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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
🎟️ Best cinema membership deals
🍿 Odeon Limitless Membership | £14.99 per month:
See as many films as you like for £14.99 a month
Get 10% off food and drink
Exclusive invites to see films before they’re released
For full terms and exclusions, find out more here
🍿 Cineworld Unlimited Membership | £10.99 - £21.99 per month:
Unlimited films, starting from £10.99 (depends on what Unlimited Membership Group you choose)
Get 10% off cinema snacks and drinks
Get access to advanced screenings
For full terms and exclusions, find out more here
Watch a Haunted Mansion trailer below.