Tyrannosaurus Rex is by far and away the most famous Dinosaur. Over the years it has had a career few actors could dare dream of, having played every role from the leading man, to the tough grizzled anti hero, to the villain, to the plucky comic relief. He has starred in horror movies, sci fi classics, comedies, and even bizarre rom coms! He has worked with such big names as Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and faced everyone from Batman, to King Kong, to Doctor Who, to The Ghostbusters, to Angel, to Homer Simpson. He has even had an iconic band named after him!
Yes old Rexy is a superstar there is no doubt about that and in this article I am going to be looking at some of the Tyrant Lizard King’s most iconic moments in cinema history. It’s doubtless that this article won’t even begin to represent half of T. rex’s total appearances on the big screen, but still I hope at the very least to capture his most memorable moments in films nonetheless.
So join me as I explore how one Dinosaur has managed to remain in the public’s consciousness as a symbol of sheer terror like no other as we take a look at Tyrannosaurus Rex on the big screen.
Picture for the upcoming sequel from the cult hit Dark Sky which will involve Nazi’s and T-Rex’s.
Tyrannosaurus has had quite the film career. He has had a part in pretty much every iconic Dinosaur film you can think of, usually as the main villain or sometimes hero. He has however appeared in other non Dinosaurs films too such as Night at the Museum. Often whenever a movie needs to have a Dinosaur of some kind, whether for comedy or tension, then the cruel king of the Dinosaurs is the one they go for as it is the arguably the one Dinosaur that absolutely everybody would recognize.
The Willis O’Brien Years
Willis O’Brien is sadly a name that is unfamiliar to most people. He was one of the most influential people in cinema history and his legacy can still be seen today in some of the worlds most acclaimed directors such as Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg.
O’Brien contrary to popular belief did not invent stop motion animation, a process where a model is animated frame by frame. He nevertheless was the one who pioneered and brought it to mainstream attention. It was his movies, such as King Kong in particular that would inspire the next generation of special effects guru’s such as the late great Ray Harryhausen who later became O’Brien’s close friend.
O’Brien was fascinated by Dinosaurs and indeed his earliest short films all featured Dinosaurs in them. However it would be his short 1919 film The Ghost of Slumber Mountain that would mark the Tyrant Lizard King’s debut on the big screen.
The Ghost of Slumber Mountain
This film originally ran for 30 minutes but sadly was cut down to just 11 minutes. Its plot (which was written by O’Brien himself) was somewhat surreal.
It involved a man named Holmes telling his nephews about his time on Slumber Mountain where he found a cabin belonging to a late hermit called Mad Dick. Mad Dick apparently had a magic telescope which Holmes later uses to look at Slumber mountain with. There he see’s the mountain as it was 65 million years ago. He sees a Brontosaurus, a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which fights and kills the Triceratops.
Unfortunately Holmes looks at the Dinosaurs for too long and creates a rip in the very fabric of time itself which allows the Tyrannosaurus to emerge into modern day where it attacks him. The movie not only marks T. rex’s first appearance on the big screen, but also the first time T. rex was shown in battle with its archnemesis Triceratops.
The Lost World (1925)
The first full length Dinosaur movie based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name. O’Brien was hired to do the special effects for this film based on the massive success of The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. Though considered crude by today’s standards this silent movie was nevertheless a record breaking success when it was first released and is still regarded as a classic of the genre 90 years later.
Now Tyrannosaurus Rex did not appear in the original novel. At the time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing Tyrannosaur fossils were not that well known, so Allosaurus was made the main meat eating Dinosaur of Doyle’s adventure. Though it should be noted that the large meat eating Dinosaur that appears in the novel of the Lost World is never identified. It is merely speculated by Challenger that it could be either an Allosaurus or a Megalosaurus, but he also admits that it could be any one of the great meat eating beasts.
Still the Dinosaur in The Lost World is often regarded as an Allosaurus and therefore Allosaurus is still the main meat eating Dinosaur that appears in O’Briens Lost World. Fortunately however remembering how great he was in Slumber Mountain. O’Brien would make sure to give his old pal Tyrannosaurus a role in the film.
T. rex only appears in a single scene, but it is still arguably the most famous from the film and also establishes the T. rex as the most powerful Dinosaur on the plateau.
The Tyrannosaur attacks a large Ceratopsian Dinosaur called an Agathaumas. Earlier an Allosaurus had attempted to attack this type of Dinosaur and had been hopelessly overpowered and gored to death by it. The T. rex however is able to dispatch the Agathaumas in a matter of seconds, first by leaping on the Ceratopsids back and then using its mighty jaws pulls the herbivore on its side after which the Tyrannosaur then rips the Agathaumas’s guts out with its teeth. Not long after killing the Agathaumas the Tyrannosaur literally leaps through the air and grabs a passing Pteranodon with its tiny arms, which it then rips apart in its jaws before throwing to the ground and stepping on it, bringing a whole new meaning to the term overkill.
Again though the sequence is brief it is still very memorable and for decades afterwards would often be used to illustrate how Tyrannosaurus may have battled Triceratops in countless Dinosaur documentary’s, even though the animal is not a Triceratops but an Agathuamas.
T. rex with his new best friend
T. rex and Willis O’Brien would reunite one last time for what would ultimately be O’Brien’s most successful project King Kong.
Originally after The Lost World, O’Brien had hoped to make another Dinosaur film called Creation about another lost land of Dinosaurs discovered in modern day. Tyrannosaurus was among the Dinosaurs slated to appear in the film and it would have battled and killed a Stegosaurus. Ultimately however Creation was shelved by King Kong creator Merian C Cooper who felt that its story was boring. Cooper had nevertheless been impressed with the special effects used to bring the Dinosaurs to life in the test footage shot for Creation and subsequently hired O’Brien to work on his own project about a giant ape falling in love with a human woman.
O’Brien would not only bring the ape to life with his stop motion effects, but he would also insert Dinosaurs into the film as well, including a Stegosaurus, a Brontosaurus, a Pteranodon an Elasmosaurus and of course a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The T. rex once again appears in only a single scene, but O’Brien makes sure it is memorable. The Tyrannosaurus is shown to battle Kong when it attempts to devour the object of his affections, Anne Darrow played by the late Fay Wray.
The fight between Kong and the Tyrannosaurus is arguably the first real Kaiju battle in the history of cinema. It would serve as an inspiration on many subsequent Dinosaur and monster battles over the years such as the infamous battle between the Tyrannosaurus and the Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park 3. There are even shots lifted from the Kong/Tyrannosaur battle for the T. rex/Spinosaur duel such as the shot of Anne cowering under a tree as the two titans clash, that we see replicated when Grant cowers under a fallen tree as the T. rex and Spinosaurus size each other up.
Shots taken from this fight can also be seen in Kong’s battle with Godzilla in King Kong vs Godzilla, his fight with Gorosaurus in King Kong Escapes and finally in Peter Jacksons 2005 remake where Kong wrestles with 3 Vastatosaurus Rex’s (descendants of the T. rex)
In many ways Tyrannosaurus Rex has gone on to become seen as Kong’s archenemy in popular culture. Though the much maligned 70’s remake replaced the T. rex with a snake, most other versions will have Kong battle a Tyrannosaur including both the 60’s animated series called The King Kong Show and the 00’s animated series Kong the Animated series. A robotic T. rex is also set to appear in the upcoming Kong-King of the Apes animated series on Netflix. Even the King Homer parody from The Simpsons featured King Homer tangling with a T. rex.
I think this is probably why the 70’s movie is often seen as the black sheep of the Kong movies. Over time though its reputation has improved ultimately the lack of Dinosaurs, and lack of T. rex in particular will always make it less enjoyable than the other Kong movies.
I mean really not that Kong isn’t a fairly impressive character, but the makers of the 70’s movie should have known everything is better with Dinosaurs.
Tyrannosaurus Rex would be featured in this iconic Disney movie in the classic The Rite of Spring sequence. Despite the films iconic status however. The T. rex is inaccurate for many reasons.
To start with it is shown to live alongside creatures like Dimetrodon and Stegosaurus. Stegosaurus lived during the Jurassic era whilst Tyrannosaurus lived in the Cretaceous period. There is a bigger gap between Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus than there is between us and Tyrannosaurus. Dimetrodon meanwhile lived millions of years before the Dinosaurs. It is also by the way not a Dinosaur. It is from the Synapsid family a group of reptiles that Mammals originated from. Dimetrodon is actually more closely related to you and I than it is to any Dinosaur.
Also finally the Tyrannosaurus has three fingers. At the time it was not known to be fair exactly how many fingers it had and many other depictions from the early 20th century including King Kong gave it three fingers too. There is a long standing rumour however that Walt Disney insisted to the animators that it be given three fingers as he felt it looked better that way.
Inaccuracies aside this remains one of Tyrannosaurus’s most iconic film appearances. The scene where it kills the Stegosaurus is truly a classic Dinosaur battle and actually manages to I think give the Dinosaurs a certain depth for the first time. Unlike in Kong you don’t just look at them as monsters in this scene, but rather actual animals as we are actually meant to sympathise with Stegosaurus as it it is hopelessly outmatched and killed by the T. rex, rather than being another monster that can’t wait to fight it.
This is also the film that began the whole T. rex/Stegosaurus feud in popular culture.
T. rex not surprisingly has many mortal enemies in popular culture, Triceratops, Spinosaurus, Anklyosaurus, and Brontosaurus, though actually only a few of these Dinosaurs would have met Tyrannosaurus in real life.
The famous T. rex/Stegosaurus fight from this film has since been recreated in the Disneyland Primeval Diorama and Walt Disney World’s Epcot’s Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
One Million BC
This fantasy film that features Cavemen living alongside Dinosaurs briefly features a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is played by a man in a suit for its fleeting cameo where it tries to devour some small children before being slain by the main protagonist Tumak.
The scene isn’t exactly T. rex’s best showing despite the iconic status of the film. The costume is so crummy that the monster has to spend most of its time hidden behind a bush to conceal himself. Surprisingly though this film was the one that won an Oscar for its special effects instead of King Kong!
The movie is still enjoyable don’t get me wrong, but certainly not one of the highlights of T. rex’s long and luxurious film career. It only gets a mention here as it was one of the first ever instances of Dinosaurs fighting cavemen in a film, and certainly the most influential.
This movie would later be remade in the 60’s where it was retitled One Million Years BC. The effects for this remake were supplied by Willis O’Brien’s protege Ray Harryhausen. This scene itself was even remade.
The effects were a definite improvement of course, but sadly the attacking Dinosaur in the remake is an Allosaurus not a Tyrannosaurus as Harryhausen felt a Tyrannosaurus would have been too powerful and would have destroyed the Cavemen and their village in no time. Though as it was even an Allosaurus would have been too powerful and would have destroyed the village in no time as well. The attacking Dinosaur is in fact a sub adult Allosaurus.
This overlooked 60’s Dinosaur film features a Tyrannosaurus Rex as the main antagonist. The movies plot sees two Dinosaurs, a Tyrannosaurus and a Brontosaurus as well a caveman that were all frozen in ice awaken on a small island.
Whilst the Brontosaurus and Cavemen naturally are very nice and even both befriend a young boy, the T. rex goes on the rampage and destroys a bus full of people. The T. rex however does manage to cause the death of the films main human villain who it crushes under several rocks. Sadly however it also causes the death of the caveman too. It is ultimately defeated at the very end of the film when it is knocked into the ocean by a bulldozer where it apparently dies.
The ending hints that it may have survived however, as a set up for a sequel that ultimately never happened.
The Tyrannosaurus is brought to life through both stop motion animation and animatronics. Though this film is often overlooked it was nevertheless a huge influence on Michael Crichton the author of Jurassic Park and he himself cited it as one of his influences on Jurassic Park.
The Lost World (1960)
Tyrannosaurus was the main villain in this somewhat sub par version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic directed by Lost in Space creator Irwin Allen.
Now I enjoy this film and it actually has one of the best casts of any version of The Lost World it must be said. Professor George Challenger is played by horror icon Claude Rains and Lord John Roxton is played by The Day The Earth Stood Still star Michael Rennie.
Still where the film is let down is through its Dinosaur effects. This movie uses what has become known as the Slurpasaur technique. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Slurpasaur technique is where you basically take a lizard and superimpose it to look big and stick horns on its head. This effect was also used to bring the Dinosaurs in One Million BC to life except for the Tyrannosaurus.
It’s actually not the worst visually as long as you don’t use the technique for actual Dinosaurs. If it’s just supposed to be just a giant monster then okay I’ll buy it, but when you have someone going on about this being a Brontosaurus like in the movie and we just see a big Lizard then it becomes too much for me.
The Slurpasaur technique was later parodied in “The Lost World Jurassic Park” when Vince Vaughn’s character mentions that he was expecting big iquanas.
The Tyrannosaurus in this movie is represented by a crocodile with fins stuck to its back and horns glued to its head, making it look more like a badly done Spinosaurus than a Tyrannosaurus.
It appears in two sequences. First it wrestles with a Brontosaurus which is represented by a lizard with a frill around its head and fins glued to its back. Once again it actually looks more like a badly done Dilophosaurus than the animal its supposed to be. Or at least the Dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park as the real animal most likely did not have a frill.
This fight sequence is actually a pretty good Dino battle. My only problem with it is that it makes me a bit uncomfortable as we are actually watching real animals fighting with each other.
This was actually one of the reasons that the Slurpasaur technique went out of fashion because many people saw it as a form of animal cruelty. It wasn’t just because of its all around general crappiness.
The Tyrannosaurus shows up again in the final showdown where it is revealed to be the natives of the plateau’s fire god whom they make sacrifices to (similar to Kong).
The T. rex manages to kill one of the movies more unsympathetic characters who had earlier in what was a very shocking, out of place scene tried to rape the friendly native girl.
I’m not saying you can never show scenes of explicit violence. Obviously if the story warrants then fine, but in this instance it just seemed totally out of place with the rest of the film. The movie seemed like an episode of Lost in Space, just silly, camp fun and then suddenly there looked like what was going to become a scene from a movie like A Clockwork Orange in it.
Still I suppose if anyone had to get killed horribly by a Tyrannosaurus then its good that it was this guy. You’d be hard pushed to find a more unsympathetic T. rex victim in any film, including even the cowardly lawyer who famously abandons the two children to die in Jurassic Park.
Really if someone had to die in this film then it just had to be him.
The T. rex is ultimately killed by Gomez who in an effort to redeem himself (after he tried to murder the whole team earlier due to Roxton abandoning his brother to die on an earlier expedition.) Manages to slay the beast by causing it to become buried under an avalanche, though he himself also dies in the process.
The avalanche Gomez kicks off destroys the entire plateau, but one of the Tyrannosaurs eggs is saved by Challenger who plans to bring it back to London as proof of their adventures. This sadly is arguably the most laughable scene in the whole film as Challenger sits there holding a small gecko with horns on its head claiming that its a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex. One wonders what his colleagues would have thought when he returned home and presented this as his proof of The Lost World.
The sad thing about this film is that originally Willis O’Brien had been hired to do the effects. This movie was for all intents and purposes supposed to be an updated, colourized, talkie version of his 1925 adaptation of The Lost World. Think of how amazing it would have been to have seen the T. rex/Brontosaurus fight with O’Brien’s Dinosaurs, or the T. rex fire god as an O’Brien T. rex rather than a silly lizard with a fin on its back. Sadly Irwin Allen decided to use the Slurpasaur technique as it was cheaper and took less time.
Allen was notorious for never wasting a penny, hence why he often reused shots and costumes and sets all the time. In his iconic series Lost in Space for instance he used the exact same shot for a space ship taking off every single time a space ship was shown to fly away, even if the ship in question looked nothing like the ship taking off from the original footage. He also reused footage from The Lost World itself in many of his subsequent series such as Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
O’Brien whose career was in ruins at this point was apparently very disappointed with Allen’s decision and the finished film overall.
Such a shame really when you think that The Lost World with its fabulous cast and gorgeous sets and beautiful colour could have been O’Brien’s last hurrah, and a fitting epilogue to his career as the 1925 Lost World had been his first feature length film. Sadly however Allen’s limited budget meant that O’Brien’s talents weren’t utilized and the film was compromised overall. It was turned from a potential classic which it would have been with O’Brien’s effects and its stellar cast to really a third rate B-movie with iguana’s with fins stuck to their backs standing in for Dinosaurs.
The Last Dinosaur
Tyrannosaurus appears as the main villain in this Japanese Dinosaur movie which is like an odd mix of Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Moby Dick. The films plot sees a company called Thrust Inc discover a valley of prehistoric creatures in a valley underneath the polar ice caps.
As the team who investigate it are picked off one by one by the relentless Tyrannosaurus, one member of the expedition Maston Thrust played by Western star Richard Boone eventually becomes obsessed with destroying it and gets more of his team members killed in the process.
Though the Tyrannosaurus is referred to as the last Dinosaur, there are in fact several Dinosaurs shown to live in the valley alongside it, including a Triceratops that the Rex kills.
The Tyrannosaurus is brought to life by a man in a suit similar to other classic Japanese monster movies. Overall the film isn’t a classic like Kong or Jurassic Park by any means. The effects are a bit ropey to say the least and the Tyrannosaurus’s size changes frequently throughout the film.
Still it’s a decent monster mash and if you are a fan of old Japanese Kaiju movies it’s definitely worth a look.
Ray Harryhausen was really Willis O’Brien’s successor. He perfected the stop motion animation process and inspired dozens of film makers over the course of his decades long career. He has had arguably a much greater impact on the industry than many major directors.
Now Harryhausen’s most famous films are arguably those to do with ancient mythology such as Jason and The Argonauts which features the famous skeleton duel, and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad which memorably features a giant Cyclops.
Still he did do quite a few memorable Dinosaur films such as The Beast From 20000 Fathoms, One Million Years BC, The Animal World and The Valley of the Gwangi.
Though not as famous as say Jason and the Argonauts many of his Dinosaur films were quite influential and ground breaking. The Beast From 20000 Fathoms in many ways kicked off the atomic monster craze of the 1950’s and set the template for so many movies that came after from The Giant Behemoth to Gorgo to even Godzilla itself. The Animal World meanwhile can be seen as The Walking With Dinosaurs of the 1950’s as it attempted to present Dinosaurs in a more realistic way and show them frolicking in their natural habitat like a wildlife documentary.
Naturally of course Tyrannosaurus Rex being the most famous Dinosaur popped up in a few of Harryhausen’s projects.
Harrhausen’s earliest experiments with Stop Motion involved Dinosaurs, as he had been fascinated with Dinosaurs since before he even learned about stop motion.
His first ever project was called Evolution and he made it when he was 13 years old. It attempted to tell the story of life on earth making it like a 1930’s version of the Walking with series.
Harryhausen shot several sequences including a Brontosaurus emerging from the ocean, several cavemen frolicking and a fight sequence of between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Triceratops. The T-Rex is also shown to kill a small Hadrosaur too. Though some of these shots are inaccurate by today’s standards, at the same time some of Harryhausen’s work for Evolution is actually ahead of its time.
For instance the Tyrannosaurus sequence portrays the creature as a more active, warm blooded, bird like creature jumping out at the Triceratops and leaping on its back. At that time Dinosaurs by and large were depicted as slow moving, sluggish and obviously more reptilian.
The sequences are very impressive technically, even without taking into consideration the fact that they were made by a teenager!
Sadly the film was never completed. Harryhausen apparently became disheartened when he saw Fantasia as he realised that it had taken Disney with a whole team of animators years to do what he a teenager was trying to do on his own.
Thankfully however Harryhausen still kept the footage which would later be released on DVD. He also would later show the footage to Willis O’Brien when he first met him many years later.
Tyrannosaurus would later go on to appear in The Animal World which was essentially the same idea as Haryhausen’s own Evolution project, though sadly only the Dinosaur footage remains of the finished film.
Both Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien worked on this project. According to Harryhausen he did virtually all of the animation on the film with O’Brien merely helping to build the Dinosaur models.
Sadly T. rex does not appear for long. The Dinosaur that gets the most attention surprisingly is the little known theropod Ceratosaurus who would also later get a starring role in Harryhausen’s version of One Million Years BC.
Tyrannosaurus only appears in a small sequence where it once again battles a Triceratops before the Dinosaurs are wiped out by an asteroid.
This marks possibly the first time the death of the Dinosaurs was ever depicted on screen in live action.
Tyrannosaurus would go on to appear in Harryhausen’s most famous Dinosaur film The Valley of the Gwangi.
Now Gwangi as it is more commonly known was actually the idea of Willis O’Brien. It involved Cowboys fighting Dinosaurs. Sadly O’Brien was never able to get the project made, though he did near the end of his life produce another Dinosaur western called The Beast From Hollow Mountain which featured an Allosaurus fighting cowboys before dying in a swamp.
Harryhausen wished to film Gwangi as a tribute to O’Brien who had by this point passed on.
Gwangi’s plot sees a group of Cowboys discover a lost valley of Dinosaurs where they encounter a Pteranodon, a Styracosaurus and a large theropod called Gwangi. The Theropod after killing the Styracosaurus as well as several of the cowboys is brought back to civilisation to star in a circus. Ultimately it escapes before going on the rampage throughout the town. Killing an elephant as well as several people before being burned to death in the church.
Now there is some debate over whether or not Gwangi is a Tyrannosaurus or an Allosaurus. O’Brien had intended for him to be an Allosaurus in his version, and on the DVD box he is referred to as an Allosaurus too.
However Harryhausen does say in his biography that he decided to make Gwangi more of a Tyrannosaurus. He also refers to the beast in his synopsis for his version as a Tyrannosaurus, whilst also referring to it as an Allosaurus in the synopsis for O’Brien’s version in his biography.
He also says he based Gwangi’s design on Charles R Knight’s painting of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
So Gwangi is a Tyrannosaurus right?
Well again not exactly. Harryhausen also states in his biography that he decided to make Gwangi a hybrid of Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus which he dubbed a Tyrannosaurus Al “Odd Lizard King”.
Now you might ask what is the difference between a Tyrannosaurus and an Allosaurus? Well there are many.
Though superficially they may seem very similar, two giant theropods with big heads and small arms, the two actually have very little in common with each other.
Tyrannosaurus was bigger and far stronger. Its jaws where also tremendously powerful too. It had a bite force of over 23 tons. Allosaurus on the other hand had in comparison a minascule bite force. Its bite force was in fact weaker than modern predators such as Lions, Tigers and even Leopards. Tyrannosaurus also had much greater intelligence than Allosaurus too and its senses were far more advanced.
At the same time however Allosaurus was far faster than Tyrannosaurus. It could run at 35 miles per hour. Allosaurus could run faster than an Olympic level athlete, a Lion, Tiger, Rhino and over three times as fast as an Elephant. Tyrannosaurus could only run at 18 miles per hour meanwhile.
Allosaurus was also more agile and lighter on its feet than Tyrannosaurus too and had far larger arms, equipped with three razor sharp claws.
Some experts believe that Allosaurus used its claws to grab hold of its victims. In Walking With Dinosaurs it is shown to leap though the air and latch onto the side of a Diplodocus.
Allosaurus also though having a weak bite still nevertheless had a devastating way of using its jaws against its prey.
It could open its mouth very wide and would swing its head like a hatchet which would allow it cleave massive pieces of flesh from its victims bodies. Its skull was incredibly strong in order to withstand the stresses of doing this.
As you can see T. rex and Allosaurus whilst effective predators were clearly designed for very different purposes. Tyrannosaurus Rex clearly relies on sheer power to bite through the skin of heavily armoured Dinosaurs and finish them before they can fight back such as Triceratops and Anklyosaurus. It was also smarter too as it had to be able to devise strategies to avoid the weaponry of these Dinosaurs.
Allosaurus meanwhile was designed to take on creatures like the giant sauropods who were many times its size. It needed to be fast as the sauropods could easily swat it like a fly. It also needed to be able to leap through the air and rather than have a strong bite it had to be able to tear massive pieces of flesh from its victims bodies.
One thing that they did have in common was that they were both the kings of their world, at the top of the prehistoric food chain.
Gwangi, the Tyrannosaurus Al therefore combines the strengths of both Dinosaurs. He has the physical strength, superior size, massive bite force, greater intelligence and advanced senses of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the superior speed, agility and larger arms of an Allosaurus.
This can be seen in the film when he manages to tackle a Styracosaurus a creature that a strong Tyrannosaurus would have a better chance of taking down. He also manages to break down a massive steel cage which again is something a T. rex would have a better chance of breaking through. At the same Gwangi is also shown to be fast enough to catch a horse. A Tyrannosaurus would not be fast enough to keep up with a horse.
Gwangi when it was first released was sadly not that big a success though over time it has become seen as a cult classic.
Definitely the highlight is the scene where the cowboys rope Gwangi. I must say though that a rope would never be enough to restrain either an Allosaurus or a Tyrannosaurus but it’s still good fun none the less.
Planet of The Dinosaurs
This 70’s B-Movie features Tyrannosaurus as the main villain.
Its plot sees a group of astronauts marooned on an alien planet that is populated by creatures who are identical to Dinosaurs, with the explanation being that this planet is just at that point in its history.
Tyrannosaurus first shows up part way through the film where it kills an Allosaurus. It later emerges and begins killing the main characters one by one. Its almost like the villain in a slasher movie not only the way it picks people off one by one, but also the way it also seems to collect their bodies as trophies as it takes back every one of its victims, Allosaurus or human being back to its cave.
Though this film was panned when it was first released its stop motion Dinosaur effects supplied by Jim Danforth were rightfully praised and I’d say that the whole movie is worth it because of its impressive Dinosaur sequences.
One notable scene in this film involves the Tyrannosaurus killing a young Rhedosaurus. Now Rhedosaurus is not a real species of Dinosaur. It is in fact a totally fictional species invented for the Ray Harryhausen film The Beast From 20000 Fathoms. Danforth was a close friend of Harryhausens, in fact Harryhausen was a mentor to Danforth in much the same way that O’Brien had been a mentor to Harryhausen himself. This scene was thrown in as a tribute to Harryhausen.
Rumour has it that the model used for the Rhedosaurus was in fact the same one used for The Beast From 20000 Fathoms, but this is contradicted by other sources that state that Harryhausen destroyed the model shortly after use in order to use parts of it for other Dinosaur models in later films.
The Land Before Time
Tyrannosaurus Rex is the main villain in the first (and best in this bloggers opinion) entry in the Land Before Time film series.
The villainous T. rex is named Sharptooth is evil even by Tyrannosaur standards. He is shown to pursue the main protagonists seemingly for no reason other than just because. Its not like they are even a source of food to him. Together they probably wouldn’t even make one bite for him!
Sharptooth is also responsible for one of the worst tearjerkers in the history of cinema when he kills the main protagonist Littlefoot’s mother.
I’m not going to lie this scene still makes me tear up even today. I defy anyone to watch the scene of Littlefoot thinking his mom is still alive when he sees his shadow huge in the distance and runs towards it, only for it to get smaller and smaller the nearer he gets and not cry. Writing about it now is enough to make me tear up.
Sharptooth’s death with this in mind is not only extremely satisfying, but also fittingly spectacular too with the main heroes pushing a giant boulder on his head, which sends him plummeting into a lake where he drowns. (Though if you watch closely you can see the boulder actually hits the Tyrannosaur in the crotch, which almost makes me feel sorry for him!)
Sharptooth has to rank as one of cinema’s greatest villains due to how terrifying he is and the grief he puts the main characters through.
The Land Before Time 2
The T. rex’s returned as the main villains in The Land Before Time 2. In this film however they were given a more sympathetic role than Sharptooth in the first movie, though to be fair that wouldn’t be difficult.
The films plot revolves around our main characters discovering a Dinosaur egg which turns out to be a cute baby T-Rex named Chomper.
Chomper is probably in all fairness the most adorable Theropod of all time.
Unfortunately his parents who come looking for him are the usual big, bloody, awful, scary kind of Tyrannosaurus’s.
At the end of the movie Chomper decided to leave his friends in order to save them and their families from his parents. Whilst none of The Land Before Time sequels in my opinion where a patch on the first film this is definitely the best of the sequels. I liked the way that it portrayed the Tyrannosaurus’s in a more sympathetic light. It helped this movie stand out from the first one more, rather than just being the same T. rex versus the good guy herbivores. Also I like Chomper and Littlefoot’s friendship too. The final scene where Littlefoot has to say goodbye to Chomper is surprisingly moving.
The Land Before Time 5
Chomper and his mother and father from the previous film returned for this sequel. This time they are presented in an entirely sympathetic role with the true main villain being a Giganotosaurus that is eventually killed by Chompers father near the end.
In real life Giganotosaurus was larger than Tyrannosaurus and was in fact the first meat eating Dinosaur conformed to be larger than T. rex. This film marked the first time the two behemoths were shown to share the screen together.
Overall this film is not the best entry in The Land Before Time series, but as a T. rex fan I always enjoy watching T. rex thrash one of the contenders to the throne at the end of the film.
The Land Before Time 7
Tyrannosaurus returns for a small role in this entry in The Land Before Time series. It is shown first of all in a flashback where we see the Lone Dinosaur defeat the most fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex of all time. Some fans have argued that this is meant to be the T. rex from the first film, but there is nothing to conform this in the film itself.
Another Tyrannosaurus also appears at the end of the film to menace the main characters briefly, but the main villain of this film is really the much smaller Allosaurus.
Possibly Tyrannosaurus’s most famous appearance in cinema history if not popular culture itself. Just about every scene involving the T. rex in this film is an iconic moment from the water shaking as it approaches, to it devouring the cowardly Lawyer on the toilet, to it chasing the jeep.
By far and away its greatest moment however is its final fight with the Velociraptors at the end of the film, which manages to make the Tyrannosaurus seem heroic, but without turning it into a super hero like later films in the series would.
The funny thing is this scene was a last minute addition. Originally the movies ending was more low key involving the Raptors simply being crushed by falling bones. However during the making of the movie Spielberg felt the T-Rex was the real star of the film and that the audience would be upset if they didn’t get to see it one last time. He changed the ending to give Rexy one last heroic moment.
Spielberg pulls out all of the stops to really make the Rex into something special, yet at the same time I liked the way he also makes it seem like a real animal. We see it chomping down on humans of course like any movie monster but at the same time its not like say the Spinosaurus from Jurassic Park 3 that just chases the humans for no reason all over the island. We see the Rex frolicking in its natural habitat, hunting other Dinosaurs, defending its territory, and abandoning its prey when it escapes.
This more realistic portrayal of Tyrannosaurus would help change how we viewed the beast in popular culture. Prior to this Tyrannosaurus was generally seen in the more upright, tripod shape, but after Jurassic Park it would always be depicted in a more bird like stance.
This movie also I think changed the Dinosaur Tyrannosaurus was most often depicted with from Triceratops to Velociraptor.
Though T. rex vs Triceratops is still a very popular set up, in most pieces of more recent Dinosaur fiction the classic Dino set up is now one unstoppable T. rex and several Raptors like Jurassic Park.
The Lost World Jurassic Park
Tyrannosaurus Rex appears as the main dinosaur in this sequel to Jurassic Park.
Here we are introduced to a family of Tyrannosaurs who again much like the T. rex from the first film are portrayed more as real animals caring for their young than movie monsters.
They still get to cause lots of death and mayhem though such as most notably at the end of the film when the male Tyrannosaurus is brought to the city and destroys a bus, kills a small family (and their dog) and devours some random guy who is simply credited as unlucky bastard.
One again this grand finale with a T. rex was added at the very last moment. Originally the ending of The Lost World was going to involve Pteranodons attacking our heroes as they attempted to escape Isla Sorna.
Ultimately Spielberg decided once again to give the viewers more of the T. rex and changed the ending adding the San Diego sequence.
Some have criticized the Rex’s rampage throughout the city, but I liked it. I felt it was quite a nice homage to old monster movies from The Lost World 1925, to the Dinosaur smashing its way through a modern city. To King Kong (with the boat being named the Venture after the boat in Kong.) To finally Godzilla through the Japanese tourists fleeing the Tyrannosaur.
Jurassic Park 3
The black sheep of the Jurassic Park franchise. Tyrannosaurus Rex is only in one scene where it fights the Spinosaurus.
Now this scene split the JP fandom right down the middle. As anyone with even a passing interest in Dinosaurs knows Tyrannosaurus Rex had the strongest bite of any Dinosaur. It had a bite force of over 23 tons. If it bit down on the Spinosaurus’s neck it would have killed it instantly.
Above is a reconstruction of a T. rex head for the 2005 BBC Documentary The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs, nicknamed steely Dan. It was given a bite force of 4 tons which is still greater than any other large meat eating Dinosaur or any other land animal ever to live on the planet. With a bite force of only 4 tons this T. rex was powerful enough to crush a car with its jaws with minimal effort and due to having a bite force of 4 tons it would have needed to have had a skeleton stronger than reinforced steel. Other estimates by Mason B Meers have shown that a real Tyrannosaurus could have had a bite of 23 tons, almost 6 times Steely Dan’s bite force. With this in mind imagine the damage a T. rex could do to a Spinosaurus’s neck, especially considering that Spinosaurus had a relatively slender neck too.
Of course the real reason that Tyrannosaurus’s bite didn’t kill the Spinosaurus was because of Jack Horner, the films scientific advisor. Now Horner has famously made it clear that he despises Tyrannosaurus. How one can have a hatred of an animal that has been extinct for 65 million years I have no idea. I think it stems from the fact that Horner studies Hadrosaurs, which were T. rex’s favourite prey. Unlike Triceratops and Anklyosaurs who were armoured and there could put up a fight, the hapless, Hadrosaurs are often depicted, unfairly as lowly idiotic Dinosaurs that would have been easy meals for the ravenous T. rex’s.
Naturally Horner a man who LOVES Hadrosaurs isn’t going to be too keen on the T. rex and decided to take him down a peg or two and replaced him as the main villain for the third Jurassic Park film.
Horner claims that Spinosaurus had a head that was 8 feet long and a body that was 60 feet long on the making of documentary for Jurassic Park 3. Horner is talking complete nonsense. He is right that Spinosaurus was the biggest meat eating Dinosaur ever to have lived on the earth. It was also a vicious and powerful predator in its own right. However he is grossly exaggerating its size and power. It did not have an 8 foot head, nor was its body 60 foot long. He shouldn’t have spread such misinformation as one of the worlds most renowned experts on Dinosaurs.
Horner did serve as the adviser on the first two films, but he was given complete free reign on the third and even allowed to decide which Dinosaurs would appear. Hence why there was even a chase scene involving Hadrosaurs.
The reason Horner was given such complete control over the third film is because it was directed by Joe Johnston who knew nothing about Dinosaurs and took Horner at his word. Steven Spielberg who directed the first two was a Dinosaur enthusiast himself and knew not to believe Horner’s biased lies against T. rex.
To be fair to Horner thought he does seem to have given up on his hatred of the T. rex to some extent, as he recently admitted that T. rex would have a good chance against I-Rex.
Having said that though I don’t know why Spielberg who loves the T. rex so much hired Horner in the first place? Why didn’t he hire Phil Currie or Bob Bakker who both love T. rex as much as he does?
Whatever the case whilst Jurassic Park 3 was the least successful of the Jurassic Park movies among both fans and the general public, though the T. rex/Spinosaurus feud entered into popular culture and there have been several reconstructions of the fight over the years. The T. rex always kills the Spinosaurus in them.
Tyrannosaurus Rex returned for a heroic role in Jurassic World. Rumour has it that Spielberg insisted on this to make up for the negative fan reaction to the Rex’s small role in Jurassic Park 3. There is one scene certainly that was intended as a take that to Jurassic Park 3 when the T. rex smashes its way through a Spinosaurus skeleton on its way to battle the films main villain the I-Rex.
The Tyrannosaurus from this film is meant to be the same one from the first film “Rexy” hence why it is shown have scars down its throat from its battle with the Raptors.
I very much liked the Rex’s appearance in this film. It did make up a little bit for the third movie. T-Rex and I-Rex’s fight is brilliant and seeing the Rex play a heroic role is a wonderful little call back to the ending of the first movie.
My favourite shot is at the end of the movie when the T. rex after having killed the I-Rex roars out in triumph. Once again having triumphed over its Dinosaurian and human enemies. Its yet another wonderful little callback to the first film.
It was also great seeing the Rex restored to its rightful position as the logo of the franchise.
Carnosaur Film Series
Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared in all of the entries in this Dinosaur film series that was released at round about the same time as Jurassic Park.
Carnosaur dealt with a similar premise to Jurassic Park of Dinosaurs being brought back to life through cloning. It was based on a novel of the same name by John Brosnan.
The films plot differs to the novel in some ways. It sees a mad scientist create a virus that causes women to give birth to Dinosaurs including several Deinonychus and a T. rex.
The T. rex is naturally the main villain of the piece and gets a climactic showdown with the main hero who uses a skid steer loader to battle it.
Now this movie is obviously not high class entertainment, but its still good for a few laughs. Sadly it has along with its sequels been discontinued on DVD for now, so its virtually impossible to get a hold of.
Tyrannosaurus returned in all of its sequels Carnosaur 2, Carnosaur 3 Primal Species and two unoffical sequels Raptor and The Eden Formula where it is the only Dinosaur that appears.
The Lost World 1998
This overlooked version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book is I feel the best adaptation after the original 1925 version.
It makes many huge deviations from the novel, but I think that works in its favour as unlike other versions a lot of the twists like Roxton being the villain and the deaths like Summerlee and Djena, Edward Malone’s main love interest are quite shocking and unexpected the first time round.
Tyrannosaurus is the main Dinosaur of the film that murders both Djena and Sumerlee.
Sumerlee’s death is a lot more gory than you’d expect. Normally being killed by a T. rex is the preferred way of being killed by a Dinosaur if you’re a human in films. Just one bite and its over, but poor old Sumerlee gets ripped limb from limb and tossed about by the Rex, and his mutilated body is later found by his team mates.
Overall this is an excellent appearance by T. rex. You really get the impression that he is the king of the Lost World. Nothing stands up to him, not the vicious, psychopathic natives, not the Raptors, they all flee the second he shows up.
Overall this is a great film and definitely one of the better depictions of the Tyrant Lizard King in popular culture.
King Kong (2005)
I wasn’t sure about whether to include this as technically its not a T. rex that battles Kong in this version. It is in fact a Vastatosaurus Rex “Ravager King Lizard” which is meant to be the direct descendant of Tyrannosaurus Rex. It makes sense in a way as when you think about it if Dinosaurs were still alive somewhere in the world today, then they would have continued to evolve.
Still I have decided to list this here anyway.
Here Kong battles three V-Rex’s. According to spin off material the V-Rex’s are meant to have wiped out Kong’s entire species except for Kong who is now the last of is kind. This helps to explain Kongs intense hatred of them. Think about it would he really fight three of them at once and risk Ann’s life rather than just get out of there if he didn’t really hate them? Jackson has stated that he believes Kong’s own family were killed by the V-Rex’s.
The Kong V-Rex fight is definitely one of the best kaiju battles in the history of cinema. I am not sure whether or not its better than the original. Obviously from a technical point of view its better, but I think its perhaps a bit too elaborate at times. I think this is a problem with a lot of the Dinosaur sequences in Jackson’s remake. They are enjoyable, but it feels like Jackson tries too hard to make them more over the top/ He has to have everyone get caught up between the Brontosaurus’s, buried under them etc, he has to have Kong and the V-Rex’s and Kong all get caught up in vines etc.
Sometimes less is more. A Brontosaurus chasing a guy up a tree and a T. rex fighting Kong in a forest are enough.
We’re Back A Dinosaurs Story
This animated movie which is based on the Hudson Talbott’s children book of the same name, features a Tyrannosaurus voiced by John Goodman as the main protagonist. The T. rex named simply Rex is experimented on by aliens and gains human intelligence alongside several other Dinosaurs as well as Pterodactly named Elsa voiced by Felicty Kendall who eventually falls in love with Rex.
I always loved this film so much growing up and its still a favourite of mine even today. It’s refreshing to see a heroic T. rex and the film has a wonderfully surreal story involving the Dinosaurs battling an evil Circus man. I always got creeped out at the end when after he is defeated he is eaten alive by his own crows.
Not T. rex’s most ferocious appearance in popular culture of course, but still a fun movie nonetheless.
Tammy and the T-Rex
By far and away the low point of T. rex’s career on the big screen. This dreadful film sees a woman implant her boyfriend’s brain in the body of a gigantic robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex. Seriously! Granted its meant to be a comedy, but still I’d rank this as probably T. eex’s worst film appearance. I suppose all big stars have that one film they are ashamed of, that they only did for the money.
Ice Age 3 Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Tyrannosaurus Rex appears in this film. It also makes a fleeting cameo in the original Ice Age frozen in ice.
Originally the large female T. rex named Momma is set up to be the main villain of the film, but gradually we see that it is more of a loving mother and the true main villain is Rudy, a gigantic Baryonx.
Baryonx was a medium sized fish eating Dinosaur, but in this film it is depicted as being the largest meat eating Dinosaur of all time. This was at the behest of the films producer who felt Baryonx looked scarier than the T-Rex.
However despite this at the end the T. rex is still shown to be superior when it thrashes Rudy and pushes him over the edge of a cliff, saving the main characters in the process. It’s always a crowning moment of awesome watching the king of the Dinosaurs thrash some new punk who thinks that he can take his place.
Blackadder Back And Forth
Tyrannosaurus appears briefly in this film adaptation of the classic BBC comedy. It appears when Blackadder and Baldrick travel back to the age of the Dinosaurs. It attacks them through the door of their time machine before being killed by Baldricks dirty underwear which also apparently causes the extinction of the Dinosaurs too.
Go to 6 minutes 56 seconds for the T. rex or just watch the whole film, as it’s hilarious.
Night At The Museum
Tyrannosaurus appears in this classic comedy about exhibits in a museum that are brought to life at night by magic. In quite a nice twist the T. rex (which is a living skeleton!) is shown to be very affectionate towards the main character and really becomes his pet. It also helps save the day at the end of the first film too. Though it appears in both of the sequels, sadly its role is more limited.
T-Rex Back to the Cretaceous
This somewhat odd educational film sees a teenage girl named Ally travel backwards in time to the age of the Dinosaurs where she helps protect a group of T. rex eggs for all the good it does as the Dinosaurs are wiped out soon after.
This movie also explores the discovery of Tyrannosaurus Rex too.
Overall its a pretty decent film that helps to show a new side to Tyrannosaurus Rex by depicting it as caring for its young. It manages to both be very educational and a fun romp at the same time.
The Land of The Lost
A Tyrannosaurus named Grumpy appears in this 2009 adaptation of the classic 70’s television series of the same name. The T. rex originally just tries to hunt the main characters, but soon gives up when they manage to escape. Ultimately things become personal when Will Ferrell’s character Dr Rick Marshall insults it by inferring that its brain was the size of a walnut. It spends the rest of the movie trying to kill him as a result. At the end of the movie however it becomes Rick’s friend and even helps to defeat the actual main villains of the film, the Sleestaks.
This film was panned by the critics and a box office failure. Personally I don’t know why. I thoroughly enjoyed it overall, but the highlight for me is definitely Grumpy’s confrontation with Rick where Rick bravely stands his ground and charges against Grumpy only to get swallowed whole in about 2 seconds.
Next up a look at T. rex’s career on television.
I remember seeing footage from The Ghost of Slumber Mountain in an old video game called 3D Dinosaur Adventure; it had the T Rex and Triceratops having a conversation with each other. (It was a game for quite young ages.) I never knew where it was from until today, so thanks!
Very comprehensive list. I really did love how the T Rex returned for a moment of glory at the end of Jurassic World – very appropriate.
in one of the land before time movies, the t rex was in the 6 one, not 7. the 7 one had deinonychus, a raptor species that is closely related to the velociraptor.