There’s something deeply fascinating about dinosaurs. These giant extinct reptiles have a way of captivating our imaginations, and sometimes, striking fear into our hearts. Dinosaurs have been appearing in films for over a century, and there’s no sign of that ever stopping. Just last year there was Adam Driver‘s 65, and even though it wasn’t great and didn’t do well at the box office, the fact that a major star was attached to it showed the expectations Hollywood still has for dinosaur movies. While the Jurassic Park franchise is undoubtedly what most people think of when imagining dinosaur movies, there are a ton of other dino-filled films to appreciate.
King Kong (1933)
Nearly 90 years later, the original King Kong movie is still incredible. In case you weren’t aware, King Kong is about an enormous ape named Kong that becomes obsessed with a young woman named Ann (Fay Wray). While Kong certainly takes the spotlight in the movie, the various dinosaurs of Skull Island can’t be forgotten. The fight between Kong and the Tyrannosaurus is truly iconic and showcases the film’s excellent stop-motion animation. As one of the earliest and finest examples of a dinosaur movie, the original King Kong has to be included in this list.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
It was hard to pass up Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson’s 2008 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. But for this list, we’ve chosen to highlight the Oscar-nominated 1959 version starring James Mason, Pat Boone, and Arlene Dahl. Based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name, the film follows a professor attempting to find a passage to the center of the Earth. While the movie isn’t strictly about dinosaurs, it does feature some large extinct animals including Dimetrodons and Megalania. Yes, neither is technically a dinosaur, but we’re going to let it slide. Overall, Journey to the Center of the Earth is fun adventure movie, and the use of real-life lizards for the extinct animals is great.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Remember that poster of Raquel Welch that Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) keeps on his cell wall in The Shawshank Redemption? It comes from this film. While One Million Years B.C. is a bit silly, it was also a showcase for Welch in this Hammer film, which was a remake of the 1940 film of the same name. Here dinosaurs and humans live side by side in the same era. Welch plays Loana, a member of the Shell tribe. While humans fight both each other and dinosaurs, this film is notable for its effects, which were jaw-dropping for its time. Special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen was the man responsible for bringing the impossible to life. He not only used stop-motion animation, but in some scenes used real life animals, like a snake and a tarantula. The effects might seem outdated now, but in 1966 they made you believe in magic.
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
The Valley of Gwangi is a cult classic movie about a failing rodeo that attempts to capture prehistoric creatures to use in its shows. The rodeo cowboys manage to capture Gwangi, a dangerous Allosaurus, and bring it back with them. But when Gwangi gets loose, chaos ensues. The Valley of Gwangi’s dinosaurs are models animated using stop-motion effects. The animation and designs of the dinosaurs are excellent and still hold 50+ years later. The plot is really unique as well, as there aren’t many films out there with dinosaurs and cowboys side-by-side. If you haven’t seen The Valley of Gwangi before, it is definitely worth a watch.
The Last Dinosaur (1977)
The Last Dinosaur is a Japanese and American television movie released in 1977. The film follows billionaire hunter Mason Thrust (Richard Boone) as he sets out an expedition to find dinosaurs hidden around a volcano in the polar icecaps. Although once they start their adventure, the team quickly finds that they’re being hunted by a killer Tyrannosaurus. Now, it’s hunter vs. hunter in a fight for survival. The Last Dinosaur’s man-in-a-suit dinos are a ton of fun and give the movie a lot of cheesy charm.
The Land Before Time (1988)
Directed by legendary animator Don Bluth, The Land Before Time has captivated fans for decades. Next to Jurassic Park, this film may be the most iconic dinosaur movie ever made. Everything in The Land Before Time oozes charm. The characters are fun and colorful, and the childlike names of everything are charming (longnecks, tree stars, sharptooths etc.). This movie will make you smile and tug at your heart strings no matter how old you get. The Land Before Time should not be missed.
Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)
No dinosaur movie on this list is more bizarre than Tammy and the T-Rex. Nothing screams mid-90s goofiness more than a film where the plot revolves around a teenager named Michael (Paul Walker), who is left in a comatose state after being attacked by bullies. What do you do? Why you put his brain inside of an animatoric T-Rex, of course, which gives Michael the power to live on as a dinosaur. Denise Richards plays the titular Tammy, Michael’s cheerleader girlfriend. While it’s as hilarious as you can imagine, the film also has a lot of heart, feeling like a strange version of King Kong. At its dino core, it’s a love story about how far you’ll go to save the one you love. You don’t want to miss the ending, either. It’s just as over-the-top as every minute that came before it.
If you grew up in the ’90s or early 2000s, you likely have a strong nostalgic fondness for Dinosaur. The movie was produced by Disney Animation and was one of the most expensive computer-animated films at its time of release. In Dinosaur, we follow Aladar, an Iguanodon raised by lemurs. After a meteor strikes Earth, Aladar, his family, and a group of other dinosaurs must undergo a journey to find the Nesting Grounds. The film was a big success for Disney and was in the top ten of the highest grossing movies of 2000.
The Lost World (2001)
Nope, this isn’t the second Jurassic Park movie. The Lost World (2001) is a British made-for-television movie based on Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle‘s book of the same name. Despite being made for TV, The Lost World was well received and is generally regarded as one of the best adaptations of its source material. The movie stars Bob Hoskins as George Challenger, a professor who undertakes an expedition to find dinosaurs in South America. Despite being over 20 years old, the 3D dinosaurs hold up well, and the film shares many of its animal models with the Walking with Prehistoric Life BBC documentaries.
You Are Umasou (2010)
You Are Umasou is an anime movie based on a Japanese children’s book series. The film tells the story of Heart, a Tyrannosaurus raised by a herbivorous Maiasaura family. As Heart grows up, he struggles with his identity and predatory instincts. Things get even more complicated when a baby Ankylosaurus imprints on Heart and believes he is his father. The film is heartwarming and very entertaining for dinosaur fans of any age. If you want to see a cartoon Tyrannosaurus fighting with martial arts, you need to watch You Are Umasou.
The Dinosaur Project (2012)
The Dinosaur Project is a British found footage movie written and directed by Sid Bennett. The film follows a group of cryptozoological researchers and cameramen that travel to the Congo. The team is on a search for the Mokele-mbembe, a plesiosaur that supposedly resides in the rivers of the Congo. But when they arrive in the jungle, they find much more than a Loch Ness monster. The group discovers a plethora of dangerous dinosaurs and are quickly thrown into a survival scenario. Fans of found footage movies will appreciate this unique take on a dinosaur movie.
Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and when you throw dinosaurs into the mix, things get even better. 2013’s Walking with Dinosaurs is visually one of the best dinosaur movies. The dinosaurs are captivating to look at, and the settings are gorgeous. The story centers on Patchi (Justin Long), a small Pachyrhinosaurus. Over the course of the film, Patchi must overcome the loss of his father, and deal with his bully brother to become the leader of the pack and save the day. Although the film didn’t get every paleontological detail correct, Walking with Dinosaurs was still a step in the right direction for extinct animal depictions. The humor of the film is written for a young audience, but both kids and adults can appreciate the well-designed dinos.
The Good Dinosaur (2015)
The Good Dinosaur had a famously rough production that was filled with revisions and changes in directors and cast. The film is considered one of Pixar’s weaker projects and didn’t generate a lot of buzz (or profit) upon release. The Good Dinosaur is set in an alternate timeline where dinosaurs never went extinct and live alongside early humans. The film follows Arlo, the good-hearted but timid apatosaurus, and a caveboy named Spot, as they go on a journey to find Arlo’s family. While it might not be Pixar’s finest work, it’s still a beautifully animated and dinosaur-filled take on the Western genre.