CinemaBlend participates in affiliate programs with various companies. We may earn a commission when you click on or make purchases via links.
These days, most theme park attractions are based on popular movies. The whole idea is to let guests enter the world of their favorite stories and experience the adventure in a more tangible way. At the Disney Parks, most of the rides have been inspired by popular Disney movies since the beginning, but there have also been attractions that were entirely original, and many of them have since seen movies made about them. Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt is just the latest in an ongoing series of films based on popular Disneyland and Walt Disney World rides. So how does it stack up against the others?
We're going to take a look at every movie that was specifically inspired by part of a Disney theme park, and we'll rank them accordingly. You can watch most of this list on Disney+ right now (click here if you need to subscribe). A couple notes to be aware of: for the purposes of this list, we're only including the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was the one most specifically inspired by the attraction, the sequels were really just inspired by the previous films. Also, we're sticking with theatrical films here, so you won't find the made-for-TV Tower of Terror on this list. We'll slot in the new one if/when it happens. With that out of the way, let's give all the theme park movies a look and see which one is the best.
6. Mission To Mars
If you literally forgot that there even was a movie based on the classic Disneyland and Disney World attraction Mission to Mars, that probably tells you everything you need to know about the film. There's a lot the movie has going for it. The film has a cast that includes Don Cheadle, Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise. It was directed by the great Brian de Palma. It feels like it should be a better movie than it is. It's visually impressive, or at least it was at the time 20 years ago, but there just isn't much in the way of character or story to keep you invested in the film's stunning look. The fact that the movie came out nearly a decade after Mission to Mars had closed in the theme parks didn't help, and it was even a dated ride before that. Granted, it's still a ride that means something to a lot of people, and the movie is probably still worth seeing, but it's just forgettable.
5. The Country Bears
The strangest thing about The Country Bears movie may be that the entire plot and structure was reused by The Muppets less than a decade later. A young fan of the old Country Bears musical act comes to discover that the band's home is about to be taken over by a greedy banker. So the fan and one of the Country Bears go on a cross-country quest to get the band back together in order to stage a show to raise the money to save the building. The movie is also full of celebrity cameos. Part of the problem with The Country Bears is simply that even though the Disney World attraction has fans, it just doesn't have the widespread appeal that the Muppets do. The animatronic bear suits are technically impressive, but they're also difficult to get used to. The whole thing is so weird that you'll never forget it, though you might try.
4. The Haunted Mansion
I'm on record as saying that Disney's Haunted Mansion movie is good, actually, and I stand by that. On balance, I think there's more to recommend it than there is weighing against it. Having said that, it's certainly not a perfect movie. It tries to balance horror and humor in the same way that the attraction does, but it ultimately just isn't able to do the job quite as well as the actual Haunted Mansion. The Disneyland and Disney World attraction is represented well and they do directly inspire elements of the story, so fans of the ride will have something to enjoy here, even if the story doesn't quite capture you. But hey, at least there's a reboot on the way.
While not technically based on a specific attraction, any list like this would be incomplete without including Tomorrowland. However, Tomorrowland is a tough movie to judge. Like Haunted Mansion, it's difficult to argue that it's a great film, but there's actually quite a lot about it that is great. From its foundations in actual Disney history to its (mostly) optimistic view of the future and humanity's potential, it's the sort of thing Walt himself would have believed in. Tomorrowland is in some ways the most Disney movie you could have. Tomorrowland feels like it's just on the edge of greatness, but never quite gets there.
2. Jungle Cruise
When we sit down on a theme park attraction to go for a ride, what we're ultimately looking for is fun, and Disney's newest theme park attraction-inspired film is certainly that. Jungle Cruise is packed with action and humor, with some of the latter in the form of terribly bad jokes. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt just have fantastic chemistry that makes the whole movie a trip worth going on with them. The actual Disney ride only has to keep you engaged for seven or eight minutes, but the Jungle Cruise movie has you along for the ride for the whole two hours. It may not be the best movie based on a Disney attraction, but it's awfully close.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
There's a reason that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl spawned a franchise, four sequels and a possible reboot. As popular as the original Disneyland attraction is, the ride is not the reason this movie is good. The movie is great entirely on its own merits. The action is second to none. Jack Sparrow, in his debut performance, is a breath of fresh air, even if that air would eventually get stale. The score is one of the most memorable to come from a Disney movie that isn't an animated musical. On top of that, Curse of the Black Pearl actually found the inspiration for its plot in the ride itself, but was able to build it into something truly special. There's a reason that of all the movies here, this is the one that came full circle and ended up adding elements from the movies into the ride. It's something that fans want to see.
While a lot of these movies have not been massive box office hits, the fact is that the movies inspired by Disney theme park attractions are actually pretty interesting on the whole. They may not always be great, but they're all worth seeing. Four of them can be found on Disney+ right now. Tomorrowland is set to be added in early September, and we'll likely see Mission to Mars there eventually. And down the road, we'll certainly see more flicks added to this list. A Tower of Terror movie is in development , as is a Space Mountain movie. Fans of these rides will certainly be looking forward to seeing them in a new way on the big screen.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.