The entire reason why Jurassic Park had catastrophic issues was because Dennis Nedry considered himself severely underpaid (and underappreciated)...

Several times throughout the film, however, Hammond comments that no expenses were spared when building out the park. He literally has teams and teams of expert scientists using cutting-edge DNA technology, outsourced archeologists, animal experts, multiple compounds, butlers, helicopters, and he even owns the entire island!

So, is there a specific reason why would he have underpaid Nedry to the point that Nedry felt it necessary to commit corporate sabotage? I mean, Nedry did appear to be the number one software/systems engineer of the entire park... you'd think that he would be sufficiently (if not overly) compensated.

Is there something I'm missing?

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    considered himself underpaid <-- I think that's the key phrase there. He thought he was underpaid, but that doesn't mean he was. Moreover, it doesn't mean he wasn't greedy and always looking for more.
    – DeeV
    May 25, 2022 at 1:37
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    I think there's more to it than that. Nedry could have just abandoned the project and left them in the lurch.. and, it's not like Nedry and Hammond didn't have a kind of "direct" relationship (i.e., they spoke quite frankly to each other). Nedry could have easily threatened to leave / renegotiate his salary, or maybe his plan all along was to sabotage Jurassic Park? If that actually was the case then it'd better explain why he put up with Hammond's high-moral speeches and criticisms. So, ultimately, I'm looking for some elaboration on motives, either on Hammond or Nedry's side.
    – Charles
    May 25, 2022 at 3:17
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    Hammond lied. I think even in the novel, Nedry had underquoted to get the work done, probably just to get there and steal the embryos. It could also be that Hammond trusted Nedry and so, even though he was literally the one guy running all the systems on the island, he'd persuaded Hammond that it would be enough.
    – user25730
    May 25, 2022 at 4:02
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    For those who are VTCing, please explain why... pretty sure I've provided sufficient enough specificity in my question. If you don't think so, please tell me what's lacking and I'll edit instead of just silently VTCing...
    – Charles
    May 26, 2022 at 10:26

2 Answers 2


Greed and budget overruns explain Nedry's behaviour

The movie contains a good deal less information about Nedry's history and motivations than the book. But both make at least two main things clear.

The first is that Nedry is greedy and unprincipled. He wants even more money than Hammond had already paid him. The second is that he sees the potential success of the project but has no mechanism to extract any more from Hammond. And HAmmond has lost patience with Nedry due to underperformance and his attitude, hence why he won't pay him more.

The book has more detail to flesh out both, interrelated, motivations.

He has already been paid handsomely for the project. Hammond was generous. But the project has overrun, more than once. And Hammond has grown tired of both the delays, the failures and Nedry's demand for more money to fix them. Hammond has set a limit on future payments and set a deadline for completion (he might even think that Nedry is, effectively, blackmailing him because the software is so essential for the whole project. Nedry's character is not especially apologetic or diplomatic about missing his deadlines or blowing his budget, so Hammond's attitude seems understandable. And this means that despite Hammond's normal "sparing no expense" attitude he doesn't like to be gulled by an awkward contractor and has clearly lost patience with Nedry's attitude and capacity to finish the work.

The important thing that triggers Nedry to attempt to steal the embryos is that Hammond has made it clear he will not concede further extensions or budget. So Nedry has no route to "getting his share" or, possibly, getting any more money at all. But Hammond's competitors will pay generously, not for software, but for the embryos. They could not replicate Hammond's work quickly or without vast expense. So they are prepared to pay a great deal for the core material that avoids this expense. And Nedry is both greedy and can't extract more from Hammond, so he is an easy target for subversion.

Nedry's alternative choice would have been to eat his own budget overrun or admit failure and take any penalties. These probably look like a very bad options as both would make him poorer (with admitting failure seriously damaging his reputation as a programming genius).

He sees an easy way to get richer by exploiting his situation but without having the finish the project or work for free.


Nedry is a contractor. As a contractor, you estimate your time and submit a bid for the project based on your estimates. Clearly Nedry underestimated the project, but Hammond was under no obligation to pay him more than the estimate.

To your point, if he truly "spared no expense" he'd pay more than he was billed for to keep Nedry happy. But if someone comes to your house, submits an estimate for installing a new hardwood floor, and then runs over budget due to their own incompetence, are you going to pay that contractor more than you agreed to? I sure wouldn't.

There's a scene where Nedry is really hammering Hammond about being underpaid, to which Hammond replies:

I don't blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them.

This is an allusion to the fact that Nedry underbid the project, and Hammond is making it clear that this is Nedry's problem and not his.

  • Interestingly enough, Hammond did the same mistake in underestimating the risks of his project, which, coincidentally, was what caused the "contractor" (Nedry) to be unable to properly estimate the required resources and then wrongfully react to the consequences, based on his limited, given knowledge and experience about a yet unknown subject (he is a programmer, not a biologist/paleontologist/gamekeeper/etc.). While Nedry may be the main apparent antagonist in the story, anything that happened was mostly Hammond's fault as project leader. And, ironically, he did pay for his own mistakes. Nov 7, 2023 at 5:01
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    @musicamante - As an IT guy, I respectfully disagree. If, say, you're bidding on a project to maintain an electric fence that covers a 3 square mile area, it doesn't matter if you're putting kittens or dinosaurs in that enclosure. Hammond did under-estimate the risks involved, but an IT guy wouldn't be impacted by those risks. Presumably the fences were installed before the dinosaurs were put in them, so Nedry would have written the code long before risks were present. Nov 8, 2023 at 22:57
  • I understand your point, but the problem wasn't just about fences. We're talking about the film (which leaves most aspects covered by the book unknown, and I only read it once or twice ~20 years ago), but there's much more going on. Nedry had to work on almost any "remote-controlled" aspect of the park, including implicit aspects he (as his employee) wasn't aware of, especially considering delicate relations between each compartment, most of which were unknown even to those in charge: as Malcolm said, they "stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as [they] could". » Nov 10, 2023 at 4:15
  • » As indolent and greedy as Nedry may have been, he clearly had only partial (insufficient) knowledge about the context in which he was working. I only worked as an IT professional for a few years, but I've had my fair share of experience of working under CEOs that have to deal with completely unrelated fields (people that is mostly divided between entertainment aspects, marketing and money making natures of their job) without having sufficient knowledge about most of them, including the requirements that their employees actually need so that thay can properly do their own job. » Nov 10, 2023 at 4:15
  • » Nedry was probably hired for a job description that was simpler than what would have been actually required; he probably was inefficient in verifying the implications, mostly attracted by the money offer that he eventually accepted (but how can you really evaluate these aspects when somebody tells you "we want to build a theme park with dinosaurs" in the early 90s?). AFAIR, the book tells that Nedry had to face aspects that wern't part of the initial agreement, caused by complications/implications that were only revealed during the park development. As an IT guy, you know how that feels. » Nov 10, 2023 at 4:16

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