Disney+ is here, and with more than 600 TV shows and movies available at launch — including both the Star Wars series The Mandalorian and a ton of new and classic films — there’s a lot to sift through if you want to start your binge-watching experience with the best of the bunch. In order to help you out, we’ve put together a more manageable list of the best movies available on Disney+ (and don’t forget to check out our list of the best TV shows on Disney+, too). Settle in and get ready to spend some quality time on the couch — you’re going to be there for a while.
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Big Hero 6
This 2014 animated feature is set in the fictional, futuristic city of San Fransokyo and follows a young boy determined to use his brilliant robotics skills to find the masked villain who killed his brother and stole his one-of-a-kind invention. Joined by his protective android pal Baymax, Hiro Hamada assembles a team of reluctant students-turned-superheroes to take down the bad guy and save the day. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics team of the same name, Big Hero 6 took home a well-deserved Academy Award as the year’s best animated feature. At a time when Marvel Studios’ live-action films rule the box office, Big Hero 6 holds its own as one of the best superhero movies ever made.
A Goofy Movie
Included on this list almost entirely based on its nostalgic appeal, Disney’s 1995 animated film about the relationship between Goofy and his son, Max, is a touchstone film for an entire generation. The silly story follows Goofy’s attempts to connect with his teenage son on a fishing trip that — as with most things Goofy does — devolves into chaos almost from the start. Although it didn’t do particularly well at the box office or among critics, A Goofy Movie developed a massive following among kids of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and prompted no small amount of excitement when it was announced as part of the Disney+ launch-day library.
Guardians of the Galaxy
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when every Marvel movie wasn’t initially expected to be a surefire blockbuster, but that was the environment when Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters in 2014. The cosmic adventure was led by a cast of characters then-unknown to mainstream audiences, played by relatively low-profile actors, and co-written and directed by indie filmmaker James Gunn. As if that wasn’t enough of a gamble, it put a talking raccoon and a sentient tree only capable of uttering one sentence front and center in its featured cast. And it went on to become one of the biggest, most critically acclaimed Marvel movies of all time. Not too bad for a bunch of cosmic a-holes, eh?
The Marvel movie that started it all, Jon Favreau’s 2008 film took a C-list superhero and turned him into a global icon, thanks to a brilliant performance by star Robert Downey Jr. and inspired casting and writing that firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a franchise to be reckoned with. The story of a brilliant industrialist playboy who develops a powerful suit of armor that lets him become a superhero, Iron Man is the foundation that the MCU is built on, and the film’s legacy reverberates throughout the MCU to this day.
Miracle on 34th Street
There are more than a few films considered to be true Christmas classics, but few have the generation-spanning longevity of Miracle on 34th Street. The 1947 film chronicles the events that occur when a department store Santa Claus named Kris Kringle insists that he’s the real deal, and ends up going to court to prove it. The film won three Academy Awards, and even received a nomination in the prestigious Best Picture category. It has remained a staple of holiday season programming for more than 60 years now.
The 56th animated feature from Disney’s animation studio, Moana tells the story of a young girl raised to be the next chief of her Polynesian village. Not content to stay on her small island, she embarks on an ocean-spanning journey to find the legendary demigod Maui, return a magical artifact to its island home, and save her village from the mysterious blight that threatens it. Along with breathtaking animation and a phenomenal voice cast led by Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement, and newcomer Auliʻi Cravalho (as Moana), the film also features originals songs from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and a beautiful score inspired by the film’s Polynesian setting and culture.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
The first film in what would become the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Curse of the Black Pearl offered audiences their first introduction to Johnny Depp as the pirate Jack Sparrow — an iconic performance that not only led to multiple sequels but also brought the entire pirate movie genre back into the spotlight. Given that the 2003 film was based on a classic Disney theme park ride, that’s no small feat. The massive success of the franchise following this initial film turned it into a Hollywood staple for nearly a decade. Depp is joined by Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush in the dark fantasy film, which also holds the status of being the first PG-13 movie released by Walt Disney Pictures.
The Muppet Movie
The very first theatrical film featuring Jim Henson’s beloved creations, The Muppets, this 1979 musical adventure has Kermit the Frog leaving his home in the swamp on a cross-country journey to Hollywood. Along the way, he encounters Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the rest of his Muppets pals, who share his show business aspirations and join him on his wild road trip. Packed with hilarious cameos and featuring Henson’s brilliant knack for blending elements for children and adults, The Muppet Movie stands as one of the greatest Muppets projects ever made, and inspired multiple sequels, spinoffs, and countless other projects over the years.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Some consider it a Halloween movie, while others classify it as a Christmas film, but one thing all of its fans agree on is that Tim Burton’s weird, wonderful 1993 stop-motion film is a masterpiece of music, animation, and storytelling. The movie tells the story of Jack Skellington, the king of a colorful village where every day is Halloween, and his discovery of a Christmas-themed village that fascinates him and offers him an escape from his daily, scary routine. His efforts to understand the holiday take a disastrous turn when he’s forced to fill in for Santa Claus when his actions endanger both holidays. The film capped off its critical and commercial success by becoming the first animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Visual Effects category.
You’re killing me, Smalls! David Mickey Evans co-wrote, directed, and narrated this heartwarming film about a young boy in 1962 who moves to a new town in California’s San Fernando Valley and becomes friends with a group of local kids who play baseball in a sandlot near his home. The coming-of-age story chronicles his struggle to fit in, his strained relationship with his stepfather, and the close friendship he develops with the neighborhood kids as they have all manner of adolescent adventures — and finally, how all of those moments shape the rest of his life. Infinitely quotable and full of memorable scenes, The Sandlot is a little movie with plenty of heart.
Star Wars (all of them)
It might seem like cheating to lump all of the Star Wars films together, but one of the most iconic sci-fi sagas of all time is exactly that: A long story told in one amazing chapter after another. No matter which viewing order for the Star Wars movies you prefer, they’re best experienced as the generation-spanning narrative the franchise has become rather than a set of isolated films (even though everyone has an opinion about the best Star Wars movies). From the glory days of the Jedi Order in The Phantom Menace to the post-Jedi environment of The Force Awakens, there’s a lot to follow in the timeline of the Star Wars universe, and there’s a very good reason the series is widely regarded as one of the greatest cinematic franchises of all time.
The film that made Pixar a household name and one of the giants of the animated movie world, 1995’s Toy Story is set in a world where toys come to life the moment humans aren’t paying attention to them. The ridiculously high-profile cast for the film includes Tom Hanks as Woody, a cowboy doll who begins to feel his status as Andy Davis’ favorite toy threatened when the boy gets a new, flashy action figure named Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen). Silly hijinks ensue, of course, but the film truly succeeds in its thoughtful exploration of adolescence, friendship, acceptance, and everything we leave behind as we grow older. Considered one of the greatest animated movies ever made, Toy Story was nominated for three Academy Awards, spawned three sequels, and was inducted into the National Film Registry in its first year of eligibility.
Its visual effects don’t exactly hold up today, but when TRON hit theaters in 1982, there was nothing that looked even remotely like it. The story of a software programmer who’s transported inside the mainframe of a massive computer and must find his way out of the digital world he inhabits, TRON prompted writer and director Steven Lisberger to create an entirely new type of studio dedicated to blending computer animation and live-action acting in a single feature — something that was so unusual at the time that even the Motion Picture Academy of America wasn’t sure how to classify the film initially. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner starred in the film, which went on to become a cult hit and inspire a sprawling franchise of video games, comic books, and animated spinoffs, as well as a 2010 live-action sequel.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Robert Zemeckis directed this 1988 film set in a version of 1947 Hollywood in which humans coexist with animated characters. Bob Hoskins plays a private detective investigating the murder of a prominent businessman, only to find himself teamed up with Roger Rabbit, the zany cartoon star who has also become the chief suspect in the businessman’s death. Credited with renewing interest in the golden age of animation and sparking Disney’s renaissance as a movie studio, Who Framed Roger Rabbit ended up winning three Academy Awards for its unique blend of classic cartoons and crime noir.
Ron Howard directed this 1988 fantasy film based on a story penned by George Lucas, and the end result was a movie unlike anything else in the genre. Willow follows a reluctant farmer played by Warwick Davis who finds himself thrust into a magical adventure when he finds an orphaned human baby. His efforts to return the baby put him in the center of a battle for the fate of the world, with a group of colorful characters — including a charismatic mercenary played by Val Kilmer — accompanying him on his quest. The recipient of two Academy Award nominations, Willow featured impressive visual effects produced by Industrial Light and Magic and a memorable story that reignited interest in the high fantasy genre.
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