With the newest Jurassic Park movie now in theaters, it’s time to go through each of the previous films in this series, ranked from worst to best!
In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park took the world by storm. The film centering around a theme park of cloned dinosaurs who run amok is not only considered one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, but it launched a franchise that’s still going to this day. Though nothing has come close to topping the original film in most viewers’ eyes, every installment has at least left moviegoers with something to talk about, whether it be an exceptional action scene, a new wrinkle in the overarching storyline, what’s refreshing, or what shows signs of things getting stale. Whether people’s continued curiosity in these films is warranted or not, it doesn’t seem to have died down all these years later. Jurassic World: Dominion, the supposed final installment of the Jurassic Park series, recently hit theaters, meaning it’s the perfect time to look back on every Jurassic Park movie, ranked from worst to best!
6. JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Full Review: Jurassic World Dominion: When Fan Service Isn’t Enough
Jurassic World: Dominion has higher highs than a few other films in the series. But its lows are so low and its potential is so wasted that I have to call it the worst film of them all. The premise of dinosaurs being loose all over the world should have made way for endless possibilities, but instead we get a kidnapping plotline and a corporate conspiracy involving mutant locusts – not dinosaurs – that barely connects at allto the dinosaur crisis. In fact, said crisis is already mostly resolved by this point, and the film’s ultimate message is that we just have to live with dinosaurs now … and that’s it. This wouldn’t be so bad had the story we ended up getting been really interesting or exciting, but it either treads no new ground or is so shallow in its “commentary” that one can’t shake its sense of pointlessness. Dominion eats up so much time with its go-here-to-find-this-person-to-go-to-this-place-to-find-this-thing-to-find-this-person storytelling that furthers very little in the grand scheme of things.
This is especially a shame because of how good the action sequences and many effects are, sometimes getting close to Spielberg’s level of craftsmanship. The characters also have fun dynamics and are all acted really well, with DeWanda Wise’s character stealing the show. But all of this effort and talent goes to waste because it’s being funneled into what is so obviously the wrong path to follow. No big, thoughtful questions about our “dominion” are analyzed, and the perfect starting setup that should have been the main attraction takes a backseat to the messiest story of this franchise that amounts to absolutely nothing. I consider Colin Trevorrow an underrated director even now, but his skills clearly lie behind the camera and not so much on the page, and even the most well-made movies can’t survive a terrible screenplay.
5. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
Director: J.A. Bayona
My #5 and #4 picks are a hair’s width apart from one another in terms of quality. What barely nudges Fallen Kingdom this low is, among other issues, its sheer lack of originality or memorability. The plot is little more than a quasi-remake of The Lost World. So many set pieces and ideas are rehashed from the other movies with little to nothing added, and what little is new is either not fleshed out or transparent sequel bait. Jurassic Park III isn’t exactly innovative, but Fallen Kingdom’s status as the fifth film in this series makes its staleness even less forgivable. But outside of that, the story has too many plot holes to count – and considering how forgiving I often am towards plot holes, it’s saying something that even I’m complaining about them – and is filled with simultaneously the blandest and goofiest cast of characters this series has had yet.
Speaking of goofiness, moments like Owen (Chris Pratt) fumbling his way away from lava or a dinosaur literally smiling at the camera plague Fallen Kingdom as well. This film isn’t a complete disaster, as the cinematography can be stunning, particularly when framing or revealing a dinosaur, and the effects are easily the best they’ve been in this series since The Lost World. There are a few tense sequences, and the story, while highly derivative, does raise questions about where we draw the philanthropic line regarding animals who are above us in the food chain. But it fails to go anywhere nuanced or fresh with those questions, leaving Fallen Kingdom as little more than a setup for … well, what should have been a better film.
4. JURASSIC PARK III
Director: Joe Johnston
Though I admit to liking Jurassic Park III purely as a guilty pleasure, I’ll always be the first to say that it’s far from being a good movie. Whereas its two predecessors try to inject some meat into the fossilized bones of their stories, this third entry is here to mindlessly entertain and little else. Which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but when the craft, effects, and characters take a major step backwards alongside the story, everything just piles on to make this handily the most disposable Jurassic Park film. Some of the dumbest moments in the series, or perhaps any movie, happen here, with my favorite (meaning the worst) being a Spinosaurus baiting the humans with the ringtone of a cellphone she ate. Never has this franchise felt more like a made-for-TV B-movie than right here.
Sam Neil is easily the most engaging part of Jurassic Park III, preserving all of his character’s charm and wit from the original film without a hitch even when he’s grouped up with far less interesting people. Director Joe Johnston also shows himself capable enough with some memorable and fun action set pieces, particularly the Pteranodon attack and the rain scene with the Spinosaurus. Though Jurassic Park III doesn’t even try to have any meaning or dimension, it at least doesn’t overstay its welcome and maintains a short running time fitting of such hollowness. But if that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give this movie, that should tell you something. Jurassic Park III is a film you should only put on if you want a mindless dinosaur chase movie and nothing more, and it’s impossible to overlook how far that is from the high bar this franchise set beforehand.
3. JURASSIC WORLD
Director: Colin Trevorrow
My first viewing of Jurassic World is one of my all-time favorite theatergoing experiences. I had an absolute blast and instantly declared my profound love for this breath of fresh air to the franchise. Now … I think it’s good. I can’t blame myself for being so high on this film at first, as one of my biggest praises for it is how director Colin Trevorrow (who I consider to be underrated as a filmmaker) manages to recapture the awe-inspiring tone of the original film without completely retreading it. We finally see the park open and operational, and the design and attention to detail make it feel as alive and wonderous as John Hammond himself must have envisioned it. Despite some retreading of familiar territory, there’s just as much innovation with the action and dinosaurs. The Indominus Rex is a fun, menacing villain and a great symbol of sensationalism going too far. It was, after all, made because people were getting bored of dinosaurs, which is hilariously relatable and reflective of the state of our own modern entertainment.
The characters of Jurassic World get flak from people, but I find most of them to be pretty good. They’re memorable, well-acted, have solid arcs, and work well off each other. What does deserve a lot of criticism is the excessive use of inconsistent CGI. The effects on the dinosaurs, while generally not bad, are the worst in the series, and it’s really sad to see how much better a film 22 years older is in this regard. The story can also get too hokey and goofy, even if it injects enough heart and charm to make that work more often than not. Jurassic World has clear flaws, but they don’t wash away the charm, energy, or creativity that pull the film through. Plus, the most I’ve ever cheered in a theater is when I first watched the climax, which was worth the ticket price alone! Any movie that gets that reaction is doing something right.
2. THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK
Director: Steven Spielberg
Read also: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Review): An Underrated Sequel
I watched The Lost World for the first time shortly after my first viewing of Jurassic Park, and I found it simply fine. Many years, later, though, I rewatched it and found it far better than I remembered. It’s nowhere near as great as the original Jurassic Park (spoiler for my #1 pick), but it’s still a great thriller with Spielberg’s filmmaking prowess remaining in top form. Many sequences like the trailer over the cliff or the Compsognathus attack rival the best of the original film, though they’re in a movie that’s less about the wide-eyed spectacle and much more about the aggressive danger and dark suspense. Beautiful nighttime sequences make up a majority of The Lost World, and stakes are raised particularly in a very unexpected third act. The dinosaurs look a littleless consistently believable due to the higher frequency of CGI shots, but a majority of time the effects are on par with this sequel’s predecessor.
The characters are a big downgrade from the cast of the first Jurassic Park, but they’re still pretty distinct, have interestingly evolving dynamics, and hold their own well enough for us to want to follow them. What draws me in more regarding the story of The Lost World is its emphasis on reckless involvement with things beyond our control, even with the best of intentions. Setting aside the moral questions of reviving these prehistoric creatures, what should or shouldn’t be our responsibility now that they are here? When should we step in and when should we step aside? I did a full review for The Lost World pretty recently if you want more detailed thoughts on it from me. While I once considered this film underwhelming, it now stands firmly in my eyes as a very underrated thriller and the second-best entry of this series.
1. JURASSIC PARK
Director: Steven Spielberg
Full Review: Jurassic Park (1993): The Family Adventure Of A Generation
I mean … were you ever expecting anything else to be at #1? Honestly, I’d be fascinated to see a Jurassic Park ranking list that doesn’t have the original film at the top. Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster was a game-changer for digital effects, churning out what remains some of the greatest CGI of all time. But it still wisely knew to keep the animatronics and practical effects wherever possible, and those are top-notch as well, making it harder for our eyes to discern what is and what isn’t really in front of the camera. Because of this, and because of Spielberg’s masterful direction, a sick Triceratops can tug at our heartstrings, a heard of Gallimimuses can wow us, and the T-Rex attack sequence can be as terrifying as something out of a horror movie. This approach to special effects is something that modern movies desperately need to follow more often.
But no matter how many dinosaurs are thrown into a movie, the cast of characters running from them are just as important a part, and Jurassic Park has some of the most entertaining and synergetic characters in any blockbuster. To a point where dinosaurs are largely out of the picture for the first act, and I never feel their absence. I’m more than willing to wait for them in the company of these people as they discuss and debate the ethical implications and ramifications of John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) practices. Outside of the T-Rex sequence, my favorite scene in the movie has no dinosaurs in it. It’s when Hammond is sympathetically expressing to Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) how important it was for him to make something that people would truly remember, and Sadler explaining the dangers of his actions from the animal’s perspective (a point of view that only she specifically has as a paleobotanist).
Every single praise I can give Jurassic Park has already been given ad nauseum. This is one of my favorite movies with one of my favorite film scores ever from John Williams, one of the most influential films ever made, and one of the most well-rounded, perfectly crafted adventure films you could possibly find. No matter how many ups or downs this franchise has had since, the film that started it all has more than earned its status as a classic.
Jurassic World Dominion is now showing in select theaters worldwide, and will be released theatrically everywhere else on June 10, 2022. Read our review at the link above!