9 Creative Cinematic Portrayals of Prehistoric Times


The great thing about prehistory is that you can speculate pretty much any old hogwash about it. Sure – science has given us a reasonably educated guess, but when has science ever stopped us from making shit up? Who’s to say that dinosaurs didn’t talk, or that mankind wasn’t created by a super-species of cat-like beings? That would certainly explain their sense of entitlement.

The film industry knows what’s up, and has given us some great depictions of pre-life over the years. Some are unique in their beauty and/or accuracy, while others are just downright silly. Both are great, so let’s celebrate 9 creative ways to look at the world before we came to be.

9. Adorable Talking Dinosaurs in The Land Before Time


Maybe I’m uneducated – but with the exception of Gertie the Dinosaur, was there any kid-friendly dino cartoon that existed prior to The Land Before Time? This seems like it was the true OG of the sub-genre, and a bold one at that. After all it’s one thing to make a light-hearted buddy adventure starring a juvenile Apatosaurus, but this film actually tackles their eventual extinction.

The entire film is a reminder that while Littlefoot and Cera and Ducky and Petrie might prevail in their adventure, that victory is fleeting, and one day the Great Valley won’t be so great anymore. After all, we kind of know how this one will end. It’s a lot like watching a fly escape the stick of a trap knowing that its lifespan is only 24 hours anyway.

When you think about it, Littlefoot’s mother was really the lucky one of the bunch. At least she died from fighting and not of slow starvation. We should all be so lucky to go out fighting a T-Rex, right?

Jesus, remember the mother’s death? What a scarring film this is. They should rename it: “Everything you love is going to die”.

8. Martian Ancestry in Mission To Mars


Martians. It’s as good of a guess as anything else, really. Considering the big sentient space tornado at the opening of the film, by the end it’s actually not a huge stretch in the movie’s logic.

I like this film. Anything where Tim Robbins gets his head frozen is okay in my book. Not to mention Brian De Palma, the best director of films that no one watches. The man just doesn’t give a shit, which is awesome. He just got high and watched 2001, called his assistant and said, “Get me a space script.”

Fun fact: I have no idea how this movie actually got made, so don’t go telling people that Brian De Palma is a big uncaring stoner.

Seriously though – it really seems like lately De Palma makes movies with a degree of disinterest for the general public, which results in some unique films. It probably has to do with the fact that the guy made Scarface and is now untouchable. Oh and he made The Untouchables too. And Carrie. After all that cred, you’ve kind of earned the right to sit back and watch Rachel McAdams go at it with Noomi Rapace and call it “working.”

7. Bodybuilder Albino Aliens in Prometheus


No matter what your feelings might be concerning this film, you have to admit that crediting our origins to some milk-filled water balloon alien-man having a bad cup of soy sauce is a pretty bold move. It does seem fitting that our beginnings would spawn from the pain of others, however that doesn’t explain why we managed to look like them after thousands of years of evolution. Whatever, it’s fine.

Do you know what three faces they used to design the “Engineers” in this film? They wanted their form to stand out as being god-like, superior in nature. So for reference they went with the Statue Of Liberty, Michelangelo’s David, and Elvis Presley. Seems about right, but if they really wanted these things to stand out they should have used Elvis for the hair as well.

It all makes you wonder just what the females of the species looks like. I’m thinking Chyna, but whiter. Yikes.

6. Ridiculously Realistic Cave Dwellers in Quest For Fire


It’s one of those films that no one watches more than once, but has nothing bad to say about. Ron Perlman and that lady from Commando running around all half-naked looking for fire… the realism of the plot proves just how boring our ancestors really had it.

At the same time, it’s extremely engaging to watch – especially the moment when our main caveman Naoh sees, for the very first time, a young boy of a more advanced tribe make fire with his hands. At the sight of this, Naoh weeps very genuine tears. It’s downright touching to realize how something so simple to us means so much to this character.

And that’s what makes this film so creative: it’s just a really good depiction of an era in which we could never understand today. We see the primal fear in every day life, and the significant appeasement that fire offers. By the end, we want fire as badly as they do.

5. Ridiculously Unrealistic Cave Dwellers in One Million Years B.C.


On the flip side of that: giant turtles.

While it’s all well and good to attempt to make an accurate and respectful portrayal of humankind during prehistoric times, sometimes you just gotta stick a hot chick in a bikini. An early remake, the 1966 One Million Years B.C. makes no attempt to do anything but entertain. Even animator Ray Harryhausen owned up to this later on, saying that he did not make the film for “professors.” Well – not unless those professors really like boobs.

Watching the film, I don’t see why there would even need to be a clarification here. Even a child would see this and raise an eyebrow the moment a pet iguana shows up as a giant lizard. Of course, that doesn’t take anything away from the film – which is a freaking blast, and in terms of effects, seamless.

Playing a caveman on screen must be either really fun or really horrible to do. It’s the opposite of voice acting in that it’s almost exclusively physical, not to mention extremely silly. Also, so many opportunities to accidently moon the audience.

Read on!

David is a video editor, writer, and movie fanatic. After graduating from Full Sail University he now spends his days in Western Massachusetts working as a freelance article and sketch writer, as well as a comedy workshop moderator for Cracked.com. (Click Here to View David's work on Cracked.com) He enjoys over-analyzing movies, punk rock, and referring to himself in the third person.

Read More from David Christopher Bell
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!