In 1993, the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park set a new benchmark for thrilling special-effects driven blockbusters. Twenty-two years later, Colin Trevorrow would kick off a sequel trilogy to continue the tale of these scientifically resurrected beasts with Jurassic World. And now, with the release of Jurassic World: Dominion, the franchise is at an end (for the moment). Dominion was designed as a “culmination of the franchise,” and indeed it does feel that way, what with the return of original Jurassic Park stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum as well as a slew of plot points that tie back to the previous films.
Now that all six Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies are out, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the long legacy of this iconic movie series. And what better way to do that than to rank them, and discuss what each brought to the franchise? Not all Jurassic movies are made equal, but each brings interesting things to the table that other movies have drawn from.
And now, let us rank! Starting with the runt of the clutch:
6. Jurassic Park III
Even as someone who grew up loving this movie, it’s hard to deny that Jurassic Park III deserves to be at the bottom of the list. Released in 2001, it saw Sam Neill reprise his role from the first film as Dr. Alan Grant…but alas, not even Neill’s immense charisma could carry this one to greatness.
The premise of the movie is that Dr. Grant is approached by millionaire adrenaline junkies Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni), who want the famed paleontologist to come with them on a flyover of Isla Sorna for their anniversary. They’re willing to pay for years of Dr. Grant’s research in exchange, so despite his insistence that he’ll never go near either of the dinosaur islands again in his lifetime, he’s persuaded.
Except once they get there, it becomes clear that the Kirbys have bamboozled him. Turns out that they’re not millionaires, and are only going to the island because their son went missing there two months earlier. The movie watches like one big theme park ride from there, as Grant and the rest of the group narrowly avoid being eaten by one creature after the next in their quest to find the Kirbys’ son Eric (Trevor Morgan) and get off the island.
The problem with Jurassic Park III is that it really didn’t have much of anything to say. Every single other film in the franchise is a delicate balancing act between the grounded, terrifying story of surviving some kind of dinosaur crisis and a commentary on the folly of blind human progression. Jurassic Park III is all about the adrenaline rush, there is no B plot or subtext to the film (unless you count the divorced Kirbys reconciling). It also has one of the most groanworthy cop-out endings in film history, with the navy and marines miraculously showing up to save the day after Grant manages to get a satellite phone call off to Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and tell her of his predicament.
Despite all that, Jurassic Park III does have some memorable aspects, as well as some stuff that had a huge impact on the Jurassic World trilogy. The first of those is the Spinosaurus, another apex predator that was larger even than the T-Rex. The Spinosaurus faces off against the T-Rex early on in the film and wins, which set the precedent for the World movies having dinosaur showdowns between impossibly huge creatures. Beyond that, Jurassic Park III was also the first film in the franchise to feature a sequence that revolved around flying dinosaurs; Pterodactyls, in this case.
But most important of all is that Dr. Grant’s research on Velociraptor intelligence solidified the idea that the lethal packhunters could communicate. Without Jurassic Park III, we never would have gotten Owen Grady’s trusty Velociraptor companion Blue.