Substitute the mosquitoes in amber for some studio execs and a soft reboot, and you’ve got the gist: 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom have revived the once-extinct 90s franchise. There's even a third Jurassic World movie in the works, but we won't see that until 2020 at least. In any case, the Jurassic Park franchise is back, complete with all of the dinosaurs-escape-and-eat-everyone action that you crave. And I don’t know about you, but I crave plenty of that.
I crave it so much, in fact, that writing about one Jurassic Park movie was not enough. No, I needed more, which is why I have set out to rank all of the Jurassic Park movies from worst to best — because we were so preoccupied with whether or not we could, we didn't stop to think if we should. We're reliving all the highs and the lows of the previous five films. So please keep your arms and legs inside of the product-placed Jeeps and enjoy our tour of the Jurassic Park movies.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Jurassic Park III is one of my favorite Jurassic Park movies. I enjoy re-watching it with friends. I do not, however, enjoy it because it is good. It is not good. It is bad. It is very bad.
There’s a clear best Jurassic Park movie (stay tuned!) and a clear worst one. The middle of our list might spark some debate, but this statement should not: Jurassic Park III is trash. It’s so, so bad. They started filming it before they had a script finished, and it shows. And, frankly, they might have had a better shot at making a good movie if they’d never gotten that script at all, because the script is terrible.
The visuals are fun here, and it’s nice to see the aviary–which was in the original Jurassic Park novel but failed to make the cut in the first movie—make an appearance. But it is hard to understate the deep stupidity of this movie, which includes a Spinosaurus eating a satellite phone and—I am not making this up–the phone ringing inside its big ol’ dino-belly, warning the protagonists that they are being hunted. Really! This is real. They used the alarm-clock-in-the-crocodile gag from Peter Pan and thought it would be scary, which it is not.
As if that weren't cringey enough, by the time you get to the end of this movie, you realize that there is no real villain, no show-down, nothing. The entire ninety-two minutes of Jurassic Park III (which, by the way, is the shortest of all five movies) consists of this group of people running from one location to the other, being chased by dinosaurs. It's repetitive and mindless and at one point, I was cheering for the dinos.
Anyway, I highly recommend that you watch Jurassic Park III, a true classic of the so-bad-it’s-good genre of movies.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Michael Crichton’s novel The Lost World is a bit better than this movie, and a lot different. Hollywood had taken over Jurassic Park at this point, and it saw fit to keep things moving in the most blockbuster-y direction possible, which is how, I guess, we ended up with The Lost World’s the-dinos-take-San-Diego schtick.
For a movie about murderous dinosaurs, some things were just not believable. Like that one scene where Kelly Malcolm, no older than twelve, unleashes her inner gymnast and swings from a pole to kick a raptor through the wooden panels of a shed. Completely unarmed and relying solely on the power of a kick, a little girl manages to kill a raptor when soldiers with military grade weapons couldn't. Sure.
But it’s okay that The Lost World is a mediocre film because it gets to that point in a kind of uninspiring way. It often feels like a dumber version of the first movie, and it’s not interested in taking any risks besides those involved in making everything bigger, louder, and stupider. Just as you can disappoint fans by making unnecessary changes to the blockbuster recipe, so can you disappoint them by taking that recipe to its logical extreme. The Lost World isn’t in a different league, quality-wise, from at least one movie I’ve ranked higher–Jurassic World–but it is a good deal staler, and hence it finds itself on a lower rung.
Jurassic World (2015)
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2015’s soft reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise wasn’t exactly great, but it was okay, and that’s all we really needed. Jurassic World gave us all the excuse to return to the dinosaurs-eating-people wonderland that is the Jurassic Park franchise, and it gave filmmakers a reason to make even more movies set in the Jurassic Park universe, and for that we should be thankful.
Unlike the other Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World started on a slow and steady pace that was almost too slow. It's not until about forty minutes in that Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is actually introduced and then things start to pick up from there. This might have been a way to build the audience's anticipation for when the real bloodbath begins, but to me, it was a yawn and it felt like stalling.
But it’s not like Jurassic World was a dull replacement-level movie. It was mediocre in the most exciting way possible: it combined some really awful stuff, like Chris Pratt bonding with Velociraptors, with some actually cool stuff like the weird genetic-hybrid murder dinosaur, Indominus Rex.
Jurassic World feels more like a horror movie (and a bit less like an action movie) than its predecessors. It introduced some interesting ideas along with its misguided ones. It took some risks, tried some stuff out, and had some fun.
Also, I really liked the big water dinosaur. You know the one I’m talking about: the giant dino in the tank that did Shamu-type tricks and ate everything. That one was super dope.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
After the 2015 remake pulled in a hefty box office profit, and a whole new generation got into the franchise, there was no stopping the machine. But the most recent installment in the saga, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, fell short of my expectations. There were some loose-end plotlines in the first Jurassic World that its successor tried to tie up neatly. The movie offers an age-old explanation as to why anyone would want to interbreed and clone the world’s deadliest creatures in the first place — corporate greed. It gave me vague Scooby-Doo flashbacks, where the gang pulls off the ghost mask of the villain only to find that there’s been an old, rich guy behind it all along.
The visuals were stunning though, as expected. Aerial shots of the theme park on Isla Nublar make it seem like a paradise and not home to the most predatory species. And while the dino CGIs are certainly convincing, there were a few inconsistencies in their size, especially in relation to the humans around them. When Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is able to stand at eye-level with man-eating velociraptors who are later shown as towering over people, the movie magic fades just a little.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is still packed with suspense, a few jump-scares (which some might not favor), and allegories for social inequality in the human world. In any case, it’s still in second best on this list.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Was there ever any doubt? Jurassic Park is the reason we’re here. Like junkies trying to top that first high, we keep coming back to the theaters hoping for a moment like our first glimpse of the Sauropods in Jurassic Park, only to find again and again that nothing can replicate that original experience.
Jurassic Park came out in 1993, yet it has aged better than every other film in the series. Our first taste of the Jurassic Park concept features the best plot of the series paired with the strongest characters and the best acting ever seen in the franchise. The mix of practical and special effects lends the film a realism that has aged strikingly well–few movies made in the 2000s look this good now, and this one is from the early 1990s.
In retrospect, Jurassic Park’s appeal was always inseparable from its original plot. It’s right there in the title: dinosaurs, but in a theme park. What can go wrong will, and that’s where the tension is. Once the dinosaurs are loose in the park, and once the people getting eaten are too many degrees of separation from the hubris that got everything started, then that tension disappears. Jurassic World had the right idea when it brought back the original concept of a park going off the rails. It borrowed from the best movie in the series, which was–and probably always will be–Jurassic Park.
Featured still from "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" via Universal Entertainment