The movie I’ve seen the most times in theaters is Jurassic Park. I saw it four times in the theater back in 1993, and I’ve seen it roughly 97 billion times on TV, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray since. I can recite vast swaths of the film; it’s been decades that I’ve known the dialogue by heart. If I catch even a second of it on TV, it is 100% for sure I’m watching the entire thing.
My connection to Jurassic Park is a deeply personal one. Before the movie even came out, Jurassic Park held a special place in my heart, because it was a story that I shared with my father.
I first heard of Jurassic Park from my dad. I’d never seen him so excited about a book before and I’ve never seen him so excited about a piece of content since. So, to my knowledge, 1990 is the year my dad’s pop-cultural life peaked (Between that and not going to a movie theater since LA Confidential, the 90s were a big decade for my dad.)
In one of my earliest memories, my dad comes bounding down the stairs, sits at the breakfast table, and immediately regales the rest of the family about the Most Amazing Book he just read. It was so good, he couldn’t put it down. He’d stayed up all night and read the entire thing. It was called Jurassic Park, and it was about the most clever idea: They took the blood out of mosquitos preserved in amber, and used it to clone dinosaurs.
Now, that was a great hook, but what really sold me on the book was my dad’s enthusiasm. He is not normally an exuberant guy, but he was into this. I was down to check it out, but there was just one problem: I was 6-years-old. Granted, I was an avid reader, but I probably wasn’t up to a book like that yet. Fortunately, a solution was found: My dad read it to me. For the next week, he read it out loud to me every night before I went to bed. It was fucking awesome.
Cut to three years later.
My dad had just taken me to some crappy movie at the Fresh Pond theater in Cambridge. The kind of thing he’d never see anymore (remember: LA Confidential). He went off to hit the bathroom, I milled around in the lobby, and that’s when I saw it. The best logo ever. The single greatest piece of film-related branding in history. The poster that launched my life-long obsession with Hollywood advertising. The poster advertising the movie adaptation of Jurassic Park.
Shortly thereafter came the trailers, still classics:
And I’ll say it: “A movie 65 million years in the making”? A tagline yet to be topped.
Anyway, I was stoked as shit. The movie is set to come out in early June 1993. A week before it’s set to premiere, I get a surprise: My dad has already bought tickets to the film. Not only that, he bought tickets to the sneak preview, midnight screening the night before the official premiere. As a fifth-grader, getting to stay up after midnight to go see a movie—on a school night, no less—was a big deal. I bragged about it for weeks. For months afterward, whenever I talked about seeing the movie, I slipped in the date that I saw it so that people could work out that I’d seen it a day early. (As if anybody cared.)
The viewing experience was something else, still one of my all-time best movie-going experiences. I could wax rhapsodic about Jurassic Park all day long, but I’ll limit myself to calling out just a handful of highlights. As a fan of the book, I was most excited to see my favorite character, Ian Malcolm, brought to life. Jeff Goldblum did not disappoint, and I was surprised and thrilled by the change from book to movie that saw him surviving the island. And as a fan of velociraptors, boy oh boy did I love their portrayal in the movie. The danger they posed is set up so exquisitely at the start, and the climactic scene in the kitchen remains one of my all-time faves.
The thing is, though, every one in my generation can do this. We can all quote the entire film. We all remember the T-Rex scene. All of us know the trivia tidbit that the movie and book flip all the secondary character survivors and deaths. I even have a friend who walked down the aisle to the score at her wedding. (And for the record, it was elegant as hell. John Williams should be the official bridal march from now on.) But for me, as much as the movie holds a special place in my heart as a dope-ass movie (and it is a dope-ass movie), its singular place in my personal pantheon is because of the experience of seeing it with my dad.
Even my dad loved the movie. And my dad doesn’t like anything. Again: Hasn’t been to the theater since LA Confidential. We walked out of the theater chattering about it like schoolgirls. Somehow, Steven Spielberg managed to impress even him. To this day, that movie remains something that we can always turn to, the topic of endless pleasant reminiscence. (Remember nostalgia? That was great.)
This brings me, finally, to the actual topic of this piece: the tears. When do I cry when I watch Jurassic Park? If I’m being honest, the answer is potentially any time. The whole film has that kind of hold over me. The most likely spot, though, is the very last scene.
I’ve spoken in many other pieces about how susceptible I am too emotional manipulation via music, and this scene is no exception. That John Williams score is no joke; it’s probably enough to get me crying all by itself. And then there’s Hammond. I’ll cop to the fact that when I was 9, the fact that he was sort of a bad guy went right over my head—I just felt bad for him that his awesome park failed, so the shot of him sadly contemplating his final remaining amber mosquito in his cane always made me sad. Lastly, there are the birds.
One big thing I’ve left out of this story, that otherwise so heavily features my family, is the fact that we’re a family of bird lovers. We’ve had dozens of them as pets over the years, from parakeets and cockatiels—a mating pair—to conures and macaws. My family loves birds so much, our yearly family vacation always included a stop to a bird sanctuary. So believe me when I tell you: Birds on the wing are literally one of my favorite things.
Jurassic Park is a lot of things, but it’s not a quiet movie. It’s big and loud and full of bombast. But the final shot has an almost soothing quality to it. To have this magnificent film end on such a lovely, understated, elegant, and graceful shot—puts me over the edge every time.
That’s why I tear up when I watch Jurassic Park, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you have any stories about your unhealthy emotional attachment to this awesome movie, throw them in the comments below!
Addendum: I’ve been incredibly moved by all of the comments left by people who enjoyed the piece and by those sharing their own stories of bonding over movies with their own parents. I also wanted to share a very special comment, from the man himself, my dad. I sent him the piece, and he had this to say. It really captures his style: Memorable movie event. It really stands alone. We could have done without all the sequels. Actually, Hammond wasn’t really the bad guy. The only bad guys were the chubby computer geek who stole the embryos and the lawyer. Both met well deserved, and predictable, fates.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!