cool, and if you don’t think so, I cannot help you. The Mosasaurs popping in for the fatality at the end is perfection. The two original badasses of Jurassic Park stand victorious, as it should be.
2. Raptors in the Kitchen: Jurassic Park
Until, I’m assuming, JW:FK comes out, this is the most tense, claustrophobic scene in the series. Nearly every other sequence in the franchise happens in large buildings or outdoors, except for this. A small kitchen, two kids, and two dinosaurs that want to eat them. It’s an absolute masterclass of tension, a perfect small-scale knot of cat and mouse that shows that Spielberg can work small just as well as he can work big.
1. T-Rex Escape, Jurassic Park
This scene. I know I’ve used the word ‘masterclass’ a few times, especially in regards tot he way Spielberg is able to craft a scene of tension. But this scene is the very definition of masterclass filmmaking. Played with no score whatsoever, it relies purely on the special effects, performances, and award-winning sound design to convey the absolute terror or coming face to face with a 16-ton freight train of teeth and muscle. Everything is a piece of an orchestra of filmmaking that Spielberg conducts to perfection, creating a visceral, emotional experience that had audiences holding their breaths and sweating through their clothes. It doesn’t hurt that most of the time the T-Rex looks absolutely real, using effects that have yet to be matched even with our improved technology. Nothing in the franchise has been able to touch this scene in terms of spectacle and terror, and it will probably stay that way for a long time.