I love taking my family to Orlando for a vacation, but until now we’ve been sticking with what we know: Disney World & all things Mickey.
First trip to Universal Orlando? You’ll have a great time if you do your homework first! Here are 12 TV shows & movies to watch before your Universal Orlando vacation. (Affiliate links included).
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I’m taking this new Universal Orlando ad to heart:
Kids grow up; so do vacations.
It’s time to take the whole crew to the next level of theme park action with a trip to Universal Orlando.
But my goodness: Universal Orlando is such a different animal and it blew them away!
I’m seeing more and more of my Disney friends heading over for a day (or a week) at Universal and it makes my heart soar.
I love these parks and really think the resorts are top-notch so I’m thrilled when folks start dipping their toes in these waters.
Here is my number one tip to ensure your Disney-loving family will get the most out of Universal Orlando: do your homework.
Before you go, set up a few family movie nights and settle in to watch these top 12 movies & TV shows before your Universal Orlando vacation.
You might be surprised at what Universal has to offer!
12 TV Shows & Movies to Watch Before Your Universal Orlando Vacation
Universal Orlando is all about entertainment: tv and movies are all around you at these theme parks.
When you vacation here, you stroll through worlds of fantasy and action with some childhood nostalgia to boot.
Some of these shows aren’t suitable for all ages, so pick and choose which ones you want to expose to your family.
Here we go with my top 12 TV shows & movies to watch before your Universal Orlando trip.
1. Harry Potter Movies
I’m cheating a bit and calling this franchise “one movie” because I can’t pick just one!
You can find all the Harry Potter movies in order in this post.
Go ahead and watch them all because they are so worth it and Universal’s crowning jewels are the two Harry Potter-themed worlds.
If you can’t get them all in, consider downloading the Audible versions for the car ride down.
It’s a great way to keep the family engaged on those long car rides to Universal!
Accio Road Trip!
2. E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial
Because, aw man, the 80s were wonderfully weird.
E.T. has his own ride, and it’s perfect for the whole family, but you’ll want to make sure the kids have a bit of context going in.
This attraction is a little on the bizarre side, I’ll warn you, but it’s still worth taking a spin on the E.T. bikes.
3. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Preview a few clips on YouTube before deciding that keeping your kids up late is worth the effort!
Plus you can pre-screen for a few key moments that will directly relate to the attraction.
My suggestions: Hashtag the Panda, The Rag Time Gals, Ew, and the Tight Pants song. Go ahead and find a few of Jimmy’s “Thank You Notes” too!
4. Marvel Movies
Unlike Disney World, Marvel is in the Universal Islands of Adventure park! Holla!
You know my Thor/Cap/Black Panther/Spider-Man loving heart is all about this.
We are all big Marvel fans over here, so an entire section of rides in this franchise was a big hit.
Spider-Man FOR THE WIN!
ps- if you are heading to Disneyland, check out this list of Marvel movies to watch before visiting Avengers Campus!
5. Despicable Me
The Minions are a lot of fun at Universal. And the Despicable Me: Minon Mayhem ride is a huge hit for kids of all ages.
Make sure they know what a Minion is all about by watching something from this franchise: Despicable Me, Minions, Despicable Me 3.
Check out his parents guide for Minions: The Rise of Gru for the age rating and appropriateness for your kids.
6. Dr. Seuss Movies
There’s a huge section for kids in Islands of Adventure that everyone loves.
It’s straight out of the storybooks written by our beloved Dr. Seuss.
Sit down and watch one of the Cat in the Hat movies or The Grinch That Stole Christmas so your kids know just what red fish, blue fish means!
7. The Simpsons
My kids haven’t seen a single episode of this one, but they love the ride in Universal Hollywood regardless.
I, on the other hand, felt like the world’s worst parent when I put my 5-year-old on this one.
The ride is actually pretty scary and a bit too much for many kids; the Simpson’s humor absolutely is, anyway.
Holy adult fun, Batman!
You might want to refresh yourself on some of these episodes before taking your kids on this one.
I feel like the ride was a perfect love letter to the hardcore Simpson fans; this is certain to be one my Gen X husband asks to ride again and again.
(I’m laughing a little about some of the moments on the ride as I write this- y’all, it’s soooo wrong in a very Simpson’s way!).
8. Jurassic World
Because Chris Pratt is in it. The end.
Okay, you can probably watch the original Jurassic Park movies as well. And there’s a new one (and final one for the franchise) in theaters now.
Don’t forget to check out the age rating of Jurassic World Dominion.
The originals don’t have Chris Pratt, but they do have a pretty kick-A Laura Dern in them, but the latest movie has BOTH!
For the smaller kiddos, Universal has some areas suited for their interests.
But they are a bit dated, in my opinion, so you might need to pull out some old-school shows.
Think Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Barney, and Curious George.
Kids will love the slides and water play areas, no matter what it’s themed; but a little context goes a long way when it comes to excitement over the prospect!
10. The Mummy
This ride takes you through the movie-making process. At least that’s the story you enter.
It’s a cool queue with Brenden Fraiser doing an “interview” & they talk about the curse that surrounded the filming of the original Mummy movies.
Watching this one before you go will simply set the scene a little before you show up.
11. Men In Black
One of the best franchises if you like to laugh yourself silly is Men in Black.
This should not be a hardship for anyone to watch Tommy Lee Jones & Will Smith buddy up!
If you are familiar with Disney, this attraction is a souped-up version of Toy Story Mania.
But with real aliens, not those cute little arcade game versions.
12. Trolls World Tour
It’s hilarious and so fun- and you can meet the Trolls at the parks as well.
Watching the movies beforehand will certainly help understand what’s going on here because the story starts when you walk up! It’s a great immersive queue that brings you right into the movie, so don’t miss this one!
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Patty Holliday is the owner and creator of all things No-Guilt Universe. As a lifelong fangirl and pop culture connoisseur, she’s been creating online since 2009. You can find her work at No-Guilt Disney.com, No-Guilt Fangirl.com, No-Guilt Life, and as host of the top-rated No-Guilt Disney Podcast.