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Prehistoric Monster

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This series tells the extraordinary story of life before the dinosaurs, a time when strange and savage creatures fought a ruthless battle to rule the Earth. This is Life's forgotten story, an epic war for our world. A war between MONSTERS.
— Extracted from Walking with Monsters trailer

A specific variation of What Measure Is a Non-Cute?, in which a prehistoric or otherwise extinct animal which is portrayed as more powerful, dangerous and/or deadly (if not also dumber) than any still-living equivalent to the point where it ceases to be an animal and becomes a marauding monster — larger and faster than any extant apex predator, with no equal in the modern world, filled to the brim with claws and jaws, able to smash apart man-made vehicles to get at the tasty, tasty humans inside, a feat no lion or tiger or bear can do.

Often accompanied with exaggerated features, impossibly large size or hyper-aggressive behavior.

In all fairness, this trope does have a grain of Truth in Television — to fulfill their status as apex predator, a predator would have to be big or at least strong enough to take down things bigger than itself, often armored or just as aggressive. Most modern-day (land) creatures are nowhere as large as a Brachiosaurus, or as armored as a Triceratops — and without such niches, there's no reason for modern-day animals to be just as enormous or well-armed as a Tyrannosaurus rex. Of course, it bears keeping in mind that most prehistoric critters didn't get any bigger or more formidable than contemporary animals, and even the ones that did were still animals rather than monsters.

See also Dinosaurs Are Dragons, Dumb Dinos, Reptiles Are Abhorrent, Everything Is Trying to Kill You, Our Monsters Are Different, Primate Versus Reptile, T. Rexpy, Spinosaurus Versus T. rex, Terror-dactyl, Big Creepy-Crawlies, and Historical Villain Upgrade. Meek Mesozoic Mammal is a related concept, where they're contrasted against the "monstrous" dinosaurs. These creatures are common sights in Hollywood Prehistory. If you want to see some Real Life information about extinct critters, see here and here. For a popular way of averting this, see Domesticated Dinosaurs, Goofy Feathered Dinosaur, and Non-Malicious Monster. This trope had a heavy influence on the more fantastical Kaiju trope as well, since many early examples are based on dinosaurs or otherwise prehistoric in nature, and in Prehistoric Animal Analogue, as the fascination and vision of extinct animals as more powerful and aggressive led them to be used as inspiration for several fictional designs.


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  • An ad campaign for Nissin Cup Noodles featured stop-motion-animated oversized ancient animals that either want to eat humans or feel the urge to be utter jerks to them. Compilation here.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Anomalocaris has gained a certain degree of popularity in Japan. It's often depicted as a huge monster with four grasping appendages, such as in Bubblegum Crisis and Kamen Rider Double, or in highly stylized fashion, like Anorith in Pokémon and Scorpiomon/Anomalocarimon in Digimon.
    • Carisu Hime, the female main character in Cambrian QTs, is an anthropomorphic Anomalocaris.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run, Diego Brando can transform himself and other living creatures into strange-looking, highly aggressive carnivorous dinosaurs and pterodactyls. This ability is called Scary Monsters.
  • One Piece: The Zoan-type Devil Fruits, which allow Animorphism, have a rarer "Ancient" subtype which allow users to transform into normally extinct animals (such as dinosaurs) and are strongly implied to be more powerful than normal Zoans. The Evil Overlord pirate Kaido, whose crew is Zoan-themed, has many Ancient Zoan users among his more high-ranking underlings. Specifically, his nine highest-ranking officers - the three "Lead Performers", who are the top three in the crew, and the six "Tobi Roppo", strongest of the Headliners (or second-grade officers) - all have Ancient Zoans. King and Queen of the Lead Performers, and X Drake, Page One, Ulti and Sasaki of the Tobi Roppo, have the Pteranodon, Brachiosaurus, Allosaurus, Spinosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus and Triceratops models of the Dragon-Dragon Fruit, respectively. Jack, the third of the Lead Performers, ate an Ancient model of the Elephant-Elephant Fruit (Model: Mammoth), while Black Maria and Who's Who of the Tobi Roppo ate Ancient models of the Spider-Spider Fruit (Model: Rosamygale Grauvogeli, a prehistoric spider that's the ancestor of the modern tarantula, funnelwebs and trapdor spiders) and Cat-Cat Fruit (Model: Saber-Toothed Tiger), respectively.
  • Dinosaur Sanctuary very much averts this. The dinosaurs of Enoshima Dinoland are depicted as having needs and problems no different than those of the animals you find in real-life zoos. This is well-established in the first chapter when the zoo hosts a feeding show for its Giganotosaurus, where the dinosaur cautiously and quietly investigates the deer carcass presented to it before taking it; protagonist Suzume later describes the huge theropod as "a big spoiled sweetheart". In fact, one of Suzume's main motivations is to help dispel the popular image of dinosaurs as vicious monsters. That said, while they aren't mindlessly vicious, that certainly doesn't make them safe, with a defining incident of the world being when a stressed-out Allosaurus mauled her own keeper. The overall moral is "they may be animals, but animals still kill people."

    Comic Books 
  • Flesh: Every single prehistoric animal by default is depicted as a dimwitted, hyper-aggressive, bloodthirsty brute that will horribly kill any human they can get their claws and teeth on (and yes, that includes the herbivores, small mammals, and insects), and prove more than a match for advanced future technology. It gets to the point that even a dinosaur fossil manages to kill someone. Of course, the humans in the stories aren't much better...
  • The comic series The War that Time Forgot featured prehistoric monsters capable of battling humans with World War II level armaments — and WINNING.
    • This idea is expanded on for DC: The New Frontier, as "Dinosaur Island" turns out to be an Eldritch Abomination that spawns the Prehistoric Monsters as a natural defense and ready-made army. It's later revealed that the entity, "The Centre", is known better by comic fans as Starro the Conquerer.
  • No One Escapes The Fury: Book two sees a grudge match between the Fury and his nemesis Voidoid be interrupted when a monster calling itself The Warbeast shows up. It's a giant, mutant T-Rex that is not only super-intelligent but also has psychic powers to boot, as well as an intense love of carnage. It had apparently put itself in hibernation during the Ice Age when it's preferred victims, other dinosaurs, had been wiped out. The Fury only managed to beat it by dropping the creature into a pool of liquid nitrogen and putting it back to sleep.

  • The documentary series Walking with… plays the trope straight in two cases (Walking with Monsters and Sea Monsters), but averts it in most part of the series, such as in Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts, The Ballad of Big Al, and Prehistoric Park. In this spinoff prehistoric animals are described as "something which is missing in our world, amazing animals that time has left behind" and worth bringing back to life; moreover, they show up later in the park alongside their living relatives (Martha the mammoth with African elephants, dinosaurs with birds and crocodiles, sabre-toothed cats with cheetahs and so on). Here the discrimination between extinct and non-extinct animals is absent (a very rare example in media). The trope is even inverted in one case — keeper Bob is affectionate with the giant millipede relative Arthropleura and says, "This is not like spiders and other small modern creepy-crawlies. This is a proper animal".
  • Another spinoff, Chased by Dinosaurs, is an aversion of the trope, since their execution is no different from any other wildlife documentary. Host Nigel Marven (an actual wildlife TV presenter) goes shark-cage diving with a megalodon, tracks a Therizinosaurus cross-country, and watches (from a safe distance) a pack of Giganotosaurus hunt (and they seem more interested in hunting their usual prey than snacking on the tiny human). That said, there's a definite sense of wonder to Nigel's reactions, and he does use the word "monster" a couple times.
  • Moreover, many WWD imitations portray prehistoric critters (not only dinosaurs) as nothing but ever-fighting brutes, often with an altered look to make them scarier. Jurassic Fight Club and Animal Armageddon are two main examples.
  • Despite its name, Walking with Monsters doesn't portray prehistoric animals as being more monstrous than those in its dinosaur-themed predecessor. It mostly focuses on the megafauna (a.k.a. the big, recognizable animals, as opposed to the more obscure ones), which sometimes involves employment of this trope, but not as often as one might think. While the show sometimes gushes about, say, how awesome a predator the Gorgonops was, it ultimately shows it as an animal trying to survive when it succumbs to thirst and starvation. The portrayal of the Permian-Triassic extinction that follows shortly thereafter is also played up as a tragic event.
    • The above, however, arguably applies mainly to the program's treatment of Paleozoic vertebrates (in other words, our direct ancestors and their close relatives). Many of the predatory arthropods and related invertebrates, on the other hand, are indeed given a comparatively more monstrous (occasionally bordering on Always Chaotic Evil) treatment. The narration at times plays their predatory behaviours as though they're intentionally trying to wipe our fish and tetrapod progenitors off the face of the Earth (with descriptors like "arthropod enemies" being used frequently), despite the fact that they're also just animals struggling to survive in the way that happens to work best for them.
  • Despite the name, Monsters We Met mostly averts this, with the exception of its depictions of Megalania, the short-faced bear, and Haast's Eagle. Nonetheless, the series maintains some degree of sympathy for them, coming to the conclusion that Humans Are the Real Monsters for having driven the Pleistocene megafauna to extinction.
  • Monsters Resurrected plays this painfully straight — it's even in the title! The most notorious example may be the Spinosaurus, compared to which even Jurassic Park III's depiction of the animal could be considered realistic.
  • Dinosaur Revolution subverts this trope: The animals act more like cartoon characters rather than savage monsters, and Noisy Nature is averted. That said, this trope is played straight with the Saurosuchus and Torvosaurus. Noisy Nature is also played straight (and arguably parodied) with the Torvosaurus, who just loves to show off his Mighty Roar
  • Walter Cronkite's documentary "Dinosaur!" (1990) plays it straight several times during the four episodes (especially the first one), and some puppetry scenes involving predatory dinosaurs hunting their prey may be Nightmare Fuel for some people. However, it averts it in the last two episodes, where dinos are described in a more positive way, as intelligent, caring creatures.
  • The Hunt for Chinese Dinosaurs does a Lampshade Hanging on the trope: dinosaurs are called dragons from the start to the end, but the narrator does specify at one point that this is a blending of the cultural tradition of both Western and Eastern world.

    Films — Animation 
  • 1988's The Land Before Time may count as one of the first aversions in Movieland. Here the main characters are thinking dinosaurs trying to reach the Great Valley with the Power of Friendship; however the villain Sharptooth is one of the most ferocious T. rexes ever depicted — although tyrannosaurs become humanized and, in the case of the character Chomper, even friendly in the Lighter and Softer sequels. Fantastic Racism also characterizes some adult herbivorous dinosaurs in the series (like Cera's father and sometimes his daughter herself).
  • 2000's Disney Dinosaur averts this trope (like the similar The Land Before Time) with the herbivorous dinosaurs, having several humanized characters, many of them gentle and likable such as Aladar and Neera, but also Eema, Baylene, and Url. Even the villain, Kron (an Iguanadon), is a villain for actual, character-based reasons and not simply because he's evil. Played straight, on the other hand, with Carnotaurs and raptors, which never speak and just want to eat everybody else note . There's also a crucial difference in portrayal between the social, humanitarian lemurs and the self-centered "Social Darwinism" that permeates all the dinosaur of Kron's herd (even the young ones, who be victims of this mentality). The lemurs are modern Sifaka lemurs and not prehistoric primates at all.
  • The Ice Age movies (the first of them dating from 2002) avert this as far as mammals and birds from the Cenozoic era are concerned. Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles, however, get this treatment whenever they appear, be it frozen over and thawed, as in Ice Age: The Meltdown, or located in a Lost World, like in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (with the exception of sauropods and, ironically, T. rex and raptors).
  • A very early subversion is seen with the Tyrannosaurus rex in Fantasia. While it's certainly terrifying and feared by all dinosaurs, it focuses on one slow target, the Stegosaurus, rather than going on a killing spree. Once it kills the Stegosaurus, it ceases its aggression and settles down to eat. Its death during the great drought (assuming it's the same individual) later on is also portrayed in a tragic light. Mostly averted with the rest of the dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, which are never presented as monstrous, though the opening narration zigzags the trope in an odd way. The narrator describes the nature of dinosaurs in rather ominous terms (using such descriptors as "creeping horrors" and "walking nightmares") despite also admitting that most of them wouldn't have been all that bad in life.
  • This trope is quite evident in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, at least on a background level. The dinosaurs are repeatedly made out to be mindlessly violent, destructive, and stupid prior to being forcibly evolved by Captain Neweyes. Their primal forms are even explicitly referred to as "monsters".
  • Phil Tippett's Stop Motion short film Prehistoric Beast treats the T. rex as akin to a slasher villain in the way it stalks a Monoclonius.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The first live action dinosaur film, Brute Force (1914) started the tradition with a battle between a caveman and a Ceratosaurus.
  • 1925's The Lost World features the earliest Kaiju attack — a Brontosaurus that goes on the rampage in downtown London with little provocation. At least it doesn't try to eat anyone. In this case it's actually justified — it's a panicked animal that suddenly found itself in an unfamiliar and unsuitable environment.
  • In King Kong, Skull Island is full of nothing but Prehistoric Monsters. This holds for the original (1933), its sequel The Son of Kong, and Peter Jackson's version (2005).
  • 1948's Special Effects Failure laden Unknown Island sports a Flesh-Eating Giant Ground Slothnote , and its Ceratosaurs are relentless predators.
  • 1951's Lost Continent has most of its monsters think humans are tasty.
  • The Rhedosaurs from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and the Paleosaurus of The Giant Behemoth (1959) are the iconic images of what people think of when they think "Prehistoric Monster" (aside from Godzilla, see below).
  • Godzilla and many other Kaiju are real or fictional Dinosaurs — and not all of them are mutated by radiation to be 150+ft long.
    • Godzilla later subverts this in his later film appearances. He's shown as being rather intelligent (generally about as smart as an ape) and as being a loving and protective father.
    • The Monsterverse plays this trope straight, depicting the Permian period as a time when giant radiation-eating kaiju ran rampant and Godzilla's species was the apex predator of them all.
  • 1960's Dinosaurus! has a T. rex which acts like a rampaging monster and later fights a crane. There's also a Gentle Giant Sauropod of some kind and a wacky caveman.
  • 1966's One Million Years B.C. plays this trope as straight as possible. Here dinosaurs and other animals all seem to do nothing else but fight each other and menace cavemen (which are portrayed as classic, prehistoric brutish savages; this trope may be applied to prehistoric and modern humans as well, with the exception of one Handsome Heroic Caveman and his Nubile Savage girlfriend).
  • 1977's The Last Dinosaur has a Great White Hunter battle a Prehistoric Monster type T. rex.
  • 1977's The Crater Lake Monster features a semi-aquatic Plesiosaur that eats cattle and humans.
  • 1978's Most of the large animals in Planet of the Dinosaurs are extremely dangerous. The T. rex in this film acts like Jason Voorhees with a busted calender. To him, every day is Friday the 13th.
  • Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequels seem to zigzag this trope quite a bit. For example, in the first movie Alan Grant tells a young boy that Velociraptors are scary killers, but much later he responds to Lex that carnivores only behave the way nature intends. Furthermore, dinosaurs in this film are described as both terrible and attractive, with predators that correspond more to the former image and the herbivores to the latter (with the sick Triceratops and the "veggiesaurus" Brachiosaur being the best examples). Interestingly, the only time a character calls dinosaurs "monsters" (Lex with the brachiosaurs), Alan says "They're not monsters, Lex. They're animals".
    • However, in the two sequels the cloned animals appear more frightening and and murderous: see the difference between the Triceratops's attitude in the first Jurassic Park and The Lost World. The scariest example, however, may be the tiny Compsognathuses acting as two-legged piranhas, tearing chunks of flesh from a human and devouring him alive. In Real Life, the "compies" would probably be no more dangerous than house cats or wild foxes.
    • Alan himself later refers to the dinosaurs as "genetically engineered theme-park monsters" in Jurassic Park III. It appears to be justified however, since he's referring to the dissonance between real dinos and JP creations rather than the nature of prehistoric animals. In the same film, the raptors are given an unusually sympathetic motivation for their dogged pursuit of the human characters: they're only trying to recover their stolen eggs, and when Alan returns the eggs at the film's climax, the raptors leave in peace.
      • Lady Margaret, the alpha-female Triceratops (and according to some fans, the very same sick trike from the original) drives the above point home in Jurassic Park: The Game. All three of them, in fact, if you don't turn off the car horn or get out of the way in time.
    • The Indominus rex of Jurassic World was deliberately engineered to be one; visitors were getting tired of "regular" dinosaurs, and the park management decided to create a terrifying psychotic killing machine to boost revenue. She escapes. According to Word of God, they wanted to avert this trope with the dinosaurs not named "Indominus rex". Indeed, even the raptors are depicted as being trainable (but not tame yet), while most of the other animals are only attacking because they're scared (Ankylosaurus), hungry (Mosasaurus), angry (Tyrannosaurus rex), or all three (Pteranodon).
    • And then there's the Indoraptor of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom who may as well be an exaggeration of this trope, as not only is he a powerful, intelligent and utterly vicious predator, he is also a genuine Sadist who takes great pleasure in the terror and agony of his victims, and is arguably the first dinosaur antagonist in the franchise to be genuinely malicious and evil. Like the Indominus, it's a genetically engineered monster, and emphatically not a regular, natural dinosaur. To provide contrast, all the other dinosaurs in the movie are treated like regular animals, albeit potentially very dangerous ones, and Blue the raptor is even portrayed as one of the movie's heroes.
    • The prologue to Jurassic World Dominion vindicates what Dr. Grant said about InGen's dinosaurs by offering a glimpse of actual dinosaurs living out their lives in the Cretaceous period. They're all presented as completely normal animals, presumably to provide contrast with InGen's artificial creations. It is played straight in the actual film with the Atrociraptor being ridiculously Super Persistent Predators (as part of their creation to be a bio-weapons), a Quetzalcoatlus with a grossly-oversized wingspan of 70 feet attacking an airplane just for flying through the same airspace as it, a feathered Pyroraptor with the ability to swim that doesn't let icy conditions and plunging into a freezing lake stop it from trying to kill two humans, the Therizinosaurus which despite being a herbivore is extremely aggressive and actively stalks humans and animals alike seemingly with the intent to kill them for no discernible reason... but ironically subverted with Giganotosaurus who, despite looking like a prehistoric dragon, is the least monstrous carnivorous antagonist since T. rex, as it never kills any human and only went on a rampage after being burned by fire. As if to emphasize this, its establishing shot in the film doesn't show it hunting or shrieking at nothing like you might expect, but simply napping peacefully in a forest clearing. But in the end, dinosaurs and prehistoric animals are shown peacefully integrating with modern animals and humans, with even the Mosasaurus peacefully swimming with humpback whales, firmly cementing them as animals and not monsters.
    • Dominion also has a fairy unique take in that the most evil animals are a type of prehistoric locust (ficticious as they are, since there were no Cretaceous locusts), which are at once the most mundane looking animals and yet still play into this trope by being bigger and more menacing than modern locusts and by potentially posing a globally catastrophic threat to the world's ecosystems and food supplies.
  • 2003's Ice Crawlers features killer trilobites.
  • The film adaptations of Journey to the Center of the Earth feature this trope just like in the original book. The 1959 movie has a group of Dimetrodons, and the protagonists have to buy enough time to get their raft into the water without getting attacked, though in fairness they were in a position that made them appear to be an easy source of food. The later 2008 adaptation features a massive, vicious theropod that mindlessly chases after two of the leads without justification; it meets its end when it follows them onto a field of sheet rock that breaks under its feet, sending it tumbling into the pit below.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993) portrays the population of humanoid-evolved dinosaurs in the parallel world as rough, dumb, murderous and just plain rude. Some of them are good guys, but overall, it's a much darker and less-pleasant world.
  • The Jungle Book (2016): King Louie received an Adaptation Species Change from an orangutan to the much larger, India-native Gigantopithicus, as well as being more malicious, menacing and serious than his Disney Animated counterpart. This was a move that baffled a lot of audience members, since The Jungle Book is not normally a story about prehistoric animals.
  • The Meg plays this dead straight. The backstory given for the eponymous shark says that it has evolved to hunt exclusively in extremely dark deep-sea environments. However, the moment it gets the opportunity to leave its natural habitat, it immediately goes towards shallow, sunny water where a real deep-sea fish would most likely die immediately, or at the very least get blinded and hideously deformed, just because that's where it can eat the most people. This happens twice with two separate sharks. No explanation is offered for this; everyone in the movie just treats it as obvious that a megalodon, despite having never seen a human before and having evolved to live on a diet of sea creatures that bear virtually no resemblance to humans, would instinctively head towards wherever it can kill the most people as soon as it finds out about their existence, even if it means ignoring basic self-preservation instincts. Also, the megalodon is mostly shown swallowing the people it kills whole, yet when it kills a group of poachers offscreen it decides to leave parts of their body intact and floating in the water, for no apparent reason other than to make the scene look more disturbing.
  • 65: Nearly all the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are shown as vicious, ugly, dim-witted, predatory animals that are always trying to kill the two protagonists on-sight, routinely giving up easier prey to try and hunt them, even small ones that attack them like packs of rabid dogs and don't care how many of their number are killed by their quarry. The only benign dinosaur they encounter is itself almost immediately killed by a pack of raptor-like dinosaurs, as if just to drive home how nothing cute or friendly could possibly survive here. The film seems to give off the impression that it's a good thing they're all about to be wiped out by the asteroid, so the Earth can be rid of such nasty, slobbering vermin.
  • Defied in The Tree of Life. A flashback to dinosaur times shows a young wounded Parasaurolophus completely at the mercy of some kind of maniraptorid dinosaur, possibly a Troodon. The predatory dinosaur looks like it's about to accept an easy meal, but then decides to show mercy and leaves the wounded creature alone. This ties in with the movie's broader themes about the nature of compassion, which, the movie argues, is not unique to humanity, and an intrinsic, ancient part of higher life.
  • Tremors: Although their origins are left unexplained in the first film, sequels establish that Graboids are actually Precambrian organisms (meaning they are so ancient, they predate the normal fossil record), and they occasionally occur in the present day due to their eggs being able to survive in dormancy for centuries. They are highly aggressive and extraordinarily voracious, the worm-like Graboid stage basically being a caterpillar that feeds to create Shriekers, and the Shriekers use the food they consume to produce endless and immediate waves of offspring, so neither can ever get full. Because of how rapidly they breed and voraciously they feed they have no legal protections and are killed on sight, despite their very low overall population that would otherwise classify them as an endangered species.

  • Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again:
    • Godzilla is an amphibious theropod with a crocodilian hide that lived between two and 150 million years ago, and was a ravenous carnivore that was up to 50 meters tall.
    • Anguirus is a carnivorous Tough Armored Dinosaur that lived between 150 to 70 million years ago, standing between 45 and 60 meters tall; and had multiple brains scattered throughout its body to maximize its speed and agility.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth, written by Jules Verne, may be the Trope Maker in literature with its iconic battle between two monstrous (and rather improbable) marine reptiles called "Ichthyosaur" and "Plesiosaur".
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Pellucidar" series similarly depicts most prehistoric animals as dangerous monsters. On David Innes's advent to the eponymous world At the Earth's Core, he is attacked — by a giant sloth. Exaggerated in the portrayal of Rhamphorynchus, which turn out to be intelligent, psychic, and genuinely evil.
  • Jurassic Park (1990) takes a similar approach to Spielberg's movies (see above) but with a Darker and Edgier tone (as one may see soon after reading the summary).
    • The characters do note that if the dinosaurs (especially the velociraptors) display hunting behaviour towards humans, they must have learned that humans make good/easy prey — as is the case with real, modern Man-Eaters.
    • There's a sequence justifying this trope in the first book — though not the movie — where geneticist Henry Wu proposes trying to engineer the dinosaurs to be more gentle and manageable, but Hammond shoots the idea down because "then our dinosaurs wouldn't be real." Henry doesn't say what he's thinking, which is that there's so much frog DNA already in them that they're already not real; Hammond's preference for the more violent dinosaurs is mostly due to marketability.
  • Quest for Fire gives us the giant lion which easily defeats two tigers and is said to be more powerful than a rhino, and the Kzamms which are a human version of this, being huge and bestial cannibals. Averted with the cave bears and giant apes which are accurately portrayed as herbivores who will leave humans alone if unprovoked. Said bears are still a nightmare if they are provoked though.
  • Raptor Red averts it completely. Not surprisingly, since it was written by a paleontologist. And not an ordinary one: the guy who started the "Dinosaur Renaissance".
  • Averted by the Dinotopia series, in which all the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are Intellectual Animals that for the most part exist peacefully alongside humans. The exceptions are the large uncivilized theropods of the Rainy Basin and they get portrayed as Noble Savages that can be bargained with. Contrast the miniseries.
    • One aversion occurs in the novel Chomper, where a boy raises a young Giganotosaurus in the city and teaches it the basic customs, all while other Dinotopia citizens repeatedly treat it with prejudice; fortunately, it still remembers these years later while living as an adult in the Rainy Basin.
  • Mostly averted in Dinoverse, though it depends on the book. In the first/first two books (the first was split into two) an Elasmosaurus and one Tyrannosaur are randomly monstrous, but with the T-rex it's actually discussed and justified, with a character believing that he's drawn to keep following and disturbing them. Triceratops pose a threat and are seen as overreacting in the protection of their young, but is otherwise fairly intelligent. In the second set of books, various predators are looked upon as noble, even ones who have attacked and bitten a protagonist earlier. The series is extremely prone to Amplified Animal Aptitude.
  • The 1997 Leigh Clark novel Carnivore features a T. rex that hatches from a preserved egg recovered in (of all places) Mysterious Antarctica, reaches full size in a matter of days due to exposure to radioactive waste, and turns a research outpost into its personal buffet table.
  • Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight is essentially an adventure/horror novel with dinosaurs horrifically ripping people up after escaping from the estate of the evil aristocrat who cloned them.
  • The Lost World (1912) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has its various prehistoric animals almost unanimous in their desire to eat the heroes. There's also a war between a society of human hunter-gatherers and a group of dryopithecoid "ape-men", and the Mighty Whitey heroes side with their fellow humans without a moment's hesitation. It's important to mention that, to contemporary Britons like Sir Arthur, prehistoric life wasn't just monstrous; it was inferior, since dinosaurs went extinct and we didn't.
  • Meg and its sequels play this trope completely straight: prehistoric predators like megalodon and Tylosaurus are unstoppable juggernauts of distruction that attack and kill everything in their path, even sinking navy ships without being harmed by them.
  • All Yesterdays sets out to deconstruct the concept and demystify the past. It decries the image of predators depicted in unending death struggles perpetually shrieking, and instead tries to portray them as actual animals with all the unusual anatomy and behavior that that entails. The "future paleontology" segment at the end parodies this trope, with modern animals reconstructed as prehistoric monsters, completed with lurid descriptions.
  • The short story The Monster of Partridge Creek has it right there in the name. The monster itself - a Ceratosaurus living in the early 20th Century Yukon - is portrayed as a truly terrifying creature, although it never actually seems to notice the human characters and is content with preying on moose and caribou.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Zig-zagged in Primeval. Every extinct animal has some dangerous aspect to it — even dodo birds house deadly parasites. However, while plenty of the creatures are portrayed as terrifying predators (the anurognathid swarm, Deinonychus, mosasaur and phorusrhacids, for instance), others are only dangerous because they're large/powerful and panicked (the Embolotherium herd, Dracorex and Columbian Mammoth), while still others are outright harmless (Scutosaurus) and some are so harmless they're adopted as Team Pets (Rex the Coelurosauravus, as well as the Diictodons, which are even mentioned in-series as Ugly Cute). Even the Spinosaurus, in spite of being a huge predator, doesn't seem to be trying to eat anyone; it's just dangerous because it's a large, panicked animal in a populated area.
    • This comes up in an episode in series 4. Philip Burton wants the creatures in the ARC's menagerie destroyed because he feels they're a security risk. Lester argues that if the public were to find out Philip had ordered the destruction of (admittedly dangerous) prehistoric creatures, it would look very bad for his image. Philip finally backs down.
  • Lost Tapes features several surviving prehistoric animals that all think humans are VERY tasty...
  • The 2001 miniseries of The Lost World deconstructs a lot of the imperialistic thinking of its source material, showing the dinosaurs and the much-maligned ape-men to be well-adapted, often beautiful, and sometimes fairly intelligent creatures. Notably, a major subplot (and one completely absent from the book), has Prof. Challenger (Bob Hoskins) preventing the natives of the plateau from exterminating the ape-men, but in doing so, he inadvertently brings disaster to the village when the vengeful ape-men summon a pair of Allosaurs. The series ends with him and the other explorers deciding to keep the plateau a secret in order to protect its inhabitants, while the book seems fairly cheerful about the possibility that they'll all go extinct, because they're monsters and that's what they deserve. This trope also shows up in-universe with Prof. Summerlee who represents the kind of paleontology attitudes typical of the 1911 setting — he refers to an Allosaurus in one scene as a "creature from Hell". While we do see little of the Allosaurs beyond their hunger, there's also a very charming scene where one of the heroes befriends a Hypsilophodon.
  • Super Sentai has three dinosaur-based series, and all of them avert this trope — mostly because the mecha in these series are all sentient and allies of the heroes.
    • In Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, mankind lived alongside the dinosaurs millions of years ago, with both races coexisting peacefully. Their guardian gods even take the shape of mechanical prehistoric beings.
    • In the backstory of Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger the dinosaurs did not go fully extinct. Instead, when the Big Bad crashed into earth 65 million years ago, the resulting explosion was so powerful that it created a parallel universe, in which the dinosaurs did not die off. Instead, they evolved into sentient lifeforms called Bakuryu, fully capable of human speech (Japanese human speech, that is.) The main three Bakuryu appear to be this trope in their first appearance, as the villains manage to brainwash them, but once they break free of it they prove to be very friendly creatures. Just imagine a large T.Rex playing with a five year old girl, because her adoptive father had no time for her. That's how gentle they are.
    • In order to become a member of the Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, the characters have to defeat one of the giant dinosaur mecha to prove they are worthy. The red ranger is the last to succeed in this task, as his tyrannosaurus partner does not deem him worthy — not because he isn't powerful enough, but because the T.Rex likes him so much that he doesn't want to put his life in danger when fighting the bad guys.
  • The Ultra Series features lots of prehistoric or dinosaur-based kaiju for the Ultras to fight. However, not all of the Prehistoric Monsters of the Week are depicted as savage, destructive forces of nature. The heroes have dealt with their share of peaceful, friendly, or non-malicious prehistoric kaiju, who are spared and allowed to live in peace.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Madison Mascot", a torn note has Walter Denton, Stretch Snodgrass, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton mistakenly believe that the new name for the Madison High football team will be the "Madison Mammoths".
    Walter Denton: What do you think of the new setup Mrs. Davis? The Madison Mammoths! That's what the team will be called of course.
    Miss Brooks: The Madison Mammoths?
    Walter Denton: Sure. Because of the elephant mascot. You remember those prehistoric hairy old elephants, don't you Miss Brooks?
    Miss Brooks: Not personally.

  • Dino Attack RPG: Zigzagged. Much of the RPG portrays the mutant dinosaurs as monstrous, savage, and destructive enemies that exist for the heroes to exterminate. However, these dinosaurs aren't actually inherently evil, and there are characters such as Rex who view them sympathetically and have even tamed them, which has led to in-universe debates over whether it's morally justified to wipe out the mutant dinosaurs. Furthermore, most regular non-mutant dinosaurs (including the tyrannosaurus) are treated as sapient and benevolent instead of monstrous, although they are still fearsome enough that it's a bad idea to get on their bad side.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dinosaurs Attack!: An incredibly Exaggerated Trope here, as every prehistoric creature is portrayed as a hyper-aggressive, bloodthirsty predator (even species that should be herbivores), with no thoughts beyond causing as much random wanton death and destruction as possible (with the exception of the Trachodon, for some reason, although it accidentally kills a person anyway). It's eventually revealed that dinosaurs and their kin are literal soulless monsters created by a satanic, reptilian, God of Evil.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The original 3rd Edition rules classified all prehistoric vertebrates as "beasts", not "animals", thus lumping them together with fantastical monsters such as ankhegs, griffons and hippogriffs, bulettes, Roc Birds, hydras, owlbears, and purple worms. This meant that dinosaurs and other creatures extinct on Earth couldn't be affected by magics or class abilities targeting the "animal" creature-type, even if they still constituted a natural part of their native game-worlds' contemporary ecosystems. This distinction lasted until the 3.5 revisions abolished the "beast" creature type, converting the extinct critters to "animals" and the fantasy creatures as "magical beasts". This gave less weight to being extinct on Earth but more to appear on Earth at any time and have no supernatural abilities.
    • 3.5 also has a few wholly fictional dinosaur-type creatures, such as the fleshraker and bloodspitter, but despite some very unusual abilities, they are still considered "animals". The fleshraker in particular was a very popular option as a druidic animal companion.
    • There still do remain in 3.5 and later editions a few creatures of the Magical Beast and Aberration types that bear strong resemblances to prehistoric animals — the digester, destrachan, ethereal marauder, yrthak, and prismasaurus in particular — you could argue that these things further normalize dinosaurs within the setting, given the many, many Magical Beasts based on real animals — manticores, sphinxes, griffins, chimeras, and lamassim, for instance, are all distinctly leonine. Most of these were treated as being barely more intelligent than animals, at best, with destrachans alone being written as "incredibly evil and crafty sadists".

  • Averted by many earlier LEGO themes, such as the Duplo line that had cavemen and dinosaurs living together peacefully, or the dinosaur-related subline of Adventurers, which was about saving the animals from falling into the villains' hands. It is, however, played straight in Dino 2010 and especially in its American counterpart, Dino Attack, which centered around the heroes battling evil prehistoric beasts with exaggerated monstrous features.
  • The dinosaurs from the 1998-99 Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect toy line by Kenner/Hasbro could certainly qualify as nearly all of them are carnivorous and described as being far more lethal than their natural counterparts due to being engineered as bio-weapons. Becomes Hilarious in Hindsight, considering the direction the films would later go in.

    Video Games 
  • In Pokémon, while there are Pokémon designed after dinosaurs, a number of them are extinct and can only be attained by reviving them from fossils, making them true Prehistoric Monsters. However, this is zigzagged — while most fossil Pokémon are based on predators, Amaura and Aurorus are based on herbivores, and have calm personalities. In addition, though the Pokédex describes a number of said predators as dangerous, they still remain loyal to the player, and are even capable of showing affection towards them like any other Pokémon via Pokémon-Amie in Gen VI.
    • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet introduce Paradox Pokémon, with those in Scarlet basically being Prehistoric Monster versions of other Pokémon. They are always bigger than their modern equivalents and often have attributes as horns, tusks, feathers and natural armor, but without resembling any real prehistoric animals.
  • Played straight in the Dino Crisis series, where even the sole herbivore of the franchise obeys the rule of Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • Dino D-Day has Nazi cloned dinosaurs be used to great effect against the allies, certainly far more so than any modern animal could. Many are equipped with additional weapons and armor, but others are a serious threat to heavily armed soldiers without them.
  • Invoked and parodied in The King of Fighters XIV: the King of Dinosaurs's gimmick is that he dresses up in a dinosaur costume and acts like a Wrestling Monster - using illegal moves, threatening the audience, et cetera. Unfortunately for him, he rather frequently slips back into his Tizoc persona, and almost everybody doesn't buy his claims of having committed a Face–Heel Turn for a second.
  • Monster Hunter zigzags this trope. Most of the titular monsters are based on prehistoric animals, and the creators wanted them to be part of a realistic ecosystem with herbivores and carnivores. To avert the trope, they put in peaceful herbivorous dinosaurs like the Aptonoth and they show some of the monsters' natural behavior in the ecology videos. But, for Rule of Cool and gameplay reasons, they also play this trope straight, with many more kinds of carnivores than herbivores, and many of the large monsters attack the hunter or other large monsters on sight, for example in the ecology videos of Akantor or Brachydios. The straightest example might be Deviljho, a monster based on T. rex which needs to eat constantly. It's even stated to have brought species close to extinction, and in-game they will even eat other large monsters.
  • Saurian averts this with all its creatures, which are depicted as normal animals that wouldn't be out of place in a nature documentary. Being a game aimed at accuracy and education, they wouldn't have much of an excuse for playing this straight.
  • Oakwood is a Survival Horror game set in an abandoned, dinosaur-infested campground. And all three of the dinosaur species encountered (specifically, Tyrannosaurus rex, velociraptor, and dilophosaurus) are remorseless bloodthirsty carnivores that are all too eager to hunt player character Madison and her six friends on sight.
  • Zoo Tycoon zig-zags with this. Carnivores like T.rex and raptors will try to escape and eat guests (though admittedly, so do some regular animals) while herbivores are somewhat more peaceful. But due to lazy programming, once they escape the herbivorous dinosaurs will also rampage and in the first game they are inaccurately also said to eat human guests.
  • Fate/Grand Order's depiction of Mary Anning uses this trope rather deliberately, with Anning's discoveries being depicted as freakish monstrosities with grey skin, warped proportions, dead eyes, and toothy grins. This is because Anning is drawing from how they would have been depicted in her own life (before the term "dinosaur", or even the concept of an extinct animal, had entered scientific thought), particularly the painting Duria Antiquior.
  • Prehistoric Kingdom is a thorough aversion, as similar to Saurian above, it's an edutainment game that strives for accuracy over Rule of Cool. Fittingly, all of its animals are presented naturalistically as attractions to be displayed in a fairly ordinary zoo (as opposed to a theme park with outlandish security measures in place). It's also something of a Spiritual Successor to Prehistoric Park, and similarly presents prehistoric animals as something missing from the modern world which are worth our time and effort to bring back from extinction.

    Web Original 
  • This whole trope is dragged out back and beaten within an inch of it's life by The Optimistic Painting Blog with Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh!
  • Satirized with relish in this parody of the fictional species in Terra Nova.
  • Many of the "paleoart" on DeviantArt seek to avert this as much as possible by portraying said prehistoric animals beyond carnage and fighting. Behold a subadult ''Alioramus'' catching insects in a warm summer field.
  • Averted by Dead Sound's Dinosauria series. Dinosaurs are portrayed as being complex, fascinating creatures acting like real animals. The Gorgosaurus kills a female Lambeosaurus to eat, but leaves the rest of the herd alone, the Tylosaurus pursuing the Geosternbergia is acting seemingly out of curiosity than unnecessary aggresion, and in the finale, The Last Tyrant, the extinction of the dinosaurs is painted as a powerful and unfair tragedy on undeserving victims, but paints a ray of hope in the end that the dinosaurs may be gone, but their awe-inspiring legacy lives on today, both in human culture and in their descendants, the birds.

    Western Animation 
  • The Flintstones (started in the 1960s) completely averts the trope, showing funny prehistoric animals that behave either like living tools or pets (Dino).
  • The first aversion was the lovable Gertie the Dinosaur (ironically, the very first prehistoric critter to show up in cinema, in 1914).
  • The marvel show Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023), which is aimed at a younger audience, is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Lunella Lafayette, is otherwise known as the Teen Genius Super Hero moon girl. She befriends a giant red t-rex from another dimension. She calls him "Devil". With his brawn and her brain they fight together to protect the Lower East side.
  • Primal (2019) is set in a prehistoric world occupied by cavemen, dinosaurs, and all manner of giant beasts. Most animals appearing in the show are exaggerated in size and are given monstrous features. The first episode alone gives us a giant crocodile, a large and toothy pterosaur and a pack of Tyrannosaurus rex with Ceratosaurus-like horns (pictured above). The show also contains mammoths twice the size of African elephants, human-sized bats, saber-toothed wolves, vicious ape-men, and a Giant Spider as large as a sauropod dinosaur. Still played with in that, even with the ridiculous setting and exaggerated animals, some of said animals are still shown to be intelligent and sympathetic creatures, with one of the two protagonists even being a T. rex.
  • Invoked in Phineas and Ferb when Doofenshmirtz resurrects dodos. He doesn't actually know what a dodo is, but they're extinct like dinosaurs, so he imagines it'll be like giant dinosaurs destroying the city. He is disappointed to find out that dodos are turkey-like creatures. (Which is a bit ironic when you realize that dodos are dinosaurs, like all birds.)
  • Simba The King Lion portrays Triceratops, of all things, as a vicious pack-hunting predator that preys upon a Brontosaurus. Said Triceratops are extremely monstrous-looking, with only a single horn on their face, massive spiky neck frills, eyes located where their nostrils should be, and carnosaur-like jaws filled with sharp teeth.
  • Subverted in Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are treated as normal animals. Many episodes involved protagonist Jack Tenrec having to help them in some way, with protecting them and humans from each other being a recurrent concept.
  • Predaking of Transformers: Prime is this towards the modern-day Cybertronians, an extremely powerful Super-Persistent Predator who outclasses everyone else in the show subverted in that he and his species were apparently sentient all along.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Subverted in the short "Prehistoric Porky" with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals that look fearsome, vicious, and frightening but turn out to just be acting that way as part of a joke, misunderstanding, or an act.
    • Averted by Porky's pet dinosaur Rover, who acts just like a gigantic dog.
  • Subverted in The Simpsons episode "Days of Future Future" where dinosaurs and pterosaurs are tame and perform in a Jurassic Park-type zoo. T. rex was even shown having a teddy bear to sleep with.
  • Dinotrux: Unlike other shows about prehistoric animals, this trope gets exaggerated due to the said animals in question also being half-vehicles, often the ones with dangerous features which make them more dangerous than their real life counterparts.
    • Scraptors are mechanical dromaeosaurs who will gladly tear other Trux to pieces.
    • To some extent, Scrapadactyls who can be as dangerous as Scraptors, but are actually content to scavenge spare scrap metal that is found lying around or prey on the weak or injured.
    • Sawmetrodons (half-Dimetrodon, half-trencher) are a dangerous species of Trux, who use their saws to cut down forests in order to expose woodland ore.
    • Poundersaurolophus (half-Parasaurolophus, half-piledriver) is interesting case of this trope, since it's one of the very few times when a Parasaurolophus is depicted as prehistoric monster. This Trux are extremely aggressive that they pound everything in sight.
    • Aquadons (half-Mosasaurus, half-submarine) are very territorial species of Dinotrux who use sliding out shark-like saw-fins on invaders in their territory, and are extremely protective of their sea ore.
    • Dreadtrux (half-Dreadnoughtus half-bucket-wheel excavator) are massive species of Dinotrux, dwarfing even the Craneosaurs and T-Truxes and spend months eating and destroying everything in their path. This is one of the few instances where a sauropod plays this trope.
    • Shredadons (half-Suchomimus, half-scrap metal shredder) are very territorial species of Dinotrux who are even feared by scrap collectors due to their shredding mechanism rendering any unlucky Trux into the show equivalent of Ludicrous Gibs.
    • Drillipedes (half-Arthropleura, half-mining drill) are aggressive species of Tools that attack anything that they think might take out their ore.

    Real Life 
Sometimes palaeontologists have given to their fossilized animals quite nasty-meaning scientific names, even though they usually create more neutral names for their critters.

  • The word dinosaur is usually said to mean "terrible lizard" (but see below).
  • Tyrannosaurus rex translates into "tyrant lizard king"
  • Deinonychus means "terrible claw"; Deinosuchus: "terrible crocodile" (one of the largest crocodilians ever) ; Deinocheirus: "terrible hand" (Deinocheirus turned out to have been omnivorous and not predatory); Deinotherium: "terrible beast" (even though it would appear today as a simply odd-looking elephant); Dinofelis: "terrible cat" (even though this kind would not be more menacing than a leopard if alive today); "Dinichthys" (the older name of Dunkleosteus): "terrible fish". However, Dino/Deino in Greek also means "magnificent"; indeed, when Richard Owen (the dinosaurs Trope Namer) give them the name intended that his dinosaurs were ponderous creatures rather than terrible.
  • Dynamoterror ("power terror"). A smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus, it's often referred to as "the dinosaur who's name sounds like a D-list supervillain", though a 2020 study found that it might not count as an authentic species due to the fragmentary nature of its remains.
  • Velociraptor ("swift thief" or "swift murderer") and all the other -raptors. Ironically, Gigantoraptor ("gigantic murderer"), despite its name was probably vegetarian and behaved like a modern-day ostrich. That said, ostriches are one of the few modern-day birds know to kill people sometimes, even though only for self-defense.
  • Triceratops horridus: "Horrid Three-horned Face". However, "horridus" in Latin also means "spiky": an alternative translation might be "spiny three-horned face", subverting the trope.
  • The pachycephalosaurians Stygimoloch and Dracorex mean respectively "demon from the Styx river" and "dragon king". Though now both genuses are believed to actually represent juvenile specimens of Pachycephalosaurus, or "thick-headed lizard".
  • Gorgosaurus, Teratosaurus: both meaning "monstrous lizard". Teratophoneus, which means "monstrous murderer". Lythronax means "king of gore". Several tyrannosaurs had such names, including Tarbosaurus ("alarming lizard"), and Daspletosaurus ("frightful lizard").
  • Daeodon, a type of entelodont, means "dreadful tooth". Remains that turned out to be individuals of Daeodon were previously known as Dinohyus, which means "terrible pig".
  • Troodon means "wounding tooth". But the whole scientific name of it is Troodon formosus — "formosus" means beautiful or elegant.
  • The full name of Britain's only dromaeosaur species is Nuthetes destructor, which means something along the lines of "destroyer monitor" (as in a monitor lizard).
  • Agriotherium (an ancient kind of bear) means "vicious beast"
  • Sarcosuchus imperator was a prehistoric crocodile about twice the size of even the largest modern crocs, with a name to match: Meat-Crocodile Emperor, and speaking of crocodiles, there's the equally large marine crocodile Machimosaurus rex — "fighting lizard king".
  • There are also several aversions and inversions of the trope however. Among dinosaurs, Compsognathus means "pretty jaw", Kritosaurus means "noble lizard", Thescelosaurus "handsome lizard", Avimimus portentosus is the "magnificent bird-imitator", Saichania (an ankylosaur) means "beautiful", and so on. Among non-dinosaurs: Thaumatosaurus (a plesiosaur) means "marvelous lizard", while Quetzalcoatlus (a pterosaur) was named for the benevolent Feathered Serpent god of the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl. And "Agathaumas" (a dubious ceratopsid): "great marvel".
  • The famous dinosaur Maiasaura means "good mother lizard" because of the discovery of parental care in the 1980s. Probably most dinosaurs underwent some caring to their young, as shown by the fossils of their babies with their huge eyes and short muzzles — that is, those cuteness-inspiring features also present in young crocodilians, bird-chicks, and typically, the mammals (think about baby seals or fawns).
  • Guidraco venator, the name of a pterosaur from China, means "Hunting Ghost Dragon". The name may be a bit misleading, though, as it was most likely a harmless fish-eater. Azhdarcho, which granted the family Azhdarchidae its name, is derived from Azi Dahaka, better known as Zahhak, an evil snake magician in The Shahnameh and broader Zoroastrianism. At the time azhdarchids were thought to be piscivores similar to Pteranodon (it's now thought that they were terrestrial foragers similar to storks or ground hornbills).


Video Example(s):


"It's a birdcage..."

The Jurassic Park films famously depict Pteranodon among the token non-dinosaur prehistoric creatures. The ones that appear Jurassic Park III lack the downy covering many pterosaurs had, have leathery wings and toothed beaks (ironically, the very name Pteranodon means "toothless wing"), and are able to carry off a teenager with their talon-like feet; they also construct bird-like nests, and the young are also less flight-capable than they should be and are unrealistically aggressive. The junior novelization of the movie states that the Pteranodon were genetically altered to be more monstrous and impressive and are not the genuine prehistoric animal.

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