The 15 Best Dinosaur Movies That Aren't Jurassic Park

The "dinosaur phase" is pretty much a rite of passage for every child. If you're a man-child like me, your "dinosaur phase" has gone well into adulthood (no shame). Personally, I've never outgrown my sense of wonder and awe at prehistoric beasts. They're like fantasy creatures that you only read about in books — except they were real! Nowhere is my passion for paleontology more profound than when it comes to dinosaur movies. A milestone movie for me and millions of other millennial moviegoers was the "Jurassic Park" franchise, especially the original. 

While the "Jurassic Park" franchise may be the king of dinosaur movies, it's not the only time prehistoric beasts have stomped on the big screen; they've entertained us for decades. Some dinosaur movies are genuinely great films, while some are so bad they're good, but all of them are awesome. I'm going to share some of my favorite dinosaur movies, including ones that feature fake dinosaurs (but not documentaries — think more Godzilla, less David Attenborough). If you're ready for a dino-movie marathon but you don't know where to start, check out these 15 best dinosaur movies that aren't "Jurassic Park."

The Land Before Time

Besides having nearly as many sequels as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (seriously there are 14), "The Land Before Time" is most remembered for one thing — Littlefoot's mom. What Bambi's mom was to filmgoers in the 1940s, Littlefoot's mom was to millennial moviegoers; a traumatic cinematic experience that has stuck with us for decades. If you're able to watch this movie without getting a lump in your throat you're deader inside than a dinosaur. However, whether you've seen it once or 100 times, "The Land Before Time" remains a deeply moving movie more than three decades after its release due. Why? The power of Don Bluth's filmmaking. 

The former Disney animator ditched the Mouse House to form his own production company, creating some of the era's greatest animated movies: "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tail," and "All Dogs Go to Heaven." While you can see executive producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' fingerprints on "The Land Before Time," this film ultimately embodies the best of Bluth — gorgeous animation, grownup themes, and memorable characters. 

Perhaps what is most impressive about "The Land Before Time" is it makes each dinosaur seem human. From Littlefoot's grief to Cera's need for acceptance, you can relate to each character in some way. "The Land Before Time" isn't just essential viewing for dino-movie fans, but one of the greatest family films ever.

Planet of Dinosaurs

You can almost hear the pitch meeting for "Planet of Dinosaurs," which at one point probably included, "Okay, so astronauts land on an alien planet — with dinosaurs!" Well, sign me up! As you've probably gathered, "Planet of Dinosaurs" is pretty much the polar opposite of "Jurassic Park" on the quality scale. By most metrics, it's actually pretty awful ... but that's what makes it awesome. For starters, "Planet of Dinosaurs" is pure '70s camp. Seriously, the astronauts look like they just stepped out of "Saturday Night Fever," with shoulder-length hair, well-coiffed beards, and space suits that look more like jumpsuits. How can you not love that? 

The best part is that "Planet of Dinosaurs" is a B-list movie (well, more like a D-list movie) that doesn't realize it's bad. Yet despite its corny dialogue, community theatre-quality acting, and unceasing synthesizer score, "Planet of Dinosaurs" isn't all bad. In fact, I would argue it features stop-motion dinosaur effects that punch way above their weight. Clearly, they spent most of the film's no doubt minuscule budget on the special effects, as they go toe-to-toe with the genre's best (though the same can't be said for the movie itself) "Planet of Dinosaurs" is the definition of "so bad, it's good," which makes it a must watch for dino-movie fans.

We're Back! A Dionsaur's Story

"We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" is definitely a deep cut for those who actually remember it. Suffice it to say, opinions about "We're Back!" may vary among dino-movie fans. Personally, I think it's pretty great, hence its inclusion on my list. For starters, it may be the weirdest movie here, which is really saying something. Based on a children's book, "We're Back!" is a high-concept story about — brace yourselves — a future scientist who goes back in time to feed dinosaurs brain-boosting cereal so they can fulfill kid's dreams of seeing real-life dinosaurs in the present day. Got all that? But wait, there's more! 

Along the way, the dinosaurs befriend a lonely boy and girl who must save them from the scientist's evil brother who puts them in a circus. So yeah, not exactly an idea that fits into a 15-second elevator pitch. Still, despite this outlandish premise, "We're Back!" manages to be approachable, entertaining, and even touching at times. Of course, maybe these are just my nostalgia-coated lenses, as "We're Back!" received horrible scores from critics and moviegoers, and bombed at the box office with just over $9 million. Whatever. "We're Back!" may not be for everyone, but your inner five-year-old will love it.

One Million Years B.C.

"One Million Years B.C." is one of the only movies on my list that is most well-known for something other than dinosaurs. Of course, I'm referring to Raquel Welch's iconic bikini, which ranks just behind Ursula Andress' white two-piece from "Dr. No" as the most famous cinematic swimsuit ever. Its reputation pretty much tells you all you need to know about "One Million Years B.C." The movie doesn't even try to disguise its ambitions of appealing to adolescent boys. It's also exactly what you'd expect from British studio Hammer Films' foray into dinosaur cinema. 

If you're writing an essay on dinosaurs, don't use this "One Million Years B.C." as your source material. From the premise (cave people and dinosaurs never interacted with each other), to the creatures (a house-sized sea turtle), to the title itself (dinosaurs went extinct long before a million years ago), this movie doesn't even try to be believable. However, that's one of the things that make it so memorable. "One Million Years B.C." is a kitschy, retro throwback that screams mid-1960s excess, and is a must-watch for dinosaur movie lovers.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Jules Verne's 1864 novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth" has inspired numerous cinematic adaptations, most recently the 2008 version starring Brendan Fraser. For my money, the best is still the first. "Journey to the Center of the Earth" from 1959 is exactly what you want from a kitschy sci-fi film from the 1950s: the good guys are heroic, the bad guys are dastardly, and the scope is suitably epic. Movie studio 20th Century Fox spent some money on this movie and it shows. It's the kind of film that kids of all ages would have loved in 1959, and most still would today. 

Sure the effects are dated and the melodrama is laid on as thick as piping-hot magma, but you really don't care when the movie is this much fun. I will add the caveat that the "dinosaurs" in this movie aren't actually dinosaurs. Instead of using stop-motion animation pioneered by Ray Harryhausen or the suit-motion techniques popularized by Eiji Tsuburaya, this movie opts for a different approach. By that I mean, they just slapped some fins on real-life reptiles. If that sounds as wonderful to you as it does to me, you definitely need to watch "Journey to the Center of the Earth."


Russian composer Igor Stravinsky probably wasn't thinking about dinosaurs when he penned "The Rite of Spring" in 1913. Personally, I can't think of anything else. Following blockbuster hits "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" and "Pinocchio," Walt Disney decided to take a dip into the avant-garde with "Fantasia." Instead of a story based on a classic fairy tale, "Fantasia" features no narrative at all, but rather animated segments set to orchestral pieces. The most famous is the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence, which features Mickey Mouse getting in over his head after conjuring magical brooms (I guarantee composer Paul Dukas wasn't thinking about that when he wrote it). In my opinion, the best is "The Rite of Spring" segment. 

Starting with the dawn of life itself to the fall of the dinosaurs, "The Rite of Spring" manages to cover billions of years in just over 20 minutes. The scene never drags, nor does it ever feel rushed. Like "The Rite of Spring" itself, it's a spellbinding sequence that makes every moment purposeful. Dino-nerds will note the Tyrannosaurus Rex had three fingers, while the stegosaurus was extinct for more than 70 million years before the T-Rex was on the scene. However, I'm not looking for historical accuracy, I'm looking for cinematic impact. In that regard, "The Rite of Spring" segment is the best scene in one of Disney's greatest movies.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

If I'm being honest, the Loch Ness monster warrants her own list. "The Loch Ness Horror," "Incident at Loch Ness," and "Beneath Loch Ness" (among many others) are each must-see Nessie movies. However, the best Loch Ness monster movie isn't a horror flick, but a family film — "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep." The story is hardly groundbreaking: a Scottish boy forms a friendship with the fabled Loch Ness monster while protecting the beast from the outside world. So the movie is basically "Free Willy" with Nessie. 

When it comes to family movies, there's nothing wrong with a little predictability, especially when the result is as charming as "The Water Horse." It's difficult to pull this sort of movie off without triggering the audiences' gag reflex, yet "The Water Horse" manages to be sweet but never saccharine or schmaltzy. While it's touching and inspirational, it never loses sight of the underlying sadness at the heart of the story. Also, "The Water Horse" has Scottish highland beauty shots that are some of the best you'll see this side of "Braveheart."


Sixty years after the groundbreaking "The Rite of Spring" scene from "Fantasia," Disney took another crack at dinosaurs with ... "Dinosaur." Okay, so that title won't win any awards for originality, and honestly, the storyline won't either. It's basically "The Land Before Time" redux, telling the story of a group of herbivores who are seeking a mythical place with abundant food and water but are being stalked by predatory carnivores along the way. We've seen movies like this many times before, with and without dinosaurs. So why does "Dinosaur" make my list? 

"Dinosaur" is a visual feast whose computer-animated effects still hold up more than two decades after its 2000 release. To be honest, that's more than I can say about a lot of early-2000s movies. Five years after Pixar changed the world with "Toy Story" in 1995, Disney tried its hands (er, pixels) at computer animation. We can certainly mourn the death of hand-drawn animation that followed "Dinosaur" and other films like it, but there's no denying the results are simply stunning. You should watch "Dinosaur" for its historical significance alone. While not nearly as magnificent as "The Rite of Spring" (few animated sequences are), "Dinosaur" still ranks as one of the best dinosaur movies.

The Good Dinosaur

If you told me at the start of 2015 that Pixar's biggest hit that year would be about anthropomorphic emotions ("Inside Out") and not dinosaurs ("The Good Dinosaur"), I'd think you were nuts. However, not only did "Inside Out" double the worldwide gross of "The Good Dinosaur," but the latter was actually Pixar's first box office bomb. What happened? Beats me. Admittedly, "The Good Dinosaur" does play more to the under-13 crowd than its Pixar predecessors, so it's probably more appealing to less-mature moviegoers (i.e. me). And sure, it's probably less ambitious than the studio's finest efforts. However, there's nothing wrong with a family film that plays more to kids than adults. 

"The Good Dinosaur" is a heartwarming children's fable built around a clever premise: "What if dinosaurs survived 65 million years ago?" The movie imagines that dinosaurs evolved the ability to talk and form civilizations, though millions of years later they still look like their ancestors. What "The Good Dinosaur" may lack in originality and inventiveness, it more than makes up for in simple, solid storytelling. Plus, "The Good Dinosaur" boasts some of the best photorealistic effects of any animated movie, with outdoor locations that are indistinguishable from the real deal. It's too bad more people haven't seen it, but now's your chance to correct that.

The Valley of Gwangi

Dinosaurs and cowboys?! Hearing that setup makes "The Valley of Gwangi" sound like a flick you'd find at the bottom of the $5 DVD bin at Walmart. Believe it or not, "The Valley of Gwangi" is not "so bad, it's good" — it's just plain good. I'm not saying it's "The Godfather" or anything, but when you consider the outlandish premise it's amazing how solid a movie "The Valley of Gwangi" really is. 

Science fiction and westerns rarely succeed (see: "Cowboys and Aliens" ... actually, don't). "The Valley of Gwangi" is different because it leans into its Saturday matinee setup without descending into a shameless cheese-fest or (even worse) pretending it's a better movie than it actually is. I'll give at least 95% of the credit to special effects maestro, Ray Harryhausen. You can almost see the boyish gleam in his eyes as he pits dinosaurs vs. cowboys. No, "The Valley of Gwangi" isn't Harryhausen's best, but that says more about the rest of his filmography than it does about this.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

The late, great stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen is perhaps best remembered for his mythological movies, including "Jason & the Argonauts," "Clash of the Titans," and the "Sinbad" films. However, one of his greatest achievements was the dinosaur film, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms." 

The movie tells the story of a fictional dinosaur, the Rhedosaurus, who attacks New York City after he's released from hibernation by an atomic bomb. Does that sound remarkably like "Godzilla" (and a thousand other 1950s "monster run amok" movies)? Remember that "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" came out in 1953, making it one of the first of its genre and pre-dating "Godzilla" by a year. So, it would be no exaggeration to say "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" helped inspire a decade's worth of American movies, and a decade's worth of Japanese movies. 

It's easy to see why, as "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" is not only one of the first in its sub-genre but one of the best. The final battle in New York is particularly impressive, with all of Harryhausen's considerable skills on full display; stop-motion animation, rear-screen projection, and realistic miniatures. Many "monster run amok" movies are a dime a dozen, but "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" continues to stand the test of time.

The VelociPastor

You know exactly what you're getting into with a movie titled "The VelociPastor." This movie has the kind of premise that the "the perfect movie doesn't exi—" meme was invented. A Catholic priest in China is convinced by a sex worker to battle ninjas after discovering his power to transform into a dinosaur. That isn't even the half of it, as the actual movie winds up being even more bonkers than the plot. Unlike so many B-movies, "The VelociPastor” doesn't even try to be good. Instead, it dives headfirst into its schlocky setup with the abandon of teenagers making a movie on weekends. 

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some home movies have a bigger budget than this. For example, the dinosaur suit is literally the kind of inflatable costume you can buy on Amazon for 60 bucks. Yet despite its non-existent budget, hammy acting, and a plot that sounds like something I would've come up with in third grade, "The VelociPastor" is better than much bigger movies. Yes, better. Unlike countless multi-million dollar blockbusters that treat you like an idiot, "The VelociPastor" fully embraces its idiocy over its lightning-fast, 75-minute runtime. Watch "The VelociPastor" and you will be amazed, you may be appalled, but you will not be bored.

King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson's "King Kong" is less a movie and more a three-hour-long love letter to its 1933 namesake. So if you love the original as much as I do, you'll be at the edge of your seat during its entire epic runtime. Following Jackson's tremendous success with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the New Zealand filmmaker set his sights on a project that eluded him in the mid-1990s. You can truly sense Jackson's affection for this story in every frame, as it feels like the movie he'd been daydreaming about since he was nine years old. I could gush about the jaw-dropping special effects, the massive scope, and the heartrending performances by Naomi Watts and especially Andy Serkis ... but what about the dinosaurs? 

I'm happy to say that "King Kong" boasts some of the best dinosaur scenes in modern cinema. Yep, even better than most "Jurassic Park" movies. "King Kong" imagines a Skull Island untouched by time, where the dinosaurs evolved into even more fearsome forms, such as the Vastatosaurus Rex. Kong going toe-to-toe with the three V-rexes is especially a cinematic tour-de-force and one of the most impressive monster fight scenes ever. Some may argue that Peter Jackson's "King Kong" is too long or indulgent, but there's no denying that it's second to none when it comes to spectacle.

King Kong (1933)

"King Kong" isn't just one of the best dinosaur movies ever made, but one of the best movies period. No less an authority than the American Film Institute which ranked it #41 on its 100 Years...100 Movies—10th Anniversary Edition list, which I frankly think is too low. "King Kong" is a triumph of the imagination and a milestone in special effects cinema that is matched only by "Star Wars." Ever since I was a kid I've loved "King Kong" because it's the ultimate in high-concept, fantasy filmmaking. Island with a giant gorilla monster? Check. Dinosaurs that survived extinction? Check. Kong battling airplanes in one of the most famous scenes ever? Check. 

Director Ernest B. Schoedsack — and especially producer Merian C. Cooper — put every one of their wildest ideas into a film that shouldn't have worked but did so brilliantly. Not only that, but it's become a cinematic landmark whose most famous scenes are etched into our cultural heritage. I also can't talk about "King Kong" without mentioning special effects director Willis O'Brien. O'Brien's groundbreaking stop-motion animation brought Kong and the dinosaurs brilliantly to life and continues to inspire filmmakers to this day. Nearly a century after its release, "King Kong" remains "the eighth wonder of the world."


Godzilla has been many things in his cinematic career, from an ancient alpha predator to a mutated aquatic creature, to even a plant! Yet while Godzilla is "the King of the Monsters," he was first introduced to moviegoers as a dinosaur. In the original 1954 "Godzilla," we learn from Dr. Yamane that The Big G is "a creature somewhere between the marine reptiles and the evolving terrestrial animals" that had been awakened by nuclear testing. Okay, so not technically a dinosaur, but close enough. 

However, we can also consult another authority on dinosaurs, the director of "Jurassic Park," Steven Spielberg, who said: "Godzilla was the most masterful of all dinosaur movies because it made you believe it was really happening." I couldn't agree more. "Godzilla" is a powerful and profound sci-fi epic that transcends its genre to become an affecting piece of art. While other 1950s "monster run amok" movies used nuclear weapons as a plot device, "Godzilla" used its monster as a metaphor for the bomb. Only filmmakers whose nation had survived the horrors of nuclear weapons could make this movie. "Godzilla" may be best known for the dozens of sequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs it inspired. However, the film earns its spot on my list for being one of the best dinosaur movies of all time.