All the ‘Jurassic Park’ Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

Friday, April 3, 2020

I think it’s fair to say that everyone has their franchise. Jurassic Park is mine. (With Scream being a close second.) But even coming from that adoring perspective, I never thought that the Jurassic movies would come roaring back to theaters quite like they recently did. 

The first film hit it big in 1993, becoming the highest grossing movie ever at the time with a grand total of over $914 million in the bank from the worldwide box office. The Lost World: Jurassic Park made a pretty penny in 1997 as well, but then the franchise fizzled out with the 2001 installment, Jurassic Park III. The series made its big return to theaters 14 years later and re-solidified itself as one of the most beloved and profitable franchises out there. Not only did Jurassic World pass the $1 billion mark, but so did the next installment, 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

As we eagerly await more Jurassic with Jurassic World: Dominion currently scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on June 11, 2021, how about a look back at the franchise? I’ve put together my own personal ranking of all the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films. Of course all ranked lists are subjective, so read on to check out mine but do hit the comments section below to share your own list, too!

5. Jurassic Park III

You knew the list had to start here, right? Collider’s own Adam Chitwood wrote a piece back in March 2018 titled, “Jurassic Park Is Not a Franchise.” As I much I adore Adam, I’ve got to disagree with that take, minus Jurassic Park III. Does that mean the Joe Johnston-directed entry is entirely worthless? As an installment that enhances this series of films, maybe, but for anyone undeniably drawn to these films and this world, Jurassic Park III still functions as an entertaining side adventure.

There’s some seriously goofy stuff in the mix like the over-the-top Kirbys (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) and most notoriously Alan’s (Sam Neill) Raptor dream, but the film does rock a few interesting story beats. While the idea of anyone parasailing near Isla Sorna is ridiculous, the thought of a young boy figuring out a way to survive on the island alone has something to it. In fact, maybe this should have just been the Eric Kirby (Trevor MorganJurassic movie Castaway-style. 

There’s also Alessandro Nivola who has great presence in the film as Alan’s assistant Billy and he’s also got one of the better story arcs of the bunch. While Jurassic Park and The Lost World show how this magical idea of a dinosaur park could get the better of people on a larger scale, Jurassic Park III basically gives that whole idea to Billy. Billy isn’t a bad guy; he knows stealing eggs is wrong. But, taking the eggs is a quick and tempting fix to their funding problem. Like many characters in the previous films, Billy learns that taking something someone else created just because it’s there is a dangerous thing and pays the price in one of the movie’s best set pieces.

No, Jurassic Park III isn’t a great film and clearly pales in comparison to the rest, but it does offer a quick 90-minute adventure for anyone looking to spend more time on the islands. 

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I grow fonder of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom the more I watch it. It’s got two very distinct halves – the dino rescue on Isla Nublar and the mainland mansion auction. Initially, I much preferred the former because it felt most connected to the previous installments of the franchise and also because the mission to save the dinosaurs made far more sense than the idea of bringing dangerous dinosaurs to a mansion packed with people and auctioning them off at a starting price of a mere $4 million. However, the more I watch the film, the more I appreciate the style and tonal shift. As a horror lover, how can you say no to a spooky house filled with dinosaurs?

What wound up really cementing my love of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom though, was the realization that Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom essentially follow the blueprint of Jurassic Park and The Lost WorldJurassic Park shows you the incredible potential of a dinosaur theme park and then the whole thing crashes and burns, proving Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) point; they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they never stopped to think if they should. Then, in The Lost World, Malcolm must travel back to the region to try and stop others from making similar mistakes. He doesn’t fully succeed and dinosaurs wind up making it back to the mainland. The Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom combination basically follows that same exact path, and that’s what makes the franchise as a whole (or almost as a whole) work quite well.

Yes, the Jurassic movies are about what happens when humans bring dinosaurs back to life, but it’s also about man’s tendency to make the same mistakes over and over again, and make the problem worse every go-around. And now we’ve got Jurassic ParkLost WorldJurassic World and Fallen Kingdom all stacked on top of each other, further hammering in that point. The two Jurassic World movies can’t match the 1993 original as far as character development, tight storytelling and the combination of CG and animatronics go; but they are big winners in the world-building department, which is key to the building intensity of the franchise overall. Colin Trevorrow‘s Jurassic World adds the idea of designer dinosaurs and trainable Raptors. Then, director J.A. Bayona‘s Fallen Kingdom throws in even freakier genetic manipulation and also dinosaurs running loose in populated areas. If Jurassic World: Dominion puts the focus on digging deeper into those ideas rather than sending characters on some standalone adventure that doesn’t add to the franchise whatsoever, we could wind up with a very rich trilogy right here.

3. Jurassic World

When you’ve been waiting for 22 years to see John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) original vision up and running, Jurassic World does get the benefit of coasting on the inherent thrill of finally seeing the park operational. But, it also winds up buried under an exorbitant amount of expectation and pressure. Claire and Owen (Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt) are no Ellie and Alan (Laura Dern and Sam Neill), the balance between digital and practical effects isn’t as effective, the story isn’t as refined, etc. But does that mean Jurassic World doesn’t work at all? Absolutely not! In fact, I think it uses the foundation established by the 1993 original quite well.

Jurassic World is essentially one, big wish fulfillment film for fans of the first movie. Jurassic World isn’t just John Hammond’s idea made a reality; it’s John Hammond’s idea times ten. It’s not just about going on a Jeep tour and hoping to catch a glimpse of a dinosaur behind an electric fence anymore. It’s taking a tram into a park that’s the size of a small city that gives you the opportunity to run alongside dinosaurs in a gyrosphere, to actually touch a dinosaur at the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo, and so much more. 

Colin Trevorrow’s vision for Jurassic World may not match the first film in establishing a connection to an unforgettable, layered cast of characters, but it does catch the thematic wave that the first film kicked off and it’s also hugely successful when it comes to embracing the magic and terror of humanity’s need to make everything bigger, scarier and cooler without factoring in the potential consequences. Jurassic World is missing the grounded realism that gave Jurassic Park that “reach out and touch it” vibe, but highly advanced visual effects, very creative park advancements, and well executed action scenes essentially turn the film into an experience that truly offers the thrill of a theme park ride.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

No, The Lost World: Jurassic Park doesn’t come close to matching the 1993 original and has some head-scratching plot points, but Jurassic Park did set the bar astronomically high. The fact that Steven Spielberg managed to deliver a sequel film with another great ensemble of characters, unforgettable set pieces, and a story that significantly broadens the world of the franchise is quite the accomplishment.

As inspired by Michael Crichton’s sequel book, The Lost World boasts a great set-up by introducing Site B on Isla Sorna – because of course InGen had a production facility hidden away from the crowds that would have flocked to Jurassic Park. Not only does the new location give The Lost World the opportunity to deliver new dinos, set pieces and locations that still feel connected to the original film, but it also gives the story a major thematic boost as well.

Depending on how you interpret the final moment of Jurassic Park, that film essentially left the park and the dinosaurs behind. But as we all well know, you can’t just brush a problem under the rug and forget about it, especially something that significant. As Ian Malcolm says in the first film to John Hammond, “You didn’t earn the knowledge yourselves, so you don’t take the responsibility for it.” In The Lost World, that responsibility is shifting. In a similar sense, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is standing on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as he can; taking the dinosaurs that were created by the Site B staff and bringing them to a park on the mainland. In an effort to stop his nephew from repeating his mistakes, John has to bring in help.

Yes, I know I can’t argue with those who can’t take the gymnastics scene or the Rex’s San Diego romp seriously, but The Lost World is still filled with moments of high stakes and adventure, my favorites being the double Rex trailer attack, Peter Stormare versus the Compies, and that horrific Raptor field scene. It’s another tale of survival that continuously delivers thrills, but without ever letting you forget that the dinosaurs aren’t the villains here.

1. Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park isn’t just my favorite movie of the franchise; it’s my favorite movie of all time. On first viewing, back when I was a teeny tiny budding movie-lover, I was completely swept away by the magic of John Hammond’s dream, and then riveted by the nightmarish chaos of the park’s collapse. Not only did Jurassic Park mark my very first vidid memory of being wowed by movie magic, but it’s also the first time I remember fully grasping the power of science; the irresistible urge to do something incredible because you can and then the wallop of realizing that that power comes with great responsibility.

I adore every single stitch of Jurassic Park from the horrific opening scene that isn’t talked about nearly enough, to Lex’s (Ariana Richards) Unix system triumph to some of the most widely beloved scenes of all time – the T-rex breakout, Nedry (Wayne Knight) versus the Dilophosaurus, the Velociraptor kitchen scene, and then some. Jurassic Park is packed to the brim with brilliant filmmaking whether we’re talking about cast chemistry, details like how the crew used a guitar string to create the ripple in the glasses of water, or the game-changing combination of CGI and animatronics.

There’s a reason why Jurassic Park is my one and only movie tattoo. From my first viewing back in the summer of 1993 to my most recent watch mere days ago, Jurassic Park has never lost a single ounce of its magic. In a sense, Jurassic Park has become a safety blanket. Bad day? Turn on Jurassic Park! Caught a disappointing movie and need a reminder of what can be achieved through cinema? Watch Jurassic Park! Don’t have access to the full feature? Just put on the iconic John Williams score and you’re immediately transported back into the film.

I am forever grateful to the folks behind Jurassic Park for launching this franchise, for inspiring filmmakers for decades, and for playing a huge part in making me the movie lover I am today.