5. E.T. Adventure
Probably the most tame and child-friendly ride on this list, E.T. Adventure was an opening day attraction for Universal Studios in Florida before being added to the parks in Hollywood and Japan. The Florida version is the only one that remains today as the only opening day attraction still operating at the park. E.T. Adventure puts riders right into the “E.T.” movie asking them to help E.T. get home. Utilizing animatronics, miniature set pieces, lighting tricks, a suspended ride system and even a trademarked pine scent in the opening section to set the atmosphere, E.T. Adventure is a magical ride from Earth to the titular alien’s home planet providing a pleasing experience for the young and the young at heart. While not as intense as other attractions on this list, E.T. Adventure is incredibly immersive and is all about the simple joys of the ride which is what makes it so charming and unique in the thrill-heavy theme park lineups of today. Plus, the ride is capped off by E.T. saying each rider’s name to thank them personally for their help, a nice touch that sets it apart from every other ride in either Universal or Disney.
4. Back to the Future: The Ride
Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of Steven Spielberg in this top five. Get used to it. The man was responsible for helping bring many iconic theme park rides to Universal. Spielberg, whose company Amblin Entertainment produced “Back to the Future”, led the charge to bring a ride based on the film series to the Florida park after his good friend George Lucas stated he didn’t believe Universal could mimic Disney’s dark ride “Star Tours”. Thus, a plan was drawn up and eventually the ride was born putting riders into the famous time traveling DeLorean. Back to the Future: The Ride helped put the Universal Orlando on the map after its disastrous opening and was a classic ride from the day it opened until its closing in 2007 being replaced by The Simpsons Ride. The Hollywood and Japan versions would close later on 2007 and in 2016 respectively making the ride extinct, but its legacy lives on as one of the most memorable, exciting and legendary attractions of the park’s early years. Shadows of the ride remain in a tribute during the queue video for The Simpsons Ride and through a bootlegged recording of the ride experience now included on most DVD and Blu-ray copies of the trilogy.
Inspired by the “King Kong” movie franchise and the Universal Studio Tour segment from Hollywood, Universal Orlando’s Kongfrontation was an opening day attraction that took everything great about the legendary tram segment and enhanced it into a full-fledged ride experience all its own. Serving as a classic for over 10 years, Kongfrontation featured two legendary massive King Kong animatronics that riders encountered as they traveled through destroyed sections of New York City. Despite technical issues dampening the ride’s debut, Kongfrontation eventually became a staple of the Universal Studios experience and a must-ride for anyone at the parks. Kongfrontation’s closing in 2002 to make way for the aforementioned “Revenge of the Mummy”marked a massive change of approach for Universal as many saw the ride’s replacement to mean that no attraction, no matter how legendary, was safe from eventual updates or retirement. Kong’s legacy eventually continued with the modernized Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure, but the original Kongfrontation will always be one of the most epic ride experiences Universal ever created.
Another opening day attraction at Universal Studios Florida inspired by a stop on the Hollywood Studio Tour, the Jaws ride has quite the history with the opening day version of the ride eventually having the close and be completely redesigned due to technical issues. Eventually it became a certified classic putting riders right into a battle with the great white from the original summer blockbuster. One of the most unique elements of the ride was the skippers who often ad libbed their jokes during the experience while maintaining a specific story structure. Combining several animatronic sharks, immersive special effects and a unique sense of humor to offset its thrills, the Jaws ride remained a staple of the park and one of the most famous movie-based theme park attractions right up until its closing in 2012 to make room for the Harry Potter expansion in Florida. The Japan version of the attraction still remains however as does the Studio Tour segment that inspired it keeping the spirit of this famous legendary ride alive for future generations to experience…for now.Jurassic Park: The Ride
1. Jurassic Park: The Ride
Also known as Jurassic Park River Adventure in Florida and Japan and Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure in Singapore, Jurassic Park: The Ride may not exist today as it was upon its opening but it still remains a staple of the Universal theme parks nonetheless. Based on Steven Spielberg’s legendary 1993 film, the ride took participants into the park where animatronic dinosaurs roamed free. Eventually the ride would go off course and the riders experienced predators like raptors and the infamous T-Rex before hitting an 85 ft drop into the water which was the highest drop for a water ride at the time of its construction. In 2018 the ride in Hollywood closed temporarily being reimagined to fit the “Jurassic World” series, reusing several elements of the original ride while adding new ones, most notably an aquarium section featuring the Mosasaurus, and added effects and animatronics. The Japan and Orlando versions remain the same but the Hollywood ride was always the most popular if the three. While not entirely the same ride, the spirit of the attraction remains solid making it one of the few classic movie-themed rides to maintain its quality and thrills even after a rebranding. It is still one of the most thrilling, iconic and immersive rides at any theme park in North America putting you right into the action of one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time.