For many, Jurassic Park brings to mind warm, nostalgic memories of graceful long-necked Brachiosaurs munching treetops or the InGen chopper soaring by pristine, green Hawaiian hills as John Williams’ iconic JP theme plays majestically.
But as everyone’s favorite cynic Ian Malcolm points out in The Lost World, it’s all “oooh” and “awww” in the first act, and then there’s running and screaming.
That’s what this list is about today: the running and screaming.
From goat-swallowing T-rexes to ankle-nipping compies to an underwater terror that eats great whites for breakfast, the carnivorous denizens of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World come in all shapes and sizes and have all kinds of fun teaching the human cast that you don’t mess with nature.
So get ready to have your nostalgia dragged through a rain-soaked equatorial jungle by six-foot turkeys because we’re about to head into the top 10 kills of the Jurassic Park series.
10. “Shooot hurrr!”
Similar to how Jurassic Park’s geneticists must have felt when they awaited the births of the first dinosaur specimens from their modified ostrich eggs, when Jurassic Park opened in 1993 nobody really knew just what to expect. Pre-Michael Crichton, cinema had not exactly been blessed with a lot of very well-made dinosaur movies (all due respect to fans of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend).
When Spielberg’s film opened with glimpses of a man-sized beast glaring from inside its holding pen with crocodilian eyes and squawking like some pissed-off turkey seeking retribution for its fallen brethren the day after Thanksgiving, all bets were off.
What kind of fast one did they think they were trying to pull here? Weren’t dinosaurs supposed to drag their tails on the ground, peer in through third-story windows, and move with jumpy stop-motion animation? Indeed, the Velociraptor was a game changer in how audiences viewed dinosaurs, and Jurassic Park’s shocker of an opening sequence—set at nighttime with blinding floodlights and helmeted park crew bearing shotguns—was the perfect way to debut the new prehistoric terror.
It’s hard to forget the image of that hapless worker (who doesn’t even live long enough to have a name) clutching the sides of the holding pen as he’s dragged by the raptor or the sounds of the gunshots fading away as we dissolve from his grisly fate.
You may not have had a name, Hapless Raptor Pen Worker, but rest assured, your dying screams were etched into the memories of countless wide-eyed youths.
9. Indominous snax
Speaking of nameless park workers and grisly fates and the introduction of new dinosaurs and holding pen mishaps… holy big sneezing cow, I didn’t realize how many similarities there were between the first two entries on this list.
But the similarities end there. The Indominous rex was billed as the baddest of baddies—an ill-conceived concoction of raptor genes, rex DNA, camouflaging cuttlefish parts, and probably a little bit of Azathoth the Daemon Sultan for good measure—and to Jurassic World’s credit, the Indominous does a much better job of playing the villain du jour than did the poor, misused Spinosaurus in JPIII.
Following wisely in the steps of classic monster movies like Jaws and Alien, the film limits what we see of this gargantuan new park attraction as it chases Chris Pratt and Hapless Park Worker from its enclosure. You know exactly what’s going to happen: somebody’s gonna get eaten, and it’s not gonna be Chris Pratt.
Showing the attack from the perspective of Pratt’s character as he lays hidden beneath a jeep helps further obscure the Indominous’ appearance while incrementally building the suspense. When those tremendous jaws finally do close over Hapless Park Worker, you can’t help but think: damn it’s good to be Chris Pratt.
8. Eat your Wheatleys
The Indoraptor was basically Fallen Kingdom’s version of the Indominous—a super-powered, super-giant raptor that comes in black and carries absolutely none of the scruples of Blue or her seemingly morally conscientious raptor sisters. A good enough villain du jour, I suppose (though they’re going to need to seriously reimagine the lab-cooked super-predator shtick in 2022’s Jurassic World: Dominion).
While the Indoraptor doesn’t show up until the film’s third act, the new dino does get a chance to immediately prove its chops when mercenary Ken Wheatley applies for the Darwin Awards by sneaking into its cage to yoink one of its fabulous interlocking teeth for his necklace.
There’s a bit of anthropomorphism that teeters precariously on the cartoonish when the rather dragon-like dinosaur opens one eye and offers the audience a devilish grin before pretending to sleep again. But the gag is quickly forgotten once the Indoraptor snatches Wheatley up by the arm, bringing him to a terrifying dangling height, only to drop him loose with a single gruesome chomp. In a film where most of the kills feel a bit either derivative or simply unimaginative, Wheatley’s demise easily rises to the top.
7. Buffet in the long grass, Velociraptor, party of 7?
The only thing more terrifying than being stalked by one Velociraptor or two is being stalked by a whole pack of them, and while this next entry doesn’t highlight the demise of a single character but rather a whole panicked group, the setup and execution of The Lost World’s ambush in the long grass is way too good to not include. The sequence marks the first appearance of the raptors in the film—a well-delayed hour and twenty-six minutes in.
It’s positively chilling seeing those familiar heads and tails rise about the darkened field accompanied by their distinctly throaty growls. From the overhead view of the raptors cutting their precision paths through the grass to the shot of that one guy getting pounced on while his flashlight shines directly up into the snarling predator, the entire storyboarding of this sequence was simply masterful.
Two big slashing toe-claws up for this multi-kill entry.
6. Not the size that counts…
If the previous entry on this list wasn’t indication enough, The Lost World definitely represented Spielberg’s darker, more sadistic sense of humor. This was the Spielberg who executive produced Gremlins and co-wrote Poltergeist and who chased poor Dennis Weaver for an hour and a half with a semi-truck in Duel. So of course Spielberg would delight in separating Peter Stormare’s Dieter Stark from the group and having him stalked and snapped at by a pack of giggling chicken-lizards.
Surrounded by prehistoric-looking ferns and towering California redwoods, Dieter Stark may as well have been completely on his own wandering through a true Jurassic forest. The contrast between the compies’ cute chittering and comedic line formation and Stormare’s stone-cold, not-having-it glare and periodic cursing in Swedish leaves you stranded somewhere between laughing at the lil’ scavengers’ adorable antics and squirming over Dieter’s horrific plight.
Spielberg, you mad genius.
5. “When you gotta go, you gotta go”
Jurassic Park’s major mid-film set piece, the attack on the stalled jeeps by the T-rex, is so full of iconic imagery it’s easy to forget it also includes the series’ first fully onscreen, in-your-face kill.
There are probably few circumstances where one might feel more vulnerable than when sitting in an outhouse in the middle of the night and in the middle of the pouring rain with your pants around your ankles. Spielberg capitalized fully upon that shared sense of vulnerability when he knocked down the four walls of Donald Genarro’s outhouse, leaving him exposed to the elements and to the curious head-tilting and deceptively innocent purring of Jurassic Park’s apex predator.
There is something genuinely puppy-like about the way the rex appraises the toilet-bound lawyer before going full carnivore with an elephantine roar and shaking him left to right and back again like Fido giving hell to that chew toy.
4. By air or by sea
One of the best things about Jurassic World was getting to see a functioning park under attack by its dinosaur attractions, and nowhere is the chaos on better display than when the aviary breaches and a flock of pterosaurs descends upon the main boardwalk.
Amidst all the park goers scrambling to shield their children and their margaritas, we find British nanny Zara—a sort of mildly self-absorbed Mary Poppins without the song and dance or anything that might be mistaken for character development. Zara is snatched into the air and we’re taken along with her on a delirious journey high above the crowd before plunging below the surface of the mosasaur tank and back up again, only for Zara to succumb in spectacular fashion to the rising jaws of the tank’s occupant.
Some controversy arose over whether Zara had done anything to deserve such an over-the-top demise—which begs the question as to whether any character deserves to be eaten by a dinosaur.
In general, it seems dinosaurs don’t really mind who you are so long as you’re not one of the recurring characters. Director Colin Trevorrow defended the elaborate sequence saying, “to me, unearned death is the definition of terror.” Putting aside the question of whether anyone deserves to be eaten, can we all agree the sequence was magnificently orchestrated and just plain cool? What’s even more impressive is that Zara’s actress, Katie McGrath, performed all her own aerial and underwater stunts (and from the behind-the-scenes appears to have had a blast doing so).
The result, while controversial for some, was one of the most original and most memorable kills of the series.
3. A real spit-take
Between its bird-like cooing, its marvelous red and yellow neck frill, and its capacity to spit blinding venom, the Dilophosaurus is by far one of Jurassic Park’s most striking and most fascinating inhabitants. I’ve often wondered why this incredible animal has thus far been relegated to only a single appearance in the first film. Perhaps, ironically, it’s the untouchably iconic nature of the one scene in which it appears that has precluded a follow-up by this double-crested wonder.
Dennis Nedry’s demise at the hands (and in the jaws) of the “spitter” was considerably more graphic in Crichton’s book. But keeping things PG-13, Spielberg still managed to make the turncoat computer technician’s fate one for the ages (even while pulling the ol’ “the coast is clear” trick for the umpteenth time). Props have to be given to the sound design team for thinking of mixing the warning call of a rattlesnake with a screaming parrot for the dilophosaur’s chilling cry of attack.
The scene is also one of cinema’s all-time weirdest cases of product placement. Apparently, Barbasol outbid Gillette so they could have a can of their shaving cream for men steadily covered in mud while Wayne Knight screams shrilly in the background. I mean, if there’s anything that’s going to get you in the mood for a shave, right?
2. Rexes split the difference
To be perfectly honest, this entire list could easily have been devoted to kills made by one of the three rexes in The Lost World. Just look at the body count they stacked up and tell me this isn’t a dang good “Top 10” all on its own. You’ve got:
- The Robert Bakker stand-in who gets snatched up a waterfall with a snake in his shirt
- That guy with the headphones who gets straight up stepped on
- The crew of the SS Venture
- Screenwriter David Koepp and his fantastic cameo as the “Unlucky Bastard” who gets snagged outside the doors of a Blockbuster
- Greedy entrepreneur Peter Ludlow who gets turned into a hunting lesson for Rex Jr.
- And who could possibly forget that one family’s overzealous pup, the only remaining trace of which is the doghouse left cruelly dangling by a chain from the rex’s clamped jaws?
Rest assured, none of those spectacular kills have been forgotten. Rather, consider them honorifically folded into what would either way have been the second most exceptional kill of the series, that of Eddie Carr.
While the three stooges—sorry, Malcolm, Sarah, and Nick—joke about cheeseburgers and apple turnovers as they cling for dear life at the bottom of a precariously dangling trailer, Eddie sets about fighting the elements and the massive weight of the double accordion-attached trailers to save their lives. He succeeds—but at the cost of his own.
What makes Eddie’s death so memorable and so heartrending is not merely the unforgettable (and disturbingly audible) way he’s wish-boned apart by two rexes, but that the circumstances leading to his demise are so maddeningly unfair.
Caught between the angrily snorting snouts of the two adult tyrannosaurs, Eddie must keep his foot to the jeep’s accelerator to prevent the trailers from going over the cliff—all while clutching desperately for his tranquilizer rifle, the barrel of which has become ensnared in netting by the cruel hand of the screenwriter.
I know I just suggested nobody deserves to get eaten by a dinosaur, but Mr. Koepp, you kinda deserved to get eaten for this one. All at once gruesome and tragic and yet again reflective of The Lost World’s very dark sense of humor, Eddie’s heroic sacrifice places high not merely among the series’ top kills but among the series’ top moments as well.
1. “Clever girl”
Before Ken Wheatley, before Roland Tembo, there was Robert Muldoon—Jurassic Park’s khaki shorts-loving game warden who told us (and then showed us) just how deadly the Velociraptors truly are. By the time Muldoon finds himself hunting the hunters in the dense foliage outside the breached raptor paddock, we’ve come to learn of their cheetah speed, killing claws, alarming intelligence, and pack hierarchy. The tension at play in Muldoon’s hunt is unparalleled by any other sequence in the series.
As Muldoon adjusts the folding stock of his SPAS-12 shotgun and lines up his target, every dimly audible clink brings a new bead of sweat to the viewer’s brow. When the foliage parts to the left of Muldoon and the grinning jaws of the lead raptor push in close to his face, the realization of the trap and of Muldoon’s imminent and horrific end hits you all at once. As we’re treated to flashes of the mauling through the violently thrashing underbrush, the mind fills in far more graphic details than what we’re actually shown.
For Muldoon’s bravery and badassery, for the masterful building of suspense, and for perfectly demonstrating just how lethal the raptors really are, this scene takes the top spot in the pantheon of Jurassic Park’s greatest kills.