?Rides are close to a nerd’s heart, especially those rides that let us pretend we’re part of the geek mythology we love so much. For evidence of our need to immerse ourselves, the casual observer must look no further than our toys, video games, posters, clothing, spot-on line delivery and of course, cosplay for evidence that we eagerly wish to leave our desks and cubicles behind forever to literally become part of the action in our favorite movie, TV show or comic book. While this is unfortunately not possible in real life, theme park owners have taken notice, building massive nerd cathedrals for us to worship within in the form of highly accurate escapist thrill rides which cater to our thirst for the fantastically impossible. While they may involve a lot of standing in line and sitting, these super sweet adventure rides still get us a lot closer to nerd nirvana than that unavoidably awkward trip to Hot Topic ever could dream to, thanks to their carefully crafted ride queues and lovingly prepared custom storylines which do a fine job of bringing our favorite franchises to life and helping us feel like we’re part of the action. Make sure your safety harness is down and hold on tight, the lights are dimming: of the theme park rides inspired by nerd properties, these are our picks for the 10 greatest.
10) Men In Black: Alien Attack
Taking the guise of an MIB training mission gone wrong, Men In Black: Alien Attack features the opportunity to pretend-blast alien bugs while moving along a track in kind of a haunted house-meets-video game experience, also known as a shooting darkride among theme park connoisseurs out there. Of course, one of the coolest things is having Will Smith’s Agent J critique your MIB-readiness at the end, along with having the ride give you a ranking…we assume no one has ever received anything less than “Galaxy Defender” status, lest the park lose out on repeat ticket sales.
9) Indiana Jones Adventure: The Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Cheesy animatronic Indy aside, this ride does a nice little job of recapturing the charm of the Indiana Jones flicks while keeping it in line with Disney’s sensibilities. The story revolves around the exploration of an Indian temple recently uncovered by Indiana Jones circa 1936. Indy has gone missing within it and you’re on one of the temple tours that’s being used to raise money to continue the excavation of the temple and simultaneously hoping to uncover the good doctor in an epic law suit waiting to happen. Ride-goers hop on Jeep-like military vehicles and enter various rooms, seeing their adventure culminate by finding Indiana Jones and outrunning one of the movie series’ trademark deadly boulders. And don’t forget the snakes. We hate snakes!
8) Incredible Hulk Coaster
The lone coaster to break into this list makes the cut mainly thanks to its adrenaline pumping rocket silo launch lift hill, which essentially gives you the sense, thanks in part to some sound bites, that you’re part of a military experiment about to go wrong, ala Bruce Banner’s Hulk. The rest of the winding green coaster is no slouch either, featuring enough speed, loops and g-rolls to keep even the non-nerdy (blasphemy!) intrigued. If only the Hulk movies could be this much fun!
7) Batman Adventure: The Ride 2
While the coasters scattered across the continental United States that share the Caped Crusader’s namesake have something to do with DC’s flag ship hero, considering that “something to do” tends to begin and end with admittedly pretty Gotham City set design for you to look at while you wait in line for a fairly generic roller coaster experience, we’ll have to give the spot to Warner Bros. Movie World’s Batman Adventure: The Ride 2 instead, since you actually get to, well, have a Batman adventure. Unlike its predecessor Batman Adventure: The Ride 1 which was based solely on Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, Batman Adventure: The Ride 2 incorporates elements of various chapters of Batman lore predating Christopher Nolan’s additions. A ride featuring the almighty moving chair, BA:TR 2 catapults you into a situation where you have to help CG Batman and Batgirl apprehend recent Arkham escapees The Joker, Catwoman and Mr. Freeze and prevent them from swiping the “Whitney Diamond” while enjoying authentic theme music and voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Did we mention you get to have a Batwing face off with the Joker while he launches torpedoes at you from his clown-themed blimp? We rest our case.
6) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Incorporating the sweet double-dipped ice cream cone of 3-D animation and motion technology, Spider-Man’s ride lets you become a junior reporter for the Daily Bugle for a night and board its new news-gathering vehicle known as the Scoop (catchy!) in pursuit of your big break. Once you set out for your evening of intrepid reporting, you soon realize, along with Spidey, that all hell’s broken loose, as the man who does whatever a spider can is facing down not one, not two, but practically all of his most feared supervillains, including Doc Oc and Hobgoblin as they attempt to hold the recently-hijacked Statue of Liberty for ransom, and demanding the city surrender to them lest it be destroyed (not the best bargaining chip in the world). Maybe when we’re all old and grey a VR webslinging adventure will become available — until then, we’ll gladly pass the time by faux-reporting for the Bugle.
5) The Simpsons Ride
Yes, this is the motion attraction that will go down in history as “The One That Replaced Back to the Future: The Ride” something many Universal Studios theme park loyalists will gladly never let go. However, it’s Kevin Smith approved, so that’s a start. It also toys with your sense of smell and is surrounded by highly accurate real life versions of some of Springfield’s most famous landmarks. The storyline of ride itself involves a trip through Krustyland as you follow the Simpsons family through various twists and turns as CG Sideshow Bob attempts to murder Bart and company once again. Sadly, the true location of Springfield continues to be left shrouded in mystery.
4) E.T. Adventure
Another darkride, E.T. lets park goers hop on those famous flying bikes in a mission to return E.T. to his home, referred to as “The Green Planet.” Many, many things make this ride special, including a Spielbergian introduction, a highly accurate sense of atmosphere featuring the famous Speak & Spell from the flick, the thrill of the chase as NASA officials and police are hot on your trail, a trip to E.T.’s home world not seen in the film, the climactic ride over the night covered cityscape and of course, having E.T. say your name in his “Ellioooott” voice at the end of the ride, causing your heart to melt and your wallet to open as you shell out that hard-earned cash for a piece of E.T. merchandise while visiting the gift shop shortly thereafter.
3) Jurassic Park: The Ride/River Adventure & Jaws: The Ride (Tie)
If giant dinos can be considered nerdy, we have to allow for giant sharks to fall into the same category, especially since they were both brought to life by the same director. Although the shark still looks fake, even in the ride, there’s something simultaneously horrifying and fun about having a gigantic man eating aquatic robo-beast elevate out of the water with its mouth ajar while fire burns behind it at approximately one bazillion degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, Jurassic Park’s river journey is no picnic in the, ahem, park, as humungous prehistoric beasties surround at every turn, capped off by a giant T-Rex bidding you a ferocious farewell at the end before a final splashy plunge. If you’re looking for a combo of scares and good times, this Universal Studios duo supplies them in spades.
2) Star Wars: Star Tours
A requisite addition to any list on the topic, from a ride intro that features R2-D2 and C-3PO to a trip to Endor that goes wrong and throws guests into the thralls of a thrilling classic X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter dogfight during a Death Star siege, Star Tours has every Star Wars fan, no matter how committed, covered. Thankfully, dialogue contrasting the textures of skin and sand and floppy-eared reptilian dog creatures have been omitted to date, leaving this one of the few Star Wars treasures left mercifully unfucked with, as “Star Wars: Star Tours Special Edition” where Greedo shoots first towards park guests in 3-D and misses remains merely a twinkle in George’s eye.
1) Back to the Future: The Ride
Fans of Robert Zemeckis’ timeless trilogy never got a fourth Back to the Future film, and that’s probably for the best, as it leaves Zemeckis is in the rare company of those directors who know when to leave well enough the hell alone. Said fans did receive a consolation prize however, something arguably better in the form of Back to the Future: The Ride. In BTTF: TR , thrill seekers learn that Biff has hijacked the DeLorean and are therefore sent by Doc Brown in a second 8-passenger DeLorean in hot pursuit through time, taking them forward to the year 2015 all the way back to Hill Valley’s ice age and Cretaceous Period before returning to 1991 and the Doc’s Institute of Future Technology. Of course, because bad things have to happen for no reason whatsoever, Back to the Future: The Ride was closed to make room for the Simpsons ride in 2007, leaving the world to eagerly await the right that will undo one of the most grievous wrongs in theme park ride history. For those truly nostalgic fans, the ride’s exclusive footage is available on the Back to the Future DVDs released earlier this year as bonus material, albeit cropped. Wait! What if we built a time machine and went back in time to stop the misguided executives who closed it?! Great scott!