For mostly direct-to-video kids movies, there’s a surprising amount of depth in the Land Before Time series, but will any of them beat the original?
The Land Before Time struck a chord with the children of the 90s. However, the movies aren’t just for children, but for adults too. There are a lot of adult fans that reverently gaze at the movies through nostalgia goggles, and rightly so, as the original movie is often seen as the best dinosaur movie that isn’t Jurassic Park.
However, as the movies are all very much aimed at children, the IMDb ratings of the films are generally going to be lower, as the narratives are simplified and the musical numbers are overly sweet. But for mostly direct-to-video children’s movies, there’s a surprising amount of depth in most of the narratives.
10 - The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through The Mists (1996) - 5.8
Though the original Don Bluth movie gave Disney a run for its money, the same can’t be said for half of the Land Before Time movies. With there being so many movies in the series, the quality dipped off early, as the fourth movie in the series, Journey Through the Mists, sits at just 5.8 on IMDb.
In the fourth movie, the gang of young dinosaurs has to search for a golden flower that will cure Littlefoot’s ill grandfather. It’s regarded as one of the least engaging of them all, as Journey Through the Mists is where the formula of the children going off on their own without adult supervision was starting to get old.
9 - The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze (2001) - 5.9
The Big Freeze is generally considered to be one of the most middle-of-the-road entries in the series, as it’s far from the worst, but it isn’t the most charming or exciting either. The movie is more music-focused than any other Land Before Time film, as the gang creates new songs to keep them occupied during a blizzard.
But while the songs are sweet, they aren’t half as memorable as the musical highlights from the earlier movies. However, the biggest problem with The Big Freeze is that Ducky’s personality was completely changed. Where Ducky was originally positive and hyperactive, she is completely grumpy and borderline nihilistic in The Big Freeze.
8 - The Land Before Time VI: The Secret Of Saurus Rock (1998) - 5.9
The Secret Of Saurus Rock has the lowest stakes of the franchise, and there are almost none of the risks or dangers that usually come with the gang’s adventures. The film is mostly about them having to fix a chip in the titular rock. But there’s still a lot about the movie that can be enjoyed by children.
Just as Journey Through the Mists was the final film to feature the entire original cast, The Secret of Saurus Rock was another last for the franchise. The sixth movie was the last in the series to use traditional hand-drawn animation, which had given all the previous movies a unique look. The animation was the best part of the movie, along with some of the songs too, as “Bad Luck” is one of the catchiest musical numbers in the series.
7 - The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure (1994) - 5.9
Though the series grew into an episodic formula where each adventure is almost entirely unrelated, the first sequel started almost exactly at the point where the original ended. The Great Valley Adventure sees the dinosaurs building their new home in the valley. However, despite the continuation, The Great Valley Adventure was more of a sign of the direction the series would go in the future.
The franchise continued the more cutesy, adorable capers that The Great Valley Adventure started, instead of soldiering on with the emotional heft of the original. Though the second movie was a fun adventure, it took a while for audiences to get used to the new approach, as the original was still fresh in fans' minds.
6 - The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island (1997) - 6.0
With the Land Before Time series being a well-oiled machine that spits out movies on an annual basis at this point, The Mysterious Island was seen as the best since the original un 1997. It follows the group of young dinosaurs set out on yet another adventure to find a new home.
The plot is fairly derivative of the very first movie in the series, but the twist midway through keeps it fresh and entertaining. More exciting than anything and possibly the biggest highlight in the series is the return of fan-favorite Chomper. The gang parented the baby Sharptooth in The Great Valley Adventure, and his return is fan-service at its most perfect.
5 - The Land Before Time VII: The Stone Of Cold Fire (2000) - 6.0
As the series had long settled into a corniness that may have seemed irritating to grown-ups, The Stone of Cold Fire was the most mature the franchise had been in a long time. The movie focuses on Petrie’s uncle, who seems suspicious to everyone in the valley.
It was also the first movie to use computer animation, which could have been jarring, as the Land Before Time series is loved for the aesthetic look of the hand-drawn animation of prehistoric times. However, the difference was barely a problem, as the digital look felt like a fresh coat of paint for a series that was beginning to seem fossilized
4 - The Land Before Time XIV: Journey Of The Brave (2016) - 6.0
Journey of the Brave came after a long hiatus in the series, as the previous movie, The Wisdom of Friends, was released nine years earlier. It was a much-needed break, as Wisdom of Friends is the most disliked movie in the entire series, holding a 5.4 on IMDb.
However, the series returned as strong as ever, as the stakes were high with Littlefoot dealing with the stress of potentially losing another parent, but there was still that LBT charm. There are some fresh ideas in the movie, as Damon Wayans Jr. plays the new character Wild Arms, and the typical Wayans humor is on show, though it’s much more child-friendly.
3 - The Land Before Time XII: The Great Day Of The Flyers (2006) - 6.0
Like The Secret of Saurus Rock, The Great Day of the Flyers isn’t a tentpole movie in the series, and there aren’t any major stakes for the characters, but the 12th movie does it right. For once, Littlefoot is sidelined, and Petrie takes the reigns for an installment, as the whole movie is about the character being happy in his own skin and learning to be himself.
There are some great morals in the movie, and it’s impressive that an installment this far into the series is still coming up with new and valuable lessons to teach children. The movie is everything a Land Before Time movie should be, as it’s full of catchy songs, instantly lovable new characters, and is uplifting in a way few kids movies are.
2 - The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration (2003) - 6.2
The Land Before Time is one of the best Don Bluth films, but the tenth movie in the series gives the original a run for its money. It comes as a surprise that the tenth installment of a movie series that is mostly direct-to-video is the second best. But there’s a lot to love about The Great Longneck Migration.
The tenth movie is the most melodramatic of them all, as Littlefoot meets his father for the first time. It’s the closest the series gets to being as much of a tearjerker as the original movie. There’s even some star talent brought in for the film, as Kiefer Sutherland plays Littlefoot’s father, and his seasoned voice-acting certainly adds to the emotional weight of the relationship between him and Littlefoot.
1 - The Land Before Time (1988) - 7.4
Nothing beats where it all started. The Land Before Time series is full of fun adventures, creative characters, and is a great example of world-building, but a lot of the magic that was in the original movie had been lost due to those very things.
The Land Before Time is emotionally driven more than any other, and it features one of the saddest moments in a kids’ movie, as Littlefoot watches his mother die right in front of him. The fun quests and musical numbers take a back seat to the narrative, as opposed to those very things driving the plots of the sequels.