You know lately I’ve been missing the joy of theme parks. The simple yet expensive vacations where you got to enjoy a brief escape from reality and, if you were lucky enough to find your way to places like Universal Studios and Disney World (Land), get to ride your favorite movies. In fact many of the most famous and memorable theme park rides of today and yesterday were based on big Hollywood features and in my attempts to battle boredom during the ongoing pandemic I’ve taken to reviewing the history and legacies of some of these famous theme park attractions specifically thanks to the channel Theme Park History. No they didn’t pay me for this shout out, but It’s a great channel that explores the origins of rides across the country and I highly recommend it. You can check it out at the link right here. Anyways I’ve come to realize that when I think of theme parks most of the rides that come to my mind are based on movie properties. So today I thought I would explore some of my favorites and count down my picks for the Top 10 North American Theme Park Rides Based on Movies.
This list is not limited to just rides that are currently in operation. Any ride, operating or closed down, that was based on a movie could make this list. In order to create this countdown I considered any ride with origins specifically in film taking into consideration the legacy of the ride, its quality and its entertainment value.
However rides like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and Superman The Ride at Six Flags were not considered as while there are movies based on these properties the rides themselves were based on the characters and not the movies they were in. Rides that BECAME movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion don’t count because the movies were based on the rides not the other way around. Also, theater experiences like T-2 Battle Across Time I don’t consider rides. They’re more like show experiences in my opinion so they won’t be found here.
Finally, as the title implies, I’m focusing purely on theme park rides in North America, pretty much specifically the United States, so international rides like “Saw: The Ride” won’t be found here either.
Whew…okay I think that’s all. There were a lot of rides to sift through so don’t blame me for trying to simplify the shortlist. Anyways, I’m sure many of you theme park fanatics will criticize me for leaving out some of your favorite theme park attractions of today and yesterday. So please feel free to leave a comment about which ride you recommend and why it’s your favorite way to ride the movies.
10. “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance”
The newest attraction on this list, having opened in 2019, “Rise of the Resistance” has already become one of the biggest draws to the Disney parks earning rave reviews as it puts riders right into the battle between the Resistance and the First Order from the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy. Containing cutting edge animatronic characters, a trackless ride system, numerous walk-through components with live actors and cutting edge screen projections immersing riders into the experience, “Rise of the Resistance” is currently considered the most technologically advanced theme park ride in the world. While it’s still very new and has less than a year of history, “Rise of the Resistance” has already superseded “Star Tours” and “Smuggler’s Run” as the quintessential “Star Wars” ride experience. “Rise of the Resistance” possesses both flair and style redefining what a theme park ride can be making it possibly the greatest single theme park attraction to come out of the 2010s….well except for this next one that is.
9. “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”
The centerpiece to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of Islands of Adventure in Orlando, this motion-based dark ride takes riders into an original adventure within the “Harry Potter” film franchise with the original actors reprising their roles for the attraction. Riders follow Harry, Ron and Hermione through a misadventure on the campus of Hogwarts exploring numerous locations made famous by the films and books utilizing a state-of-the-art RoboCoaster ride system and projection screens to put participants right into the action. Combining these visuals and ride mechanics with physical sets and numerous special effects, Potter fans are able to step into the Wizarding World like never before. A five time Golden Ticket Award winner for Best Dark Ride and four time runner-up, in only ten years “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” has become one of, if not the quintessential ride of the modern Universal Studio’s experience and has made its mark on the industry as one of the most celebrated theme park attractions of the modern day.
8. “Revenge of the Mummy”
Based on the rebooted “Mummy” franchise from the late 90s and 2000s, “Revenge of the Mummy” is an enclosed roller coaster at several Universal Studios theme parks that, despite opening in 2004, dominated the Best Indoor Coaster category at the Golden Ticket Awards throughout the past decade winning the honor seven times in the 2010s including five straight from 2015 to 2019 forcing the retiring of the category and earning it “legendary” status by Amusement Today. Combining elements of a roller coaster and dark ride experience, “Revenge of the Mummy” plays off of numerous popular fears including darkness and insects to scare its riders while immersing them in an exhilarating race through a Mummy’s tomb. Despite replacing one of Universal’s most famous rides, “Kongfrontation”, “Revenge of the Mummy” has carved out a legacy all its own remaining popular well past its franchise’s expiration and surviving rumors of replacement over the last decade all the while consistently maintaining the honor of being considered one of the most exciting ride experiences at the Universal parks.
7. The Indiana Jones Adventure
While “Revenge of the Mummy” might take Universal patrons into the depths of a cursed tomb, The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disney did it first and, arguably, with a more well-rounded approach to its theme. First opened in 1995 in Disneyland, The Indiana Jones Adventure is a dark ride that puts riders right into an adventure with the titular star of the iconic “Indiana Jones” films attempting to find Indy within the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Utilizing a revolutionary ride system for its time and serving as a blueprint for countless rides that have followed, The Indiana Jones Adventure combines a detailed queue, convincing effects and set pieces, animatronics, and an epic finale featuring the famed runaway boulder giving riders and unforgettable ride experience that makes them part of a classic “Indiana Jones” movie scenario. Despite being 25 years old the ride remains one of the most cherished experiences at Disneyland serving as one of the theme park’s most iconic and revolutionary achievements to this day.
6. The Great Movie Ride
While it would be tempting to put a ride based on numerous movies at number one on this list just because of its content, “The Great Movie Ride” paled in comparison to what is yet to come in terms of influence and memorability. Still it has a legacy worth celebrating. The Great Movie Ride was a dark ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida that took riders through scenes from numerous legendary films exploring different genres and the history of the medium. With a façade stylized after the Chinese Theater and featuring movies like “Alien”, “Casablanca”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Singin’ in the Rain”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and more, The Great Movie Ride served as a well-paced and engaging introduction to film history for those who experienced it. Over time however riders lost interest in what the attraction had to offer and the ride was replaced by the first Mickey Mouse-themed ride at Disney, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, making it the last ride from Hollywood Studios’ opening day lineup to close. Still many have fond memories of this legendary attraction and it’s spectacular journey through cinematic history.