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If you’re of a certain age, I want you to think back to 1993. You’re sitting in a movie theater (remember that?), and you’re watching Jurassic Park. Nobody in the audience breathes as water in a glass keeps rippling due to the stomping of a massive T-Rex. The dinosaur roars, and your hands get all clammy. You have a soda in the cupholder, but your mouth is dry. Two kids are trapped in a jeep, and the T-Rex is staring right at them through the window. What’s going to happen next?
Well, I’m sure you know because everybody’s seen Jurassic Park. But the thing is, back in the ‘90s, most people read the book, Jurassic Park, too. It was one of the many Michael Crichton novels that eventually became one of the Michael Crichton movies.
But for those who don’t know, Michael Crichton, who died in 2008, was huge back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and to a certain extent, the ‘00s. He got an M.D. from Harvard, but never practiced medicine. Instead, he used that big brain of his to make some of the most popular stories to ever be written, with quite a few of them becoming motion pictures. He was also a respectable director as he directed Coma, Looker, and the film version of Westworld.
So, being such a huge fan, I thought it necessary to rank his best movies, but only based off of the books where he used his real name. So don’t expect The Carey Treatment since that story was written under his pseudonym, Jeffrey Hudson.
11. Timeline (2003)
Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, and Francis O’ Connor star in this time traveling adventure film about some archaeological students who go back to medieval times to save their professor. The action and adventure is all there, but people didn’t turn out to see it, as it was a box office bomb.
Still, it’s kind of fun, if not a little all over the place. The trailers make it look like it’s going to be some epic medieval adventure, but it actually looks kind of cheap once you see it. Also, “kind of fun” isn’t good enough for me since Timeline is my favorite Michael Crichton novel, and the film doesn’t live up to the hype. Oh, well. At least Paul Walker is in it.
10. Sphere (1998)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, and Sharon Stone, Sphere is about a team finding an alien ship underwater. Or so they think. Mysteries abound, and the conclusion is…
Kind of terrible. To be honest, Sphere is probably worse than Timeline, but I don’t have a love for the story of Sphere like I do for Timeline. The narrative is drawn out, the mysteries feel silly one they’re revealed, and the ending is kind of stupid. But if it’s a rainy day and I shut my brain off for a little while, then Sphere will do. But all other times, it won’t. The premise is fine. It’s just the execution that’s lacking.
9. Rising Sun (1993)
In this crime thriller starring Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes, a Japanese prostitute is killed and two detectives (Snipes and Connery) have to solve the case. A disc is in play that may or may not contain the murder on it, and tangled thrills ensue.
Rising Sun is another book that is much better than the movie. The story, which concerns Japanese businessmen, is a lot more racially charged in the novel, and the movie is a bit racist, too, in some regards. But the culture clash is intertwined much better in the book, and the movie kind of starts to run in circles, making it a little clumsy as it stumbles to its conclusion. Still, as a story that doesn’t rely on any of the Crichton tropes of technology run amok, it’s still fully engaging, even though Wesley Snipes feels way underused.
8. The 13th Warrior (1999)
One of the biggest box office bombs ever (Seriously), The 13th Warrior is about a Muslim ambassador (played by Antonio Banderas) who gets exiled and has to live amongst Vikings. But the Vikings are at war with Grendel (yes, Beowulf’s, Grendel). That said, it turns out that the bad guys are really just cannibals who like to live with bears. It’s…interesting.
Based off the novel, Eaters of the Dead, The 13th Warrior looks way better as an historical film than Timeline. And it should since it cost something like $160 million to make, with Michael Crichton even taking over as a director for a time. So, visually, it looks great. But the story meanders and some of the dialogue is just painful to listen to. It’s also kind of slow. This is actually one Michael Crichton book that I’ve never read, but this movie makes me want to, since I’m sure it’s a lot better than this mostly decent film.
7. The Andromeda Strain (1971)
An oldie but a goodie, an alien virus kills people in a town and scientists are brought in to investigate and try to contain it. This came out in the ‘70s, but you could already see Crichton's clinical, scientific approach that would make Jurassic Park a hard-science fiction hit for the ‘90s.
The acting in The Andromeda Strain is top notch, and the story is riveting, just like in the book. But the movie is kind of slow. As mentioned before, this would be a good example of hard science fiction in that the science is the star attraction here. It’s an accessible film, sure, but there’s a reason why The Andromeda Strain wasn’t the ‘70s version of Jurassic Park. It’s just not as interesting a concept as cloning dinosaurs.
6. Disclosure (1994)
Starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, this erotic thriller is about an executive (Douglas) at a tech company who gets sexually harassed by his new female boss (Moore). In the face of losing everything, the exec tries to sue the woman for sexually harassing him, which was unheard of at the time.
Surprisingly, the movie is not as sexist as the book, which feels dated in both its technology and its gender politics. Moore and Douglas do a lot with the script they’re given, and they make the film worth watching. It can get a bit slow at times, but the overall sexual tension is worth the price of admission.
5. The Terminal Man (1974)
A scientist who has pretty gnarly seizures that gives him blackouts, has a surgery where tech is implanted into his head so he can have less seizures. But uh oh, he ends up having even worse blackouts after the surgery where he gets really violent, and even likes it. It's fun for the whole family!
But seriously, The Terminal Man is badass. Some people who have seen this movie have called it boring, but The Terminal Man is my second favorite Michael Crichton book, and I think this adaptation does a much better job than Timeline. It has that grungy, shaggy dog ‘70s look to it since it’s from the ‘70s. But being a Crichton story, it also still feels relevant today. It’s almost like a Black Mirror episode. I love it! Even though I know most people won't because of its pacing.
4. Congo (1995)
I’m going to be straight with you. Congo is a terrible movie. But, God, do I love it. It’s one of those so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasures of mine that's just too enjoyable not to put high on this list. Starring Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Tim Curry (with a ridiculous accent), Ernie Hudson, and BRUCE FREAKING CAMPBELL (ok, he’s in the movie but he’s not “starring” in it), and even a “talking” gorilla, Congo is about a team that goes into the heart of the jungle to locate a missing team of diamond hunters. What follows is sheer nonsense. And apes! Lots and lots of apes!
Congo was nominated for several Golden Raspberry Awards and deserved every one of them. But again, if you told me, “You have a choice. You can watch The English Patient or Congo,” I would pick Congo a million bazillion times over The English Patient. A million bazillion times! It’s just so stupid, I love it.
3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who was always more interesting than Dr. Alan Grant, stars in this first sequel to the mega-hit, Jurassic Park. In The Lost World, a new team goes out to check out another site of the park, and chaos ensues. Again. But this time spilling out to San Diego.
You’ve likely seen The Lost World, and if you have, then you know it’s not as good as the original. But really, what could be as good as the original? As a follow-up, it’s actually really enjoyable. I would even say that the action (But not the tension) is even better than Jurassic Park. And hey, spoiler alert, Dr. Ian Malcolm dies in the first book. But he was so popular in the first movie that Crichton basically brought him back to life so they could put him in the sequel. So Dr. Ian Malcolm rose from the dead just for your entertainment! If that’s not worthy of respect, I don’t know what is.
2. The Great Train Robbery (1978)
Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland star in this really fun caper where two thieves rob a train full of gold. The whole film is basically them figuring out how to do it, and then they do it. That’s really pretty much all there is to it.
But it’s so much fun throughout that that’s all it needs to be. Michael Crichton directed this flick, and there’s not a wasted moment in it. This is also one of my favorite Michael Crichton novels, and the movie lives up to it nicely. It would be the best Michael Crichton movie ever if it wasn’t for…
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
I mean, duh. I can’t even do a hot take and say that any other movie is better than this pick, because there isn’t one. You know the story. Dinosaurs are brought back from extinction, and it was a bad idea. I mean, you’ve seen Jurassic Park. You don’t need me to describe it to you.
Jurassic Park is part thriller, part horror, part animatronic magic. It’s one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest movies, and it’s a crowd-pleaser, through and through. Jurassic Park is pretty much what made Michael Crichton a household name, and this is one movie that I think is far better than its source material. Clever girl.
And those are my picks for the best movies based off of Michael Crichton's books. But what are your picks? Sound off in the comments if you’re also a fan of Michael Crichton's work.