10. Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This might be an indulgent choice, but to this day we find Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster hard to resist. Superficially, certain aspects of the theming and experience are flimsy (the flat props in the ride’s show building are chuckle-worthy), but the soundtrack, rolling stock, entrance plaza, and station design/theming are strengths – even the ride’s story and preshow are endearing and quotable, if eyeroll-inducing at times. Most importantly, the ride is a substantial, classic-style looper with a great launch and fun elements.
9. Avengers Assemble: Flight Force – Walt Disney Studios
It’s been a long 3 years, but the “other” Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster is finally back – and with a fresh face! Avengers Assemble: Flight Force’s ride experience may not be the Hyperspace Mountain–level makeover we’d hoped for, but the show scenes are still leaps and bounds over Orlando’s Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster and have a little more substance than the stadium-rock-light-show sequences of the Paris ride’s original design. The big wins here are the ride’s improved pacing (the launch is better than ever, and the speed is more sustained throughout), and of course the plaza/entrance/queue aesthetic. The mood borrows heavily from TRON’s blue-light-and-glass palate, and thanks to some clever writing and one of Disney Imagineering’s strongest audio animatronics yet, Avengers Flight Force can boast one of coolest coaster queues in the world.
8. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Disneyland
The original Big Thunder Mountain Railroad owes a lot of its charm to the ride it replaced: Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. Scenes, props, and the overall environment of the original mine train can still be enjoyed to this day on Anaheim’s Big Thunder. Smaller in overall stature than the Big Thunders that followed, the original installation has a unique coziness and quaintness to it – but it’s packed to the brim with great imagery, color, animation, landscaping, and style.
7. Expedition Everest – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
For 15 years Expedition Everest was Walt Disney World’s key coaster heavyweight. The ride could benefit from some clean-up (the hair ties strewn about the peak are frustrating), and the ultimate failure of the Yeti animatronic is a story that still makes us cringe, but aside from that there’s not much we’d change about Everest – it’s long, surprisingly forceful, beautifully executed, and has a great presence. Animal Kingdom’s Asia is arrestingly gorgeous, especially Nepali-themed, fictional village of Serka Zong where Expedtion takes place.
6. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars – Hong Kong Disneyland
Just barely beating out Expedition Everest for us is the Animal Kingdom coaster’s spiritual successor: Hong Kong Disneyland’s Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Both coasters are sole entries in a unique Disney-tailored product line from Vekoma, but the rides only share a handful of similarities: Big Grizzly treats Hong Kongers to a charming recreation of the American Goldrush era along a sprawling network of track that’s largely sunken below midway level. The ride is full of surprises, but gentler overall than the towering Expedition Everest; we think of Grizzly as filling a “Big Thunder Mountain role” despite its rolling stock and track switches serving as unmistakable Everest reminders.
5. Matterhorn Bobsleds – Disneyland
Few steel coasters can say they’ve aged as gracefully as this 62-year-old monument. The ride’s current rolling stock improved capacity but saw a drop in rider comfort – other than that, every way that Matterhorn has developed is what we can attribute to the strong overall product we have today.
The ride’s scenes are the stuff of dreams – from retired ride wreckage at the peak to the picturesque splashdown – and then of course there’s the Abominable Snowman, ever present in the classic fly-by scenes as well as the lift “preshow” cleverly disguised as translucent ice. The pacing gets us every time: lighting fast transitions and impossibly sharp corners seem to defy the physics of 3 bench ride vehicles. Then there’s the sheer beauty of the mountain itself, and the fact that two distinct coaster experiences call the Matterhorn home, the fleeting birds-eye views of it’s a small world and Submarine Voyage – it’s almost too good to be true.
From a historian standpoint, Matterhorn’s significance also cannot be understated: tubular steel rails, a comprehensive computer block system, the fact that Walt sent a postcard of the real Matterhorn in Switzerland and simply said “Build this” – the list goes on.
4. Big Thunder Mountain – Disneyland Paris
It won’t come as a surprise to our European readers, but Disneyland Paris’ Big Thunder Mountain remains undefeated in the proud race of Disney mine train coasters. Nothing could be more dramatic than taking Tokyo’s improved variation on Orlando’s Big Thunder and positioning it in the middle of Rivers of the Far West (Rivers of America) – yes, right where Tom Sawyer’s Island would be – and then connecting it with high speed underwater tunnels. Easily still the Paris resort’s most popular attraction, Big Thunder builds on the figurative and literal foundation of its predecessors, then pulls out all the stops for a finale that routinely leaves trainfulls of guests in raptures.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – EPCOT
Ringing in our current Top 3 is the new kid on the block, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Forty years after opening, EPCOT finally got its roller coaster, and it’s one for the books: at an estimated $500M, Cosmic Rewind is, by a considerable margin, the most expensive roller coaster ever built. The ride at times doesn’t quite feel like a half-a-billion-dollar project (to be blunt, the launch sequence area looks unfinished), but its brighter moments push the envelope on what can be accomplished with a “story coaster”. Additionally, the “Wonders of Xandar” pavilion preserves the essence of EPCOT while giving the resort one of its best queues.
2. Hyperspace Mountain – Disneyland Paris
Matterhorn Bobsleds was only the first time that Disney had the most technologically advanced roller coaster in the World: as the global coaster wars heated up in the 1990’s, Disney could once again say the same with Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain de la Terre à la Lune. Credited with saving the nearly bankrupt Euro Disney resort, the French Space Mountain was nothing if not a Hail Mary Pass – everything buzzworthy that shaped the industry in that moment went into this one coaster.
The first modern launch coaster, Space Mountain catapulted riders upward and into the cosmos, guided by nothing but momentum, instinct, and a killer onboard soundtrack. Inversions, forces, scenes – they’re all in there. It was a surreal moment in the timeline where a thrill junkie’s pipe dream came to life in Mouse Territory. Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Hyperspace Mountain are testimonies to the way Disneyland Paris labors to this day to offer one of the World’s most dazzling roller coaster experiments – the only question being “when will we see Mission 4?”
1. TRON Lightcycle Power Run – Shanghai Disneyland
In a perfect marriage of concept and hardware, we have the TRON film series: a cult classic sci-fi whose most impactful imagery is one of a motorcycle made of light; and we have long-time Disney collaborator Vekoma’s “Booster Bike” launched coaster system. Devise a new “game” where lightcyclists battle in tandem on The Grid, and boom: roller coaster magic.
Originally curated for the wake of 2010’s TRON: Legacy, the coaster was redirected from Walt Disney World to help anchor Shanghai Disneyland in 2016. Explicit film tie-ins work more like Easter Eggs than integral references to the source material, but with its banks flooding over with equal spoils of style and substance, all that Lightcycle Power Run needed in order to thrive was to simply exist somewhere. As luck would have it, the staggering success of Shanghai’s TRON was enough to bring Magic Kingdom back into the equation – so now we wait.
We hope you enjoyed our ranking of Disney’s coasters around the World! As always, be sure to weigh in on our social media pages and tell us what you think.