This list is updated frequently as titles are added to Disney+. New entries will have an asterisk.
Have you welcomed your new streaming overlords yet? Jumping into the streaming competition with all the weight of one of the biggest companies in the world, Disney+ arrived this month with a deep catalogue that includes exclusive rights to products of the Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars banners, along with original series and films. Wondering where to start your adventure of navigating the digital versions of films that have shaped generations? We’re here to help.
For simplicity’s sake, most franchises have been bundled into one entry. Yes, this means look elsewhere for someone to pick out which Star Wars movies are worth your time and which aren’t. We aren’t wading into that debate today (but our own David Edelstein did here).
101 Dalmatians (1961)
One of the most beloved films in the Disney vault, this adaptation of a novel by Dodie Smith gave the empire one of its most iconic villains in Cruella de Vil. A vicious and awful woman who literally wants to turn your puppies into a fur coat, Cruella is one of the most timeless creations of this era. We love Pongo too, but it’s Cruella who turned this into a franchise.
No, not that creepy Will Smith nonsense, although that may be poisoning Disney+ by the time you read this; we’re talking about the still-great original film, featuring one of the best animated voice performances of all time from Robin Williams. Yes, some of the racial politics of the film look a little dated now, but one can’t deny the music, some of the hand-drawn compositions, and the joy in Williams’s performance.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
While there have been several versions of Lewis Carroll’s story on film over the years, from the silent era through the Depp era, the fact is that most people envision the characters and design elements of this Disney classic when they think of the story. Walt had been wanting to adapt the story for years, and the funny thing is that it bombed so badly when it was released that it was cut up and aired on TV, where it started to build the following it has today.
Both Paul Rudd adventures in Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp are on Disney+ as of this writing, part of the service’s large catalogue of MCU films. This little guy may not get the press of someone like Captain America or Iron Man, but his movies are much-needed, heavy-on-comedy diversions in a universe that often takes itself a bit too seriously. They remind us that sometimes superhero stories should be fun.
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
You could spend a few days digging through the live-action Disney films from the ’70s and ’80s on the streaming service, but here’s a dirty secret you may not want to hear: Most of them aren’t as good as you remember. A possible exception is this 1975 comedy featuring two of the best comedic screen actors of all time, Don Knotts and Tim Conway. It was big enough that the pair returned for 1979’s The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, also on Disney+.
The Avengers (2012–2019)
Consider this an entry for the entire saga of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and the rest of the gang as The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Infinity War, and Endgame are all on Disney+. While you may lose some of the plot by not including a few other films like Civil War, it might be fun to watch the quadrilogy on its own and see how these characters progressed. And then we can debate why Joss Whedon’s first film is still the best of the quartet.
Generations have been scarred by Disney’s fifth animated feature film, mostly due to the big death near the beginning. While that tragic moment has defined the legacy of this movie, watch it again and really take into consideration what Disney did with this film, particularly the graceful way it captures the natural world. It’s a beautiful, influential piece of animation that stands among the best animated movies ever made.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri just published a piece about the 1991 work-in-progress screening of this film at the New York Film Festival, noting how much of a turning point it was for Disney and animation in general. One thing he points out is how the event wouldn’t have worked if audiences didn’t respond to this wonderful fairy tale, which became a cultural event more than just another blockbuster. It’s a timeless film, and the live-action remake, also on Disney+, stands in its still-massive shadow.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Technically a Marvel movie and a Disney movie, this was the surprise winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Film. It’s a relatively standard story about a team of young heroes that forms in a place called San Fransokyo, but it has a big heart and some nice action sequences. Disney+ allows Baymax fans to keep the fun going with a season of the animated series spin-off and a collection of shorts.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Here we’re picking a favorite. While The First Avenger and Civil War are both on Disney+ too, you really could watch and appreciate Winter Soldier completely apart from the rest of the MCU. Perhaps that’s one of the elements that makes this ’70-style espionage thriller a favorite of many critics — it doesn’t feel like your enjoyment of it depends on other movies.
Cinderella is another one of those stories that technically exists outside of this version of it — it was even a Disney short three decades earlier — but not really. This is what people think of when they think of the girl with the glass slipper. Heck, this is kind of what people think of when they think of the very concept of the Disney Princess, the idea that anyone can find true love and magic if they just believe.
Lee Unkrich directed this tender, genuine Oscar winner for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song. It’s the story of a 12-year-old named Miguel and his journey to the Land of the Dead. Culturally resonant in ways that modern animation is rarely allowed to be, this one contains some of the best animated visuals you could find anywhere on Disney+ and we dare you not to cry during “Remember Me.”
You will believe an elephant can fly in one of classic Disney’s most beloved films (and the Tim Burton remake, also on Disney+, is better than you’ve heard as well). Who doesn’t love the story of a bullied, abandoned elephant who finds his purpose through his physical abnormality? After much debate, Disney+ is presenting the feature uncut, including the use of stereotypes in the crow scene, but offering viewers a warning.
When it was conceived and executed, this was the most ambitious project in animation history. Only the third Disney full-length feature, it contains eight animated segments set to music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. It really is remarkable to consider how much Disney understood that animation could be appreciated by all ages and that his art didn’t need to talk down to kids, two things he made clear so early in the history of his company.
Finding Nemo (2003)
A regular inhabitant in the top spot of best Pixar movies ever, this Andrew Stanton 2003 gem is a wonderful, hysterical, moving piece of family entertainment. The story of a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) trying to find his abducted son Nemo (Alexander Gould) is the perfect balance of visual whimsy, emotional relatability, and adventure storytelling. It’s not just one of the best Pixar films, it’s one of the best animated films by any company.
Imagine becoming so famous that you can turn your childhood doodles into a feature film. That’s what happened with Tim Burton, who developed the legend of a resurrected dog into his first short film in 1984 and was then given the budget to update and enhance his vision in a 2012 stop-motion remake. Both films are on Disney+.
Freaky Friday (1976/2003)
Doesn’t everyone have to see this Disney classic at some point just to get the references in all of the iterations of body-swapping fiction over the next four decades to come? The original story of a mother and daughter switching bodies stars the wonderful Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, while the underrated remake features Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Both are on Disney+. (So is a 2018 musical TV version that we’re all choosing to ignore.)
Free Solo (2018)
It’s not getting anywhere near the attention of Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars, but there’s another catalogue in Disney+ that deserves some of your time: National Geographic. One of the highlights in there is the last Oscar winner for Best Documentary, the breathtaking story of Alex Honnold, a daredevil rock climber who attempts a dangerous ascent without a single rope or harness. Those afraid of heights need not apply.
Maybe you’ve heard of it? One of the biggest animated films of all time is there on Disney+ for you to catch up with before doing your culturally mandated duty and see Frozen II this holiday season. Frozen became a phenomenon, making over $1.2 billion worldwide and launching lines of toys, games, and more. You owe it to yourself to watch or rewatch it and figure out why.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014/2017)
James Gunn’s action-comedy was arguably the biggest surprise in the modern MCU. After all, we all kind of knew and loved Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America already, right? But who the heck is Groot? Well, now we know, and the people who love these movies really love these movies. They’re both on Disney+ and you’ve probably watched them twice already.
There is kind of a dark period for Disney after the success of Lion King and before they went all CGI in which some hand-drawn films like Tarzan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Pocahontas, for example, have ben somewhat lost to history. It’s a good time to revisit and reclaim these movies, most of which are actually better than you remember, like this goofy, fun, good-hearted variation on the legends of the gods.
Home Alone (1990)
A Christmas staple, the saga of Kevin McCallister has become a beloved classic for the generation who were kids when it came out and are now old enough to show it to their own children. The first three movies are all on Disney+, although the first one is the only one really worth your time unless you morbidly want to check out Donald Trump’s cameo in Lost in New York.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
We miss Rick Moranis! The great physical comedian was near his prime in this 1989 Joe Johnston hit that became a worldwide phenomenon. Johnston always had a little of that Spielberg magic in his best films, and this movie has a wonderful spirit to it that holds up today. The vastly inferior Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves are also on Disney+. You’ve been warned.
The Incredibles (2004)
Any list of the best modern superhero movies that doesn’t include the great Pixar film about Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash, and Violet is incomplete. Brad Bird’s adventure about the family of superheroes next door is smart, funny, and legitimately contains some of the best action sequences in the history of the modern blockbuster. And it’s so easy to rewatch again and again, making it perfect for a service like Disney+.
Inside Out (2015)
Is this the best animated movie of the 2010s? It’s certainly the most ambitious from a major studio. Journeying into the mind and emotional being of a little girl is something that should be melodramatic and ridiculous, but this film understands more about the human condition than arguably any other animated work. It’s breathtakingly smart, visually stunning, and unforgettable.
Iron Man (2008)
All three entries in the series of films about Tony Stark and his killing machines are on Disney+, although even hardcore MCU fans would probably stick with the original. In so many ways, this is one of the most influential blockbusters of all time, a film that helped usher in the era of the MCU. Movies would never be the same.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Henry Selick and Tim Burton collaborated on this stop-motion animated version of the Roald Dahl classic fantasy novel about a boy who goes to live with his awful aunts and, well, finds himself on an adventure in a giant peach. Whimsically macabre in ways that only Burton and Selick could deliver, this is a great fit between creator and source material. Dahl himself would have totally dug it.
Director Brett Morgen took hundreds of hours of raw footage of time that Jane Goodall spent with the apes and turned it into one of the best documentaries of the ’10s. This is more than just a biopic and more than just a nature doc. It is a study of what links us to the natural world, and a profile in courage of a woman who pioneered the very understanding of where we came from.
The Jungle Book (1967/2016)
This is one of the few cases in which both the animated original and live-action remake are worth your time. The animated classic has nostalgic value, but it’s far from a perfect film, leaving room for Jon Favreau’s technically stunning update of the material. Watch the original for the songs, the new one for the special effects.
The Lion King (1994)
The crown jewel of the comeback for Disney in the early ’90s is arguably this musical classic, a film that was so instantly beloved that it spawned a successful Broadway edition and a generation of lifelong fans. People love this movie so much that they were willing to basically watch a beat-by-beat remake of it in droves 25 years later.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
It’s hard to overstate the dire situation that Disney was in during the ’80s when people turned more to live-action than animation for their entertainment time. This was really the movie that turned everything around. A case can be made that Disney+ doesn’t exist without Ariel, Flounder, and the rest of the underwater gang.
Mary Poppins (1964)
A legitimate classic, there’s a reason Robert Stevenson’s musical adventure film has been a staple for generations, passed down from parent to child year after year. It’s simply a delightful film, filled with great music numbers and a timeless performance from Julie Andrews. Trivia: It holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for any Disney film, including Best Picture and Best Actress, and it won five.
There are more blockbusters on Disney+ than all the other streaming services combined, so it’s a little harder to seek out the films that you not only haven’t seen but possibly haven’t even heard of. Take this wonderful little family dramedy from Danny Boyle, the director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. The story of a Catholic school boy who literally finds a bag of money is heartwarming and wonderful.
Stop singing “You’re Welcome.” One of the most joyful modern Disney films is also one of the most empowering, really finding a genuine message in its story of a strong-willed girl finding her place in a largely masculine society and the stunning backdrop of Polynesia allows for some of the strongest visuals of the modern Disney era.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
There’s a long history of kids movies and books in which little ones learn that the monsters under their bed and in their closet are real, but one of the favorites has to be this early Pixar gem with great voice work from Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Visually inventive, this one often gets forgotten when people talk about their favorite Pixars but it has enough loyal followers that it produced a sequel, Monsters University, which is also on Disney+.
Before they remake it in a 2020 live-action version, check out one of the most progressive animated films of its era, a movie that tells the Chinese legend of Mulan, a girl forced to impersonate a man to fight for her people. A lot of the Disney titles of the late ’90s are kind of goofy comedies but this is a rich, empowering drama that has stood the test of time.
The Muppet Franchise
You have to kind of be a jerk to dislike the Muppets. Knowing that, Disney+ has put an array of their films on their service. It’s time for a marathon! The Muppet Movie will always be the best for a generation raised on it, but the Jason Segel reboot is pretty damn great too. The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets Most Wanted are all on here too, as well as the ABC reboot, but no sign yet of the original series. Boo.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
One of the most beloved films of its era, Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic is always playing somewhere from Halloween through the holiday season. It’s one of those films that feels like it gets more popular with each generation, further staking its claim as a modern animated classic.
The Parent Trap (1961/1998)
Hayley Mills or Lindsay Lohan? You really can’t go wrong with either the beloved original or underrated remake of this timeless tale of twin sisters trying to reunite their divorced parents. Sweet and funny, this is one of those live-action family films that you don’t have to feel embarrassed to watch with your kids.
Pete’s Dragon (2016)
There is literally one case of a live-action Disney remake that is absolutely better than its animated original, and it’s the one that almost no one has seen. In 2016, David Lowery (A Ghost Story) directed a tender, beautifully made version of the 1977 musical that mixed live-action and animation and it rules. The original is on Disney+ too but you really only need the remake.
Peter Pan (1953)
This is another case in which the Disney version of a character has become the iconic representation of it, even though it existed before the movie and has been in other forms since. When we think of the boy who wouldn’t grow up, we think of this movie, a timeless tale of adventure that stands as one of the best Disney movies of all time.
Only the second Disney film ever, this is one of the most iconic films in the company’s history. The puppet who wanted to be a real boy is one of the foundational films in the history of animation, not just Disney. It showed what could be done by a team of creators who respected both the source material and their audience. If you haven’t seen it since you were a kid, you owe it to yourself to revisit Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, and the unforgettable puppet.
The Pirates of the Caribbean Saga (2003–2017)
There are arguably only one or two good films in this five-movie series, but it also could be a fun thing to marathon from front to back, so we’ve decided to generously include them all. The first movie, 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl was such an unexpected hit — who would have thought a movie based on a ride would be this good — and the sequel is pretty solid too. Parts three through five are up for debate.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
Mira Nair’s true story is the best film on Disney+ that you probably haven’t seen. The director herself lives in Uganda, where this story takes place, and she brings her cultural specificity to the story of a girl who becomes a chess prodigy. Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo co-star in a story of empowerment that’s never manipulative and remarkably inspirational.
Listen, if there’s a Brad Bird movie in this service, it will probably be on this list. The man is a master of the animated form, and that’s certainly true regarding this fable about a rat who becomes a master chef in Paris. A wonderful tale about fulfilling unexpected dreams, and one of Pixar’s best.
The Rocketeer (1991)
Joe Johnston directed this adventure film inspired by the old movie adventure serials; it flopped on release but has developed a very loyal following over the years. The version on Disney+ looks remarkable, which should allow a new generation to discover this movie. Listen, Disney is probably using their analytics on this service to determine what will get rebooted and what will get sequels. So watch The Rocketeer and maybe we’ll finally get more?
The Rookie (2002)
In the subgenre of inspirational true sports stories, John Lee Hancock’s 2002 Dennis Quaid vehicle is one of the best. Lyrical and moving, it tells the story of Jim Morris, a man who fought for years to finally make it to the big leagues, long after people usually give up on their dreams.
The Sandlot (1993)
It’s always fun when a movie transcends its original response to become a cult classic. This coming-of-age comedy barely made a dent when it was released, but years of rentals and cable airings turned it into a phenomenon. Ask people their favorite baseball movies, and most will have this on the list.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Sure, sure, we all agree that this would have been stronger if it were made closer to the peak of the Fox hit, but it’s still pretty damn fun. And you may want a break from the 30-plus seasons of The Simpsons that are also on Disney+. Many people believe this was a turning point in the history of the show and that the program was never the same after it was released. Make up your mind for yourself.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
It’s hard to believe, but critics weren’t kind to this lovely film when it was released in 1959, and it marked a major turning point for the company, which then moved away from fairy tales. History reclaimed what is really a lovingly rendered and beautiful piece of filmmaking that now feels like an essential building block in the legacy of Disney animation.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Where it all began. If there was only one movie on this list, it might be this one, a legitimate classic of not just animated history but film history as a whole. The first full-length Disney movie was a phenomenon, putting the company on the map, and there was no looking back. So much of what was to follow in both Disney and all animation can be traced back to here.
The Sound of Music (1965)
The hills are alive in this beloved musical drama adapted from the play of the same name. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer star in the story of the Von Trapps, a family who use music to push away the horrors of the world around them. Even with its three-hour running time, this is a film that generation after generation embraces for a reason.
The Star Wars Saga
What could we possibly say here beyond letting you know what’s available? As of this writing, it’s the original trilogy, prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One. Apparently, Solo and The Last Jedi will be added before the end of 2020. And then there’s a little show called The Mandalorian and some other TV iterations. You could spend a day or two just in this section of Disney+.
The Toy Story Trilogy (1995–2010)
As of this writing, 2019’s Toy Story 4 is not yet on Disney+, but you can take the time to revisit the perfect trilogy of animated films that preceded it. The trio of stories about Woody, Buzz, and the gang is one of the best trilogies in film history, animated or not. It’s animated filmmaking at its most wonderful, never talking down to kids and entertaining for parents in equal measure.
If you’re not old enough to remember when Tron came out, you probably don’t believe what a big deal this movie was for an entire generation. If you are old enough, you’ve probably watched it twice on Disney+ already. The story of a computer programmer who ends up inside of his own creation was way ahead of its time when it was released, predating an era in which we’re all kind of inside the machine. The long-awaited sequel is also here.
One of the Pixar greats from the peak of the company’s output in the aughts just happens to feature a cranky old man and a precocious kid. The duo head off on an adventure in a floating house in a film that’s ultimately one of Pixar’s most thrilling, and most moving, to date.
Andrew Stanton’s 2008 entry in the Pixar canon is one of the company’s most critically acclaimed for a reason, an ambitious sci-fi film that contains almost no dialogue and is full of unforgettable visuals. It already feels like this little robot has influenced the entire genre of science fiction. Wall-E is one of those masterpieces that will only grow in esteem with future generations.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
When Robert Zemeckis directed a live-action–animated noir, in which cartoons and people live and work alongside each other, no one expected it to be one of the best movies of the late ’80s. This movie is just perfect: funny, smart, thrilling, and inventive in ways that not a lot of blockbusters were in this era. The technology would need an upgrade, but the same basic film could be released today and be a hit all over again. You can’t say that about many 30-year-old films.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
The sequel won’t be on Disney+ until the holidays of 2020, but the original is better anyway. John C. Reilly does fantastic voice work as Ralph, a villain from a famous arcade game who finds himself on a journey through other titles. Funny, smart, and moving, this one of the best non-Pixar animated films of the ‘10s.
One of Disney’s biggest recent hits, Zootopia went on to become an Oscar winner. It’s no wonder: This mystery-comedy contains some of the best world-building in recent animation, introducing us to a setting that feels rich with possibilities. This feels like a franchise that’s just getting started.