My first love has always been dinosaurs, as far back as I can remember. Even before my love for animals started. As a pre-schooler, I used to pick out only the most colorful rubber dinosaur toys to play with. I mean, who wasn’t obsessed with dinosaurs back then right? As a kindergartner, I even wanted to marry a paleontologist. And thankfully, the years have been kind in satiating my appetite for the best dinosaur documentaries.
There are so many out there, and no matter which ones you choose to watch (because I assume you’ll be watching more than one), each provides something different. Some are purely for entertainment, while others are meant to educate. It is also fun to compare older documentaries to new ones and see how what we know is constantly changing. For example, now we know that some species of dinosaur actually had feathers and that there were Arctic dinosaurs!
Now in honor of the wonder that is dinosaurs, I present to you my list of the top dinosaur documentaries of all – time.
7. Jurassic Fight Club
For a little more gore in your dinosaur documentary and a few blaring scientific inaccuracies, make sure to watch this series containing 12 episodes, hosted by self-taught paleontologist George Blasing. This dinosaur documentary series originally ran from July 29, 2008 to October 22, 2008.
What is interesting about Jurassic Fight Club, is that most of the episodes feature dinosaur battles that are based on actual fossil finds. The fossils are forensically analysed and an imaginary scenario is drawn up and played out at the end of each episode. Sort of like Animal Face-Off except the dinosaurs are CGI and not working model replicas.
Since George Blasing narrates the majority of each episode, you won’t get much factorial content, but instead vividly implausible scenarios that are a product of his imagination.
If watching dinosaurs kill each other is not your cup of tea, History.com has a game called “Turf Wars” in which you can play as one of 6 dinosaurs and have to defeat the other 5 using cheat codes and your skills.
For those who really know dinosaurs, make sure to watch the episode “Utahraptor vs. Gastonia” for laughs, in which one of my favorite dinosaurs (Utahraptor) does some the fanciest wrist work you will ever see from a dinosaur.
- All the carnivorous dinosaurs are depicted to have pronated hands. Woops. (dinosaur lovers and experts will know why this is wrong).
- Most of the featured theropod dinosaurs are depicted with little or no feather covering which is now a rather obsolete depiction of them.
6. Clash of the Dinosaurs
It has come to my attention that Mathew Wedel who was interviewed for this series, heavily criticized Clash of the Dinosaurs for quote-mining things that he said. Dangerous Ltd, the London-based film production company that created COTD, supported the discredited theory that dinosaurs had two brains – one extra to control the hind limbs and tail. While Wedel insisted that this belief was incorrect, the documentary distorted his comments to support the myth instead.
5. March of the Dinosaurs
March of the Dinosaurs is a rather unique addition to this list, as it follows a young Edmontosaurus named Scar and his herd as they migrate south for the winter with Pachyrhinosaurus. It also follows a Troodon named Patch. The setting is 70 million years ago in North America.
The film was inspired by recently discovered evidence of Tyrannosaurus hunting in packs, dinosaurs living in snowy areas, and dinosaur migration.
For those of you who have seen Walking With Dinosaurs the Movie, this 2011 documentary/movie narrated by Stephen Fry (this man seems to be in a lot of them), may seem very similar to it – it even has many of the same species – although this one came first. Happy coincidence? Me thinks not.
Praise to this one for depicting the Tyrannosaur Yutyrannus with feathers. MOTD was the first and only production to do so. Later discoveries of the Yutyrannus proved that the ones living in colder climates did in fact have feathers.
4. Dinosaur Planet
This one is an oldie from 2003 that aired on the Discovery Channel on December 14th and consisted of 4 episodes. This was indeed the second dinosaur documentary I ever saw, with Little Das’s Hunt being the 1st episode I saw.
It was narrated by Christian Slater and won 2 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera) and Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera).
Each of the four episodes in this series follows a central character of a specific species in its habitat unlike the others mentioned above. The episodes track a female Velociraptor in Asia, a young male Daspletosaurus in North America; a female Saltasaurin South American, and a young adult Pyroraptor in Europe, respectively.
Instead of being more documentary-style, Dinosaur Planet is more movie-like with Slater talking about what the dinosaurs are doing, peppered with paleontologist Scott Sampson presenting facts. The pace does not slow down. The end of the episode “White Tip’s Journey” ends with two dinosaurs getting buried in sand which depicts a real fossil specimen that was discovered of a Velociraptor and Protoceratops.
An important point to note is that this series was the first to depict Oviraptorids and Raptors with feathers and primitive wings.
Ahhhhhh TOP 3!
3. Walking With Dinosaurs
Now we come to one of the most divine of all the dinosaur documentaries ever made. A dinosaur documentary so grand it even deserves its own separate line in this article with a bold capital font :
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
What more is there to say really? Every true dinosaur fan would have watched this six-part documentary irrespective of its few early factorial faults and numerous paleontologists putting it on blast for the presentation of theories as facts.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, WWD is the most expensive documentary pre-minute ever made. That was with even with the use of animatronic dinosaurs, CGI and real locations. The series won 2 BAFTAs for Innovation and Best Original Television Music, and 3 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program, Outstanding Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming – Sound Editing.
The type of narration used in WWD as though dinosaurs are animals that live in the present has been used in numerous dinosaur documentaries since, including “Planet Dinosaur”.
40 pre-historic creatures are provided insights on in WWD, with Kenneth Branagh presenting the BBC version and Avery Brooks presenting the Discovery Channel version.
The series talks about the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, how the dinosaurs that lived during these periods looked, behaved, lived and died.
Following WWD came two more documentary series titled Walking With Beasts and Walking With Monsters, and as of 2007 in Australia, a live adaptation of the series titled Walking With Dinosaurs : The Arena Spectacular (for which I am impatiently awaiting an opportunity to view), seen by 7 million people in 206 cities!
2. Planet Dinosaur
This six-part series was the first major dinosaur-themed documentary from the BBC since “Walking with Dinosaurs” first came out more than a decade earlier. Its original run was from 14 September 2011 to 19 October 2011.
I have to say that although WWD will always hold a special place in my heart as the first dinosaur documentary I ever saw, the BBC really surpasses itself with Planet Dinosaur in terms of CGI, narration (by John Hurt!), and the information.
Most of the information presented is based on discoveries made after WWD, and they do so in such a way that will make you love dinosaurs even more. Unlike in previous documentaries, Planet Dinosaur goes deep in to the details of dinosaur anatomy, places where their remains were discovered, their relationships with their environment, and stunning battle and hunting scenes.
More than 60 new species are presented in this magnificent series opening with Spinosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Troodon, Majungasaurus, Centrosaurus, Camptosaurus, Allosaurus, Kimmerosaurus, Pliosaurus funkei (aka Predator X), Argentinosaurus and Mapusaurus.
You’ll have to watch each and every episode to believe it. With a run time of 30 minutes per episode, you will be super-glued to your screen from start to finish.
And now, lads and ladies, here is our Numero 1 :
1. Last Day of the Dinosaurs
I was highly debating documentaries one and two in this list and I’m sure I’ll face some flak for this one. But as far as other documentary series go, this is the only one that portrays the Chicxulub impact and Alvarez hypothesis as the cause of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs in all its terrifying glory. Other documentaries have have popularly left a last episode dedicated to extinction findings.
LDOTD presents THE most horrific take on the asteroid impact theory ever. The soulful soundtrack playing in the background during the impact left me gripping my laptop screen, and my heart hammering against my ribs. I’ll admit, I even teared up a little.
I wont shout *spoiler* here, but I’ll give you a gist of the storyline : The events unfolding take place in the Pacific Northwest of North America, Central Mexico and Mongolia, with the Earth reacting violently to the asteroid impact. The immediate and after effects are also shown.
Various eco-systems are chronologised in the months afterwards along with the dinosaurs that live in them. Quetzalcoatlus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus are followed in North America, Charonosaurus and Saurornithoides in Mongolia and Alamosaurus (which suffer the most
upsetting awful terrible gruesome deaths) in Mexico.
Although the tone of this documentary is very dark, the end takes on a more bright one as it talks about the tiny mammals and survivors that evolved in to the modern mammals of today. As the documentary concludes, it compares dinosaurs to us – the dominant species on Earth today. This would not have been possible, had it not been for that asteroid.
“Only because they died, can human beings live.”
Rather frightening if you think about it.
What do you think about this list? Sound off the comments section below.
Want more? Check out I Know Dino’s “Five Must-See Dinosaur Documentaries” for a more recent list!
Dinosaur documentaries feature well-known species, but do you know the weirdest ones? Check out The Weirdest Dinosaurs of All Time!
Are you looking for the crème de la crème of the world’s dinosaur museums? Check out 5 of the World’s Best Dinosaur Museums!
Lead Image – Exile on Ontario St, Flickr Commons