Binge List – Movies and Television Shows Featured at Universal Orlando

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You are all set for your Universal Orlando vacation – hotels are booked, tickets purchased, restaurant menus perused, attractions researched. Then your son/daughter/significant other says to you, “What is E.T.?” Oh boy, you have some work to do.

In this article, I cover the movies and television shows featured in the Universal parks so you can prepare for your vacation. For some, it’s essential to research, for others it’s a fun way to count down to the trip.

P.S. – Clicking on the movie or show title takes you to a one-stop location for streaming and purchasing options!

Movies

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Three Broomsticks as seen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Image © Warner Bros.

Essentials

  • Harry Potter Series
    • Attraction: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, Cinematic Celebration
    • Appropriate Audience: Ages 10+
    • Time Commitment:  ~2 1/4 hours one movie, ~20 hours all 8 movies

The boy wizard that revolutionized the theme park industry, Harry Potter represents the largest footprint at Universal Orlando: five attractions, five shows, two restaurants, and a dozen shops. The movies tell the tale of the spectacled, orphaned Harry Potter, his discovery of the Wizarding World, and understanding a destiny that was foisted upon him.

While all the movies are appropriate for kids, the first two are noticeably more child-centric. If you want a slice of Harry Potter that matches up with the style of the theme parks I suggest Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire.

  • Despicable Me Franchise
    • Attraction: Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Cinematic Celebration, Superstar Parade
    • Audience: All Ages
    • Time Commitment: 95 minutes

One of the bigger animated franchises of the 2010s, Despicable Me tells the tale of Gru’s adoption of three girls (GOYLS!) into his unconventional family. Plus the Minions, yellow tic-tacs with eyes, run around as comic relief. The films are fluffy fun that discusses positive messages of understanding and belonging. We suggest watching the first movie in preparation.

  • Jurassic Park Franchise
    • Attraction: Jurassic Park River Adventure, Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Cinematic Celebration
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: ~2 hours per movie

What happens when chaos theory and scientific hubris meet, Jurassic Park is a tale of a dinosaur park where everything goes wrong. The partial sequel, partial reboot, Jurassic World, mixes in some additional consumerism subtext to the formula. While both attractions feature different movies and actors, watching the first (and best) movie will fill you in on what you need to know.

  • Transformers Franchise
    • Attraction: Transformers The Ride, Cinematic Celebration
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: ~2 1/2 hours

A live-action movie based on the television animated series made to sell toys, Transformers is pretty simple to understand. Cool, friendly robots are here to protect and spikey bad robots are here to harm. The plot of the attraction is pretty simple and the first movie is an easy watch. (The film’s quality is another discussion.)

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
    • Attraction: E.T. The Adventure, Cinematic Celebration
    • Audience: Ages 10+
    • Time Commitment: under 2 hours

An iconic Spielberg movie, E.T. features the titular Reeces Pieces-loving alien as a group of kids help him back home. Sprinkle in some themes of 80s broken families and adults forming meaningful connections with kids and it’s easy to see how this is a classic. If you have not seen this yet, take some time out of your week and watch it.

Additional Watching

  • Men in Black
    • Attraction: Men in Black – Alien Attack
    • Audience: Agest 10+
    • Time Commitment: ~ 2 hours

Based on the urban legends of secret government agents, Men in Black stars Will Smith as wet-behind-the-ears Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as hardened Agent K. The unlikely pair must work together to defending New York from an alien threat. Also, there’s a talking pug.

  • The Mummy
    • Attraction: The Revenge of the Mummy
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: ~ 2 hours

A reboot of the Universal Monsters movies of the 1930s, this 1999 movie stars Brendan Frasier. An expedition team travels to The City of the Dead and accidentally awakening Imhotep, aka The Mummy. The attraction is a pseudo-sequel to the original movie, with the coaster located on the set of the new movie.

  • Fast & Furious Franchise
    • Attraction: Fast & Furious: Supercharged, Cinematic Celebration
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: ~ 2 hours

What started out as a cop infiltrating an illegal street racing group morphed into a worldwide phenomenon of heist action movies (with cars). We suggest skipping the first few movies and watching Fast 5 and later to try to understand the plot of the ride (emphasis on try).

  • Shrek Franchise
    • Attraction: Shrek 4D, Superstar Parade
    • Audience: Ages 10+
    • Time Commitment: 90 minutes

Big green, meme-generating ogre subverts fairytales in a big obscene gesture of a movie toward Michael Eisner and the Walt Disney Company. The attraction takes place after the first movie, so stick to that one.

Deep Cuts

  • Secret Life of Pets
    • Attraction: Superstar Parade
    • Audience: All Ages
    • Time Commitment: under 90 minutes

Toy Story, but with PETS! How can you go wrong with dogs and cats?

  • Bourne Franchise
    • Attraction: Bourne Stuntacular
    • Audience: Ages 15+
    • Time Commitment: ~ 2 hours

Sleeper super-agent turned rouge is hunted down by those who created him. The movies were influential enough to reboot the Bond series in a more “realistic” direction, but they have not continued their popularity into the 2010s.

Television

Essentials

  • The Simpsons
    • Attraction: The Simpsons Ride, Springfield USA
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: 23 minutes for one episode, nearly infinite for the entire series

The longest-running sitcom ever, The Simpsons has been a staple of Sunday nights for over three decades. Countless amounts of ink have been spilled on the top episodes and best seasons to watch, but I suggest watching anything from Season 3 to Season 8.

Additional Watching

  • The Tonight Show
    • Attraction: Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon
    • Audience: Ages 13+
    • Time Commitment: 47 minutes for one episode or YouTube clips

The longest-running late-night talk show (sense a trend?), The Tonight Show runs weeknights on NBC. If you have not watched the show we suggest checking out the short YouTube Clips online from pre-COVID episodes, especially segments shot at Universal Orlando.

Deep Cuts

Wait, why not the MCU? Well, when Islands of Adventure opened the only source materials were the comics and television shows (IoA opened 3 years before the first Toby McGuire movie). One of the biggest inspirations for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man attraction is the old animated series.

  • Rocky & Bullwinkle
    • Attraction: Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls
    • Audience: All ages
    • Time Commitment: ~ 10 minutes

Classic Jay Ward animated television series that stars a plucky flying squirrel, a verbose mouse, two cold war Russian caricatures, and their adventures. Inserted throughout the episodes are several iconic short segments such as Sherman & Peabody and Dudley Do-Right. Dudley, the Canadian mountie with a heart of gold and a head of granite, is the star of Universal’s log flume in Islands of Adventure.

And… cut! That’s a wrap on movies and television shows featured in Universal Orlando parks. Do you have a favorite movie or show you watch before your trips? Leave it in the wrap party comments below!

 

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Joseph Matt

Avid amusement park and video game fan. Enjoys picking up rare beers at breweries, exploring cities, cooking, and sports.

One thought on “Binge List – Movies and Television Shows Featured at Universal Orlando

  • May 15, 2021 at 2:19 pm
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    Peter Jackson’s King Kong film features the version of Kong depicted in the skull island ride.

    No love for Seuss Landing? There are a few Seuss books to read to make your time there more meaningful.

    Also, some vintage Popeye cartoons will give context to the bilge rat barges.

    Reply

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