'Jurassic Park': Best Summer Blockbusters, No. 3
More than two decades later, and we still can’t look at a cup of water the same.
Just as the rippling water in that now iconic scene signaled the T. rex’s grand entrance, so did Jurassic Park usher in a new era of cinematic innovation. Making a reality of so many childhood dreams, it marries moviemaking wizardry and emotional complexity to electrifying effect. Park also straddles a number of genres (action-adventure, family, thriller, and sci-fi, to name a few) on top of its ready-made merchandising and theme-park ride potential, ultimately offering something for everyone. But the leaps and bounds made by director Steven Spielberg and Oscar-winning special affects artist Stan Winston aren’t solely accountable for the film becoming a global phenomenon.
At its core, Spielberg told EW’s Tim Stack and Keith Staskiewicz, Park is also “a helluva yarn.” Screenwriter David Koepp improved on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel about the foolhardy hubris of eccentric mogul John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who built a theme park after recreating dinosaurs from DNA extracted from an amber-preserved mosquito. During the first — and last — tour of Jurassic Park, a bit of corporate espionage by a crusty computer programmer (Seinfeld‘s Wayne Knight) causes the power to go out, which allows the prehistoric predators to run amok and terrorize the park’s inaugural guests: child-averse paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his paleobotanist girlfriend Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), snarky- yet-stylish math wonk Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and Hammond’s grandkids Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello).
Without further ado, let’s continue EW’s Summer Blockbuster Month with a start-to-finish thrill ride and an undeniable game-changer. Open the gates to the utterly dino-mite (sorry, couldn’t resist) Jurassic Park!
Release Date: June 11, 1993
The Competition: The summer of 1993 was chockablock with male-driven box-office performers including Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger (May 28), Tom Cruise’s The Firm (July 2), and Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive (Aug. 6) — all of which placed prominently in the year-end charts (alongside July 9’s steady, if not box office-topping Clint Eastwood flick In the Line of Fire). Sleepless in Seattle (June 18) offered a bona fide counterprogramming option to this surge of testosterone. In the family space, Free Willy (July 16), Super Mario Bros. (May 28), and Last Action Hero (June 18) were as helpless as baby velociraptors in the face-off against Park.
Box Office: $402.4 million domestic ($47 million opening weekend); $1.03 billion worldwide
With the highest weekend debut of the year, Jurassic Park roared to the top of the annual box office reports by a huge margin (second-place finisher Mrs. Doubtfire was nearly $138 million behind). It also raked in an additional $45.4 million in 2013 thanks to a 3-D re-release.
What EW said: “In Jurassic Park, each dinosaur encounter is exciting in a different way… [including] a thrillingly staged battle in which a pair of raptors attack the Hammond grandchildren. These medium-size predators appear unspectacular at first, but their lightning cleverness grows on you. When one of them leaps without warning through a ceiling grate, it seems as lethal as a giant cobra. By the end of the movie, the raptors, like the T. rex, have become true characters, their personalities emerging from their scaly physique.“ A- –Owen Gleiberman
Cultural Impact Then: Dinosaurs!!! Once Winston’s team created Isla Nublar’s incredibly lifelike dinoverse, viewers could never truly go back to the special effects we now lovingly mock as stereotypically ’80s. A combination of computer-generated effects and animatronic models, they were nothing short of breathtaking. Producer Kathleen Kennedy recalled that one early preview “caused five or six of us to literally leap to our feet because it was so extraordinary and significantly beyond anything we had [ever] seen.” Thanks to the terrifying T. rex to the galloping gallimimus and the poison-spitting dilophosaurus, Jurassic Park won all three Oscars for which it was nominated (Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects). The film also won the 1994 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture, and John Williams’ sweeping score was nominated for a Grammy.
Cultural Staying Power: Jurassic Park has had its own share of ripples that range from the predictable (Universal Studios rides, comic books, and videogames) to the… Canadian? Turns out, Toronto’s NBA expansion team the Raptors earned that very moniker thanks to a vote by basketball fans in the wake of the film’s success.
Artistically, Spielberg and Winston’s accomplishments have had a profound influence, motivating Stanley Kubrick and Peter Jackson to blaze their own VFX trails, planting the seed for the business partnership between Winston and James Cameron that brought us Titanic and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and catalyzing George Lucas — whose Industrial Light & Magic designed Park‘s dino CGI — to revisit (for better or worse) the Star Wars saga. Cinema historian Tom Shone noted in his book Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer that, “In its way, Jurassic Park heralded a revolution in movies as profound as the coming of sound in 1927.”
It’s no surprise that Park spawned two follow-ups: Spielberg returned as helmer on 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (based on Crichton’s novel of the same name, which was written as a direct result of the film’s financial success). For 2001’s Jurassic Park III, Spielberg handed the reins over to Joe Johnston, who would later direct Captain America: The First Avenger. After the success of the 2013 re-release, production has begun on 2015’s Jurassic World, directed by Safety Not Guaranteed‘s Colin Trevorrow.
It’s also worth noting that Jurassic Park kept Samuel L. Jackson working in the year before Pulp Fiction gave him his big breakthrough, which earns the film a million extra awesome points.
29. The Hangover
28. Rambo: First Blood Part II
27. There’s Something About Mary
23. Saving Private Ryan
21. Independence Day
20. Toy Story 3
16. The Avengers
14. Superman II
13. The Lion King
12. The Sixth Sense
11. Top Gun
9. Animal House
7. Forrest Gump