The Land Before Time is a 1988 American-Irish animated adventure film directed by Don Bluth. The film was produced by Sullivan Bluth Studios and Amblin Entertainment and was distributed by Universal Pictures. It was released on November 18, 1988. The film spawned a franchise and a television series.
During the Cretaceous period, a series of catastrophic events, including a drought, are causing herds of dinosaurs to seek a paradise called the Great Valley. Amongst them, a diminished herd of Apatosaurus give birth to an infant named Littlefoot.
Years later, Littlefoot plays with a Triceratops named Cera, but her father, Daddy Topps, drives him away. That night, Littlefoot chases after a frog and meets Cera in a swamp, whereupon the two are attacked by a Tyrannosaurus, called Sharptooth. Littlefoot's mother intervenes and battles Sharptooth, but the fight is interrupted by an earthquake, which divides Littlefoot and Cera from their herds. Littlefoot's mother, weakened from the battle, nevertheless manages to defeat Sharptooth by knocking him into the ravine, but she herself is fatally wounded. Before dying, she advises Littlefoot by telling him to directions to the Great Valley.
Littlefoot, depressed by his mother's death, is comforted by an Ankylosaur named Rooter before continuing towards the Great Valley, guided by the spirit of his mother. On his journey, he meets Cera once more, but she refuses to join him on his quest. He later encounters a Saurolophus named Ducky and a Pteranodon named Petrie, who had also been separated from their families. They agree to join Littlefoot on his quest.
Cera travels into the ravine and discovers Sharptooth, who had survived the fall. She flees the ravine and meets Littlefoot, Ducky and Petrie, and warns them of Sharptooth's survival. However, Littlefoot refuses to believe her, adamant that Sharptooth had perished. Ducky later finds a Stegosaurus hatchling, whom she names Spike, who accompanies them on their journey. As the group search for food, they discover a cluster of trees, which is promptly devoured by a herd of Diplodocus. However, they manage to find one remaining tree and obtain food via stacking on top of each other to reach the leaves.
The following morning, the group is attacked by Sharptooth, but they escape through a cave-tunnel. Using the directions given to him by his mother, Littlefoot guides the group towards the Great Valley, but Cera grows impatient and opts to take a different route. Littlefoot and Cera devolve into fighting each other, culminating in Cera taking leadership over the group and abandoning him. However, the route Cera takes plunges the group into turmoil, and Littlefoot returns to rescue them. They discover Cera being harassed by a group of Pachycephalosaurus and chase them off. Cera, humiliated and unwilling to admit her mistake, leaves in tears.
The group nears the Great Valley, but notice Sharptooth approaching as well. Littlefoot formulates a plan to stop Sharptooth by luring him towards a nearby lake and drop a boulder on him. Using Ducky as bait, they successfully lure the Sharptooth into the lake, but Littlefoot and Spike struggle to move the boulder. Petrie, managing to fly for the first time, stops Sharptooth from attacking Ducky, but the predator jumps onto the cliff and nearly kills the group. However, Cera returns and helps shove the boulder, knocking Sharptooth off the cliff and into the lake, where he drowns. Petrie seemingly perishes along with him, but Ducky soon finds him alive.
Littlefoot discovers a cloud resembling his mother and follows it to the Great Valley, where he reunites with his grandparents. The rest of the group follow and reunite with their respective families, while Spike is adopted by Ducky's family. The group then embrace each other, acknowledging their friendship.