In The Lost World, Sarah Harding was an animal behaviorist who worked in the African savanna; her theories were very controversial. She survived multiple encounters with lions by shouting and throwing stones. Sarah was described as being muscular and having short black hair, and because she had such a unique character, she became very famous and was the idol of Kelly Curtis. She mentions that her father worked at the San Diego Zoo, a fact that is mentioned in Gerry Harding's background in the first novel, ambiguously suggesting he may be her father.
When Ian Malcolm was in the Costa Rican hospital, recovering from his wounds from the incident on Isla Nublar, Sarah visited him. They fell in love almost instantly, but they both continued with their work and never got into a successful relationship.
She immediately left Africa when she was asked to join the research group, led by Ian Malcolm, to Isla Sorna and flew to Costa Rica. Her main rival on Isla Sorna was Lewis Dodgson, who threw her overboard a ship on their way to the island. Dodgson antagonistically claimed to support InGen's rival, his company Biosyn. Sarah got her revenge on Dodgson later in the novel by pushing him into the mouth of an adult Tyrannosaurus rex. The Tyrannosaur then fed Dodgson to its infants. Sarah was portrayed an extremely capable female character, rescuing many of the other characters throughout the novel.
In Jurassic Park: The Game, an angry Jess Harding remarks to her father Gerry Harding he hasn't spoken Sarah for over a year during an argument, revealing that Gerry Harding is Sarah's estranged father from a previous failed marriage and that Jess is her younger half-sister.
In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sarah joined a small team of researchers on Isla Sorna on Dr. John Hammond's request. She displayed an array of knowledge in both living animals, having researched at the San Diego Zoo, and dinosaurs, understanding the anatomy of the leg muscles of the infant Tyrannosaurus she treated. She was joined later in the expedition by Ian Malcolm, with whom she had an ongoing relationship, and his daughter Kelly Malcolm, who looked up to Sarah. Sarah strongly believed that Tyrannosaurs should be known as protective, nurturing parents, putting her at odds with Robert Burke, who believed otherwise. Despite their rivalry, she endured Burke's behavior and even tried to save Burke when he was panicked into the Tyrannosaur's mouth after he saw a snake slithering into his shirt. The Tyrannosaurs stalked the group for a time, because Harding's jacket was covered in blood from when her and Nick Van Owen set the infant's leg. She and Malcolm survive the expedition.
She was also present at the San Diego Incident and heroically tranquilized the male adult Tyrannosaur before it could be killed by large animal control. She was last shown in the film asleep with Malcolm on his couch while Hammond commented on the Incident on television.
Sarah Harding has generally been portrayed as an intelligent and adventurous character with a free spirit and a strong sense of independence. She has repeatedly shown no fear of wandering into the habitats of animals and dinosaurs alone and interacting with them directly, and has also been shown to be willing to stand up for her beliefs, as shown in the film by her insistence to Robert Burke that Tyrannosaurs do not abandon their young. In both versions of the character, she is dependable and capable as well as very compassionate, heroically rescuing other characters and trying to ensure their safety, only endangering the lives of her human companions when trying to help the life of an animal, such as when she assisted the baby Tyrannosaur's injury. In the film, her most notable achievement was tranquilizing a bull Tyrannosaurus in San Diego before the Animal Control unit could kill it, ensuring the Tyrannosaur family's survival.
- Dr. Gerry Harding - father
- Mrs. Harding - former stepmother
- Jess Harding - half-sister
- Ian Malcolm - boyfriend
Sarah Harding is a playable character in the game The Lost World: Jurassic Park, although the character is called "Human Prey". Like in the novel, she drives in a car to the Worker Village and is chased by theropods, as well as fighting them with her guns..
She also appeared in Chaos Island: The Lost World as one of the playable units in the game.
She is mentioned by John Hammond in the game Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. Though not part of the Operation Team, in the exercise "The Lost World", she is mentioned in an interview letter box to come check on Isla Nublar to pose photos of dinosaurs and exhibit them again after the island's reputation was destroyed.
Sarah Harding is also a playable character in the video game Lego Jurassic World and has the abilities to jump high, dig through dinosaur poop and take photographs. It is again reinforced that Gerry Harding is her father, as he treats a Triceratops named "Sarah" and asks Ellie Sattler not to tell his daughter he named a dinosaur after her.
- In the film, particularly in her introductory sequence, Sarah Harding exhibits some traits from the character Richard Levine, who was removed from the film.
- Julia Roberts was considered for the role of Sarah Harding.
- Julianne Moore was in The Fugitive (1993) the same year Jurassic Park (1993) was released. Steven Spielberg was impressed with her small role in the movie. He interviewed her for the part and cast her in the part of Sarah Harding in this movie.