Forget the gene splicing of Jurassic Park — the best dinosaurs in science fiction are hyper-evolved reptosapiens or confused, time-displaced beasts. Here are 20 fantastic saurians who just wouldn't go extinct.
This 1980s cartoon was about two warring factions of alien dinosaurs who come to Earth to air their grievances or something. Along the way, the Dinosaucers (the good guys) recruit a gang of confused 14-year-olds to be their sidekicks. The kids were roundly useless, but it wasn't entirely their fault. If an allosaurus in body armor flies in from the troposphere and asks you to join his secret club, you really don't have a say.
To the show's credit, the theme song was one of the best of the 1980s cartoon arena rock anthems. It's like Stan Bush's "The Touch" but with only one lyric.
And here's "Beach Blanket Bonehead," the episode in which the Dinosaucers go sur la plage for some fun in the sun. Yes, that is a T-Rex in swim trunks and a stegosaurus in a one-piece. This is the second half of the episode — here's the first half if you care about the plots of essentially plotless shows.
Dr. Dinosaur from Atomic Robo (2009)
Dr. Dinosaur claims to be a time-traveler from the past who's come to smash mammal hegemony. Atomic Robo tries to convince him that he's simply a genetic experiment, but the scaly doctor starts pontificating how he's built a time machine from rocks and sticks.
Star Trek: Dinosaur Planet (1979)
In this 1979 book on record, the Enterprise crew visits a planet exactly like the Cretaceous Earth, right down to the, uh, telepathic dinosaurs. You can watch Part 2 here.
Voyager — "Distant Origin" (1997)
In this episode, the Voyage crew meets the Voth, a species that descended from the hadrosaurs of Earth. The revelation about the Voth's genetic heritage flies in the face of their society's genetic hierarchy— non-indigenous Vothians are considered lesser beings. Ergo, a latter-day Scopes monkey trial with chatty fundamentalist dino-sapiens. Love ya, Voyager.
The New Dinosaurs: A New Evolution (1988)
Scottish paleontologist Dougal Dixon is known for his wonderfully warped books of speculative zoology (see: the yeti-rider hominids in his book Man After Man). In The New Dinosaurs, Dixon envisioned what dinosaurs would look like had the K-T extinction event never occurred. The book treated us to such tricked-out thunder lizards as the Cutlasstooth...
...and the cetacean-like Whulk, which scared the shit out of me as a lad...
...and the Flurrit, who I loved. He was like David Lee Roth, but a dinosaur.
Tom Mason's Dinosaurs for Hire (1988)
In this short-lived Eternity Comics series, dinosaurs live in the 20th century and work as mercenaries. What else would they do?
Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (1993)
Dinosaurs are tossed into a parallel dimension, evolve into Dennis Hopper and Samantha Mathis, and crap all over a beloved videogame franchise. Let Bob Hoskins explain.
Lest you think I'm hating on Super Mario Brothers, I'll have you know I saw it in theaters. The movie is also way more watchable if you pretend King Koopa is the same character as Frank from Blue Velvet.
Star Wars — The Truce at Bakura (1994)
In this extended universe novel, Luke runs afoul of the Ssi-Ruuk, a reptilian species of totalitarian human haters who force the Rebels and the fractured Empire into an unlikely alliance. Mind you, this book takes place minutes after Darth Vader is burned in a funeral pyre. So yes, the split second after Return of the Jedi wrapped up, Luke and the gang fought fascist sauropods.
Although they're neither technically dinosaurs nor futuristic, I had to include them. Here's a picture of Darth Vader dining with some sentient velociraptors. I pray to this image for power every day.
Strange Sports Stories #2 (1973) — "Tall in the Saddle"
In this short comic, a witch with a gambling problem turns a jockey's steed into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In other words, this story deserves all past and future Pulitzers. You can read it here.
Japan, Present Day
Yes, dinosaurs are on the loose in Japan. Rodan keeps their population in check, and the Smog Monster keeps Rodan sterile. It's the natural order at work.
Xenozoic Tales (1987)
In Mark Schulz's pulp send-up, humans pollute the world into a steaming cesspool, go underground for 600 years, and discover that prehistoric life has repopulated the planet. Also, everyone inexplicably drives muscle cars. Spawned the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs franchise, which gave us a great arcade game and a godawful cartoon.
Devil Dinosaur (1978)
Devil Dinosaur came from an alternate dimension planet called Dinosaur World. Why? Because he was invented by Jack $%@#ing Kirby, that's why. He fought Godzilla, came to Earth, and became a champagne-swilling dictator wearing a smoking jacket. This dapper incarnation of D.D. was later retconned to be a clone.
Professor Cline's Dinosaur Kingdom
At this roadside attraction in Natural Bridge, Virgina, you can witness the Union's failed plot to use wild saurians against the Confederacy.
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Dinosaurs, cowboys, Ray Harryhausen. Nuff said.
The War The Time Forgot (1960)
In this awesome DC serial, World War II soldiers keep washing up on a Pacific Island full of dinosaurs. In sum, it's exactly like the History Channel nowadays. You can read this crazed tale from 1964's Star-Spangled War Tales here.
The son of Satanus, a genetically modified dinosaur who sparred with Judge Dredd. Fiction needs more dinosaurs with scary Biblical names.
Aztec Rex (2007)
Dinosaurs, conquistadors, Dichen Lachmen. The less said, the better.
The cybernetic Tyrannosaurus from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (1997)
There are so many iterations of the Turok story that I don't know where to start. As a consolation prize, here's the cybernetic T-Rex boss from the N64 game. He was borderline impossible.