Theme parks in the movies: A visual vacation

It’s not uncommon for folks to visit their favorite theme parks every week with the annual and season passholder programs available. For a lot of people, theme and amusement park experiences are their primary form of entertainment and escape.

theme parks

But over the last several months, these opportunities for escapism haven’t been available due to COVID-19. We’re slowly seeing some of these parks reopen, but if you’re craving a park experience now or aren’t interested in visiting them in person just yet, you might enjoy “visiting” the parks vicariously through some films. Below are a list of movies that take place either prominently in an amusement park or feature critical scenes in the parks. Now buckle up, tug on that yellow strap and get ready for a ride!

Rated PG

“3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain” (1998 – Action, Adventure, Comedy)

3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain Trailer 1998

“Three young boys, Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum, together with their neighbor girl, computer whiz Amanda, are visiting Mega Mountain amusement park when it is invaded by an army of ninjas led by evil Medusa, who wants to take over the park and hold the owners for ransom. Kids and retired TV star Dave Dragon, who made his farewell appearance at the park at the time the ninjas appeared, have to break Medusa’s vicious plans.”

“Jaws 3-D” (1983 – Adventure, Horror, Thriller)

Jaws 3-D (6/9) Movie CLIP - Please Walk, Don't Run (1983) HD

“A giant 35-foot shark becomes trapped in a SeaWorld theme park and it’s up to the sons of police chief Brody to rescue everyone.”

“Rollercoaster” (1977 – Action, Crime, Drama)

Rollercoaster (1977) - Official Trailer (HD)

“A blackmailer threatens to sabotage roller coasters at various American amusement parks if he isn’t paid a huge ransom.”

“Free Willy” (1993 – Adventure, Drama, Family)

“When a boy learns that a beloved killer whale is to be killed by the aquarium owners, the boy risks everything to free the whale.”

“Wonder Park” (2019 – Animation, Adventure, Comedy)

Wonder Park (2019) - New Trailer - Paramount Pictures

“’Wonder Park’ tells the story of an amusement park where the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June comes alive.”

“Big Fat Liar” (2002 – Adventure, Comedy, Family)

Big Fat Liar (9/10) Movie CLIP - Give Me Back My Monkey (2002) HD

“After a young boy’s school essay erroneously finds its way into the hand of a Hollywood producer who turns the idea into a hit film, the boy travels to Los Angeles to claim his credit.”

In this movie, you’ll see the main characters hop on the Universal Studios Hollywood tram tour to later jump off and experience the sites of the Universal backlot typically seen on tour.

“The Wizard” (1989 – Adventure, Comedy, Drama)

King Kong Chase - Excerpt from The Wizard

“A boy and his brother run away from home and hitch cross country with the help of a girl they meet to compete in the ultimate video game championship.”

This video game championship takes place at Universal Studios Hollywood, and therefore features some parts of the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.

Rated PG-13

“The Way, Way Back” (2013 – Comedy, Drama)

The Way, Way Back Official Trailer #1 (2013) - Sam Rockwell Movie HD

“Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.”

“Jurassic World” (2015 – Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi)

Jurassic World - Official Trailer (HD)

“A new theme park, built on the original site of Jurassic Park, creates a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, which escapes containment and goes on a killing spree.”

Although many of the films in the “Jurassic” franchise take place in a theme park environment, this is the only one of the movies that is set in an open-to-the-public park.

Rated TV-14

“Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” (2015 – Action, Adventure, Comedy)

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! Official Extended Trailer (2015) - Sci-Fi Action Comedy HD

“A monstrous tornado unleashes ravenous sharks from Washington, D.C. all the way down to Orlando, Fla.”

Rated R

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983 – Adventure, Comedy)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) Official Trailer - Chevy Chase Comedy Movie HD

“The Griswold family’s cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated.”

“Beverly Hills Cop III” (1994 – Action, Comedy, Crime)

Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) Official Trailer #1 - Eddie Murphy Movie HD

“Alex Foley, while investigating a car theft ring, comes across something much bigger than that: the same men who killed his boss are running a counterfeit money ring out of a theme park in Los Angeles.”

“Adventureland” (2009 – Comedy, Drama, Romance)

Adventureland (2009) Official Trailer - Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg Movie HD

“In the summer of 1987, a college graduate takes a ‘nowhere’ job at his local amusement park, only to find it’s the perfect course to get him prepare for the real world.”

“Hell Fest” (2018 – Horror, Thriller)

Hell Fest (2018 Movie) Official Trailer

“A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show.”

“Action Point” (2018 – Comedy)

Action Point (2018) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures

“A daredevil designs and operates his own theme park with his friends.”

“Dark Ride” (2006 – Horror)

DARK RIDE - Trailer

“A group of six friends on a road trip stop off at an amusement park attraction named ‘Dark Ride,’ unaware that a psychopath who brutally murdered two girls, has just escaped a mental institution and is seeking refuge there.”

“Zombieland” (2009 – Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy)

Zombieland (7/8) Movie CLIP - Pacific Playland (2009) HD

“A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.”

Not Rated

“40 Pounds of Trouble” (1962 – Comedy)

Forty Pounds Of Trouble Trailer 1963

“Hilarity ensues when a casino manager spends a day at Disneyland with a cute but troublesome little girl.”

“Coney Island” (1917 – Short, Comedy)

“Roscoe tries to dump his wife so he can enjoy the beach attractions. Buster arrives with Alice who is taken away from him by Al who loses her to Roscoe. Bathing beauties and Keystone Kops abound.”


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One Comment

  1. The Florida Project??
    Although a rather disturbing depiction of life on US 192 the last scene of the children running up Main Street in the Magic Kingdom to escape their troubles is heart warming and reassuring