To say that dinosaurs are popular is an understatement. Even before they reemerged in the blockbuster movies of the last 30 or so years, they had always held a fascination with every one but especially children. We are going to take a look at why this is and what are the most popular dinosaurs known today.
So we will take a look at the reasons why these dinosaurs among the 1000 plus species discovered and named so far continue to hold their place in publics hearts. We also take a look at some honorable mentions that are either moving up the charts, or while popular are not in fact dinosaurs.
What Makes a Dinosaur Popular?
Dinosaurs since that first fossil discovery, have captured the imagination of people worldwide, but some species have become more popular than others. This popularity is often influenced by a combination of factors that make certain dinosaurs stand out from the rest.
In this section, we’ll explore the various reasons that contribute to the popularity of specific dinosaurs, and provide some ideas on why that makes it a dinosaur popular. we have put the information in table to make it easier to read, and to be able to get to our most popular dinosaur list quicker!
|Aspect of Dinosaur||Why this makes a dinosaur Popular|
|Unique Physical Feature||Dinosaurs with distinctive traits, such as horns, spikes, or unusually long necks, tend to capture the public’s imagination. These characteristics make them easily recognizable and interesting to study.|
|Size||Large and imposing dinosaurs often gain popularity due to their sheer size and the awe they inspire. The bigger and more powerful a dinosaur appears, the more it captures people’s attention.|
|Media Appearances||Dinosaurs that have appeared in movies, television shows, and other forms of media tend to become more popular as they reach a wider audience. These portrayals help shape public perception and interest in specific species.|
|Discovery Stories:||Some dinosaurs become popular due to the fascinating circumstances of their discovery or the story behind their fossils. A unique or captivating history can contribute to a dinosaur’s fame.|
|Scientific Importance||Dinosaurs that have played a crucial role in our understanding of prehistoric life and evolution often garner popularity. These species may provide key insights into the biology, behavior, or ecological role of dinosaurs.|
|Public Exhibits:||Dinosaurs with impressive or well-preserved fossil displays in museums can attract public interest and admiration, leading to increased popularity.|
These factors contribute to the popularity of certain dinosaurs, making them more well-known and admired by both scientists and the general public alike.
So what are the most popular Dinosaurs
1. Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex)
It pretty much goes with out saying that the T. rex is usually the top of any most popular dinosaurs list. This is of course due to its enormous size, powerful build, and fearsome reputation as a top predator in the Late Cretaceous period. Its iconic, massive skull with banana-sized teeth, combined with short arms, makes it instantly recognizable.
However despite that, and the fact that some pretty complete fossils of T-Rex have been discovered it is likely one of, if not the,most popular dinosaurs due to its appearances in numerous films, including the Jurassic Park franchise, and has become a symbol of power and ferocity in popular culture. There is a motorbike, a Watch and even a Band named after it!
When asked what is the most popular dinosaur is if the T-Rex is not the first name you hear then this one certainly will be. The triceratops is known for its known for and named after, its distinctive three horns and large frill,
Triceratops is often portrayed as living alongside, in a rather one sided relationship, with T0Rex and it is likely the battles that have been portrayed between the two in movies and documentaries are a driving factor in its sustained popularity. . Triceratops has appeared in numerous documentaries, films, and TV shows, The two most famous include the Jurassic Park movies and the cartoon The Land Before Time.
If you asked the average person in 1992 what was a velociraptor and you would probably get a blank look, ask again in the summer of 1993 and every one was talking about this ferocious reptile.
Although the real Velociraptor was smaller and covered in feathers, its portrayal in Jurassic Park as a cunning, swift, and intelligent predator caught the public’s imagination. While the was some pushback from the more dinosaur savvy the velociraptor has been a 6 feet tall killing machine ever since, at least in the movies.
In documentaries there has been some effort to make it more its actual size and to make it feathered, like in the excellent David Attenborough Show “Prehistoric Planet”
The next dinosaur is another that is instantly recognisable to most people. With its spiny four spiked tail, called a thagomizer, and its plated back. Although this herbivore is often depicted as a peaceful, gentle giant, it has also been shown to defend its young, like in Jurassic Park – The Lost World, and to defend itself in Walking with dinosaurs against Allosaurus.
It did have a particularly small brain for its size, and this as well as its media appearances may endear it to some dinosaur lovers out there.
Rounding out, or perhaps topping out would be more appropriate, our top five most popular dinosaurs is the Brachiosaurus. Its enormous size and long neck have made it a popular dinosaur, and if not the most famous of dinosaurs then at least the most famous of long neck sauropods!
Its peaceful, herbivorous lifestyle and graceful appearance have made it a favorite among dinosaur enthusiasts. Brachiosaurus has been featured in movies like Jurassic Park and World ( a very sad moment in Fallen Kingdom) we will put the gif below if it works! and throughout the other Jurassic Movies as well.
We all love a villain, especially in monster movies and the appearance of a new hyper predator n the form of Spinosaurus in the Jurassic World 3 was a very welcome respite from the all the T-Rex action we had from the first two movies, and even if the actual fight between the two early on was perhaps taking things a step to far it created a lot of interest in this semi aquatic and likely longest if not biggest or heaviest of the predatory dinosaurs.
The fact that, even though a lot of dinosaurs could swim, this one actually chose to do so and was semi-aquatic certainly got people talking and interested in the Spinosaurus.
Although only briefly making an appearance on the bi screen in Jurassic World The heavily-armored Ankylosaurus still became popular, With its club-like tail and armored body it is still popular 8 8yers on,
It also has gained popularity for its appearances, under the name ‘Bumpy’ in the Camp Cretaceous cartoon on NETFLIX as well. The fact that it acts as a friend to the children on the island surely must have a part to play in its popularity as well.
This dinosaur’s popularity comes from its distinctive, elongated crest, which scientists believe may have been used for communication or display.
Its unique appearance and intriguing crest have made it a favorite in media, including Camp Cretaceous, The Land Before Time and Jurassic Park as well as briefly in the last Jurassic World movie. it was also pretty large, which you can check out on the link.
Even though its name has changed, or at least it used to be formerly known as Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus is popular due to its massive size and long neck and its appearances in the jurassic world movies.
Although it is not as large as some other of the sauropods, Argentinosaurus, and Dreadnoughtus for example, it is perhaps more accessible because of that, its big but not that big!
It is often portrayed as a gentle, lumbering giant, capturing the imagination of dinosaur enthusiasts. It has appeared in both movies and documentaries.
We are cheating a little here, as although Pteranodon is not technically, or another way of describing it, a dinosaur, it is still an immensely popular prehistoric creature due to its large size and striking appearance as a flying reptile. Its association with the dinosaur era has led to appearances in films like Jurassic Park 2 and The Land Before Time.
It is also popular due to its appearance in almost any toy set of figures that contain dinosaurs. They will all contain this flying prehistoric reptile and never explain it wasnt in fact a dinosaur. Still it lived at the same time, in the same areas and i guess for most folks, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck – its probably a duck. You can read more about flying prehistoric reptiles here.
The Allosaurus is popular for being a top predator during the Late Jurassic period, often compared to T. rex. Its large size, powerful jaws, and sharp teeth have made it a favorite in dinosaur documentaries and movies, such as the early dinosaur movie the Valley of Gwangi, as well as more recently in Walking with Dinosaurs and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Dominion.
It deserves its place on the list of most popular dinosaurs as it rally is an impressive predator that was dominant in its era for million of years.
Although Carnotaurus stands out due to its bull-like horns and sleek, agile build. Its unique appearance and speed have made it a popular subject in dinosaur media, including the Disney movie Dinosaur and the Jurassic World franchise.
However it has shot up in the list of most popular dinosaurs due to its appearance on prehistoric planet where it was shown to have both some nifty footwork, and comically small arms that it waved about to try to impressive the ladies. it has spawned hundreds of memes since then. You can check the video out below.
The Iguanodon is popular for its unique thumb spikes and its early discovery in the history of paleontology. It was one of the first, in fact the second, dinosaurs ever discovered and named, sparking public interest in the study of these prehistoric creatures. So even if not top of the list for most popular dinosaurs it certainly is one of the reasons we know so much about them now.
Iguanodon has appeared in movies such as The Land Before Time and Walking with Dinosaurs and in the game Jurassic World evolution.
Diplodocus is known for its extremely long neck and especially tail, making it one of the longest dinosaurs to have ever lived. Its impressive size and unique features have made it popular in various forms of media, including the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs. You can read more about the diplodocus here.
However its long term residency at the British Natural history museum, there affectionately named “Dippy” has inspired and impressed countless visitors over the years, certainly leading to its long lived popularity.
If we were doing a list of most important dinosaur discoveries then Archaeopteryx would be up near the top of it. it is still however, popular due to its importance in the evolutionary history of birds.
As one of the earliest known bird-like dinosaurs, both in real terms 150 million years ago and its early discovery by people, it provides crucial evidence for the link between dinosaurs and modern birds.
Its unique combination of reptile and avian features has made it a subject for documentaries and scientific studies, although that knowledge about dinosaurs having feathers didn’t seem to affect the writers of Jurassic Park too much !
The popularity of Pachycephalosaurus stems from its distinctive, thick, dome-shaped skull. which is also where it gets its name. It is often portrayed as using its head for head-butting contests or defense, and even though this is still being researched and debated it did succeed in capturing the imagination of dinosaur enthusiasts.
Pachycephalosaurus has appeared in movies like The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, or one of its nomes de plume as it is now thought that Stygimoloch and Dracorex were all the same dinosaurs just examples of when it was younger!
“The are flocking this way” Gallimimus gained popularity due to its appearance in Jurassic Park, where it was depicted as a fast, ostrich-like dinosaur and prey for the T-Rex, though likely too quick for it i was a memorable part of the iconic movie.
Its speed and agility have made it an interesting subject in dinosaur-themed media, showcasing the diversity of dinosaur locomotion. and its similarity to an ostrich has brought familiarity and popularity to it. We have a whole page on the Gallimimus here.
Baryonyx is popular for its unusual, crocodile-like skull and large, very large, hook-like thumb claw. while probably more comfortable eating fish or water reptiles it would have grabbed anything unsuspecting when it got the chance.
Its semi-aquatic lifestyle and unique appearance have made it a fascinating subject in documentaries and movies, such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom where it certainly wasn’t aquatic but was very interested in grabbing two of the characters on land!
Who doesn’t like a Good mother! Maiasaura is popular for its significance in understanding dinosaur parenting and social behavior. Fossil evidence suggests that Maiasaura nurtured and cared for its young, providing insights into the complex social lives of some dinosaurs.
Its name, meaning “good mother lizard,” has made it a favorite among dinosaur enthusiasts.Although it has appeared in documentaries it hasn’t, to our knowledge at least, made it into the movies just yet.
The Oviraptor is popular due to the well documented confusion that surrounds its name, which means “egg thief.” Initially believed to have stolen and eaten other dinosaurs eggs, later discoveries revealed that it may have been a caring parent, tending to its own egg not having someones elses for breakfast!
This fascinating twist in our understanding of the dinosaur has made it a popular subject in media and scientific studies.also in movie 65, though being decidedly less friendly and oversized in that movie and a cut scene of Jurassic World Dominion
The longer we have known of a dinosaur the more chance it has to become popular, which puts those recently discovered at somewhat of a disadvantage, so we have included two that are more recent and are galloping up the most popular charts – which is apt as they were likely speedy dinosaurs as well.
We also include a favorite which while often mistaken for a dinosaur is actually much older than one. This hasn’t stopped it making an appearance in Dinosaur Movies though! You can check out out 4 honorable mentions below.
For full disclosure we had not heard of this dinosaur, the Moros intrepidus, till a couple of years ago, though to be fair not many people had! It was described and named in 2019 although found a few years earlier than that. if you haven’t heard of it you can read more on the link on its name.
its popularity comes from a kind of missing link type status in the Tyrannosaur family, as despite its small size ( not quite as small as you think but we will get onto that! ) it was a great great great grandfather of the T-rex.
now while some popularity certainly comes from that, we have to be honest and say that the vast majority of its new popularity comes from how it was portrayed in jurassic World Dominion as a new dinosaur. It was hella cute! even when eating a mouse, however though it was shown to be only about a foot tall in the movie, in reality it was about 5 to 6 feet tall and about 70kgs.
not sure if you would want a real one as a pet !
Another dinosaur we had heard of but knew little about what the Pyroraptor which although again made popular due to its inaccurate appearance in Jurassic World Dominion ( it is about 5 times bigger than it should be) oh and it can swim…
However being fully feathers has won some brownie points with the Dinosaur enthusiast crowd! Along with the therizinosaurus, which is also in this list, it is the first of the properly feathered dinosaurs to appear in movies and capture the imagination.
Not to be confused with the equally terrifying dimorphodon – or the T-Rex with wings as we call it, the Dimetrodon was actually not a dinosaur as it lived from 295 to 272 million years ago according to the fossils discovered so far. It also could grow, across the different types, from around a metre to a whopping 4.6 metres long.
it popularity likely comes from books and toys as like the Pteranodon it is a very common appearance in sets of toy dinosaurs despite it not being one. However, it did also appear in the most recent Jurassic World Movie in 2022 – Jurassic World Dominion.
Those huge claws, its massive size, and the fact it was a herbivore – what’s not to love about this massive feathered dinosaur. Despite the writers at Jurassic World giving it a massive bad temper ( it kills a deer for nothing other than being there) this dinosaur, the therizinosaurus, saves the day at the end of the movie, we won’t say how in case you haven’t seen it yet, but you can bet those claws have something to do with it.
So while it is an impressive and unusual dinosaur its appearance in the blockbusters have put it firmly in the public’s eye, and halloween that year was full of Therizinosaurus costumes along with those massive claws!
So while we have explored the fascinating world of popular dinosaurs, uncovering the reasons behind their widespread appeal. We have done this based on their ability to capture the imagination of people.
And as we know people like different things! So while these are our most popular dinosaurs, maybe we missed yours, you can let us know if you think we missed any from this list. After all you have over a 1000 to choose from!
Hi, I am Roy Ford a General Studies and English Teacher who has taught all over the world. What started as a fossil collection became a great way to teach, motivate and inspire students of all ages and all over the world about dinosaurs and from that and children’s love of dinosaurs came the site dinosaur facts for kids, a resource for all ages.