Weekly Top 10: The World's Best Theme Park Movie Attractions

January 19, 2015, 12:10 PM · While rides remain the top draw bringing people into theme parks, sometimes you just want to sit down, relax, and watch a show for a while. That's why movies remain the basis of many popular attractions in the world's top theme parks. But parks aren't satisfied to recreate the experience in your local multiplex. Theme park movies almost add extra elements to their presentations, whether it's 4D ("Height, Width, Depth, Spray!"), 180-degree or 360-degree theaters, or even live actors interacting with the film onscreen.

Theme Park Insider readers can rate and review attractions at the world's top parks, and, based on those ratings, here are our readers' choices for the Top 10 movie-based attractions in the world today. Remember that you can click on these attraction names to submit your rating of these shows, too!

10. TurtleTrek
SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld plussed its sea turtle exhibit with what it promoted as the world's first 360-degree, domed, 3D movie.

9. Reflections of China

Reflections of China

This 13-minute, CircleVision 360 movie plays in a theater housed in a re-creation of Beijing's historic Temple of Heaven. We follow Li Bai, an ancient Chinese poet, as he leads us through a visually spectacular, on-screen tour of Chinese landmarks and historical sites, from the Great Wall of China to Beijing's Forbidden City.

8. MuppetVision 3D
Disney's Hollywood Studios

MuppetVision 3D

Kermit and Miss Piggy take you on a video tour of Muppet Labs, for a demonstration of their new filmmaking technique, MuppetVision 3D. But of course, something goes terribly wrong, and chaos ensues, with in-theater effects adding to the mayhem you should expect from any Muppet production.

7. It's Tough to Be a Bug!
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure

It's Tough to Be a Bug!

Located under the park's iconic Tree of Life, this 4D film featuring characters from A Bug's Life actually premiered before that Pixar animated movie. The show includes all the typical 3D/4D gags, including objects seemingly flying from the screen, creepy-crawlies on your seat, and even a fragrant stinkbug.

6. Terminator 2: 3-D
Universal Studios Florida

Terminator 2: 3-D

You're welcomed on to a tour of Cyberdyne Systems (from James Cameron's Terminator movies), but since this is a theme park attraction, you shouldn't be surprised when something goes “terribly wrong.” Soon, you're traveling through time with John Connor and the Terminator as you try to save the world from Skynet. The show blends live actors, a 3D movie, and in-theater special effects, including explosions.

5. CineMagique
Walt Disney Studios Paris


Martin Short and France's Julie Delphy star in this charming montage of scenes inspired by classic Hollywood films. The characters literally "break the fourth wall" on occasion, bringing the action off the screen and into the theater.

4. Walt Disney: One Man's Dream
Disney's Hollywood Studios

Walt Disney: One Man's Dream

The pre-show of this movie is as much the attraction as the film itself, featuring a museum of Disney artifacts, including Walt's office from the real Disney Studios. The centerpiece of the attraction remains the filmed biography of Walt, exploring his journey to Hollywood and life at the studio, including Walt talking about the creation of Mickey Mouse.

3. Mickey's PhilharMagic
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland

Mickey's PhilharMagic

Even though the title is "Mickey's" PhilharMagic, Donald Duck is the star of this 12-minute 3D movie where we fly through a medley of famous songs and from top Disney animated films. This was the first time that Disney created computer-animated versions of many of its classic characters, including Mickey and Donald.

2. Soarin' Over California
Disney California Adventure, Epcot

Soarin' Over California

Board one of three massive "hang gliders" for a flight around the state of California. You'll "fly" around the Golden State, breezing along above river rafters, orange groves, golf courses, national parks, and even an aircraft carrier. For the finale, you'll skim above a downtown Los Angeles freeway on your way to a fireworks display at Disneyland, making this the only theme park attraction whose climax is a scene from... another theme park.

1. Impressions de France

Impressions de France

Playing on a 200-degree screen in a sit-down theater at the back of the pavilion, Impressions de France was directed by Rick Harper and produced by Harper and Academy Award nominee Bob Rogers. The movie depicts a series of visual impressions from France, enlivened by Buddy Baker's arrangement of French classical music.

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Replies (14)

January 19, 2015 at 1:07 PM · Love Impressions de France! It doesn't feel dated and remains so powerful, especially because of the music. I'm glad to see it at #1!
January 19, 2015 at 1:20 PM · Yes Robert...I couldn't agree more. It is definitely the greatest movie ever done for a themepark...period!!! It is about 20 minutes of pure cinema magic. I never tire of watching it...and it remains one of my favorite attractions from the opening days of EPCOT. I first saw the film in Oct-1983 and have seen it dozens of times since. The movie and it's soundtrack is simply outstanding and it still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. I have been to the real Paris and country of France but even that has not diminished my admiration for this themepark film. I hope Disney never removes it from EPCOT but sadly; with the direction that Disney is taking EPCOT(replacing Norway with FROZEN)these days I fear it's days are numbered. But anyway...'Impressions De France' is a masterpiece and a classic Disney attraction!!!
January 19, 2015 at 1:59 PM · Great list. I agree with Impressions de France. Everything about it is wonderful.
What is the opinion of TPI readers of the future of traditional 3/4-D theater shows in theme parks? Not rides that include 3-D, but shows like T2 3-D and Muppet-Vision 3-D. Are people becoming too accustomed to seeing 3-D in the neighborhood multiplex? Do 4th D gags i.e. - squirts of water, wind, shaking seats, smells, ticklers do enough to excite the theme park audience, or does there now have to be a stronger ride element included like wiht Spider-Man, Gringots Bank and Minion Madness?
January 19, 2015 at 3:20 PM · Only Turtle Trek is fairly new. Everything else is over a decade old. I pretty much skip these shows. The film quality is atrocious.
January 19, 2015 at 3:43 PM · Philharmagic is in desperate need of an update...
January 19, 2015 at 7:50 PM · Excellent choices with the top 3, but I would rank Soarin' Over California at #1 and Mickey's Philharmagic at #2. Does anyone know why Disney has not brought Mickey's Philharmagic to the California Disneyland resort?
January 19, 2015 at 6:18 PM · With recent changes to EPCOT - specifically the Frozen-Norway hybrid(Frorway??) - I do become concerned that Disney might move away from simple movies that showcase countries, to replace with popular IP rides. I would love to see EPCOT take on a pattern of keeping the movies AND adding in rides. Like the Rattatoulie ride from Paris, as well as the fantastic Impressions of France. The circle vision O Canada, along with an (imagined) flume ride through Canada's wilderness. Beef up each country with fun rides, and keep the wonderful, simple, films.
Of course, working against my vision is that the original Norway film was always the weakest of the world showcase movies (IMHO).
Always enjoyed the ride though.
January 19, 2015 at 8:04 PM · It's my humble opinion that Impressions of France and Soarin' are both more enjoyable after taking in a Grey Goose Orange Slush (with an extra shot of Grand Marnier of course) in the Paris area of Epcot. I highly recommend it. You might want to have two slushes if you're going to ride Soar'in.

On a side note - is there still an empty building in the Japan area of Epcot? I recall reading somewhere that at the back of the showcase a building was built to house a rollercoaster, but the idea was tossed later on. I believe it was later used for storage. It would be nice if Disney were to reconsider using the building for a ride of some sort.

January 19, 2015 at 9:51 PM · My opinion is that it would be unusual to see any of the disappear in the near future. The benefit of then us that they are cheap to run, take little space in the park and offer relief for guests on hot days or in rain.

It is possible that they may be updated to something making more use of the respective companies IP, I guess only time will tell.

January 20, 2015 at 2:58 AM · I also love Impressions De France, but I disagree that it doesn't feel dated. Unless French people still wear clothes from the 1980s, that is. Sadly, anything of this sort will become dated fairly quickly. I would love to see them do movies like this in a "modular" fashion, where they can periodically re-film one short section for a minor scene update. Simply update scenes every few years to keep it fresh, even if it's the same setting within France.

Kind of like how the Contemporary is a modular hotel, and Disney is able to remove rooms to remodel them one at a time.

But it's still a great movie. I don't watch it often, but perhaps every other year.

January 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM · Man, do I miss Le Visionarium... Cinémagique absolutely deserves its spot there, though. Probably higher. It's charming, funny, and one of the few times Disney's really nailed an attraction steeped in the magic and history of cinema.
January 20, 2015 at 12:19 PM · Although I guess it doesn't technically belong on this list as it was not in a theme park, this list makes me recall The Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton- still by far the best "interactive movie" attraction I've ever seen. I'm sad it's gone, even though it would likely be outdated now without a major update.
January 20, 2015 at 8:27 PM · No Shrek 4D? I thought it was very good fun.

PhilharMagic desperately needs upgrading.

January 22, 2015 at 10:07 AM · I personally am incredibly good at falling asleep during Impressions de France. A lot of the other list is good, but Soarin' as a movie kind of seems like a stretch. If you put it like that so is Star Tours and Spider-Man

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