Ranked: the Jurassic movies rated from worst to best

A screenshot from the Jurassic World: Dominion prologue trailer
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The original Jurassic Park was a case of the right director making the right film at the right time. 

In Steven Spielberg’s hands, Michael Crichton’s novel became the blueprint for one of the greatest blockbusters of all-time, a movie that broke box-office records while introducing the world to the possibilities of computer-generated effects.

Hits of that scale tend to generate sequels, and Spielberg himself followed up with The Lost World before handing the keys to the park to Joe Johnston for Jurassic Park III. The dinosaurs then lay dormant for 14 years until Colin Trevorrow – then most famous for indie breakout Safety Not Guaranteed – kickstarted an all-new trilogy with Jurassic World.

Dominion brought the latest run of Jurassic movies to a close this summer, while animated Netflix spin-off Camp Cretaceous also wrapped up its five-season arc. Trevorrow has teased that dinosaurs may rise again, but in the meantime, here are all six Jurassic movies ranked from worst to best.

6. Jurassic World: Dominion

The main cast of Jurassic World: Dominion stare up at an off-screen dinosaur

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The final movie in the saga (for now) feels like a rather meek extinction event. Setting the dinosaurs free at the end of Fallen Kingdom is a paradigm shift Dominion fails to build on and, by the final act, it’s reverted to the familiar formula of people running around, trying to avoid getting eaten. The only significant evolution, in fact, is that some of the dinos have sprouted (scientifically accurate) feathers.

Swarms of giant, genetically engineered locusts make for a creepy threat, but lead villain Lewis Dodgson (the guy who gave Dennis Nedry the infamous can of shaving foam in the original movie) is cartoonish and unconvincing. Even the eagerly anticipated return of original stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum feels like an anticlimax in a movie that’s largely devoid of fun or funnies.

Director Colin Trevorrow’s extended cut (available on Amazon, Apple TV and other streaming services) improves things slightly, adding to plotlines that were glossed over in theaters. Nonetheless, this feels like the desperate final roar of a franchise running out of ideas.

5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Spielberg

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Steven Spielberg declined the opportunity to direct a sequel to Jaws and, in hindsight, he should probably have followed suit with his other monster smash. Of course, a Jurassic Park follow-up was inevitable long before it overtook Spielberg’s own ET to become the (then-) highest grossing movie of all time, but John Hammond’s exhibits deserved better than one of the weakest entries in Spielberg’s much-celebrated filmography.

That there’d be more dinosaurs second time out was an inevitability of modern Hollywood, but that doesn’t excuse a tired environmentalists vs big-game hunters plot that lacks elegant theme-park-gone-wrong simplicity of the original. Even a Spielberg who’s not firing on all cylinders delivers a few killer set-pieces, but they still don’t make up for ridiculous moments like Dr Ian Malcolm’s daughter saving the day with gymnastics, or an angry T-Rex stomping around downtown San Diego. After The Lost World, few would have complained if Jurassic Park had closed its gates for good – but life finds a way…

4. Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

You’d hope the decision to greenlight the third Jurassic Park was based on more than the opportunity to make a poster where the “III” looks like the swipe of dinosaur claw, and this threequel is a slight step up from The Lost World. As Spielberg stepped aside (staying on board as executive producer), Sam Neill reprised his role as palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant, and Jumanji director Joe Johnston took over behind the camera.

Jurassic Park III returns to Isla Sorna, aka the “Site B” breeding round that was also the setting for The Lost World. Desperate for funding for a fossil dig, the returning Grant is conned into an off-the-books mission to rescue a boy accidentally washed up on the island, as his companions (some of them with the traditional dubious motives) bicker their way through hostile territory. While he’s no Spielberg, Johnston delivers plenty of solid action, though Jurassic Park III is perhaps most notable for giving a spectacular screen debut to the pterosaurs who’d played such a memorable role in Michael Crichton’s source novel.

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Owen Grady and company hide from a velociraptor on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

After Jurassic World rekindled the world’s love affair with movie dinosaurs, this follow-up did its best to hit a big fat button marked “reset”. In Fallen Kingdom, the prehistoric residents of the (now permanently closed) theme park find their happy retirements interrupted by a volcanic eruption that threatens to destroy the whole island. The plot then strains to get Jurassic World leads Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) back to Isla Nublar, but their rescue mission is just a thinly veiled excuse (albeit a visually impressive one) to set up the movie’s central theme.

Rather than being zoo exhibits, the T-rex and co are now the center of a merciless black market, based in a mansion with enough underground storage to house an implausible number of dinosaurs. The Orphanage director JA Bayona does his best to create a haunted house vibe with the new GM Indoraptor, while the presence of a human clone adds a new sci-fi dimension to the plot. But Fallen Kingdom’s biggest gift to the franchise is opening up new possibilities by setting the dinosaurs free – what a shame Dominion couldn’t deliver on an open goal.

2. Jurassic World

Jurassic World

(Image credit: Universal)

Released the same year as The Force Awakens, the first Jurassic movie in 14 years aims to push similar nostalgia buttons. While there aren’t quite so many paydays for original cast members (BD Wong’s geneticist, Dr Henry Wu, is the one returnee from the OG Park), it’s also pretty blatant in its efforts to recreate Spielberg’s classic – and nearly as successful.

In the decades since John Hammond’s first theme park crashed and burned, the Isla Nublar site has been turned into a Disneyfied dinosaur extravaganza, where huge audiences pay for the privilege of watching a mosasaur snack on a great white shark. Of course, those massive crowds make for ready-made dino-food when the exhibits inevitably run amok, and director Colin Trevorrow makes full use of 21st century CG to ensure everything is bigger – though definitely not better – than the original. If only the movie’s smarter, satirical edges – park management engineer the lethal Indominus Rex because the public has lost interest in the ‘real’ thing – weren’t trampled beneath the relentless quest for blockbuster action.

1. Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

(Image credit: Universal)

Kids have always loved dinosaurs and Steven Spielberg found the perfect vehicle to put them on screen in Michael Crichton’s bestselling 1990 novel. In one of the best movies of his epic career, the director manages to have his cake and eat it, first showing us the majestic wonder of a brachiosaurus (one of cinema’s greatest ‘wow’ moments) before reminding us that the park’s genetically engineered residents are the ones at the top of the food chain.

Jurassic Park never forgets that the dinos are its stars, and its groundbreaking computer-generated effects are rightly celebrated. But the film’s true genius is using them sparingly, so that the jaw-dropping CG moments – Spielberg kept stop-motion legend Phil Tippett on board to supervise the animation – blend seamlessly with actors in velociraptor suits, and Stan Winston’s peerless animatronics.

It’s also quotable, packed with classic Spielberg action beats, and one of the few mainstream hits to feature a guy being eaten on the toilet. The iconic tagline said Jurassic Park was an adventure “65 million years in the making” – no other movie in the franchise has even come close.

Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.