This paper presents general variational formulations for dynamical problems, which are easily implemented numerically. The development presents the relationship between the very general weak formulation arising from linear and angular momentum balance considerations, and well known variational priciples. Two and three field mixed forms are developed from the general weak form. The variational principles governing large rotational motions are linearized and implemented in a time finite element framework, with appropriate expressions for the relevant "tangent" operators being derived. In order to demonstrate the validity of the various formulations, the special case of free rigid body motion is considered. The primal formulation is shown to have unstable numerical behavior, while the mixed formulation exhibits physically stable behavior. The formulations presented in this paper form the basis for continuing investigations into constrained dynamical systems and multi-rigid-body systems, which will be reported in subsequent papers.