Best Movie Themed Rides

In honour of the Oscars this Sunday I thought I'd do a rundown of my favourite movie themed rides and attractions! It's kind of a given that most of these live in Disney and Universal parks but I've also tried to add in a few others to mix it up a bit. But yh, mostly Disney and Universal because, well, that's the world we live in. Oh yh, and there's spoilers ahead. Sorry about it.

Based on Back To The Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

First making an appearance in Orlando in 1991 and popping up subsequently in Hollywood and Japan, Back To The Future was a signature attraction for Universal Studios and has attained legendary status in the history of the Universal parks. Joining Doc and Marty as a volunteer at the Institute of Future Technology, the chase is on through Hill Valley to get Biff back to the future! 

I loved this ride as a kid but didn't have that clear a memory of what actually happened as it closed in Orlando and Hollywood before I got a chance to ride as an adult. I was super excited to hop back in the DeLorean during my visit to Japan last year. Yh.....this ride doesn't hold up so well compared to attractions nowadays so, despite it being a classic, I'm kind of glad it got shelved for The Simpsons Ride in the American parks.

Best Bit: Getting swallowed by a T-Rex - probably the first 'big' stunt ever experienced with this kind of technology back in the day!

Based on Dinosaur (Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag, 2000)
Found in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Dinosaur is an epic adventure back to the age of the dinosaurs to rescue the film's protagonist Aladar on an 'unauthorised field trip' before the meteor responsible for wiping dinosaurs off of the planet hits. 

Lots of people I talk to seem to miss this gem on their trips to WDW and I'm always SO gutted because this ride is fucking excellent. Sure, it's based on a film made when Disney were going through that weird 'experimenting with CGI and forgetting about writing a good script' phase so the source material isn't exactly inspiring, but trust me when I say this one isn't to miss. It's fast, thrilling, awe-inspiring and...pretty fucking scary too!

Best Bit: Checking out all the crying kids in the ride photos at the exit. The pic is taken at a really jumpy moment (Google Dinosaur on ride photos if you want a laugh!)

Based on the SAW franchise (James Wan, 2004)

Found at THORPE PARK Resort, SAW: The Ride invites thrillseekers to take on Jigsaw as you tackle his latest trap - a beyond vertical plummet into a rotating saw (geddit, cos it's SAW: The Ride! Clever coincidence or careful planning in case the IP runs out - you be the judge!).

What I love about SAW: The Ride, and also what I think is really underrated, is the effort it goes to to place you within a Saw style narrative. It has a great balance of dark ride effects and coaster elements to create a ride experience that really ticks all of the boxes, something we don't really have elsewhere in the UK and one I think most people are very quick to overlook!

Best Bit: (spoiler alert!) The first drop in the dark. It's a real gut-wrencher and gets me every time. Oh, and be sure to sit first row of the second train if you want Jigsaw's full speech at the beginning.

Based on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1988)

Another criminally underrated dark ride, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland plonks you right in the centre of the action in a zany chase round Toon Town as you try to save Jessica Rabbit from the dreaded Dip.

Fans of the film will love it, it's got all the crazy ridiculousness of the movie, all your fav characters from the film (obviously with more of a focus on the Disney side of things, it living in a Disney park and all) and is fast paced from start to finish. And it basically never has a queue, which just adds to the awesomeness.

Best Bit: The scene where you're 'falling' through the sky towards the city. Amazing how effective a bit of cut out scenery and misdirection can be!

Based on various Hollywood classics
In what is clearly a rip off of Disney's The Great Movie Ride (coming up), Hollywood Tour at Phantasialand invites you on a magical voyage through some scenes from some of Hollywood's most beloved classics.

I don't even know where to start with how good this ride is. I guess, you know those crappy B-Movies you watch sometimes because the effects are so bad and the premise is so ridiculous it's actually kind of good? Yh, this is the ride equivalent of that. The animatronics are all grossly out of proportion and only recognisable by their costumes and context, I'm pretty sure Phantasialand have NONE of the rights to any of the movies they're portraying, the ride is inexplicably introduced by Alfred Hitchcock despite none of his films featuring in the ride itself and there's an animatronic water-skiing chimp. What's not to love?


Based on Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Take a boat trip around scenic Amity Island, whose tourism industry is now booming after the now infamous shark attacks of '75. The serene sail soon takes a turn for the terrifying as the legendary beast has returned to the sleepy seaside town and it's up to your skipper to lead your group to safety. Man, that thing is DISGUSTING!

I ADORE this ride, and may or may not have cried when the original Orlando attraction was ripped out in favour of more Potter developments. Reriding this classic favourite of mine in Japan was definitely a highlight of my trip - it's good, old fashioned hammy movie goodness and I absolutely lap that shit up. It's obscene the amount of special effects that went into creating Jaws. It's pure theatre and genuinely threatening in parts. Long may it live in Osaka.

Best Bit: The boat house. Bring spare underwear, shit gets real once that door closes.

Based on the original Star Wars trilogy

Shortly heading for extinction by the end of this year, the original Star Tours was the first attraction at Disneyland not to be based on a Disney-owned IP. Space Tourists are invited on board the StarSpeeder 3000 for a whistle stop tour of a galaxy far, far away. As is the way with these things, something goes awry and suddenly you're central to the action from all the best scenes of the original trilogy, relying only on your less-than-competent pilot droid RX-24 to get you back to safety.

I'm in no sense of the word a Star Wars fan, or even a motion simulator fan for that matter, but I absolutely love Star Tours and am sad I'll never get to ride it again (The Adventure Continues updates are crap in my opinion with none of the original magic). I was always astounded at the sense of speed and actual peril created by this ride and a visit to Disneyland was never complete without a spin on this one!

Best Bit: Jumping to lightspeed. No idea how they achieve that effect but I love it.

Based on The Mummy (Stephen Sommers, 1999)

Another coaster/dark ride hybrid, Revenge of the Mummy appears in a few different forms in Universal Parks around the world. You're on a tour of the hot set of the latest film in The Mummy franchise: Revenge of the Mummy. Turns out, "the curse is real" as you stumble across a missing member of the film crew who has fallen foul of Imhotep's wrath. Shit. Cue tons of incredible effects including lasers, projection, pyrotechnics and more. Oh, and then there's a pretty decent coaster attached to the end of it too.

As you can expect, this ride is really, really impressive. I'm a massive fan of physical effects over digital any day and Revenge of the Mummy is pretty much a lesson in how to do this shit properly. Re-rideable, thrilling and jaw-dropping, everything you could possibly want in a theme park ride!


Based on a selection of classic Hollywood movies
With its facade an exact replica of the iconic Grauman's Chinese Theatre, The Great Movie Ride is a celebratory journey into some of Hollywood's most beloved films. Lead by your guide, the attraction takes you on a tour through time starting with the old black and white classics all the way through to a clip show from modern day cinema, not forgetting some live-action hijinks along the way.

Disney have always lead the way where animatronics are concerned and this attraction is really just them showing off. It's kind of a dream come true for a cinephile such as myself to suddenly be face to face with Ripley hiding from the Alien or in the middle of a shoot out from a James Cagney flick. It's probably a bit of an acquired taste when it comes to theme park rides and only truly loved by movie buffs, but I adore it and I guess that's all that matters in the end!

Best Bit: Munchkinland Wicked Witch of the West showdown. I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!

Based on the Harry Potter movie franchise
For some reason the spell that prevents muggles from seeing Hogwarts doesn't work in this instance as Hermione waves her magic wand and all of a sudden you're flying through the castle with Potter and his pals through all of the scariest bits of the Harry Potter franchise. Dragons? Yep. Soul-sucking Dementors? Yep. Tree that literally tries to bludgeon you to death? Hell yh! It's all here, and it's pretty traumatising and incredible.

You know how earlier I said I love the use of live effects? Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey does this incredibly well too (it just loses points in my book because it does slightly cheat and use CGI in parts too). What I love about this ride is that the action gets SO CLOSE to your face (as in, you can feel the heat coming from the dragon's mouth, that close). And the ride technology is pretty unique too, I can't imagine another ride system working with the narrative this ride has. It's incredible.

Best Bit: I know this is dumb, but probably the queue. Like, you're actually IN Hogwarts! (Ok, I know not actually, but it's as close as your sorry muggle ass is gunna get!)

Based on the Indiana Jones franchise

Team up with everybody's favourite archaeologist as you head into the depths of an ancient tomb and disturb the forces that lay dormant within. The race is on to grab the treasure and navigate your way through a series of booby traps and mazes before the curses protecting the tomb trap you there forever.

Aside from Tower of Terror, this is my favourite ride in the world. I don't think my jaw has ever dropped as much as it did when we first entered the main chamber of this attraction and saw a bunch of crazy jeeps flying around, getting attacked by fire, smoke, snakes (why did it have to be snakes?), arrows, bugs and just about every other Indiana Jones trope Disney have managed to squeeze into this action packed adventure. I could quite easily sit and ride this thing all day and never grow tired of it - it's the perfect adventure ride!

Best Bit: When you first hear the Indiana Jones motif kick in - what a rush!

Of course I missed a ton off but there are so many I'd be here all day if I gave them ALL a mention. As a movie-lover I'm always excited at the idea of 'living' my favourites through theme park rides and I hope these parks and others continue to deliver such excellent movie-based experiences for years to come. And hopefully there's a Lord of the Rings themed attraction somewhere in our future (I'm looking at you Universal!). But for now, it's time to grab some popcorn and weep uncontrollably as we tune in on Sunday to watch Leonardo be denied an Oscar yet again. Peace!