5. Most Entertaining: Pirates of the Caribbean (USA)
While many theme park rides are based on movies, there aren’t many that can claim to have inspired a movie themselves. Yet this classic ride at Disneyland California spawned not only 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl” but an entire franchise, starring Johnny Depp as the lovable rogue Captain Jack Sparrow, flanked by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. After the film’s runaway success, the ride was subtly changed to incorporate the movie characters but parts of the epic boat ride remain unchanged from the original 1967 version, as designed by Walt Disney himself. Whether he was directly responsible for the saucy pirate wenches being chased by randy pirates is unclear, but sadly those were removed in the modernizations.
4. Steepest: Takabisha (Japan)
With so many of these stats, it’s a close-run competition between which ride is the fastest, longest etc. And when it comes to the steepest category, no-one quite knows for sure. There are two contenders -the winner for the Southern Hemisphere is the Green Lantern, named after the comic and movie of the same name. It features a 120 degree drop and a G-force of 3.5Gs.
For those not comfortable with geometry, a 90 degree angle would mean straight down from horizontal. A 120 degree angle means beyond straight down. It’s impressive but there’s a 121 degree drop in Japan, at the Takabisha rollercoaster, which opened in the same year (some say it’s actually 120, hence the debate). It has 7 twists and last 112 seconds, during which time you may be able to glimpse Mount Fuji in the background. But chances are you won’t, as you cling on for dear life. In typical Japanese mind-altering style, the ride starts in total darkness before doing a 360 degree roll and then plunging down the steep drop. Takabisha means “dominant” in Japanese, and this is definitely not a rollercoaster to mess with.
3. Longest – Steel Dragon 2000 (Japan)
And there’s more Japanese action in the next entry, which stole the position of longest in the world from Ultimate when it opened in the Year 2000. You can find it at the Nagashima Spa Land, and it’s an astounding 8,133ft long. On opening, it also took the record for world’s tallest complete-circuit coaster from Millennium Force, which itself had only held the record for a few months. It closed for 3 years in 2003 after an accident caused two serious injuries, but reopened in 2006 and has been incident-free ever since.
2. Tallest – Kingda Ka (USA)
Formerly the fastest and the tallest rollercoaster in the world, it is now just the tallest, standing at an impressive 456ft – the equivalent of 45 stories. It’s found at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey and is still the fastest rollercoaster in North America, going from 0 to 128mph in 3.5 seconds. It’s a terrifying ride, and nervous riders are psyched up by listening to “Eye of the Tiger” while queuing, presumably to make them ready to take on the “Top Hat” tower at the end of the ride. The whole thing lasts 28 seconds, but if you’re scared of heights it’s probably the most stressful half a minute of your life. The ride was closed in 2011, with the onset of Hurricane Irene and subsequently suffered some damage in the storm, re-opening in 2012. However extreme you like your rides, taking on Kingda Ka in a hurricane just doesn’t seem smart…
1. Fastest – Formula Rossa (UAE)
However impressive the rest of these stats seem, there’s really only one that matters to die-hard rollercoaster fans and that’s speed. Opening in November 2010, this Formula 1-themed ride in the United Arab Emirates broke Kingda Ka’s record, by going at speeds of up to 149mph. Acceleration to top speed takes just 5 seconds and is supposed to simulate the feeling of being in a real Formula One car. It’s part of Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, which is heaven for all petrolheads. Even the 7,200ft track is inspired by the shape of a racing circuit (Monza, in Italy). Awe-inspiring speed, awe-inspiring views and a worthy winner of fastest rollercoaster in the world.