There’s nothing quite like the rush of being on a roller coaster. The dizzying sensation sticks in your mind as a blur of adrenal fuelled perception. However, it proves a hard experience to represent on film.
Mimicking the physical feeling of speed may seem to logical route to take, but as numerous shaky-cam exercises have shown, that can end up incredibly disorienting. It is common at amusement parks to have 4D films; a short 3D adventure, with various physical effects, normally water sprays and wind machines. But even these, fun though they are, don’t quite capture the original excitement. You’ll often hear films described as being like a roller coaster, providing a constant, high octane thrill, but few actually come close to imitating the feeling.
Here we present five of the best theme park ride moments in cinema. Where these scenes succeed is primarily using the roller coasters as a compliment to the story, having them be brief, isolated moments of excitement, just as in real life. Their often stylised nature can work as a view into the character’s psyche as well as providing something visually stimulating. And sometimes, they can be just plain fun.
It’s worth pointing out there are plenty of great films either involving, or directly set in, theme parks, but don’t have within them a standout ride scene, so don’t really belong on this list. In fact, most of the scenes here are from films that spend very little time in amusement parks.
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