Played by Jeff Goldblum in the multi-billion dollar Jurassic Park franchise, Dr. Ian Malcolm is a noted mathematician who is brought in to assess the viability of the dinosaur theme park on the remote Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica. When things go famously wrong, he’s associated with the issue of dinosaurs living in the modern world and considered an authority on the subject for surviving the first catastrophe.
Described by John Hammond as suffering from a “deplorable excess of personality“, Malcolm’s acerbic wit and overall humorous nature made him an instant fan-favorite character. He’s often remembered for being one of the wisest, most reasonable, characters in any of the movies, dropping truth bombs and pearls of wisdom left and right. Here are our picks for his most iconic quotes from the series.
Updated on December 6th, 2020 by Mark Birrell: Few side characters in the history of movies are as iconic as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcom in the Jurassic Park series and he certainly has the quotes to prove it. A franchise mainstay, the witty chaotician has stolen the hearts of many, many movie fans over the years and looks to continue to do so for many, many more. Long time fans revisiting the movies also look to only fall harder and harder for his quippy charms as the movies are revisited and evaluated. Accordingly, we’ve revisited the movies and added an extra 5 of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s most iconic quotes from the Jurassic Park movies.
15 “What have they got in there, King Kong?”
As the tour begins for the island’s visitors, the automated cars that they’re in take them through the iconic wooden gates at the entrance to the park’s main attractions.
Clearly inspired by Universal’s long history with cinematic monsters, Jurassic Park was a landmark for effects-driven blockbusters, and this clear allusion to the original King Kong movie, that Dr. Malcolm can’t help but notice, is more than fitting.
14 “Genetic power’s the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid who’s found his dad’s gun.”
Ian Malcolm, both in the original Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton’s original novel, acts as a kind of voice of reason to the mad science going on at the heart of the story. Over the course of the movies, he fixates, particularly, on what he calls “genetic power” and its flagrant misuse.
Having seen what the park is about and offered his initial misgivings, Malcolm gets into it with the park’s founder, John Hammond, in a scene bursting with memorable quotes. The long and short of it, as shown here, is that Malcolm doesn’t believe that Hammond has truly quantified the unpredictable variables that he’s unleashed. The movie soon proves him right.
13 “I’m always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.”
As Hammond light-heartedly points out when we’re first introduced to him, Malcolm has somewhat of a “rockstar” persona. His outfit is all black, with shades and boots, and he can’t seem to stop himself from strongly flirting with Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler.
When he gets paired up alone with her partner, Dr. Alan Grant, they get to talking about love lives, where Malcolm mentions his several children by several failed marriages, but it seems like Malcolm is mainly probing for info on how much of a shot he has with Ellie.
12 “Boy, do I hate being right all the time.”
As Jurassic Park begins to kick into its highest gear, the iconic T. Rex emerges out of its paddock to terrorize the visitors to the island, trapped helplessly in their cars as they look on at this terrifying predator roaming free.
In reference to his numerous warnings to Hammond about the uncontrollable nature of the park’s attractions, Malcolm reminds the audience and himself that his foresight is really somewhat of a curse.
11 “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Before Dr. Malcolm and Dr. Grant fully realize the extent of the danger that they’re in as they’re stuck next to the T. Rex paddock after the park’s security systems had been shut off, the ‘blood-sucking lawyer”, Gennaro, sees the oncoming monster and instinctively flees from his car, leaving the children inside for dead.
His panicked run towards the toilets for safety, of course, results in the most memorable death of the whole movie, making Malcolm’s explanation for his behavior a brilliantly unintentional double entendre.
10 “Mommy’s very angry.”
In a relatively rare Steven Spielberg sequel, audiences not only got to see Goldblum return to the role of Ian Malcolm but also play the lead, in an unusual upgrade from his supporting role in the original. After the roaring mainstream success of the original Jurassic Park and the previous summer’s equally barnstorming Hollywood spectacle, Independence Day, it was great to see Goldblum taking the reins of an action-adventure blockbuster. Not just because of his unique look compared to conventional stars of that type of movie, but also because of his talent for short, emphatic, statements that sound great when you put them in a trailer.
This one comes about as the result of a good-natured, if somewhat naive, plan to bandage a baby T. Rex with a wounded leg. When the parents come looking for it, things get tense.
9 “Change is like death. You don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates.”
Ian Malcolm returned to the franchise after a two-movie absence in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Sadly, he only appears in two bookending scenes set in government hearings regarding the main incident of the movie: the discovery of the imminent eruption of the hitherto-unspoken-of volcano on Isla Nublar.
True to his character, Malcolm advocates for non-action and the death of the remaining dinosaurs on the island, his belief being that the escape of the animals would cause “man-made, cataclysmic, change.” When asked to elaborate, he freely admits that he doesn’t know exactly what would happen, which is precisely why people should be wary.
8 “Must go faster.”
This line comes from one of Jurassic Park’s many iconic action sequences, in which a rescued Malcolm is sped away from a chasing T. Rex in a jeep. The surprisingly speedy monster is holding its own in the race. The usually-articulate Malcolm reduced to almost broken English by the sheer terror of a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex running straight for its dinner.
Any version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex-like creature being able to run that fast, of course, made no sense at all on a physical, biological, level. Not that we can say exactly how fast the vehicle was supposed to be going, but still. Sometimes you just have to throw scientific accuracy and/or realism out of the window in a movie about a dinosaur theme park.
7 “Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here. It didn’t require any discipline to attain it.”
In their hugely-quoted lunchtime debate, John Hammond’s boyish optimism and Ian Malcolm’s unwavering realism go head to head. Hammond is so enthralled with the wonder of his accomplishment that he’s clearly blind to the immense danger that it creates. Malcolm, not believing for a moment that anyone could hope to control the complex system that Hammond birthed into the world, lets him have it.
Malcolm’s putdowns and observations are often so astute that they can be applied to a number of situations and disciplines beyond the premise of Jurassic Park, as this one often is.
6 “Gee, that hurts my feelings. Did your mom tell you to say that?”
Audiences are introduced to one of the kids that Dr. Malcolm mentions briefly in the original Jurassic Park in the first sequel, The Lost World, with Kelly, who becomes a main character when she sneaks onto Isla Sorna to be with her father.
Whilst packing the gear to leave, and trying to find a nice way of telling his daughter that he’s ditching her, Malcolm gets into an argument with Kelly where she tells him: “I’m your daughter all the time, y’know? You can’t just abandon me whenever opportunity knocks.” The line says a lot about Malcolm’s relationship with his daughter and his response says even more about his apparent relationships with his various ex-wives.
5 “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
There is something so oddly satisfying about the premise of Jurassic Park, beyond the set up for a monster movie. It sounds like a random combination of ideas at first, but it becomes almost semi-believable as an idea that someone would attempt if it were even remotely possible. There is a peculiar kind of poetry to the hubris at the heart of the story, as Malcolm’s humorous philosophical observation highlights.
The line is mostly remembered, however, because of Ellie Sattler’s response: “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the Earth.”
4 “See, here I’m now by myself, uh, talking to myself. That’s, that’s chaos theory.”
After attempting to seduce Dr. Sattler with his very up-close-and-personal explanation of chaos theory using drops of water rolling off of her hand, Dr. Grant spots a sick Triceratops and jumps out of the moving car to go an investigate, with Ellie quickly following suit.
As Dr. Malcolm is left alone in the car and somewhat perplexed by what he’s just seen, he continues talking to himself and proves to the audience that his hilarious nature isn’t something that he just puts on for other people but is rather his natural state.
3 “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Towards the end of Malcolm’s diatribe against Hammond and the park, he begins to highlight the source of Hammond’s entire folly and arrogance (in his opinion), which is that it’s entirely motivated by money. “You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and, before you even knew what you had, you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox.”
Hammond retorts that his scientists have accomplished things that no-one has ever accomplished before. This is true enough, but, as Malcolm so succinctly points out, without a decent reason to do so, the project was doomed from the start.
2 “That is one big pile of s***.”
Jeff Goldblum’s performance of Malcolm reacting to a large pile of dinosaur excrement is precisely why GIFs were invented. It comes about as Ellie Sattler attempts to understand what’s ailing a sickly Triceratops by examining its droppings.
The one-liner is a timeless moment of cinematic perfection that can be retrofitted for all occasions. Need to react to a bad opinion, photograph, or product? It really does have a million potential uses.
1 “…life, uh, finds a way.”
After witnessing the birth of a baby velociraptor and coming to grips with what Hammond has created, Malcolm immediately voices his concerns to him.
Still in somewhat of a state of shock, his first plea to Hammond’s reason attempts to explain the inherent scientific, natural, flaw in Hammond’s plan and his final words have become the de facto motto of the entire series: “Listen, if there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free–it expands to new territories and it crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously…I’m simply saying that life, uh, finds a way.”
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