Who is missing a trip to theme parks right now? I know I miss my happy place at the Florida theme parks but in an effort to keep the magic alive at home, I recently shared various movie marathon lists inspired by the parks. I've already constructed lists so that you can relive some of the stories seen at the Disney Parks such as Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. But today, I want to celebrate another set of great theme parks in Central Florida.
I equally have fond memories and a love for Universal Orlando as I do with Disney. I'm also a big movie buff, which is why Universal Studios has a real special place in my heart. It features a great set of rides and shows inspired by iconic films such as Jaws and E.T. and even newer films like The Secret Life of Pets and The Bourne Identity. So today, I have a list of 50 Movies you can watch at home that will feel like you're touring the original Universal park here in Florida.
Admittedly, some of these titles will be hard to track down. But where I could, I've included links and details as to where you can stream these movies online. Some might require you to dig into your DVD or dare I say it, VHS collection, but none the less it will be a terrific journey in Universal Pictures history. If watching 50 movie titles is too much for you, don't worry. I've highlighted in red what I consider to be the top ten films to watch in honor of this great park. So sit back, relax and let's all go to the movies. Enjoy!
One cannot start a movie marathon list celebrating Universal's history without watching the original set of classic monster movies that solidified the studio's success in the 1920s. The film that kickstarted Universal's collection of horror films was The Phantom of the Opera; a silent film starring the iconic Lon Chaney as The Phantom in 1925. But soon after that, Bela Lugosi made his first appearance as Dracula and Boris Karloff transformed into the hideous creature in Frankenstein. Blow, I've included what Universal considers to be it's classic collection of monster movies. (You'll notice that Universal did a remake of Phantom of the Opera in 1943.) But if there is one film in this collection to watch it's Bride of Frankenstein.
It's not very often that a sequel does better than its original. The few exceptions of course include The Godfather and Star Wars. But Bride of Frankenstein is often considered great because not only did the actors deliver great performances, but the crew ranging from the cameraman to the set designer all contributed to the great film. It was praised at all levels. But it was Elsa Lanchester's performance as the Bride that was most memorable; making her the only female monster in the collection and the original queen of horror.
Now surprisingly, Universal has yet to develop an attraction inspired by this iconic group of characters. But there have been two shows at Universal Studios that paid tribute to them. The first is of course the Horror Make-Up Show located in the Hollywood section. It's the only show still running from the park's opening day and takes guests behind the scenes in creating some of the amazing special effects for Universal's popular horror films. Back in the day, the show had a more detailed scene showing how Universal creating another iconic horror film in 1981, An American Werewolf in London which later inspired a fantastic maze at Halloween Horror Nights.
But the most memorable show to feature the original set of monsters was Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue. The Phantom of the Opera sang "Great Balls of Fire", the Bride of Frankenstein performed "I Will Survive" and of course the finale at one point featured Beetlejuice wrangling everyone into the "Banana Boat Song". The show sadly closed in 2016 but the monsters will soon find a new home at Universal Orlando's third park, Epic Universe. Rumor has it we will finally get a high-tech dark ride featuring all the monsters. Who knows if Beetlejuice will reappear in this new park, but despite it not being an official Universal film, the park has been home to the ghost with the most for decades.
It's now time to celebrate the glory days of Universal Studios Florida by first taking a look at the films and tv shows that inspired long gone attractions in Production Central. If you grew up in the 90s and a fan of Universal, you know that back in the early days of the park you had to run to The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera first. If not, you would've waited over an hour for a very quick and somewhat underwhelming simulator attraction through some classic cartoons.
It was an attraction my family skipped a lot because we would prioritize other popular attractions first, like Back to the Future. The simulator combined various characters from four different tv shows created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera including The Flintstones, The Yogi Bear Show and Scooby-Doo. But it really served as a publicity campaign to promote Jetsons the Movie that premiered a month after the park opened. A few years later, the nearby Boneyard where sets and props from a variety of Universal films were exhibited, included an elaborate collection of props from the 1994 live-action film based on The Flintstones among other movies. Therefore, a viewing of the best rated episodes from all these tv shows is a great way to start our Production Central portion of the marathon.
Sticking to hit tv shows from the 1950s and 60s, next we have Lucy: A Tribute. This was a walkthrough exhibit technically in the Hollywood section of the park. But it stood at the intersection of Hollywood and Production Central and it celebrated America's funniest redhead. The best episode from the hit CBS show was when Lucy takes a stab at acting as the Vitameatavegamin girl. It is a knockout episode that still holds up today and a wonderful way to start a mini-marathon with Lucille Ball. After watching some of the best episodes of the series, you'll end with Lucy and Ethel caught in the middle of a murder mystery on their way down to Florida, which leads us to a true Universal Studios gem.
From pristine a-line skirts to sharp camera angles and and a wicked sense of humor; this is Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies. Just across Hanna-Barbera stood a fascinating show that pulled back the curtain on the master of suspense's collection of thrillers. This experience was broken down into three main segments. First was the pre-show which showcased various clips from classic Hitchcock favorites. The two most notable scenes in this pre-show was when Grace Kelly reached out for a pair of scissors to kill her attacker in Dial M for Murder and when a flock of crowds bursted through the screen like when they attacked Tippi Hedren in The Birds. From there, guests moved to the main theatre where a production crew showed the audience how the iconic shower scene in Psycho was intricately shot and edited to give the illusion of Norman's mother slashing the inoccent Janet Leigh. Finally, the post show was a walkthrough exhibit demonstrating even more unique techniques conducted by Hitchcock in films such as Strangers on a Train, Saboteur and Rear Window.
Therefore, watching the six films listed below will allow to watch some iconic Hitchcock blondes in films that travel from London to New York and San Francisco. Of course some great films such as Vertigo have been left out, but I won't tell anyone if you swap one of these out for other Hitchcock classics.
- S1 E2: "Booby Trapped/Feud for Thought/Hop, Duck and Listen"
- S1 E4: "A Bear Pari/Fraidy Cat Lion/Easter Duck"
- S1 E15: "A Bear Living/Remember Your Lions/Ha-Choo to You!"
- S1 E5: "The Coming of Astro"
- S1 E7: "The Flying Suit"
- S1 E13: "Las Venus"
- S5 E7: "A Haunted House is Not a Home"
- S5 E8: "Dr. Sinister"
- S6 E6: "Samantha"
- S1 E11: "A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts"
- S1 E13: "Which Witch is Which?"
- S1 E16: "A Night of Fright Is No Delight"
- S1 E30: "Lucy Does a TV Commercial"
- S2 E1: "Job Switching"
- S4 E16: "Hollywood at Last"
- S5 E23: "Lucy's Italian Movie"
- S6 E6: "Off to Florida"