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Disney's theme park movies ranked from Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean

Many of Disney's theme park rides have served as inspiration for their films

Disney has been turning its legendary park rides into movies for over 20 years now. (Disney)
Disney has been turning its legendary park rides into movies for over 20 years now. (Disney)

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From thrilling roller coasters to captivating dark rides, Disney's theme parks have always been a treasure trove of imaginative attractions.

It's no surprise, then, that many big movies over the years have used them for inspiration. Disney has a long history with this type of crossover, with the latest being this summer's trip to Haunted Mansion — based on the ride at Disney Parks — streaming on Disney+ from 4 October 2023.

Read more: Everything we know about the Haunted Mansion movie

Join us as we look at the worst-to-best of the films that try to recapture the magic of the ride on the big screen...

7: The Haunted Mansion | 2003

Eddie Murphy and Marc John Jefferies in 2003's The Haunted Mansion. (Alamy/Disney)

If you weren’t aware of the original Haunted Mansion remake, that might be because it was remembered as a bit of a flop.

Eddie Murphy starred as a real estate agent who becomes trapped in the titular haunted mansion, in a dark family comedy that also starred Jennifer Tilly. Mauled by critics at the time, and branded with a 14% Rotten Tomatoes score, the film was nonetheless a modest hit at the box office.

Haunted Mansion Holiday during Halloween Time at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, September 3, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, Anaheim, during Halloween 2021. (Getty Images)

What’s more, in the years since the children who grew up with the film have taken it to their hearts in a similar way to Hocus Pocus, with many online articles devoted to giving it a second look.

The Haunted Mansion is streaming on Disney+.

6: Mission To Mars | 2000

In Touchstone Pictures'' adventure/drama,
Gary Sinise, Connie Nielsen, and Jerry O'Connell in 2000's Mission To Mars. (Rob McEwan/Touchstone Pictures)

Opening in 1955 as Rocket To The Moon, this original Disneyland ride eventually became Mission To Mars in 1975 after the idea of lunar travel was no longer science fiction.

The show, made in collaboration with NASA, closed in 1992 but was reborn as a movie eight years later with some heavyweight talent. Oscar-winning director Brian DePalma (Scarface, Mission: Impossible) directed this summer blockbuster about catastrophe aboard the first manned mission to Mars, and the attempts to rescue them.

Exterior view of the 'Rocket to the Moon' attraction in the 'Tomorrowland' section at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, August 1963. (Photo by Walter Leporati/Getty Images)
The Rocket to the Moon attraction in the 'Tomorrowland' section at Disneyland, Anaheim, California in 1963. (Walter Leporati/Getty Images)

Despite prestige stars in the form of Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, and Don Cheadle, the film gained a lowly 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and was considered a box office disappointment.

Mission To Mars is streaming on Disney+.

5: The Country Bears | 2002

Dec 08, 2002; Hollywood, CA, USA; JAMES GAMMON as the voice of Big Al and CHRISTOPHER WALKEN as Reed Thimplein the family, musical, comedy ''The Country Bears'' directed by Peter Hastings.
Big Al and Christopher Walken in 2002's The Country Bears. (Alamy/Disney)

Originating in the 1970s, the Country Bear Jamboree is an animatronic music show that has become a staple of many Disney parks, with characters performing and interacting to delighted audiences.

The film version seemed like a no-brainer, following a wholesome story about a young fan (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) who seeks out the Country Bears band after years out of the spotlight.

Disney World Magic Kingdom country bear jamboree
The Country Bear Jamboree at Disney World. (Alamy)

Despite a human cast that included Christopher Walken, and cameos from music greats like Don Henley and Elton John, the film received a mauling from critics (31% on Rotten Tomatoes) who felt the story didn’t live up to the characters’ theme park legacy.

The Country Bears is streaming on Disney+.

4: Tomorrowland | 2015

Tomorrowland (titled Disney Tomorrowland: A World Beyond in the United Kingdom) is an upcoming 2015 American science fiction mystery adventure film directed by Brad Bird, co-written and produced by Bird and Damon Lindelof.  This photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of the film company and/or the photographer assigned by the film or production company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit to the film company is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known.
A still from 2015's Tomorrowland. (Disney/Alamy)

One of the most divisive films on this list, movie fans still debate whether Tomorrowland was an artistic failure, or (appropriately) ahead of its time.

Directed by Incredibles filmmaker Brad Bird and starring George Clooney, the film imagined the themed land that has been a part of Disney Parks since 1955 as an alternate dimension discovered by a young girl.

Portrait of, from left, American actor Mildred Davis (1901 - 1969), her granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, and the latter's governess, Cathleen Lippiatt, as they pose in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, mid 1950s. A sign on the right points to the Crane Company Bathroom of the Future, the American Dairy Association Dairy Bar, the World Beneath Us Theater, and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea show. Visible in the background are, from left, the Skyway to Fantasyland sign, Space Bar restaurant, TWA Moonliner rocket, and Hat Bar souvenir stand. (Photo by Harold Lloyd/Getty Images)
Disneyland visitors passing through Disneyland in the 1950s. (Harold Lloyd/Getty Images)

Critics and fans were impressed by the film’s ability to bring Disney’s optimistic vision of the future to life, but others also pointed to an overreaching story that doesn’t quite fit everything in. It’s no surprise, then, that the film sits at an even 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, while a planned sequel never transpired.

Tomorrowland is streaming on Disney+.

3: Tower of Terror | 1997

TOWER OF TERROR, Kirsten Dunst, Steve Guttenberg, 1997. © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection
Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg in 1997's Tower of Terror. (Alamy)

Perhaps not as well-known, this 90s made-for-TV movie was the first film to be based on a Disney attraction, and a relatively new one at the time.

Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror opened in 1994 at the Disney World resort, and three years later 80s legend Steve Guttenberg starred alongside a young Kristen Dunst as a reporter and his niece investigating spooky goings on at The Hollywood Tower hotel.

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The The Hollywood Tower Hotel AKA Tower of Terror at Disneyland Paris. (Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)

While it dropped the connection to TV show The Twilight Zone, the film has a similar plot and was a family hit when it aired in America (it earned a 54% Rotten Tomatoes score).

A new version in in the works developed by Scarlett Johansson and Taika Waititi.

2: Jungle Cruise | 2021

Jungle Cruise  Johnson & Blunt
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in 2021's Jungle Cruise. (Disney/Alamy)

It took over 65 years for this opening day attraction at Disneyland to get a big screen attraction. Jungle Cruise offered guests a simulated experience witnessing animatronics of tropical animals escorted by a pun-loving tour guide.

Action director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter, Non-Stop) kept the jungle and the tour guide (played by Dwayne Johnson), but wove in a race to find the fabled tree of life as well as adventure-seeking siblings (Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall).

ME.Jungle.boat2.KH.7/8/94.Skippers on the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland have added some updated jokes to their routine.
A skipper navigates another Jungle Cruise at Disneyland in 1994. (Kari Rene Hall/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Boasting a 60% Rotten Tomatoes score, the effects-led film was largely well-received and a sequel is currently in development.

Jungle Cruise is streaming on Disney+.

1: Pirates of The Caribbean | 2003-2017

Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. (Disney/Alamy)

It’s only right that the most beloved and successful movie based on a Disney ride should have its roots In Disney history.

Pirates of The Caribbean was the last attraction Walt Disney himself was personally involved in, passing away three months before its opening in 1967. The film version was considered a risk at the time, but Johnny Depp’s Oscar-nominated performance as Captain Jack Sparrow ensured the first movie was a critical hit (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and opened the door for a five-film franchise that would gross over $4.5billion worldwide.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at Disneyland (Photo by Dean Conger/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at Disneyland (Dean Conger/Corbis via Getty Images)

The films are now so engrained in our culture that Captain Jack was included in modern updates to the original ride.

The Pirates of the Caribbean films are streaming on Disney+.

Haunted Mansion is in UK cinemas now and will stream on Disney+ from Wednesday, 4 October.

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Watch a Haunted Mansion trailer below.