The 14 Best Dinosaur Movies (Excluding Jurassic Park)
With Jurassic World: Dominion on the horizon, we are reminded yet again that dinosaurs are freaking awesome! Dinosaurs have been part of cinema almost since its inception and we continue to enjoy seeing these prehistoric animals on the big screen!
And yes we all know Steven Speilberg’s masterpiece Jurassic Park will remain one of the best dinosaur movies ever made, but there are so many other great films we feel we should highlight! As such let us look at some of the best dinosaur movies besides Jurassic Park!
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
This kaiju masterpiece is directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Gojira stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura, with Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka as Godzilla. The plot of Gojira follows a post-WWII Japan, already reeling from the devastation of atomic weaponry, now having to deal with a newly awakened prehistoric monster named Godzilla as it sets its sights on Japan.
Aside from the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, Godzilla is probably pop culture’s most iconic prehistoric creature ever! Sure in some continuities he is just described as a “prehistoric reptile” but in the Heisei era of films (1984-1995), specifically in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, it was revealed he was a mutated Godzillasaurus so yes is sometimes a dinosaur!
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Semantics aside, Gojira is a masterpiece of genre cinema. A poignant film on Japan’s trauma from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the then-recent Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident, Gojira addresses the real horror and devastation these weapons have left on the world. Without Gojira’s impact on film and launching the Godzilla franchise, dinosaur movies may look very different without the Big G.
Runtime: 1 hour, 22 minutes
Another Toho kaiju classic, Rodan is directed by Ishiro Honda and special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film stars Kenji Sahara Yumi Shirakawa, Akihiko Hirata, and Haruo Nakajima as Rodan. The plot follows a Japanese mining town at first plagued by prehistoric insects, only to learn these insects were the food of a pair of recently hatched giant pterosaurs called Rodan as the two would be unleashed onto the world.
Before someone says “Um actually pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs” yes we know, some of us on PHASR are huge dinosaur nerds. But calling this list “The 14 Best Non-Avian dinosaur, pterosaur, and other extinct archosaurs” doesn’t have a good ring now does it? Nitpicking aside along with Godzilla, Rodan is one of Japan’s most iconic monsters.
The first kaiju film to be released in color, Rodan is a classic of the genre! The first act is a genuinely great horror story as we have a sense of dread within the mining town before the reveal of the giant insects called Meganulon are fully revealed. Then the horror escalates further as we learn these deadly bugs are just the food of the real threat with Rodan. Rodan is a must-watch for any fans of classic kaiju cinema and dinosaur movies.
King Kong (1933)
Runtime: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
This cinematic masterpiece was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose based on the story treatment by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. King Kong stars Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot. The plot follows a filmmaker’s exhibition into a mysterious island called “Skull Island” where they discover is filled with prehistoric life, only for the lead actress to be kidnapped by the “god” of the island, the giant ape known as Kong.
King Kong is as classic as it gets on this list. One of the most influential films of all time, King Kong would especially influence dinosaur movies such as Gojira, the works of Ray Harryhausen, and of course Steven Spielberg in the making of Jurassic Park. Sure the big ape is the star of the movie, but one of the most iconic elements of the film is seeing Kong fight the many dinosaur denizens on the island. The most iconic is without a doubt Kong’s fight with the T-Rex where special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien would set the precedent for the special effects craft for decades.
King Kong (2005)
Runtime: 3 hours, 7 minutes (Theatrical), 3 hours, 21 minutes (Extended)
This 2005 remake of the 1933 King Kong is directed and co-written by Peter Jackson. It was also written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, King Kong (2005) stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, and Andy Serkis. The plot is essentially an extended version of the 1933 film but with more dinosaurs, prehistoric monsters, and a more sympathetic take of Kong himself.
While this film has two versions in which the runtime would destroy your bladder, Peter Jackson’s King Kong is very much a passion project made into a film. Jackson has gone on to say the 1933 King Kong would be the most influential film for him and seeing just how faithful yet magnified his version of the film is something to be admired. And that widening of scope extends to Skull Island as all the dinosaur sequences are so cool and Weta Workshop created some of the best-looking dinosaurs on par with the Jurassic Park dinosaurs.
The Lost World (1923)
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
This silent-era film is directed by Harry O. Hoyt and special effects by Willis O’Brien. The Lost World stars Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery, and Lloyd Hughes. Based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World follows the expedition into a mysterious plateau in South America, where it is discovered dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals continue to roam free.
One of the earliest dinosaur movies ever made, The Lost World is the ancestor of so many different kinds of dinosaur movies that its significance cannot be ignored. Willis O’Brien’s stop motion effects while may be seen as crude now were revolutionary at the time of release to the point some audience members thought they were real dinosaurs. The highlight is definitely the rampage of the Brontosaurus in the film’s climax that one could argue was the first giant monster rampage scene in movie history.
The Land Before Time (1988)
Runtime: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Time for something more family-friendly with this animated classic from animation legend Don Bluth. The Land Before Time stars Gabriel Damon, Candace Hutson, Judith Barsi, and Will Ryan with narration by Pat Hingle. The film’s plot follows a group of young dinosaurs trying to find a safe haven while evading a carnivorous T-Rex and other dangers.
Don Bluth is one of animation’s greats and The Land Before Time is a great example of that. Let us not forget that kids love dinosaur movies and animation is filled with great examples, but The Land Before Time is arguably the best. For a children’s film, it tells a very mature story of dealing with loss and bravery through friendship. It’s easy to see why this has become one of the most beloved animated films of all time and probably the first dinosaur movie for many.
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Runtime: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is directed by Eugène Lourié and special effects by the master himself Ray Harryhausen. It stars Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, and Kenneth Tobey. The plot centers on an awakened fictional dinosaur called the Rhedosaurus that has been awakened by atomic testing and starts a trail of destruction across the world.
Based on the Ray Bradbury short story “The Foghorn”, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is the film that helped birthed the atomic age of cinema. One of the first giant monster movies to have the plot center on atomic weapons, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is one of the most celebrated and influential dinosaur movies ever! It helped kick off the career of special effects master Ray Harryhausen, who was a protegee of Willis O’Brien and helped bring the life of many other movie dinosaurs throughout his career.
The Valley Of Gwangi (1969)
Runtime: 1 hour, 36 minutes
The Valley of Gwangi is directed by Jim O’Connolly with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. The cast includes James Franciscus, Richard Carlson, and Gila Golan. The plot follows a former rodeo stuntman and scientists who investigate a “forbidden valley” in Mexico that contains several prehistoric animals including a bloodthirsty Allosaurus the locals have named “Gwangi”.
It’s easy to see why this film is on our list: dinosaurs vs. cowboys! With an awesome premise like that, The Valley of Gwangi is a fun creature feature western that showcases Ray Harryhausen’s best work for dinosaur movies. Gwangi itself is one of cinema’s most iconic movie dinosaurs and Harryhausen gave a lot of love to his favorite dinosaur! The Valley of Gwangi is another influential example of dinosaur movies as both Steven Speilberg and Collin Trevorrow cited it as a major inspiration for sequences in their Jurassic Park/World films.
Runtime: 1 hour 22 minutes
This CG/Live-Action hybrid is directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton. The voice cast for Dinosaur includes D. B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Samuel E. Wright, Ossie Davis, and Julianna Margulies. The story centers on a young Iguanadon named Aladar who was raised by Lemurs and now has to find a new home for himself and his adopted family after a meteor destroys their island.
When it was released in 2000, Disney’s Dinosaur was something of an event. The first trailer was simply the film’s opening sequence and audiences were astounded by just how gorgeous the film looked. Sure some were disappointed the film took a more traditional animated direction after the opening sequence, but Dinosaur is still a visual marvel at the time. With fun characters and the badassness that is the Carnotaurus, Disney’s Dinosaur is a great example of dinosaur movies for the family!
Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)
Runtime: 1 hour, 22 minutes
This cult classic is directed by the mind behind Mac and Me himself: Stewart Raffill. Tammy and the T-Rex stars Terry Kiser, Ellen Dubin, Denise Richards, Paul Walker, George Pilgrim, and John Franklin. The plot centers on a teenage couple having to deal with the absurd situation of the boyfriend having his brain transplanted into a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex by a mad scientist.
Tammy and The T-Rex is a quintessential so bad it’s a good movie! How can you even be mad about a teenager having to help her boyfriend who is trapped in the body of a cyborg T-Rex? Like Mac and Me, Tammy and the T-Rex almost exist in its own little world that is so dub yet it’s clear everyone was having fun with the brain-dead premise. We are also grateful boutique home media distributors Vinegar Syndrome restored the “Gore Cut” of the film so we can enjoy some dinosaur carnage at long last.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes (UK Cut) 1 hour, 31 minutes (US Cut)
Rating: Not Rated
This Hammer gem is directed by Don Chaffey with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Starring Raquel Welch and John Richardson, One Million Years B.C. takes place in an alternate reality where cavemen co-existed with dinosaurs and other prehistoric life. The plot follows a caveman who was banished by his tribe and has to find safety in a hostile world, only to meet a friendly tribe who takes him in and he falls in love with one of the women of the tribe who saved him.
Ignoring the ludicrous idea of humans co-existing with dinosaurs (sorry to ruin your childhood), One Million Years B.C. (a remake of the 1940 film of the same name) is a classic of the “Caveman” subgenre. The film that made Raquel Welch a superstar, One Million Years B.C. surprisingly takes its premise seriously enough to have no dialogue besides the fiction dialect of the cavemen.
Plus we get dozens of dinosaurs animated by Ray Harryhausen so for fans of stop motion dinosaur movies this is a buffet for the eyes. One Million Years B.C. has clearly inspired so much dinosaur media including the likes of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal to name a few.
Walking With Dinosaurs 3D (2013)
Runtime: 1 hour, 27 minutes
This movie spinoff of the acclaimed BBC docu-series Walking With Dinosaurs is directed by Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook. The theatrical version of Walking With Dinosaurs 3D features a voice cast that includes Justin Long, John Leguizamo, Tiya Sircar, and Skyler Stone. The plot centers on the life of a Pachyrhinosaurus who has to endure the many challenges of life during the Late Cretaceous period of Earth.
First off we highly recommend the “Cretaceous Cut” of this film as while the voice cast do their best, the voice-overs of the theatrical version only hinder this film as it was clear the filmmakers wanted no dialogue from the dinosaurs. Once you watch the alternate version, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D is one of the most visually stunning dinosaur movies ever.
Almost like an extended episode of the docu-series of the same name, the filmmakers worked with several leading paleontologists to give one of the most accurate depictions of these animals at the time and you can’t help but wonder at these creatures.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Runtime: 2 hours, 9 minutes
The sequel to Jurassic Park was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by David Koepp. The cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, and Richard Attenborough. The plot to The Lost World: Jurassic Park takes place several years after the events of Jurassic Park where John Hammond, now a conservationist, wants Dr. Ian Malcom to aid a team of naturalists to study the dinosaurs InGen has cloned before his nephew takes them for his own greedy intentions.
While we did say we wanted to highlight other dinosaur movies besides Jurassic Park, we feel it would be unfair to leave out the sequels. While none of them would ever be on par with the first film, they still provide that awesome you can only get from dinosaur movies. The Lost World: Jurassic Park, loosely based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, is a fun adventure movie that honors classics such as King Kong and The Lost World. With a great cast and some awesome special effects by Industrial Light & Magic and Stan Winston Studios, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is one of the most criminally underrated dinosaur movies.
Jurassic World (2015)
Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes
The fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise was directed and co-written by Colin Trevorrow. The screenplay was also written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly. Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, and Irrfan Khan. The plot centers on the fully functioning dinosaur theme park now called “Jurassic World” that is soon plunged into chaos when a genetic hybrid named the “Indominous Rex” escapes and begins rampaging across the island.
The film that (pun somewhat intended) resurrected the Jurassic Park franchise from extinction, Colin Trevorrow gave us one hell of a popcorn flick with Jurassic World. While not as smart or awe-inspiring as Jurassic Park, Jurassic World knows it wants to be a fun time and we get that on multiple fronts. First off we do get a new sense of wonder when seeing the park fully functioning as the setting is one of the best fully realized fictional worlds we have seen in modern films.
Second, the dinosaur action kicks all kinds of ass with great set pieces and is very much a crowd-pleasing film. Admit it you were cheering in the theatre during the final battle between The Indominous Rex and the T-Rex!
What Are Your Favorite Dinosaur Movies?
What are some of your favorite dinosaur movies? Is there a dinosaur you wish gets more representation on film? Let us know on social media!