Sometimes it’s easy to overlook all the awesome movie content on Disney+, what with their streaming shows capturing most of the buzz – like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, The Mandalorian Season 2, and WandaVision, which are all dropping later this year.
We’ve already comprised lists for Disney+’s Best Holiday Movies, Weirdest Movies, and Hidden Gems, but now we’re tackling the larger, all-encompassing “Best Movies” roster. For sanity’s sake, we’ve clumped some of the entries into full categories (“MCU,” “Star Wars,” etc), each of which could warrant their own Best list. To be fair, Disney+ itself blocks these off into separate clickable categories on their website and app too.
Even without Disney’s juggernauts though, this is a stacked list – from Avatar to Tron to The Simpsons. Check out the slideshow or just skip to the full rundown below…
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Disney Animation Classics
The Lion King. The Little Mermaid. Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty. The list goes on and on. No, not every single movie in Disney’s animation catalogue is a five-star stunner, but you can rarely go wrong. The House of Mouse has all but perfected family entertainment and now, with their new live-action adaptations of past hits — like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and more — you could spend weeks just watching classics from this category.
When Disney bought Pixar from Steve Jobs in 2006, they acquired some of the most daring, dynamic, and dynamite animation ever created. Now it all lives on Disney+, with the Oscar-winning Toy Story 4 being the latest blockbuster to land on the site. Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles 1 and 2, Inside Out – Pixar is a pantheon of entertainment.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Disney+ isn’t just the streaming site that houses almost all of the MCU (Black Panther arrived in March, with Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War debuting this summer, while The Incredible Hulk and the Sony Spider-Man movies remain missing from the service due to more complicated rights issues) but the service itself is integral to the franchise’s Phase 4, with half of the stories arriving as weekly streaming series that will directly tie into the movies, and vice versa.
As with Marvel, the epic Star Wars universe is also taking advantage of Disney+’s weekly episodic adventure format, finding gold right off the first strike with platform launch series The Mandalorian. But all of the past and future Star Wars movies are also a part of the site – from the nine-episode Skywalker Saga (Rise of Skywalker will land later this year) to its Star Wars Story entries like Rogue One and Solo.
There aren’t too many original Disney+ movies at this point, and those that exist haven’t made much of a stir – except for Togo. Willem Dafoe stars in this touching adventure tale, based on a true story, about a 1925 dog-sled ride across Alaska to deliver a much-needed cure to a town crippled by an epidemic.
Queen of Katwe
Starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, Queen of Katwe is a biopic, based on an ESPN article, about Phiona Mutes – a girl from the slums of Uganda who became a chess master. It’s a formidable feel-good story of conquering limits and breaking barriers.
Around the time Alan Menken wrote songs for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, he also wrote tunes for an unassuming musical about the New York City Newsboys’ Strike of 1899. Newsies wasn’t a hit with audiences or critics when it first came out in ’92, but an appreciation for it has grown over the years and a smash-hit stage adaptation kicked off in 2011. Christian Bale, David Moscow, and Bill Pullman star.
Like Newsies, The Sandlot is early ’90s fare that didn’t exactly catch fire right away. Instead, this nostalgic coming-of-age comedy grew a cult following over the years and now is looked back on rather fondly by those who watched it as kids. Oh, and a sequel series, starring the original cast, along with original director and co-writer David Mickey Evans, is headed to Disney+.
Turner & Hooch
With a Disney+ reboot series on the way, starring Josh Peck and Lyndsy Fonseca, there’s no better time to catch the original Turner & Hooch, starring Tom Hanks and a slobbery, destructive French Mastiff. The film itself is delightful, but if you’re looking for a darker, grittier reason to watch, it’s the film that reportedly led to a 30-year rift between Tom Hanks and Henry Winkler, two of Hollywood’s nicest guys (just Google it).
1982’s game-changing Tron and its decades-later sequel, 2010’s Tron Legacy, are both on Disney+. And are both dazzling displays (for their time) of special effects and creativity. So digitize yourself into The Grid, where human “users” battle rogue, narcissistic computer programs bent on world domination.
Danny Boyle’s charming dramedy, Millions, which also doubles as fine holiday fare, lives on Disney+ due to the Fox acquisition. Alex Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon star as two young brothers who find a briefcase full of cash and embark on a heartwarming adventure.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Sure, you can watch all five of the Pirates of the Caribbean capers (eventually, as 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales won’t arrive on Disney+ until next December), but if we’re actually cherry-picking the best film of the lot, the first, Curse of the Black Pearl, is the smoothest sailing. It’s the film that garnered Johnny Depp his first-ever Oscar nomination, a hit franchise, and a career reboot.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, this underrated Disney fable, based on the Roald Dahl book, features a young orphaned girl named Sophie who befriends a benevolent giant dubbed the “Big Friendly Giant” – aka “The BFG.” Latter-day Spielberg favorite Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One) stars as the giant, alongside Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, and more.
10 Things I Hate About You
This marvelous modern tweaking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high schooler smitten with classmate Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). In order to get her father’s approval, he attempts to get bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date Bianca’s tempestuous sister, Kat (Julia Stiles).
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James Cameron’s Avatar – which has four sequels on the way over the next decade – may no longer be the highest-grossing movie of all time because Avengers: Endgame narrowly beat it out, but it’ll most likely reclaim its crown when the first film gets a release ahead of Avatar 2 in 2021. The records it set are still astonishing, to this day, considering that the film wasn’t part of a franchise or based on any popular book or comic.
The Simpsons Movie
The Simpsons, which still exists as a hit TV series after 30 years, invaded the multiplex in 2007 with a feature film that earned a buttload of money. Its searing satire blended with biting, hearty laughs. In other words, it’s scintillating Simpsons.
From Ron Howard and George Lucas, this flashy ’80s fantasy should have been a massive hit. Instead, it’s taken decades for an appreciation to grow for Willow, which was seen at the time as an underwhelming adventure that bore too much resemblance to Star Wars in plot and characters. And yes, a Willow sequel series is most definitely in development for Disney+.
Like 2000’s Remember the Titans and 2006’s Glory Road, Disney’s The Rookie proves that the studio has also cornered the market on inspirational sports biopics. Based on the story of Jim Morris, played by Dennis Quaid, the film documents the brief MLB pitching career of the oldest rookie in the major leagues.
Flight of the Navigator
Paul Reubens voices a spaceship in this semi-forgotten slice of ’80s sci-fi about a 12-year-old boy who returns home after having vanished for years with a headful of secrets about an alien race that experiments on humans. With early groundbreaking computer effects, Flight of the Navigator is a fun family film that all ages can enjoy.
This ’50s classic contributed to the tears and trauma of more than one generation. Based on the award-winning novel by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller, about a boy and a stray dog in post-Civil War Texas, contains what’s widely considered to be one of the saddest scenes in movie history. So get prepared to weep buckets.
The Sound of Music
This beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, based on the smash stage production, was a massive hit in 1965, becoming the highest-grossing film of that year. Starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, which won five Academy Awards, centers on a family (and governess) that flees Austria in 1938 to evade the Nazis.
While 1976’s Freaky Friday, starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, is a good romp, the 2003 version, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, is a better one. A bizarre body-swap tale, featuring a mother and teen daughter having to live each others’ lives for a few days, the film is a fiercely funny fever dream.
This remake of 1977’s Pete’s Dragon, from David Lowery (who’s got the cool-looking The Green Knight coming up), was an under-watched gem starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, and Person of Interest’s Oakes Fegley as Pete, an orphaned boy who lives with a magical dragon in the forest. Sweet and soulful, Pete’s Dragon, in any iteration, is a must-watch.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been adapted dozens of times, but the most famous is the 1954 film starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason. It’s a rollicking sea adventure featuring an eccentric captain, a fantastical submarine, and a giant squid!
The Nightmare Before Christmas
These days it’s hard to remember that The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually an awesome claymation musical and not just a Hot Topic cash cow, but Tim Burton’s brilliant, gently-spooky stop-motion fable is clever, catchy, and continuously enjoyable.
Though the 2018 sequel starring Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns, won’t arrive on Disney+ until January 2021, the acclaimed 1964 Julie Andrews original, based on the P. L. Travers book series, is on the site in all its sentimental splendor. Andrews stars, alongside Dick Van Dyke, as the titular magical nanny tasked with whipping the dysfunctional Banks brood into shape.
The Rocketeer is pure superhero origin story joy, telling the tale of a stunt pilot (Billy Campbell) who stumbles upon a rocket-powered jet pack and uses it to thwart a secret Nazi plot in 1938 Hollywood. Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, and Alan Arkin co-star in this throwback crowd-pleaser.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
A mirthful mix of live-action and 2D animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is evergreen entertainment. As seamless satire that blends the world of animation with gumshoe noir, director Robert Zemeckis’ technological marvel is also a wicked whip-smart mystery.
Though Disney has a ton of amazing Muppets content — like The Muppet Movie, Muppet Treasure Island, and The Muppet Christmas Carol — 2011’s The Muppets, co-written by and starring Jason Segel, is everything you’d want from a modern Muppet makeover. The film even won an Oscar for Best Original Song, for Bret McKenzie’s (Flight of the Conchords) “Man or Muppet.”
What movies are you most excited to watch on Disney+? Let’s discuss in the comments!