This article is updated frequently as titles are added to Disney+, which you can sign up for here. *New titles are indicated with an asterisk. (If you subscribe to a service through our links, Vulture may earn an affiliate commission.)
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+ has arrived this year 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). And for your convenience, we’ve divided the list into 50 animated films and 50 live-action picks — but, of course, we highly recommend you watch all 100.
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.
Now that Disney owns the Fox catalog, lines are getting, well, blurred. When this movie was released, Don Bluth’s animated spectacle was competition to the Disney machine and now it’s a part of it! The weird business history is to the benefit of Disney+ subscribers! This beloved hit is the story of legend of the princess who escaped the execution of her royal family, only discovering her legacy when she grew up. It’s a charming reminder of Bluth’s big heart and daring style.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Is this the most forgotten modern Disney canon film? Possibly. Coming out between the comeback in the ‘90s and the modern era of films like Frozen or even Wreck-It Ralph, it feels like nobody talks about this 2001 adventure film about a journey to the kingdom under the sea. Check it out and see if it deserves a reappraisal.
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.
It may arguably be minor Pixar, but that still makes it worth a look. The thing that felt so refreshing about Brave in 2012, when it was named the Best Animated Film of the year by the Academy, was that it featured a strong female heroine, still too often a rarity in family films. This is the story of Merida, a Scottish princess who defies her customs to lead her people.
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.
*The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
One of the truly strangest official Disney canon movies, this 2000 buddy comedy went through several forms before the oddity that emerged about an Incan emperor named Kuzco (David Spade) who is transformed into a llama. (Imagine something that strange coming out from Disney now.) What’s funny about this flick is that it’s developed a serious following over the years, one that seems to still be growing. Films with this much personality usually find their fans.
Chris Wedge, the director of Ice Age, turned to a different kind of adventure in this loose adaptation of William Joyce’s children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. It’s got some very familiar story elements and kind of mediocre visuals, but it’s a reminder of when Blue Sky Studios was one of the major players in the animation game and might strike a nostalgic note for people who were the right age when it came out.
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.
*Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson was always a perfect fit for stop-motion animation. The director has long been obsessed with the kind of detail that elevates this form, and his best work in the field remains this adaptation of the 1970 Roald Dahl novel of the same name. One of many joys in this film is the ridiculously strong voice cast, which includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson.
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.
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. (Frozen 2 is also streaming on the service, for everyone who can’t get enough Olaf in their lives.)
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.
Ice Age (2002)
There’s only one movie in the Ice Age franchise on Disney Plus right now but it’s the one that started it all, the adventures of a lovable mammoth named Manny (Ray Romano), a crazy sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo) and a cynical saber-tooth named Diego (Denis Leary). Although everybody really watches these movies for Scrat.
*Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)
The variety of non-Disney animated films on Disney+ is always a bit oddly unpredictable. Because of the partnership between Disney and Fox, some of the latter’s animated output has been slowly trickling into Disney+ but without the fanfare of proper Mouse House movies. And so they have the fifth film in the Ice Age series, released back in 2016, and featuring the voice cast from this massive hit series. Maybe they’ll add all of the adventures of Manny, Diego, and Sid eventually.
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.
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.
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.
*Lilo & Stitch (2002)
The 42nd official Disney film was released in 2002 to comparatively less fanfare than a lot of Disney films, but it’s found a loyal audience as people who were kids when it came out are now having kids of their own. Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois directed the story of a 6-year-old Hawaiian girl who befriends an alien that she names Stitch. It’s funnier and sweeter than you remember.
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.
*Meet the Robinsons (2007)
The 47th film in the Disney canon may be the most underrated of the modern era for the mega-corporation. Sure, no one is expecting a Frozen-esque following for Meet the Robinsons, but this is a clever little flick about a pre-teen inventor who stumbles into technological insanity. It’s a bit thin in terms of character and design, but it’s funnier than a lot of modern Disney movies.
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 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.
Tragically damaged by the COVID pandemic that really took off right when it was in theaters, Pixar’s first of two 2020 films (Soul being the second), Onward never really had a chance to find an audience (although it did land an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film, which seems like an inevitability for all Pixar flicks). Onward isn’t Pixar’s best, but it does feature really strong design elements and characters in this telling of a story in which mythology and grief intertwine.
*The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Do kids today appreciate Charlie Brown and Snoopy like their parents used to do? A great gateway drug for the work of Charles M. Schulz for modern young people is this fun and heartfelt 2015 big-screen version of the most famous comic strip characters in history. It’s such a sweet movie, one that really gets the core of these characters, and the biggest shame is that a sequel seems impossible after the collapse of Blue Sky Studios and the Disney/Fox merger.
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.
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.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
Disney’s latest project is on their streaming service for a fee at the same time that it’s playing in theaters, and this is a case when it is worth the surcharge. A fantastic adventure story with a theme of empowerment and unity, it’s a wonderful Disney movie, one of the company’s best of the modern era. Sometimes an animated film feels like a timeless classic instantly — think Toy Story or Frozen — and this film has that power.
Robin Hood (1973)
The legend of Robin Hood has had a dozen iterations over the years, but the first time that most people experience it is still through this 1973 animated musical comedy, the 21st movie in the Disney canon. Totally feeling like a product of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with its laid-back style, it’s one of the most purely enjoyable of the flicks of this era and has a lot of very loyal fans to this day. Check it out and see why.
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.
As Pixar took over the world, Disney original animated films didn’t get the same amount of attention, but the near-decade since the release of Tangled has seen it become something of a beloved classic. Ask any little girl on your family tree and they’ll probably tell you that this variation on Rapunzel is one of their favorites in the Disney catalog. It’s sweet, smart, and contains some of the best animated visuals of the modern Disney era.
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.
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.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
It’s been twenty years since this 1999 romantic comedy introduced the world to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Heath Ledger, and Julia Stiles. Sometimes the cast of a young rom-com just catches lightning in a bottle, which is what happened here in this version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. It’s so very ‘90s even as the charm of its cast also gives it that timeless feel.
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.
Yep. One of the biggest films of all time has been rumored to become a bigger franchise for what feels like forever now, but it seems like James Cameron is finally actually truly really working on sequels to his 3D smash, a film that promised to change the industry. Could Avatar be a hit again? Never rule out the power of JC.
The Avengers Saga (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.
Bend It Like Beckham
Gurinder Chadha broke through with this charming 2002 sports rom-com about an 18-year-old girl who becomes infatuated with football, especially the skills of David Beckham. It’s also memorable for being an early hit for Keira Knightley.
Arguably the best MCU movie to date has moved from Netflix over to its new home at the mother ship, where it will likely be watched consistently for as long as this service exists. Black Panther set the new bar for blockbuster superhero movies, combining well-staged action with deeper meaning and resonant characters. It’s a movie that works every single time you watch it.
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.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck directed the first Marvel Cinematic Universe property to be headlined by a woman, Oscar winner Brie Larson as the title character. Larson is joined by one of the strongest MCU ensembles, including Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson. It doesn’t all work in terms of storytelling, but that cast rocks from beginning to end.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The mystical and magical Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) became such a major part of the narrative in Infinity War and Endgame that you owe it to yourself to go back and revisit his origin story in this 2016 Scott Derrickson blockbuster. The brain trust behind the MCU just knows how to cast, and Cumberbatch is perfect here, balancing the intellect and cynicism of this character in a way that only he could.
The onslaught of live-action remakes of Disney classics in 2019 was kind of depressing, even if most of them made a small fortune. The irony of it all is that the best of the bunch is the Tim Burton one that hardly anyone saw. At least it’s not a beat-for-beat remake like The Lion King, and this story of an outsider elephant fits the Burton aesthetic perfectly. Yes, some of it falls apart, but the visuals are always striking. Watch it on the biggest TV that gets Disney+.
The Fault in Our Stars
One of the few projects on Disney+ not aimed directly at the under-10 crowd, this adaptation of the Young Adult novel by John Green was one of the biggest hits of 2014. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort star in a film of doomed love between two teen cancer patients. Woodley and Elgort are excellent in a film that’s better than your typical cancer melodrama and struck such a nerve with viewers that it made an amazing $300 million worldwide on a $12 million budget.
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.)
*George of the Jungle (1997)
Brendan Fraser’s blend of charming looks and goofy physicality was never put to better use than in this comedy based on the cartoon of the same name, about a primitive man raised by animals in the African jungle. Fraser is hysterical, and he’s ably supported by Leslie Mann and Thomas Haden Church in a film that produces laughs for all ages.
*The Greatest Showman (2017)
Inspired loosely by the real story of P.T. Barnum, the original musical has already become a fan favorite (check out TikTok for hours of people repeating its dance moves). An unexpectedly massive hit when it came out (it made over $400 million worldwide), The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman as a man who unites performers and people under the same tent. The theme of makeshift families and expressing identity will never get old.
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.
That’s right: Disney surprised everyone by moving a film that was planned for a theatrical release in 2021 all the way up to July 2020 and dropping it on their streaming service, leading to millions of new subscribers. It’s more than just a document of an award-winning play, it’s a way for people to experience a true phenomenon, a work of art that resonates in a different way now than when it was recorded.
One of the biggest hits of 2016, this true story captured a chapter of history that hadn’t been taught in school, the story of Black female mathematicians that really built the foundation that allowed man to go to the moon. The unheralded heroes of the space race were played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae and the trio of performers are so charismatic and fascinating that this is a film that’s almost impossible to dislike.
Home Alone (1990)
A Christmas staple, the saga of Kevin McAllister 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.
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.
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.
Do you believe in miracles?!?! Gavin O’Connor did when he directed this true sports story of one of history’s most legendary underdog wins – when the U.S. hockey team beat the heavily-favored Russians in 1980. Kurt Russell is typically fantastic as the coach, Herb Brooks. Who wouldn’t want to be coached by Kurt Russell? A surprise hit at the box office, Miracle may be the best of Disney’s run of sports movies in the ‘00s.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
One of the most classic Christmas movies of all time, George Seaton’s 1947 original stars Maureen O’Hara and John Payne as the parents of a girl who believes the department store Santa Claus she just met is the real deal. Somewhat discarded over the years as a holiday trifle, people forget how good this movie really is. After all, Santa – Edmund Gwenn – won the Oscar!
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, and finally the original series!
*National Treasure (2004)
Before he became an internet meme icon, Nicolas Cage was one of the biggest action stars in the world, using his everyman appeal to cater to a wide demographic of fans. Everyone loved Cage in films like Face/Off, Con Air, and The Rock, and his widest appeal largely came in this Indiana Jones riff, the story of a historian who discovers that the Declaration of Independence is really a treasure map. (The 2007 sequel, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is also on Disney+.)
Never Been Kissed
Long before she was a talk show host, Drew Barrymore was America’s Sweetheart in a string of romantic comedies like this clever flick about a 25-year-old copy editor who goes undercover at a high school and falls back into so many of her awkward teen ways. It’s funny and sweet.
There’s something amazing about the fact Newsies even exists. It’s an original musical comedy about a newsboy strike in 1899, with original songs by Alan Menken that may be best-remembered as a film starring a young, singing, dancing Christian Bale. The movie bombed hard in theaters, but people found it on VHS to such a degree that a recent Broadway version won two Tony Awards! See where it all began.
*Night at the Museum (2006)
Shawn Levy gave Ben Stiller one of the biggest hits of his career with the 2006 fantasy adventure film about a night watchman who discovers that the American Museum of Natural History comes to life every night because of a magical Egyptian artifact. These movies are harmless fun, thanks in large part to great ensemble casts and clever special effects. (The sequel, 2009’s Battle of the Smithsonian, is also on Disney+, but the third and final film is not as of this writing.)
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)
The great David Lowery (A Ghost Story) co-wrote and directed what is the best live-action adaptation of a Disney animated film ever. This story of an orphaned boy who finds a dragon in the woods is smart, lyrical, and incredibly moving, and also features great supporting work from Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford.
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.
*The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner directed this adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel and made movie history. It’s the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who will do whatever it takes to reunite with the love of his life, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). It’s one of the most beloved films of its generation.
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.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Boaz Yakin directed this massive hit for Denzel Washington, the true story of African-American coach Herman Boone, who tried to integrate his football team at a small high school in Virginia in 1971. Of course, race relations in 1971 were a minefield, but this film deftly balances its true story with its ability to entertain modern audiences. It’s a 2000 film, but it could largely be released unchanged today and be a hit again.
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 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.
Ron Howard directed Tom Hanks to one of his earliest hit roles in this story about a young man who falls in love with a mermaid, played unforgettably by Daryl Hannah. John Candy and Eugene Levy also star in a comedy that was so well-received that it was actually nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
The Star Wars Saga
What could we possibly say here beyond letting you know that if you’re looking for Star Wars, Disney+ is the place to go. The streamer has the original trilogy, prequel trilogy, and the complete sequel trilogy, along with Rogue One and Solo. 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 Straight Story (1999)
Yes, there’s a great movie from the twisted mind of David Lynch on Disney+, believe it or not. His most accessible film, The Straight Story is the true story of Alvin Straight’s 1994 journey across the heartland on a lawn mower. Richard Farnsworth is phenomenal as a WWII vet who has to go visit his estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton) and has no other way to get there.
Three Men and a Baby (1987)
Young readers may not a remember a time when a movie about three bachelors and an infant took over the world. This 1987 comedy vehicle for Steve Guttenberg, Tom Selleck, and Ted Danson was a massive hit, making over $240 million on a budget less than 5% of that. People took to its blend of slapstick comedy and heartfelt emotion. Trivia: It was directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The entire arc of the MCU version of Thor changed forever when Taika Waititi was tapped to direct the third standalone movie about the big guy with the hammer. Gone was the dour tone of the first two movies, replaced with something closer to a comedy in this bright, fun adventure movie. Thank God someone realized Thor could have a good time too.
The first Disney+ original remains one of the best, the true story of Leonhard Seppala and his dog Togo, who became a hero when he helped transport diphtheria antitoxin across Alaska in 1925 to save an entire village. Willem Dafoe plays Seppala, but this is a true adventure movie, a film that the whole family can watch together and really experience.
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.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
The best romantic comedy on Disney+ is this 1995 flick from when Sandra Bullock was at her most charmingly likable. The future Oscar winner plays a CTA token collector who saves the life of a man on the tracks one day, and then falls in love with his brother. In a sweet and funny movie, Bill Pullman, Peter Boyle, and Jack Warden also give charismatic performances, but this is a Bullock Movie through and through.
*Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
When Robert Zemeckis directed a live-action/animated noir in which cartoons and people lived and worked alongside each other, no one expected it to be one of the best movies of the late ‘80s. The 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.
Continuing a trend of family fantasy movies, Ron Howard and George Lucas collaborated on this 1988 adventure flick with a loyal fan base in the three decades since it was released. It got mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office compared to expectations, but it’s done very well on VHS and other forms over the years, and we’re willing to bet at least one person is watching it on Disney+ while you read this.
The selection of X-movies on Disney Plus is random and weird—there are three as of this writing and this 2013 stand-out from James Mangold, which almost plays now like a warm-up for the even-better Logan (but that’s R—a no-no on Disney Plus). Based on a hit 1982 limited comic series, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine travels to Japan, which means claws vs. samurai swords action.
The merger between Disney and FOX means that characters from the X-Men universe will inevitably find their way into the MCU (more than just Quicksilver kind of being on WandaVision), but Disney+ has an odd array of X-films now. There’s no logic to it, but they do have the 2000 original, and arguably still the best of that ensemble, along with what might be the best of the next ensemble in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. (They also have X-Men: Apocalypse but avoid that nonsense.)