Deinonychus in Popular Culture

Deinonychus, despite being a relatively obscure Dinosaur to non Dino fans has nevertheless made quite a large influence on popular culture. It is the basis for one of the most iconic Dinosaur characters in fiction. The small, crafty, vicious pack hunter with the sickle like claw leaping through the air etc. That comes from this animal rather than its smaller cousin Velociraptor. (Though granted neither would have actually behaved this way.) Still sadly as it was Velociraptor that was given the big break (and admittedly has a much better name) then it stole all of Deinonychus’s limelight. Still the Dinosaur has made a few appearances across various forms of media over the years nonetheless.

Jurassic Park

Real Deinonychus

Deinonychus was the inspiration for the famous, larger and scarier Velociraptors in the Jurassic Park franchise.

In the novel of Jurassic Park the Dinosaurs are actually meant to be Deinonychus. At the time Michael Crichton was writing it was believed that Deinonychus was a member of the Velociraptor genus. The species Deinonychus Antirrhopus was even sometimes called Velociraptor Antirrhopus. The small pack hunting meat eating Dinosaur that terrorises the main characters in Crichton’s novel is called both Deinonychus and Velociraptor at various points. Grant even states that Deinonychus is now considered one of the Velociraptors.

By the time of the film however it was known that Deinonychus was not a member of the Velociraptor family. Nevertheless the makers of the film still decided to refer to the main pack hunting meat eater as Velociraptor because it was a more dynamic name. As a result Velociraptor shot to fame instead of Deinonychus. Still the Raptors in the film were based on reconstructions of Deinonychus at the time in every respect, (though even then it was still somewhat larger than a real life Deinonychus.) Interestingly enough however there would later be a member of the Dromeosaur family that proved to be as large as those from the film canon discovered not long after. This creature would be named Utahraptor.

Deinonychus has srill made a few appearances in some forms of Jurassic Park related media including comic book and video games, though often only in a small role. It was to have been included in Jurassic Park 4, which was to have featured Deinonychus’s being trained by marine’s for op secret missions. Though this idea was reworked into the renamed Jurassic World, ultimately Deinonychus was once again replaced with Velociraptor.


Deinonychus appeared in this classic documentary hosted by Superman star Christopher Reeve.

It was only a short sequence where two of them hunt a small ostrich like Dinosaur that they promptly tear apart. It’s an incredibly brutal sequence. Almost like something from a Zombie movie as we see the two predators open its hapless preys guts and smear themselves in its entrails.

The scene absolutely terrified me when I was younger. Aside from the gore, part of what makes it so terrifying is the way the Deinonychus’s suddenly spring out of nowhere. I always remember the image of that Deinonychus head appearing over the branch snarling at its prey. With its bright red eyes amidst the black night, it looked more like a Demon!

It’s just a shame that Phil Tippet, the animator of this sequence came to prominence just as stop motion was about to more or less be rendered obsolete as a mainstream special effect. If only he had come about 20 or so years earlier I think he would be one of the most celebrated Special effects guru’s of all time like Ray Harryahusen or Stan Winston.

Dinosaurs Attack!

This card series was released in 1988 and revolved around Dinosaurs being brought forward in time due to an experiment gone wrong. The Dinosaurs were often portrayed as being larger and far more vicious than their real life counterparts. The series was tremendous fun and Tim Burton in the early 90’s even sought to make a film adaptation. Sadly however the success of Jurassic Park convinced him to make a film based on Mars Attacks, an earlier card series made by the same company instead. Not that Mars Attacks isn’t an all time classic film of course, but I would have loved to have seen a film version of this.

Deinonychus appeared in some cards from this series, including one involving people trapped in the basement, which is one of my favourite in the series. Even by the standards of this series its quite brutal as we see children and even infants cornered by the ravenous Deinonychus’s.

The back of the card is a note from the people in the basement smeared in their blood, indicating that none of them escaped the Dinosaurs.


Now in all fairness the Raptors in Primeval are never completely identified as Deinonychus’s on screen. Still not only are they about the size of Deinonychus’s, but they are specifically identified as Deinonychus on the ITV website.

These guys appear frequently throughout the series. They are the focus of a few episodes and are shown to play quite an important role in the overall story of the show. For instance they kill the main villain of the first three series, Helen Cutter.

A lot of episodes ironically show the Raptors taking on surprisingly, but unintentionally heroic roles. With another example being in Series 5 Episode 3 where a Deinonychus kills Henry the psychotic husband of Emily just as he is about to murder Emily. Primeval can be considered trail blazers in this respect, as Jurassic World would similarly feature Dromeosaurs in more heroic roles.

Another reason these Raptors stand out is their design. Normally a lot of people don’t like the idea of feathered Dinosaurs, hence why we don’t see them in popular culture as much. To be fair when when we see a Deinonychus that looks like this

It does kind of loose a bit of its scare factor.

However I think the producers of Primeval found a nice balance by giving it a kind of feathery coating which allowed it to look more like a weird cross between a reptile and a bird.



Deinonychus appeared in both this novel and its film adaptation. This novel by John Bronson which revolved around Dinosaurs being cloned actually was published about 6 years before Jurassic Park.  Sadly however the film whilst fun, is nowhere near the quality of Jurassic Park and not surprisingly this novel is completely overlooked. I myself sadly have not had a chance to read it yet.

Whilst the Dinosaurs in the first two films in the Carnosaur series are Deinonychus’s the third film establishes them as Velociraptors instead. Velociraptor once again stole Deinonychus’ spotlight, though to be fair I doubt this would have been Deinonychus’ big break anyway.

Thanks for reading.

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