Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

Ernest Movies in Order

Ernest P. Worrell is a fictional character created by John Cherry as the director and brought to life by Jim Varney as the actor. Ernest first appeared in TV commercials in 1980. But then, the public enjoyed the character so much that it stemmed new commercials, a TV show, and eventually, a long movie series that the fans absolutely loved.

Ernest is funny, weird, and gets himself into all sorts of hilarious situations, which makes the movies so heartwarming and endearing to viewers. Without further ado, here’s a complete watch order of Ernest movies, listed chronologically as they came out. Note that there are more Ernest commercials and short movies that aren’t on this list, which is reserved only for full feature films.

How Many Ernest Movies Are There?

There are ten Ernest movies in total, produced from 1986 to 1998. However, it’s important to note that, in the first movie, Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, Ernest was only a cameo role that turned into another character (Dr. Otto), whereas he was the lead character in all the other films.

As I’ve mentioned, Ernest first appeared in TV commercials, but due to the character’s growing popularity, the creators, John Cherry and Jim Varney, continued producing Ernest-related content, including TV shows and the before-mentioned movies.

Ernest Movies At A Glance

As I’ve mentioned, there are ten Ernest full feature movies. They are, in order of release:

  1. Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam (1986)
  2. Ernest Goes To Camp (1987)
  3. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
  4. Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)
  5. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
  6. Ernest Rides Again (1993)
  7. Ernest Goes To School (1994)
  8. Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)
  9. Ernest Goes To Africa (1997)
  10. Ernest In The Army (1998)

Keep reading to find out more about each Ernest movie.

Ernest Movies In Order

1. Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam (1986)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 5.0/10

Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy

Synopsis: “Ernest P. Worrell tries out a strange contraption he bought cheaply called the Changing Coffin. The machine turns him into his opposite – a mad scientist and supervillain bent on world domination called Dr. Otto. He plans to use his Gloom Beam to render all the computers that keep people’s financial records and bank accounts useless which would make him the only one with access to all this dough. 

Bumbling hero Lance Sterling and his cautious sidekick Doris are sent to Dr. Otto’s lair to stop him. There, they must face various scary alter egos of Dr. Otto as well as his manservant, Willie the Robot.”

This was a classic Ernest film where Jim Varney brought the character to life in so many hilarious ways. However, although it was the first Ernest movie ever, it was quite different from all the rest. Ernest turned into a completely different character, Dr. Otto, who grew a hand on top of his head, and had crazy plans to conquer the world.

Watch the full movie here.

2. Ernest Goes To Camp (1987)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

Genre: Comedy, Family

Synopsis: “Ernest, a lovable loser who works as a summer camp handyman and dreams of becoming a guidance councilor, must find a way to inspire a group of juvenile delinquents as well as stop a shady strip mining company from closing the camp.”

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I remember this one the most vividly, and I’ve probably watched it the most times. Ernest Goes to Camp is the first full feature movie where Ernest himself is in character as the lead role. The summer camp where Ernest works is called Kamp Kikike, and Ernest aims to become a camp counselor.

Tons of stuff happens in the meantime – he gets bit by fire ants on a picnic, then he gets beat up, then he saves the Chief from being misled and selling the camp to Krader Mining Company. It’s a classic rollercoaster ride filled with silly humor.

Watch the trailer here.

3. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Synopsis: “Ernest P. Worrell, a sweet but silly taxi driver who at times suffers delusions of grandeur, has just chauffeured a rather extraordinary fare: “His Great Red Oneness, the Claus” himself. It seems Santa hasn’t got the magic for another Christmas season and has come to Orlando, Florida for Joe Carruthers, the man he has chosen as his successor. 

But things quickly begin to unravel, thanks to Joe’s meddling agent and Santa’s increasingly unreliable memory. Incredibly dimwitted Ernest soon becomes Santa’s only hope! Joining forces with a young runaway named “Harmony Star”, Ernest rushes to save the holidays as we know them.”

It was a holiday edition of Ernest’s adventures, this time in a tried-and-true manner, where he meets Santa Claus and has to help him save Christmas. It’s not really a Christmas classic, but I enjoyed watching it when I was a kid.

Watch the trailer here.

4. Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Family

Synopsis: “Bumbling Ernest P. Worrell is assigned to jury duty, where a crooked lawyer notices a resemblance with crime boss Mr. Nash, and arranges a switch. Nash assumes Ernest’s job as a bank employee, while Ernest undergoes Nash’s sentence to the electric chair. 

But instead of killing him, the electrocution gives Ernest superhuman powers, enabling him to escape from jail and foil Nash’s attempt to rob the bank.”

Ernest works as a bank janitor and is replaced by a mobster, who then tries to rob the bank while Ernest gets electrocuted. The twists are too funny, especially when Ernest gets superpowers. By the time of this movie, the character was well-established, and some bigger names, such as Charles Napier, started joining the cast.

Watch the trailer here.

5. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Synopsis: “Life could be pretty if there wasn’t someone like Ernest P. Worrell on this planet. In this movie, he helps to escape an evil troll out of his grave. That’s the start of the end for the world. But… Ernest wouldn’t be Ernest if he wasn’t planning on saving all the people. This action doesn’t make it any better. It’s getting worse.”

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Ernest Scared Stupid is probably the best-rated Ernest movie and also the funniest if you ask me. The guy unleashes a troll that’s trying to turn all children into wooden dolls, and the only thing standing in his way is Ernest himself. The troll is done perfectly without CGI. It looks disgusting but funny.

Apart from Jim Varney returning as Ernest, we have several returning cast members in this film, such as Billy Byrge and Jackie Welch.

Watch the trailer here.

6. Ernest Rides Again (1993)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 4.7/10

Genre: Comedy, Family

Synopsis: “Ernest P. Worrell becomes a new adventurer along with his History Professor partner, Abner Melon. Once they team up together, they discover a really huge existing historical cannon and the crown jewels hidden near the jungle. Ernest must save the jewels especially, before a lousy mob keeps it.”

Ernest Rides Again is one of the lower-rated Ernest movies, but it’s not worse than any other Ernest film if you ask me. The humor is pretty much the same – it’s Ernest being a buffoon in not-so-regular life situations but still managing to save the day.

Jim Varney is really into his role, and while the humor might not be everyone’s cup of tea, you’ll certainly share a laugh or two.

Watch the trailer here and the full movie here.

7. Ernest Goes To School (1994)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 4.6/10

Genre: Comedy, Family, Sport

Synopsis: “Jim Varney’s recurring dim-bulb character Ernest P. Worrell returns in this film as a school maintenance man seeking to obtain a high school diploma.”

Ernest looks – and is – about the same age in every movie, so naturally, it was silly seeing a 40-ish-year-old guy going back to school. He had to, though, to get his high school diploma while he worked as the school’s maintenance simultaneously.

There are some scenes in the movie that had me genuinely laugh out loud, and some now-familiar faces who made their way on the cast list, such as Sarah Clarke. Ducan Fraser, and Will Sasso.

Watch the trailer here and the full movie here.

8. Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 4.5/10

Genre: Comedy, Family, Sport

Synopsis: “Ernest P. Worrell becomes a basketball star after an angel bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gives him a pair of magic sneakers.”

I’m a huge basketball fanatic and have played my entire life, so naturally, this was a must-watch for me when I was a kid. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s role in the film is minor but enough to make you smile in nostalgia. The premise is quite silly – an Archangel of Basketball gives Ernest magical shoes that make him a phenomenal basketball player.

All of a sudden, the guy starts jumping, throwing dunks and skyhooks, and flying for so long that he can write his name on the backboard! There’s really not that much plot here, but just the appearance of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his interaction with Ernest will make you laugh.

Watch the full movie here.

9. Ernest Goes To Africa (1997)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 4.3/10

Genre: Comedy, Family

Synopsis: “The title says it all. There’s a mix-up involving stolen diamonds which Ernest has (naturally) made into a yo-yo and given to his would-be girlfriend, Rene. But Rene wants a man of action and doesn’t think that Ernest fits the bill. After the bad guys come looking for the stolen diamonds and kidnap Rene, all of her fantasies come true as Ernest has to go to Africa to rescue her.”

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This one might not be well-received today, but I found it quite funny. Ernest has to be a guy of action here, and he goes to Africa to try and rescue his girlfriend from diamond smugglers. There’s some not-so-politically correct humor imbued in the movie, with jokes about race, sexuality, and stereotypes linked to certain people groups.

It’s classic Ernest humor, though, so if you enjoyed Ernest movies before this one, you’d enjoy Ernest Goes To Africa as well.

Watch the full movie here.

10. Ernest In The Army (1998)

Ernest Movies in Order: The Complete Watch Order

IMDb Rating: 4.4/10

Genre: Comedy, Family

Synopsis: “Ernest P. Worrell is now in the military as a soldier. Once he begins, he and his team investigate a dictator who is responsible for the wars in the nearby village. Suddenly, Ernest finds a lost boy and has to keep him safe until his father recovers.”

This was the final Ernest movie that ever came out. It poked fun at the entire concept of the military and war. Ernest joined the army because he wanted to drive the huge army big rigs, but instead, he’s thrown into combat, as any other soldier would be.

I particularly liked the fact that the director of all the Ernest movies, John Cherry, appeared in a cameo role in this movie as Sarge. And, of course, Ernest, through all his dumb-witted behavior, becomes the hero.

Watch the trailer here and the full movie here.

Do You Need to Watch Ernest Movies In Order?

The movies never reference each other, nor is the plot overlapping, so it’s not crucial to watch Ernest movies in the order of their release. In fact, some fans suggest it’s better to try and place them in order of “how they happened,” despite the fact that Ernest seems to be around the same age in all the films. Here’s how that list would look:

  • Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam (1986)
  • Ernest Goes To School (1994)
  • Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
  • Ernest Goes To Camp (1987)
  • Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)
  • Ernest Goes To Africa (1997)
  • Ernest In The Army (1998)
  • Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)
  • Ernest Rides Again (1993)
  • Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Will There Be More Ernest Movies?

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever see any more Ernest movies. They were planned, but it all came to a halt after Jim Varney passed away in 2000. Also, in early 2022, sad news hit fans that the other part of the Ernest tandem – the creator/director John Cherry – also passed away after a long-fought battle with Parkinson’s disease.