The Jurassic Park franchise is built on the foundation of an ideological conflict between scientific and capitalistic ambition and biological, chaotic momentum. As expected, this culminates in a bunch of screaming people being beautifully devoured by dinosaurs. For almost 30 years, a handful of filmmakers have taken great glee in orchestrating new ways for humans to be chomped on, but not all of these sequences are created equally. In fact, there are certain aspects that the best dinosaurs-eating-people scenes share.
The greatest moments of dinosaur carnage in Jurassic Park films tend to combine an actor’s oddly specific allure with the ultimately satisfying way the filmmaker sets them up for a dino dinner. At their best, they become iconic bits of pop culture, things that we grimace at while admitting to ourselves that, yes, the way that dude got swallowed whole by a T. rex was transcendentally rad. So here are…
12. Ray Arnold Gives You a Hand
Samuel L. Jackson spent much of the early ’90s stealing scenes in supporting roles, and he brings a kind of tired, frustrated gravitas to Jurassic Park’s chief engineer Ray Arnold. His delivery of “Hold onto your butts” is a good example of him taking what could be a very milquetoast character and imbuing it with impenetrable Jackson-ness. We don’t see his actual death, but his dismembered arm falling on Ellie Sattler’s (Laura Dern) shoulder in the middle section of a three-part jump scare is Spielberg at the height of his thrilling powers. “Mr. Hammond, I think we’re back in business” indeed.
11. Cooper Misses His Flight
The three mercenaries tasked by William H. Macy’s character with finding his son in Jurassic Park III were all played by actors with serious theater credentials — Bruce Young was a constant creative force in the Chicago stage, Michael Jeter was a Tony Award winner, and John Diehl would abandon a fruitful TV career for more satisfying roles in New York theater. Diehl plays Cooper, a man who, according to his team, is “a professional” who can “handle himself.” He dies trying to flag down the protagonists’ plane, only to be grabbed by the jaws of a Spinosaurus in a plan that can best be described as “not handling himself.”
10. Vic Hoskins Becomes Finger Food
Vincent D’Onofrio is a deeply talented actor, and he radiates pure jackass energy as Hoskins, the head of InGen Security at Jurassic World. Seeking to use Velociraptors for military purposes, it’s clear he’s going to be eaten from the beginning, in a way that’s more evident than perhaps any other mauling in the series. Swaggering like a Dukes of Hazzard villain, he ends the film desperately trying to calm a raptor down by mimicking the hand signals he’s seen others use. Of course, it clamps down on his arm, with his blood spraying across the lab like in an ’80s slasher flick.
9. Ken Wheatley Becomes the Hunted
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t a very good movie, but it’s got an all-star lineup of characters you want to see eaten. Coming in close to the lead is Wheatley, played by Ted Levine as a “great white hunter” type. Levine takes a career of playing gruff authority figures and imposing villains and channels it into “the most hateable character possible.” His quirk is taking a tooth from every dinosaur he brings down, a defilement that sets him up to later have his arm torn off when he tries it on a dinosaur that has more sense than he does.
8. Dieter Stark Learns There’s Strength in Numbers
A ’90s favorite of the Coen brothers, Peter Stormare could be previously seen shoving Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper in Fargo before he took on the role of Dieter Stark in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. His callousness is on display early as he shocks a tiny Compsognathus with a cattle prod, giving it a “reason” to fear man. Of course, the director of the film is a returning Steven Spielberg, who is keenly attuned to karmic retribution for his characters. Stark is eaten alive by dozens of the little critters, his blood shown flowing down a stream instead of his corpse presumably so Universal Pictures could keep the Burger King partnership.
7. Eddie Carr Sees Double
Cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park while auditioning for something completely different, Richard Schiff’s role in the film would become more prominent in retrospect: Two years later, he’d join The West Wing in an Emmy-winning performance. Here he plays the droll Eddie Carr, a field expert who is the only one of the crew of “good guys” to be eaten. Of course, taking advantage of the fact that there are two adult T. rexes in the film, this comes in the form of being pulled apart by both at the same time in a remix of the first movie’s car scene. “Violence and technology? Not good bedfellows!” he announces at one point, stating the themes of the film.
6. Peter Ludlow Is a Training Treat
Arliss Howard joins Vincent D’Onofrio in the “Full Metal Jacket alumni who went on to be eaten in the climax of a Jurassic Park film” club. But instead of D’Onofrio’s bluster, Howard plays InGen’s CEO with a nepotistical coldness befitting the pampered nephew of John Hammond. He wants to open up a Jurassic Park in San Diego despite being literally related to the man who watched the first go up in flames, and he sticks to his guns even when his whole team is devoured. He, too, is eaten in The Lost World by a pair of T. rexes, only this time it’s a parent and child, leaving audiences with a cute “Awww, the desperate cries of the helpless, wannabe industrialist are helping the baby learn how to hunt for food.”
5. Mr. Eversoll Makes a Bad Bid
There is perhaps no one better fit to star in a Jurassic Park film than Toby Jones, an actor who can be as charming or slimy as you need. His talent immediately upgrades everything around him, so when you’re working with a scene like “chaotic dinosaurs eat a bunch of forgettable wealthy folk,” you can at least find stability and solace in “Holy shit, it’s Toby Jones.” Playing auctioneer and arms dealer Mr. Eversoll, Jones doesn’t get a very gory death (he screams as the film cuts to black), but the fact that he deemed the film worthy of his presence is enough.
4. Udesky Gets His Back Cracked
The late Michael Jeter seemed like the least likely actor to be cast in a Jurassic Park film — the role many people remember him for is Mister Noodle from Elmo’s World (though he’s truly fantastic in The Fisher King.) It renders his performance as the mercenary Udesky as ultimately human in an assortment destined to be turned into action figures. It also makes his sidekick quips feel genuine rather than perfunctory screenwriting-handbook fare. The lead-up to his death is also subtly gruesome: There is no splash of blood, but there is the sound of a Velociraptor claw entering his spine as he screams. Ooof.
3. Dennis Nedry Goes Blind With Power
From here, we move into iconic territory: A year after making his debut as the annoying Newman on Seinfeld and winning Spielberg’s attention with Basic Instinct, Wayne Knight became a prototype for every future dinosaur snack with computer expert/hacker Dennis Nedry. Nedry is simultaneously comic relief and antagonist, and is sarcastic even seconds before he’s devoured: “No wonder you’re extinct. I’m gonna run you over when I come back down.” Of course, he succumbs to the Dilophosaurus’ venom spitting, something mentioned if you’ve been listening to the Jeep’s tour narrator. And the Dilophosaurus managing to somehow open the door of his car in order to eat him would be one of the first of many “It was cool, so I’ll ignore the logic” instances in the franchise. A true revolutionary.
2. Robert Muldoon Is a Side Dish
While Wayne Knight would help kickstart the tradition of awful dweebs being eaten by dinosaurs, the late Bob Peck would be the first of another line: Guys who severely overestimate their capabilities with regard to hunting these things. As game warden Robert Muldoon, he’s all measured confidence while the other park employees fret, and unlike many of the Muldoon clones to come, he’s actually nice, helpful, and competent. Sadly, Spielberg had already set up the fact that Velociraptors attack you from the sides earlier, and there had to be pay off: “Clever girl,” Muldoon utters before he’s pounced on, entering film and meme history.
1. Donald Gennaro’s Day Goes Down the Toilet
Martin Ferrero has the honor of being the romantic ideal of Jurassic Park deaths: violent, satisfying and ridiculous enough to remember that this is indeed a film series about our apparent inability to stop cloning angry dinosaurs. As the “blood-sucking lawyer” Donald Gennaro, his fate is sealed in a variety of ways. He’s the only one who agrees with Hammond’s entrepreneurial delusions, he hits his head going into a mine in his first scene (How is this dude gonna survive on a tropical island full of mega reptiles?), and he flees from the T. rex before it even escapes, abandoning the children to fend for themselves in the car. He hides in a bathroom stall, leaving him shivering in the rain with a T. rex looming over him as soon as the structure crumbles. What happens next is a Steven Spielberg highlight reel moment, and to add insult to grievous, dinosaur-inflicted injury, it seems like the T. rex didn’t even enjoy the taste of him that much. “I think this was Gennaro,” Muldoon says as he explores the wreckage later. “I think this was, too,” Ellie replies.