You love dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs. There was once a time where any dinosaur movie was geek nirvana, even if the dinosaurs were just actual lizards with fins hot glued to their backs. All this prehistoric love is because there is a powerful link between movies and dinosaurs, a link that stretches back to the very beginning of cinema and animation.
With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom here, we thought we would take a look at some of the coolest, fiercest, and yes, cutest dinosaurs in the world. So get out your barrel of neon colored plastic toy dinosaurs and join us as we journey back to the primal world of the thunder lizards and celebrate all things prehistoric with this not near comprehensive but still fun list.
Let’s start with the granddaddy of them all, the nuclear powered nightmare, the King of Monsters, Godzilla. Godzilla has thrownn down with countless other mutated nightmares, but let us not forget Godzilla’s roots. The monster that crushed Tokyo countless times began life as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. After being blasted with a nuclear bomb, the long hibernating dinosaur was transformed into the monster that made all our childhoods so much more fun.
There are tons of dinos on this list, but only Godzilla is badass enough to breath freakin’ fire so out of respect for this legendary kaiju, we begin our list with this legendary prehistoric city smasher.
While we are on the subject of Toho dinosaurs, we come to this memorable studio mate of Godzilla. First appearing in Toho’s King Kong Escapes (1967), Gorosaurus was not the most dynamic or impressive looking kaiju, but he was still a formidable foe that took the Japanese version of Kong to the limit.
Gorosaurus was known for his fearsome Jim Brunzell like dropkick but that wasn’t enough to defeat Kong. After absorbing a few kicks, Kong snapped Goro’s jaw which for some unexplained reason, began to foam like a backed up sink. Even death couldn’t keep Gorosaurus down as this dropkicking dino inexplicably returned like a scaly, rubber suited Lazarus in a number of other Godzilla joints, most famously Destroy All Monsters.
Our last in a trifecta of Toho dinosaurs, we have Titanosaurus. Titanosaurus first appeared in Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) and was the guardian and protector of the remains of Mechagodzilla. Godzilla had to defeat both his robotic doppelganger and this fearsome dino in order to save Japan. Titanosaurus used the fins on his enormous tail as a weapon and despite being a very impressive looking kaiju, Titanosaurus kind of got pimp slapped by Godzilla all across Japan.
Unlike other Toho beasts, Titanosaurus does have the distinction of sharing a name with an actual dinosaur. The real would Titanosaurus is believed to be one of largest land animals in history (9–12 meters (30–40 ft) long and about 13 tons in weight). Titansaurus’ actual existence has not yet been fully proven by scientists but it is still kind of cool that the wind tailed menace that fought Godzilla shares its name with a (perhaps) real world behemoth.
Even though Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Snarl, and Swoop aren’t real flesh and blood dinosaurs, these Autobot monsters are just way too cool not have on our list. First off, these five mechanical thunder lizards were amongst the most awesome Transformers toys ever produced and second, who can forget Grimlock and his followers wreaking havoc on the Transformers cartoon?
They may not have existed billions of years ago, but there is just something intrinsically awesome about a robot that could turn into a giant reptile engine of prehistoric destruction.
T-Rex from Jurassic Park
It can be argued that the moment in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex saves the kids from a bounding raptor is the beginning of modern special effects cinema. I vividly remember this iconic T-Rex letting out a triumphant, theatre shaking roar as the Jurassic Park banner fluttered down around the beast. It truly was the first moment where the FX potential of modern film was fully realized.
Think about the other unforgettable T-Rex moments in Jurassic Park, when it first appears as the kids are trapped in the car, eating the lawyer off the toilet, appearing in the rear view mirror as it is chasing Jeff Goldblum, this is all now stuff of cinema legend and speaks of the awesome power on the imagination dinosaurs could have on film.
Jurassic Park Raptors
Not as much of a cinematic spectacle as the Jurassic Park T-Rex, the raptors brought a different kind of fearsomeness to the big screen dinosaur. Never before has a film portrayed the potential cunning of a dinosaur like Jurassic Park did with the Velociraptors. These raptors were more akin to wolves then they were lizards as they hunted in packs and used advanced tactics to bring down their prey.
Jurassic Park Dilophosaurus
It seems that the smaller the Jurassic Park dinosaurs get, the scarier they are. The Dilophosaurus has to make our list just because it killed Newman! Any dinosaur that kills Seinfeld’s evil neighbor is ok in our book.
But think about what these little packages of murder can do. First, they lull their victims into a false sense of security with the general adorableness, and then they spit viscous balls of tar acid, blinding their victims. Then they slowly devour their prey while making cute little cooing and clicking noises.
The Dilophosaurus is a reminder that when it comes to dinosaurs, death comes in all sizes. Newman!
Well maybe not all sizes, because now we come to some legit cute entries on our list. It can be argued that Dino, the Flintstones’ pet Snorkasaurus, is the most well known dinosaur in all of media. Appearing in all ten bazillion seasons of the original Flintstones cartoon, Dino was a constant and loyal presence acting as both friend and foil to hapless Fred.
Not many people remember though that there a time where Dino could talk. In fact, in very early episodes of The Flintstones, Dino sounded exactly like comedian Phil Silvers. Dino quickly devolved though and became the yapping, licking dinosaur that fans of many generations fell in love with.
Yeah, I know, Barney makes me want to remove my spleen with a blunt instrument as well, but listen, anything that has instilled a love of learning in toddlers all over the world can’t be that bad, right? Barney is the most harmless dinosaur on the list; after all, this purple Tyrannosaurus spends all its time teaching three year olds morphemes instead of hunting. He also might be the most well known dinosaur on the list thanks to his constant presence on public TV.
In real life, Barney would probably quickly devour Baby Bop, but on PBS, it would be hard to find a more beloved prehistoric creature. If you are under five that is.
Back to the badassery. You just know that a dinosaur created by Jack Kirby is going to make this list. When Jack Kirby returned to Marvel Comics in the ’70s, he brought some awesomely different concepts with him. One of these was Devil Dinosaur, a fearsome, fighting mad scarlet dino that hung around with a young caveman named Moon-Boy.
Devil Dinosaur never really gained all that much popularity as a comic character, but I’m telling you, Devil and his fully realized world would make Disney billions in the right animated feature. Mock if you will, but I’m sticking to it, dammit!
Speaking of awesome comic book dinosaurs, we have a concept that would have blown my six year old mind…Super Dinosaur. Created by Robert Kirkman, the writer behind The Walking Dead (it’s a zombie thing, you may have heard of it), Super Dinosaur is an anthropomorphic T-Rex that wears an exo-suit and fights evil talking prehistoric villains.
Super Dinosaur pals around and has adventures with a young boy so this is pretty much the perfect super hero for anyone under ten. It’s pretty awesome for adults as well because there’s just something about seeing Super Dinosaur pilot his exo-suit with those little T-Rex arms that brings joy to my heart every time I see it.
The Sinclair Family
From the world of comics to the world of sitcoms; we now come to the Sinclair Family. The Sinclairs were a group of talking dinosaurs that starred in their own comedy from 1991-1994, appropriately known as…Dinosaurs.
The Sinclairs consisted of the pop Earl, the mom Fran, the oldest son Robbie, the only daughter Charlene, the infant baby Sinclair, and the mother-in-law Ethyl. Baby clearly stole the show as it sat on Earl’s head and repeatedly beat the hapless patriarch while shouting “Not the mama!”
Believe me, it was marketable.
Dinosaurs was a hit and a merchandising bonanza for ABC. The show usually dealt with contemporary environmental or social issues and the series finale was particularly memorable because it dealt with the extinction of the dinosaurs. That’s right, in the last episode, the Sinclair family, cute little marketable baby and all, freakin’ froze to death!
Land of the Lost: Grumpy and Big Alice
Airing from 1974-1976, Land of the Lost featured the frequent usage of stop motion stock footage of two memorable dinosaur predators. Grumpy the Tyrannosaurus was the first dinosaur the time lost Marshall family ever encountered and I guess the Saturday morning series had a very limited budget, because the same footage was used for Grumpy every time he appeared.
Our second stop motion dino, Big Alice, was an Allosaurus that tangled with Grumpy a few times. Big Alice’s purpose was to guard the Sleestak eggs. Remember the Sleestaks? They were good old fashioned nightmare fuel for a seven year old I tells ya.
Land of the Lost was a childhood staple and ingrained a love of dinosaurs in many children of the ’70s even if the show didn’t feature the thunder lizards very often.
The Land Before Time
Created by Don Bluth and first distributed in 1988, The Land Before Time film was a financial success and a critical darling. The adventures of Littlefoot (an Apatosaurus), Cera (a Triceratops), Ducky (a Saurolophus), Petrie (a Pteranodon), and Spike (a Stegosaurus) spawned thirteen (yeah, you read that right) direct to video sequels becoming the single most successful franchises in dinosaur film history.
A number of generations grew up with these adorable dinos, learning lessons of tolerance and friendship. I still say this franchise needed Sleestaks though. Everything needs Sleestaks.
The Tyrannosaurus From King Kong
Yeah, we’re talking the original 1933 King Kong here. You know what was the best part of King Kong? Skull Island. You know why? Willis O’Brien created stop motion dinosaurs.
Admit it, every time you watched King Kong as a child, you were a bit disappointed when they left Skull Island because that meant no more dinosaurs.
Unlike the 2005 film that spent spent too much time on Skull Island (and too much time on the boat, and too much time ice skating), the original Kong had the perfect amount of dinosaur on gorilla action. And nothing was cooler than the main event, Kong versus a T-Rex for the life of poor Fay Wray. This brawl was brutal and the film captured the awesome power of the tyrannosaur.
In fact, we are going to go ahead and say it, this was the greatest dino battle ever on film.
Pterodactyl from King Kong
Compared to the T-Rex, Kong dispatched his pterodactyl foe rather easy, but the sequence is almost as iconic as Kong standing tall on the Empire State Building. Considering the pterodactyl in Kong was animated in 1933, the whole sequence was a wonder of modern movie magic.
The scene still holds up today as dino fans had to wait till 2001 and Jurassic Park III for a cooler cinematic version of a pterodactyl (we’ll get to them in a minute).
Brontosaurus from King Kong
Before we get to those flying lizards in Jurassic Park III let us mention one more Skull Island dinosaur. The brontosaurus (the movie was made in 1933, the filmmakers called it a brontosaurus, so we’re calling it a brontosaurus) in King Kong was notable because, for an herbivore, it was a mean bastard.
After the intrepid crew sets out to explore Skull Island, they were attacked by a fighting made brontosaurus. Despite being strictly a plant eater, the long necked dinosaur proceeded to chomp down on the sailors and toss them through the air like rag dolls. It was a brutal sequence that still is a little hard to watch. It also taught moviegoers that brontosaurus was kind of a dick.
This dinosaur is also notable because footage of the Kong brontosaurus has been used in a number of real world Loch Ness monster photo hoaxes.
The Pterodactyls of Jurassic Park III
Jurassic Park III was a rather underrated monsterfest, but it still contained the single greatest flying dinosaur sequence ever. Who can forget the vicious pterodactyls chasing our intrepid heroes across those rickety rope bridges? It was a scene of mist shrouded terror done to perfection, one that perfectly captured the sheer power that a flying giant lizard would possess.
We have some really iconic dinos on this list, but none of them are as vital to cinema history as good old Gertie. Gertie was the very first dinosaur ever to appear in an animated film. Drawn by the great animation pioneer, Winsor McCay, Gertie would interact with her animator during McCay’s vaudeville shows.
Gertie really was the first of her kind, so for everyone who ever loved a stop motion, animated, or CGI dino at some point in their life, they have good old Gertie to thank.
Because England needs a cheap Godzilla rip of, we have Gorgo. I shouldn’t crap on Gorgo too much, because the movie is pretty good as far as low budget, European kaiju rip-offs go. Gorgo is some kind of unspecified dinosaur that went on a rampage around London in an impressive looking monster mash spectacle. It turns out that Gorgo is just a baby and when mama shows up, more mayhem follows.
Gorgo not only spawned a film that became a late night syndicated movie staple, he also starred in a comic series published from 1960-1965 by Charlton Comics. Who drew this series you ask? Why none other than Spider-man’s co-creator Steve Ditko! I gotta say, Gorgo is a Godzilla rip, but Ditko never drew Godzilla, that artistic honor was held exclusively by Gorgo, the dinosaur that stomped London.
What’s cooler than futuristic warriors and aliens doing battle while riding cyborg dinosaurs? Absolutely nothing. How some production company isn’t making the shit out of a Dino Riders film is beyond us.
The Dino Riders back story dealt with a war between the good humanoid Valorians (you can tell they’re good because they have “valor” in their name) and the evil alien Rulons and all that is secondary to the fact that these races strapped giant missiles, lasers, and catapults to dinosaurs and fought each other. There was a short lived Dino Riders cartoon and a shorter lived Dino Riders comic and the whole thing really needs to come back because it’s ridiculous.
Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops, and Turbodactyl from the Masters of the Universe
Dino Riders weren’t the only cybernetic dinosaurs on the ’80s toy market. In 1987, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe joined the fun with these three fighting mad robotic thunder lizards.
Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops, and Turbodactyl were going to be the start of a new He-Man line set in the Eternia’s past that could have included all sorts of dinosaur toys, but alas, it was not to be as these three kick ass toys were some of the final He-Man classic figures produced. Sadly, like the dinosaurs, the He-Man toy line would soon be extinct…but not before kids got to stomp Stinkor and Man-E-Faces with these three kickass dinos.
Gronk from B.C.
Gronk is a stegosaurus like dinosaur that made frequent appearances in Johnny Hart’s B.C. comic strip. Gronk was named after the only sound he made, a loud GRONK that Hart used to comedic perfection. Gronk was a lovable part of Hart’s strip before the strip became neither fun nor lovable after Hart became a born-again Christian and preachy.
Now, Gronk is able to talk, pretty much draining the character of all artistic charm. But, hey, he is still cute to look at and we still have the old school B.C. strips to enjoy.
Rex from Toy Story
Of all the dinosaurs on this list, Rex, the lovable T-Rex from Toy Story is probably the most-human. Loaded with insecurities and vulnerabilities, this Wallace Shawn voiced dino is one of the most beloved characters in the rich history of Pixar. Rex is always ready to dispense some wisdom or lament the fact that he may be the most fearsome predator in history, but he still has really short arms.
Rex is a reminder that even dinosaurs can have trouble fitting into the world. Of all the prehistoric beasts we are discussing, Rex might be the most beloved because of his foibles and charm. So here’s to you Rex, you may not have fought King Kong, but we still love you.
Stegron the Dinosaur Man
Hey, half dinosaurs count. Stegron the Dinosaur Man might not be one of Marvel’s most famous villains, but dammit, he is an evil half-dinosaur who is dedicated to bringing back a second prehistoric age. Stegron first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #19 (1974) and was created by Len Wein and Gil Kane, so Stegron gets awesome points for being created by Wein, a writer who also co-created Wolverine and Swamp Thing. Not to mention being co-created by Gil Kane, the artist that designed the Silver Age Green Lantern.
While not as popular as Wein and Kane’s other creations, Stegron is a dedicated foe of Spider-Man and the Lizard and there is nothing wrong with an evil stegosaurus person that can control dinosaurs.
Speaking of Marvel’s half dinosaurs, we have Sauron. Sauron is really one third evil scientist, one third mutant, and one third vampire as Karl Lykos here has the power to not only transform himself into a humanoid pterodactyl, he also has the power to drain the mutant energy from his foes.
Now imagine being chased by a human pterodactyl, if that isn’t testicle shriveling enough, imagine that pterodactyl has the power to leave you a lifeless husk. That’s Sauron, the X-Men’s greatest dinosaur foe.
From dangerous to adorable, we have Gumby’s dinosaur pal Prickle. Prickle was a constant part of the original Gumby series as a member of Gumby’s crew of friends. He was an adorable little yellow, bipedal stegosaurus looking thing who loved to kvetch.
When he wasn’t busy complaining, Prickle frequently helped Gumby against those mean, nasty Blockheads.
Super Mario’s favorite dinosaur pal, Yoshi is almost as iconic as everyone’s favorite video game Italian plumber. Yoshi has appeared in many a Mario game and we really, really love the way he spits eggs at Mario’s enemies. Yoshi starred in his own fan favorite video game series and is inarguably the most popular video game dinosaur ever created.
Old Lace from Runaways
Our final Marvel Comics dinosaur, Old Lace reminds us just how awesome The Runaways comic really was and how much we miss it. In the cult favorite Brian K. Vaughan comic, Old Lace was the constant companion of Runaways member Gertrude Yorkes. Gertrude was known for her bookish demeanor and her scathingly sarcastic sense of humor, so when she found out she could control a time lost velociraptor (because of…reasons), Gertrude took the name Arsenic and named her pet Old Lace. Old Lace became Gertie’s de facto best friend and body guard and there was just something awesome about seeing a purple haired, brainy Jewish girl leading an angry velociraptor into combat.
Satanus from Judge Dredd
He’s a tyrannosaurus that fought Judge Dredd, what else did you need to know?
How about the fact that Satanus lived during the Cretaceous period and was cloned by future scientists to become the lead exhibit of the Dinosaur National Park? How about the fact that Satanus was freed from the park after the Atomic Wars and went on a rampage? How about that Satanus first appeared in 2000 AD #73 (1978), twelve years before Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park?
Plus, he’s a T-Rex named Satanus. They seriously need to make more Judge Dredd films.
Cecil from Beany and Cecil
From one of the most fearsome dinosaurs on the list in Satanus to one of the cutest, we have Cecil. Cecil was a not terribly smart Plesiosaur looking thing that paled around with his best bud Beany. Cecil originally appeared in puppet form in the popular kids’ show Time for Beany.
Cecil was brought into animation by legendary animator Bob Clampett and the cute as a button dopey dinosaur became a television staple for many years.
Dinosaur Neil automatically makes the last because he is the only prehistoric creature with a mustache. Neil was once an unassuming paleontologist who mistook one of his own dinosaur cloning experiments for pasta salad. After devouring his life’s work, Neil turned into a seventy foot mustachioed dinosaur.
The Tick cured Neil with a really heavy dose of aspirin and the former dinosaur went on to marry The Tick’s sidekick’s sister. We really love Dinosaur Neil and we really miss The Tick.
The Dinosaurs of Fantasia
One of the earliest and best utilizations of cinematic dinosaurs was in Disney’s Fantasia (1940). Set to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Fantasia‘s dinosaur sequence was one of the most successful dinosaur spectacles in the history of cinema. It can be argued that no film ever captured the awe inspiring power of the dinosaurs as well as Fantasia did (until Jurassic Park).
This Disney classic had it all from an amazing T-Rex Stegosaurus brawl to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. It can safely be assumed that over the decades, millions of young dinosaur lovers found their passion in the stunning prehistoric images of Disney’s Fantasia.
Valley of the Gwangi
If Fantasia was one of the most stunning dinosaur spectacles ever put on film, Valley of the Gwangi (1969) was, well, the other thing. This dinosaur/cowboy mash-up did have absolutely amazing stop motion effects created by the immortal Ray Harryhausen so it has that going for it.
It also had a number of cowboy dinosaur battles and a giant purple T-Rex going on a rampage in a circus tent. Unlike Barney, this purple dinosaur didn’t teach toddlers to read, it just ate people. You know what, I take it all back, Valley of the Gwangi and its cowboy eating dinosaurs ruled.
So there you have it, just some of the greatest dinosaurs ever to be featured in film, TV, books, comics, cartoons, public television, and everything in between. I’m sure we missed more than a few, so feel free to hit us with your favorite prehistoric memories as we all gear up for our next dinosaur experience with Jurassic World.