The film is co-produced by John Davis and John Fox of Davis Entertainment, Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo., and Dany and Hiram Garcia of Seven Bucks Productions. John Requa and Glenn Ficarra penned the script.
The film was initially announced to be released on October 11, 2019, but was been pushed back to July 24, 2020, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to cause it to be pushed back again to July 30, 2021.
Set in the early 1900s, a tramp steamer captain named Frank Wolff takes a pair of scientist siblings down the Amazon River in search of the Tears of the Moon, a flower with miraculous healing properties, while evading Germans.
In the 16th century, Don Aguirre leads Spanish conquistadors to South America in search of the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree whose petals can cure any illness, heal any injury, and lift any curse. After most men die in the jungle, the survivors are nursed back to health by a local tribe using the tree petals. When they refuse to reveal the location of the tree, the Spanish destroy the village. As punishment, the conquistadors became cursed by the village chief to never die and never be able to leave sight of the river or the jungle would take them back to it for all eternity.
In 1916 London, Dr. Lily Houghton and her brother, MacGregor, present Lily’s Tears of the Moon research to an association of Royal Society explorers, explaining that the petals could revitalize medicine and aid in the British war effort. The Houghtons request access to an arrowhead recovered by Dr. Albert Falls that Lily believes is key to locating the tree. When the association denies their request, believing the tree is a myth and a female scientist is unqualified to join their ranks, Lily steals the arrowhead. She narrowly avoids Prince Joachim, a German aristocrat who also wants the arrowhead to find the tree.
In South America, Frank Wolff takes tourists on jungle river cruises, which are embellished with fake dangers and corny jokes. When his boat engine is repossessed by businessman Nilo, Frank attempts to steal it back. Caught in the act by Lily, Frank pretends to be Nilo and claims the Tears of the Moon is a myth and that she could not withstand the dangerous jungle; he then backtracks after noticing Lily possesses the arrowhead. Frank’s deception is revealed when the real Nilo shows up, but Lily hires Frank anyway after he underbids Nilo and bravely fights a jaguar.
Frank, Lily, and MacGregor depart on Frank’s boat, but they are nearly intercepted by Nilo attempting to confiscate his engine, by mercenaries hired by Joachim to retrieve the arrowhead from Lily, and by Joachim himself attacking in a German submarine. After making their escape, it is revealed that the attacking jaguar was actually Frank’s pet, Proxima. Lily wonders if Frank can be trusted.
Joachim locates the cursed conquistadors, whose bodies turned to stone due to them traveling too far from the river, and have been infested over time by tree roots, deadly snakes, poisonous frogs, and stinging insects. Joachim frees them by diverting the river, and offers to help them break the curse if they help him retrieve the arrowhead.
As Frank, Lily and MacGregor continue down the river, they grow closer. MacGregor tells Frank he was nearly disowned by his family due to being gay, but Lily stood by him. Breaking into Frank’s cabin, Lily finds photos and drawings of inventions such as the automobile, but also discovers drawings of the arrowhead and research on the Tears of the Moon. Lily accuses Frank of wanting the tree for himself, but he explains he gave up searching for it a long time ago and believed it can never be found. A tribe of “cannibals” attack them and demand the arrowhead, but this is exposed as another of Frank's faked dangers; they are a friendly tribe he has an arrangement with. Frank apologizes and claims he was unable to call off the plan, but Lily rebuffs him.
Trader Sam, the tribe’s female leader, translates the writing on the arrowhead, revealing the tree's location and that it only blooms under a blood moon. The conquistadors attack and take the arrowhead; Frank recovers it and gives it to Lily, but is fatally stabbed through the chest with a sword. Lily runs away from the river so the Spaniards are unable to follow due to the curse's limits.
The next morning, Lily discovers that Frank has miraculously survived. He reveals that his real name is Francisco, and he is one of the cursed conquistadors, unable to die or leave the river. The expedition to find the tree was originally a noble one to save Aguirre's sick daughter, Anna, but when the natives were attacked by the Spaniards, Frank switched his allegiance to help the villagers. After years of fighting, Frank trapped Aguirre and the others in a cave where the river could not reclaim them and where they became petrified. He then spent centuries searching for the tree to lift his own curse. But unable to find it without the arrowhead, he had finally given up.
An injured MacGregor stays behind with Trader Sam while Lily and Frank make the final journey to the tree. MacGregor is captured by Joachim and forced to reveal the tree's location. Joachim breaks his arrangement with the cursed brigands, in order to keep the petals for himself, but Frank, Lily, the Germans, and the Spaniards all converge on the tree. While solving the puzzle, the arrowhead is discovered to be a heart piece having a gem, which after placing blooms the tree under the blood moon. The moon passes as they fight, and Lily is only able to recover one petal. MacGregor fights Joachim, who gets flattened under a fallen piece of ruin, while Frank crashes his boat to block the river, which turns himself, Aguirre and the other Spaniards into stone. Lily expends the petal to revive Frank and break his curse. The moon breaks out one last ray of light and one final petal blooms - Lily’s research can proceed.
Returning to the United Kingdom, the society has offered full membership to Lily, which she rejects via MacGregor, who uses the opportunity to insult the society, saying that they are unworthy of the research, or the tale of the trip, or anything learned by it, primarily stories due to their chauvinism and insular nature. Lily fulfills her promise to show Frank all of London and the movie ends as she gives him his first driving lesson in her automobile, where she herself delivers a corny joke, worthy of Frank's admiration.
A shrewd, cynical but ultimately noble steamboat skipper who reluctantly agrees to guide two explorers on their quest for the mythical Tears of the Moon Tree. He eventually reveals his true name and identity as the adopted brother of Aguirre and as one of the cursed conquistadors, forever trapped by the Amazon river. He is a trained cartographer who has spent centuries searching for the Tree to break the curse that made him immortal so he can die peacefully. Meanwhile, he has built a town, and a boat he christened "La Quila" for his business under "Jungle Navigation Company". He has had a number of tamed exotic cats as a pet, each one named "Proxima".
An eccentric, adventurous and virtuous botanist working in a male-dominated field. She embarks on a quest to find the Tears of the Moon Tree, hoping to harness its power for modern medicine. Possessing an ancient arrowhead and one of Frank's old maps of the Amazon, she proves she is resourceful and capable in martial arts and lock picking skills, though she cannot swim. She wants to prove herself equal to her chauvinistic peers but gains some notoriety for wearing trousers.
- Édgar Ramírez as Lope de Aguirre:
A Spanish conquistador who once sought the Tree's power to save his ill daughter, only to be cursed with immortality for his cruelty towards the tree's guardians. Temporarily freed by German explorers, he sets out to take revenge on his adopted brother, Francisco, who sided against him to defend a native tribe. His body is now composed of and infested with snakes.
Lily's younger brother who works as her assistant. He confesses to Frank that Lily stood by him when his family nearly disowned him after he refused to marry, as his interest lies "elsewhere". Lily hired him so he could support himself. A somewhat foppish snob who adheres to proper etiquette and prefers wearing three-piece suits. He seems ill-suited to jungle life, but gradually develops into a more confident, rugged man by the end of the expedition.
- Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim:
A deranged and ambitious German royal, who finances and leads a military expedition with mercenaries to claim the Tree of Life, both to aid Germany's war effort and achieve immortality.
The harbormaster at Porto Velho, where Frank moors his boat. He is also a business rival and confiscates Frank's boat engine when Frank is unable to repay him his loan. This leads Frank to wreck Nilo's prize boats in return. He owns a parrot he named "Rosita".
- Veronica Falcón as Trader Sam:
The chief of Puka Michuna tribe in 1916, a tribe which guards the Tree.
- Dani Rovira as Sancho:
A conquistador that is covered in honey and bees.
- Quim Gutiérrez as Melchor:
A conquistador who is made out of mud with frogs.
- Dan Dargan Carter as Gonzalo:
A conquistador who is made out of roots and tree branches.
- Andy Nyman as Sir James Hobbs-Cunningham:
The Royal Society's artifact handler who briefly helps Prince Joachim
- Raphael Alejandro as Zaqueu:
Frank's young assistant.
- Simone Lockhart as Anna:
The daughter of Aguirre.
- Ben Jenkin as Proxima:
Frank's pet jaguar.
A Jungle Cruise movie has been in the works at Disney since at least 2006. A previous attempt that was originally intended for a 2007 release would have featured Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in starring roles as a Skipper and a frustrated passenger going down river to search for a miraculous cure in a story described as a more comical take on Heart of Darkness. This version was still being tossed around as late as 2011, but ended up never materializing.
On August 19, 2015, it was confirmed a new version of the project was moving forward with Dwayne Johnson set to star.  On April 7, 2017, Johnson announced he would also be producing. On July 31, 2017 it was confirmed that Jaume Collet-Serra will direct the film. They have also been confirmed to be working off on a script written by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay.
On January 30, 2018, Emily Blunt was announced to sign on to the project and that Michael Green was hired to rework the script. On March 26, 2018, English comedian Jack Whitehall was cast as the scientist's brother. On April 19, 2018, Édgar Ramírez and Matt Damon had signed on to the project as the film's villains. In December 2018, it was reported that actor Jack Whitehall's character would be homosexual and would have a coming out scene in the film with Dwayne Johnson. There was some backlash over the report, with a few expressing outrage over a straight actor being cast as a "camp" gay character.
- Main article: Jungle Cruise (soundtrack)
In January 2019, it was announced that James Newton Howard had joined the production as the film score composer. Additionally, he would later collaborate with Metallica on an instrumental version of the song "Nothing Else Matters" for the film. According to the band's drummer Lars Ulrich, Metallica worked on the film after Walt Disney Pictures president Sean Bailey, felt like Jungle Cruise was "the right fit" for a collaboration between Disney and Metallica. Bailey had been "always looking for the right match where there was a way that Metallica could contribute to some Disney project". The band members recorded their parts from their individual studios, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The score was recorded in February 2020 by a 99-person orchestra, with vocals provided by 40 members from the Los Angeles Master Chorale. In order to add a "regional flavor", Howard incorporated panpipes and Brazilian percussion instruments. Frequent Metallica collaborator Greg Fidelman served as associate producer and engineer. The soundtrack album was released on July 30, 2021.
Jungle Cruise had its world premiere at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California on July 24, 2021. It was released in the United States on July 30, 2021, simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access for US$30. Initially, it was slated for October 11, 2019 before being moved to July 24, 2020, and was delayed to its current date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2021, Disney announced that the film would be released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. The filmmakers decided on this, after being given multiple options by Disney, due to the continued closure of theaters in markets like Brazil and Europe due to surges in COVID-19 cases.
- Main article: Jungle Cruise (video)
Jungle Cruise had a digital release on August 31, 2021 and will be released via 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD on November 16. All of the home media releases will include 16 minutes of 11 deleted scenes and 6 bonus featurettes.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 320 reviews, with an average rating of 5.90/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Its craft isn't quite as sturdy as some of the classic adventures it's indebted to, but Jungle Cruise remains a fun, family-friendly voyage." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 50 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
- The film was initially slated for October 11, 2019 before being moved to July 24, 2020, and was delayed to its current date to July 30, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This is the fifth Disney film to be released on Disney+ as a Premier Access title, following Mulan, Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, and Black Widow.
- It is also the fourth Disney film to be released in theaters and on Disney+ on the same day after Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella and Black Widow.
- This is also the first Disney+ Premier Access release to have a male protagonist.
- In addition, this is the last Disney+ Premier Access release to date, following Disney's new releasing plan that allow theaters release Disney's films executively for first 45 days starting with Free Guy.
- This is the thirteenth Disney film to be rated PG-13, and the eighth outside the Pirates of the Caribbean films overall, after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, John Carter, The Lone Ranger, Saving Mr. Banks, The Finest Hours, Mulan and Cruella.
- This is also the sixth non-Jerry Bruckheimer Disney film to be rated PG-13, after John Carter, Saving Mr. Banks, The Finest Hours, Mulan and Cruella.
- Jungle Cruise: Dwayne Johnson Disney Movie Lands Director Jaume Collet-Serra
- Dwayne Johnson to Rock Disney's 'Jungle Cruise' Movie
- Disney’s 'Jungle Cruise' Movie Shifts From Fall 2019 to Summer 2020
- What Dwayne Johnson's Jungle Cruise movie is Going to be About - Cinema Blend
- "Dwayne Johnson to Star in 'Jungle Cruise' Movie for Disney (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter (August 19, 2015).
- Johnson's 'Jungle Cruise' Is a Go at Disney (Exclusive)
- Disney announes Jaume Collet-Serra to direct upcoming "Jungle Cruise" movie
- Jungle Cruise: Dwayne Johnson Disney Movie Lands Director Jaume Collet-Serra
- "Emily Blunt Boards Disney's 'Jungle Cruise; with Dwayne Johnson". Collider (January 30, 2018).
- "Disney's Jungle Cruise Movie Casts Emily Blunt's Brother". Screen Rant (March 26, 2018).
- Jungle Cruise Casts Jesse Plemons As Another Villain