Total Recall

Jurassic Park Movies Ranked By Tomatometer

In this week's Total Recall, we look back at the dino franchise to see how each installment stacks up against the others.

by | June 25, 2018 | Comments

The Jurassic Park franchise fell into a long hibernation after 2001’s Jurassic Park III, and development on a fourth installment went on for so long that for awhile, it seemed like it might never happen. But that all changed in 2015 with Jurassic World, a new beginning for the series that starred Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as the latest hopelessly outmatched humans hoping to stave off a wave of dino-distruction. To celebrate the recent release of the latest chapter int he Jurassic saga, we’ve decided to look back at the movies that led us here. Hold onto your butts — it’s time for Total Recall! [Updated 6/25/18]

1. Jurassic Park (1993) 91%

(Photo by Universal courtesy Everett Collection)

Before the advent of computer-generated graphics, novelists had something of an upper hand over filmmakers: While writers have only ever been bound by their own imagination, a director’s ability to test the bounds of reality has always relied on the best efforts of his effects department — and while practical effects definitely have their place, they also have their limits. With 1993’s Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg proved the old rules no longer applied, taking Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel about the misguided efforts of a billionaire philanthropist (played here by Richard Attenborough) to bring dinosaurs back from extinction and turning it into a box-office bonanza driven by some of the most spectacularly lifelike special effects ever seen.

Of course, even the most amazing visuals can only go so far if a movie’s other elements are lacking. What made Jurassic Park so successful — and what continues to make watching it so much fun — is the way Spielberg brings Crichton and David Koepp’s screenplay to life with an outstanding group of actors that includes Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern, as well as memorable appearances from Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight. It’s another of the escapist thrill rides that helped him build his empire — a souped-up Saturday afternoon serial in which an increasingly panicked team of scientists (Neill, Goldblum, and Dern) work to stave off the dinopocalypse that threatens to erupt after a corrupt employee (Knight) bungles his attempt to sell dinosaur embryos and a technical glitch leaves packs of our lethal predecessors running scot-free on an island near Costa Rica.

It all added up to a picture that left critics largely powerless to complain. Even if they were fairly quick to identify a general lack of depth in Jurassic Park‘s archetype-driven entertainment, they couldn’t deny its power; as Roger Ebert put it in his review, “You want great dinosaurs, you got great dinosaurs.”

2. Jurassic World (2015) 70%

Jurassic Park III was enough of a letdown that it took quite awhile for development on another sequel to start in earnest – and when it did, producers found themselves sorting through years of false starts with storylines that would have taken the franchise in some fairly odd directions (like the rumored Jurassic Park IV whose storyline centered on dinosaurs that had been trained as weapon-toting mercenaries).

In the end, Jurassic World took viewers right back where the saga started: Isla Nubar, where the ruins of Jurassic Park have given rise to a full-on tourist trap whose once-amazing attractions have become passé to unimpressed visitors. Seeking to goose revenue, the park’s CEO (played by Irrfan Khan) oversees the creation of a brand new, even more dangerous hybrid dinosaur, whose inevitable rampage forces a pair of panicked employees (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) to race against time in order to prevent complete catastrophe.

While World didn’t wow critics like the original, most agreed it held up pretty well on its own as an efficient delivery mechanism for modern, CG-assisted popcorn thrills. “For much of its running time, Jurassic World plays like a great theme park ride,” observed Jacob Hall for the New York Daily News. “In an age of blockbusters that lumber like herbivores, it’s refreshing to see a movie as lean and mean as a velociraptor.”

3. The Lost World - Jurassic Park (1997) 51%

(Photo by Universal courtesy Everett Collection)

Despite Jurassic Park‘s incredible success — and its sequel-teasing ending — Michael Crichton wasn’t all that interested in penning a follow-up novel at first, and only wrote 1995’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park after persistent badgering (including some from Park director Steven Spielberg, who had a vested interest in getting another installment out of the gate). Like its predecessor, The Lost World‘s screen adaptation diverges from its print companion in some important respects, but it’s still easy to detect the air of obligation that hangs over the whole enterprise, which helps explain why — although it was certainly a major hit — it failed to land with Park-sized impact.

Returning to the director’s chair and working again from a David Koepp screenplay, Spielberg brought Jurassic fans a story that injected a handful of new ingredients (including Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn) while retaining a few holdovers from the first film (most notably the returning Jeff Goldblum — as well as a bunch of CG-crafted prehistoric co-stars, of course). With InGen, the company behind Jurassic Park, in tatters, it’s discovered that there was a second island being used as a containment facility for freshly bred dinosaurs, and they’re running rampant — so the new CEO (Arliss Howard) decides to bring them to the mainland in order to turn them into a new revenue stream.

Chaos inevitably ensues, leading up to a third act that does everything it can to raise the stakes from the first film, but no matter how much bigger the action may have been (and despite the presence of Pete Postlethwaite, who always made everything better), the dino derring-do in The Lost World didn’t feel quite as fresh as Jurassic Park, and critical praise was far less plentiful the second time around. Even Owen Gleiberman, in his largely positive review for Entertainment Weekly, was forced to concede, “The movie, at its best, is good fun: deft, scary, engrossing. Yet it’s never great fun.”

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) 47%

(Photo by Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures)

The long wait between Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World may have been frustrating for some fans of the franchise, but it clearly had a positive impact on its critical fortunes — World‘s reviews weren’t anywhere near as rapturous as those that greeted the original, but they suggested there was still plenty of life in a series of films many believed had long since exhausted its supply of worthwhile ideas.

If the critical reception afforded the Jurassic World sequel is any indication, an extended downtime between sequels might actually be the key to success for this franchise. Three years later, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom continues the story started by its predecessor, reuniting Owen Grady and Claire Dearing (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) — this time on a quest to save the dinosaurs from re-extinction and the nefarious plans of some DNA-splicing lunatics who clearly haven’t seen the earlier films. It’s all very exciting in the moment, but ironically for a series fueled by the idea that nature will always find a new way to get things done, Kingdom suggests this story might be content to run in circles on old ground.

Critics were mostly content with Fallen Kingdom‘s set pieces, and praised incoming director J.A. Bayona for playing up the franchise’s horror elements, but beyond all the roaring and running around, they felt it came up short — lacking a compelling story, fresh thrills, and increasingly reliant on CGI dinosaur spectacle over identifiable characters. “If this is the best the Jurassic series can manage,” warned Stephen Whitty for the New York Daily News, “it’s the real endangered species.”

5. Jurassic Park III (2001) 49%

The scientists of Jurassic Park were able to circumvent the laws of nature by bringing dinosaurs back from extinction; sadly, the filmmakers behind the Jurassic Park franchise were unable to similarly flout the law of diminishing returns, which put a dent in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and its successor, 2001’s Jurassic Park III.

Production was somewhat bumpy from the start. Director Joe Johnston, taking the reins from Steven Spielberg, didn’t have the luxury of working from a book by Michael Crichton, and was forced to contend with script problems that necessitated a complete overhaul mere weeks before shooting was scheduled to begin. What he ultimately ended up with was a story that, like its predecessor, drew former Jurassic Park stars back into the fold in service of a plot that brought dinosaurs roaring back to the big screen.

This time around, Sam Neill and Laura Dern — both absent from The Lost World — reprise their roles as Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler (now Degler), although Dern’s appearance essentially serves as a pivotal cameo. Here, Grant’s shanghaied into returning to the re-prehistoric tropics under the guise of a surveillance expedition that will provide sorely needed funding for his research, only to discover he’s really been hired for a far more dangerous mission; his lack of enthusiasm for seeing dinosaurs again roughly mirrored the response of the critical community, whose growing disdain for the franchise corresponded with obviously dimming enthusiasm on the part of ticket buyers. Still, it’s hard to call a movie that grosses $368 million worldwide a flop, and Jurassic Park III does have its defenders: As Jeffrey Overstreet argued for Looking Closer, “It’s not art… it’s entertainment, and it knows it. Boy, does it entertain.”

Tag Cloud

video Academy Awards nature vampires adventure strong female leads universal monsters Sony Pictures TNT Turner Classic Movies Disney Channel teaser Mystery emmy awards Television Academy Syfy witnail Apple President Rocky Horror Sneak Peek joker Video Games Summer Starz medical drama Music movie The Purge dragons Pop TV Crackle sequel Anna Paquin Pop Animation Columbia Pictures Election Hulu fast and furious rotten movies we love Calendar Drama stop motion TV renewals DC Comics cancelled TV series Mary Tyler Moore YouTube Premium BET Sundance APB Star Wars Film Britbox laika Amazon Prime GoT indiana jones Premiere Dates Women's History Month Biopics Nat Geo series Cartoon Network sag awards cancelled Song of Ice and Fire GLAAD Marathons Opinion TCA Winter 2020 comiccon OWN Comics on TV Masterpiece Amazon facebook TCA diversity CNN BAFTA cinemax Travel Channel Comic Book hist television criterion scary movies crossover HBO comedies BET Awards Adult Swim IFC Films X-Men 2019 Rom-Com sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Schedule Country toy story First Reviews SundanceTV NBC hollywood The Witch CW Seed south america slashers chucky asian-american comics Dark Horse Comics 72 Emmy Awards mockumentary ABC Family screenings PlayStation a nightmare on elm street Year in Review TLC game show Trailer richard e. Grant LGBT Ghostbusters Comedy films Endgame casting Rock PBS Watching Series HBO Max TBS SDCC Infographic El Rey video on demand Thanksgiving Grammys crime drama miniseries Tomatazos best police drama spy thriller Comedy Central science fiction USA Network Pride Month Writers Guild of America TCA 2017 true crime Interview parents E3 Fall TV Reality Competition Character Guide 24 frames 2016 political drama stand-up comedy Logo Binge Guide spanish language cults psychological thriller Captain marvel FOX Christmas Heroines disaster crime thriller SXSW FXX cars Holidays Best and Worst Black History Month Toys Family crime Brie Larson CBS Martial Arts social media doctor who Photos 2015 Crunchyroll unscripted Kids & Family Hear Us Out Netflix Fantasy Emmy Nominations binge supernatural Baby Yoda composers Turner nbcuniversal Superheroe blockbuster talk show Hallmark Tarantino stoner MTV zombie ratings discovery Sci-Fi YouTube Red Carpet cancelled television YA Fox News Musicals Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Winners transformers RT History zombies ghosts Podcast green book 20th Century Fox NYCC finale DC streaming service Teen Netflix Christmas movies satire TV Land renewed TV shows PaleyFest theme song Discovery Channel harry potter USA twilight thriller spider-man Warner Bros. Marvel Television A24 Tubi Walt Disney Pictures revenge AMC 45 Amazon Studios animated VOD politics spinoff Cosplay Marvel directors anime reviews kids anthology news concert FX travel See It Skip It MCU Mudbound Pixar Shondaland Holiday Lionsgate FX on Hulu versus dc TruTV cartoon dceu Bravo Spectrum Originals jamie lee curtis robots romance rotten christmas movies cancelled TV shows Apple TV+ dogs 2020 E! aliens RT21 Peacock foreign GIFs dramedy what to watch WGN obituary VICE Emmys Sundance TV halloween Vudu Trivia Funimation Nominations Oscars Spike DC Universe Box Office superhero Lucasfilm San Diego Comic-Con elevated horror BBC One screen actors guild The Walking Dead tv talk Winter TV TCA Awards mutant canceled game of thrones sports HBO Go First Look die hard blaxploitation WarnerMedia CBS All Access Lifetime DGA YouTube Red Pet Sematary independent movies Mary poppins streaming comic TIFF all-time historical drama The CW 2018 Paramount Network singing competition boxoffice Disney Certified Fresh Ovation canceled TV shows psycho Musical BBC Arrowverse hispanic worst spain latino Super Bowl documentary Paramount Star Trek adaptation critics ESPN franchise indie Nickelodeon Quiz Disney streaming service cooking The Arrangement Disney+ Disney Plus Rocketman war quibi mission: impossible Polls and Games Apple TV Plus reboot Universal 2017 Mindy Kaling space 4/20 71st Emmy Awards Awards Amazon Prime Video docudrama Tumblr dark Pirates 21st Century Fox serial killer Classic Film LGBTQ History IFC Sundance Now Chernobyl classics technology DirecTV ABC CMT OneApp Lifetime Christmas movies Extras Television Critics Association Epix Awards Tour Elton John Valentine's Day Spring TV ITV name the review zero dark thirty biography Reality Action American Society of Cinematographers Countdown Disney Plus A&E New York Comic Con Food Network free movies Set visit Film Festival MSNBC TCM werewolf based on movie Freeform children's TV golden globes award winner documentaries festivals BBC America natural history justice league Black Mirror cops romantic comedy Creative Arts Emmys Marvel Studios child's play Esquire book TV breaking bad Mary Poppins Returns cats Shudder batman Avengers period drama Western Acorn TV VH1 National Geographic Hallmark Christmas movies Showtime Ellie Kemper Trophy Talk Superheroes Stephen King 007 Cannes