Movies to Watch Before You Visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios Movies Feature Image

From the start, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has always been about the movies. Originally having opened as Disney-MGM Studios back in 1989, it was the first of its kind, as far as Disney theme parks were concerned—one that exuded the nostalgic feel and sentiments of classic Hollywood back in its Golden Age.

Many folks feel that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has lost most of its classic cinema-centered charm and appeal over the years. Such decisions to gut attractions like the Studio Backlot Tour and transform the Great Movie Ride into Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway serve as perfect examples of Disney’s drive to exchange the former Tinseltown focus for more Disney Entertainment-specific additions and expansions.

Yet, even with the more recent changes that have emerged, Hollywood Studios remains the most movie-centered of all Disney Park locations at Walt Disney World Resort. And dozens of attractions here either follow an inspired theme taken from a specific work in entertainment or make carefully placed references to certain characters, places, or situations. But don’t worry if you haven’t seen all of the movies and shows being showcased for yourself, as any Guest can rightfully enjoy any and all attractions without needing to be schooled first. But having prerequisite knowledge can undeniably make the experience even more enjoyable, just the same. So, it may actually be in your best interest to use an upcoming visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as an exciting excuse to sit down to a movie binge featuring all those referred-to callouts you will encounter at the Park. Need some guidance about what to watch? Here are 12 recommendations.

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The Star Wars Franchise

Hollywood Studios has long been home to the Star Wars-themed dark attraction Star Tours—The Adventure Continues. And now that there is the entire land that is devoted to the franchise, known to fans as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there’s even more to enjoy in the way of Star Wars rides and like-minded interests. This even includes shopping and dining venues within this section of the Park. From the various character names and specific callouts and tributes, there is just so much to inspire Guests to rewatch the various movies making up the extended Star Wars saga. Between the three originals that started the craze to all the follow-up productions that have since emerged (including the various spinoff series), it may be worth a week-long Star Wars binge prior to your Hollywood Studios visit to get yourself up to speed.

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Credit: Disney

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The Toy Story Franchise

Like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there is now an entire Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, boasting three fun-themed attractions, Character Meet and Greets, shopping, and dining (with more options on the way). It may just be enough to put you in the spirit of rediscovering your inner kid with a rewatch of all four of the main Toy Story films—Toy Story 1995, Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Toy Story 4 (2019). Watching just the first film won’t cut it since Toy Story Land references later-introduced characters as well, including Jessie—a pretty important figure and fan favorite, to say the least. Of course, given that Toy Story was such a major success, the franchise also boasts a number of made-for-television specials you may want to brush up on as well, although you’d be safe sticking with just the basics if you so choose.

Toy Story Land

Credit: Disney

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Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Hollywood Studios presents a condensed 30-minute retelling of that “tale as old as time” we all know and love as Beauty and the Beast. It comes in the form of the theater performance Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage and features talented performers, fanciful costumes, and all those beloved musical numbers from the original 1991 animated film adaptation. And if you can’t wait to sing along (quietly) from your own seat, perhaps you’d do well to review the aforementioned film beforehand in order to nail all the lyrics and make the most of the experience.

Beauty and the Beast Stage Show

Credit: Disney

Frozen and Frozen II (2013 and 2019)

Want more sing-along experiences? Then, be sure to add For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration to your to-do list. Housed within a theater and stage setup, this is an experience that not only allows you to sing along with the characters on stage but encourages it, even presenting the lyrics for the audience to follow along with. But this isn’t the only Frozen-themed presence you will encounter in the Park. You can also enjoy “cool” character Meet and Greet experiences with that lovable snowman Olaf as well. And if you have intentions to attend that evening’s Fantasmic! showing, be prepared for some treats from Frozen II.

Perhaps you don’t need an excuse to make a Frozen marathon out of the first film from 2013 followed by the sequel from 2019, but isn’t it great to have one? And remember, all those other Frozen shorts and specials can also be added to the binge.

Anna and Kristoff on Stage

Credit: Credit Disney Dining

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! remains a longtime staple at Hollywood Studios, presented as an open-air theater show that focuses on the behind-the-scenes movie-making magic in action films. And with a new Indiana Jones movie soon to be released and the lengthy list of films already comprising the franchise, you may be of a mind to sit down and rewatch the whole collection to get into the mood. Great idea if you have the time and interest to do so, although, truth be told, given the dated references to the first film in the show, you’d really do fine in just reviewing the first film—Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981.

Indiana Jones Show

Credit: Disney

RELATED: Disney Making Changes Next Month to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

The Cars Franchise

There is a unique interactive theater-like attraction at Hollywood Studios featuring the one and only Lightning McQueen from the Disney-Pixar Cars franchise. So, to help you rev up your engine in time for the presentation, you may do well with a high-octane overload brought on by rewatching the three main films—Cars (2006), Cars 2 (2011), and Cars 3 (2017). Of course, you can go even more out with the numerous spinoff specials and series as well, but the first three films should be suitable prerequisites.

Lightning McQueen

Credit: Disney

Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University (2001 and 2013)

Did you know that you can meet that big, blue overgrown-yet-lovable “monstrosity” Sulley from the Disney-Pixar films Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013)? You’ll find him on location just outside of Walt Disney Presents in Animation Courtyard. So, to help prep and prepare you for the experience or to give you a brush-up reminder on what he’s all about, it may be fun to sit down and rewatch the two films. If you have time, you may also want to check out spinoff specials and series.

Guest Meet and Greet with Sulley

Credit: Disney

The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted (2011 and 2014)

Don’t forget about the sometimes-underrated Muppets presence over at Hollywood Studios. The most notable callout is the Muppet*Vision 3D theater experience. There’s also the carryover theme prevalent at the PizzeRizzo quick-service restaurant.

Watching Disney’s live-action release of The Muppets in 2011, followed by its sequel Muppets Most Wanted in 2014, is the easiest way to get into the mood for your visit to Hollywood Studios. But those lovable Muppets have such a longstanding history and so many former feature presentations worth rewatching as well. This, of course, includes the original Muppets Show from 1976 and numerous other spinoff features.

Muppets at Disney

Credit: Disney

Tower of Terror (1997)/Twilight Zone Reruns (1959-1964)

One of the most thrillingly popular rides in the entire park is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. And while you can certainly get the drop on this favored attraction even without watching anything beforehand, fans should take note of Disney’s made-for-television film, Tower of Terror from 1997, which was initially inspired by the attraction and makes a great preparatory watch.

However, it can be adamantly argued that rewatching old, classic episodes from the original Twilight Zone series would be more suitable for getting into the mood. The Twilight Zone was a cult classic that ran between the years 1959 and 1964. With a popularity that persists to this day, The Twilight Zone series was, in fact, the initial inspiration for the attraction’s very being and is a definite recommendation for what to watch.

Tower of Terror at Night

Credit: D23

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Disney Junior Series

In making the transition from film to television recommendations, if you have small children who are fans of Disney Junior, it may be exciting for them to get all riled up with some of their favorite Disney Junior programs leading up to the trip. There’s a strong Disney Junior presence in the Park as it is, including Meet and Greet opportunities in Animation Courtyard with Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, and Fancy Nancy—all titular heroines of their respective series. There’s also Disney Junior Live on Stage and the Disney Junior Play n’ Dine Breakfast featured over at Hollywood & Vine.

Disney Junior Pals Vampirina

Credit: Disney

Mickey Mouse Shorts 

What better way to brace yourself for riding Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Rail than by first bingeing your fill on all the Mickey Mouse shorts you can watch? From the classic originals in Walt Disney Animation to the more recent reprisals over the years, Mickey Mouse cartoon classics never go out of style. Since the ride makes you feel like you are in a Mickey Mouse cartoon anyway, and such features already encourage the ultimate Disney mood, what better excuse do you need to watch Disney cartoons in preparation for your Park visit?

Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway

Credit: D23

RELATED: Then & Now: Disney’s Great Movie Ride and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

‘Fantasmic’ Others

On a bonus and somewhat varied note, the return of Disney’s Fantasmic! show, known for featuring pyrotechnic wonders and water effects, is not to be overlooked. Moreover, it’s a creative and innovative collaboration that blends many different Disney characters into one stellar interconnected storyline. And considering all those who are featured, it may lead you on an extended objective to rewatch all of the following accordingly: Fantasia (1940), Moana (2016), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), The Little Mermaid (1989), and The Lion King (1994). Beauty and the Beast and Frozen II were already mentioned beforehand.


Credit: Disney

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There really is no limit to the movies you can rightfully enjoy leading up to your visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And if you stay for the Wonderful World of Animation nighttime spectacular show, projected against the Chinese Theatre, the myriad montages of great movie clips add even more options to the list. All the same, there is never a requirement for needing to rewatch all the movies listed in this article. But doing so does undeniably add to the overall fun of the entire Disney experience just the same.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.