Disney+ is home to many beloved films, but there are plenty of other movies on the platform that deserve a viewing. So much so, we’ve gone from A to Z to find them. Are they all pinnacles of cinema and not varying degrees of me being serious depending on my mood? Definitely (maybe).
Check out our list below for an A-Z guide to some of the “other” movies available on Disney+. For the most part, we’re highlighting films that aren’t Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars staples—with a few exceptions, because...this was difficult.
A is for Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The early 2000s were a weird time for Disney. In between the death of the Disney Renaissance and Pixar’s CGI animation boom, there were a few years when Disney was throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. Most of it flopped, like Chicken Little, Home on the Range, not to mention the deluge of direct-to-video sequels. Even the ones that worked, like The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo & Stitch, felt like minor successes within an overall directionless company.
The biggest risk at the time was probably 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which starred Michael J. Fox as a nerdy scientist embarking on a voyage to find the famed lost city. Serving as a competitor to DreamWorks’ more adult animated films, Atlantis was everything Disney animated films tried to avoid being at the time. It was dark, mature, and featured neither musical numbers nor silly animal sidekicks. It wasn’t a hit at the time, but it’s a movie that improves with age. Almost two decades later, Atlantis: The Lost Empire deserves a fresh look through a new lens.
Blank Check—starring Brian Bonsall (Worf’s son Alexander on Star Trek: The Next Generation)—is practically a parody of itself. In this ‘90s comedy, a kid finds himself in possession of one million dollars and proceeds to spend easily three times that. It’s a silly power fantasy that feels like it was trying to copycat the success of Macaulay Culkin’s Richie Rich (even though it came out 10 months earlier). If you want a trip down memory lane that comes across like a mix of Bart Simpson and that Parks and Recreation episode about Jean-Ralphio and Tom’s “End of the World” party, Blank Check is the perfect brand of ridiculous.
You know how I mentioned that the early 2000s were filled with terrible Disney direct-to-video sequels? What if I told you that one of them was good? Cinderella III: A Twist in Time is a direct-to-video movie that comes across like love and care were put into it plus a wicked sense of humor. This movie is bananas! It’s an alt-universe story where the wicked stepmother changes history so that the prince chooses Anastasia, a process that actually turns (almost) everybody into better people. Cinderella gains courage, Anastasia learns to love herself, and the prince is no longer a nameless suit with perfect lips. He’s hilarious. If you’ve ever seen that meme where the prince jumps head-first out a window for no reason, it’s from this movie.
This movie was the shit when I was growing up. It was Indiana Jones for all those times I wasn’t allowed to watch Indiana Jones movies. In this high-flying adventure, Scrooge McDuck and his niece and nephews come across a massive treasure that includes a genie who gives all four kids some wishes. Hijinks predictably ensue...until a wish gone wrong causes Scrooge to lose his fortune and home. Everyone has to band together to stop the evil Merlock, rescue the genie, and save the world.
Social distancing has made all of us more eager to see what life is like elsewhere. This recent Disneynature documentary, narrated by Meghan Markle, tells the story of two elephants (a mother and son) as they journey hundreds of miles across the Kalahari Desert. It’s a beautiful and touching look at how life always finds a way, a message that’s more important than ever right now.
F is for Flight of the Navigator
I’ve gotta be honest: The only reason this movie is on here is that my coworker Germain Lussier would kill me if it wasn’t.
Why am I crying? A Goofy Movie could’ve easily been another one of Disney’s awful attempts to be “cool” with a dose of corny Goofy antics. But the movie, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, turned out to be a heartfelt story about a father and son learning to get along as they grow apart. It’s also got killer fashion, great songs, and a final musical number that is guaranteed to make you want to get up and dance. We’re all seeing it eye to eye now.
Look, I know it’s stupid—OK, fine, watch Hocus Pocus instead...but don’t say I never gave you anything.
I is for Inside Out
As I said, I was trying to avoid recent mainstream flicks because duh there are already so many lists dedicated to those. But the only other movies for “I” are that weird Jonathan Taylor Thomas holiday movie and The Incredible Journey, i.e. watching animals suffer for 90 minutes. So I’m going with Inside Out, which is probably my favorite Pixar movie after Coco.
It’s a simple story told in such a beautiful, complex way. I really identified with Riley’s journey to understand the intricacies of her emotions, and that scene where she admits that she’s sad remains an instant tear-jerker for me. Plus...Bing Bong *proceeds to cry for 30 minutes straight.*
J is for James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach is a masterful story told in an equally masterful way. Presented as a combination of live-action and stop-motion animation, it’s a beautiful adaptation of the Roald Dahl story that follows a young boy who finds himself on a magical adventure to New York City inside a supersized peach. It’s about finding your own family and James bonding with a group of human-sized insects who become an integral part of his life.
K is for A Kid in King Arthur’s Court
This movie is an enigma in that it shipped James Bond and Rose from Titanic...as the freaking B-plot. Most of this trash is a kid way too old for the role making fake Big Macs and telling an evil sorcerer to “suck it.” It’s dumb, but it’s a funny dumb.
It’s Cars without the moral quandary of how everybody turned into cars.
This is going on the list because it’s amazing and no one can stop me! [Editor’s Note: I could, but I won’t. -Jill P.] The Mistle-Tones is a made-for-TV holiday movie that stars Tia Mowry as Holly, an office worker who dreams of joining legendary local singing group the Snow Belles. After being rejected by the group’s leader Marci (Tori Spelling), Holly sets out to make her own group with some of her workmates. It’s a silly premise that feels like it was trying to cash in on Glee...but it works surprisingly well! The songs are great, the dialogue is clever, and the chemistry between the two leads is solid. Make this a “Christmas in July” selection.
Christian Bale sings about the importance of unions. How was I not going to recommend this? [Editor’s Note: A seminal film of my childhood. -Jill P.]
Sterling K. Brown narrates this documentary that looks at 10 people who work at various parts of the Disney company, including Imagineers, animators, and animal caretakers, following them through their day and seeing the opportunities and challenges that come from working for the Walt Disney Company. Well, from Disney’s POV of course. It’s a slice-of-life journey that takes time to appreciate all the pieces that come together to make a day at the park or movie theater happen.
The Parent Trap might be one of the best remakes we’ve gotten in years. It starred Lindsay Lohan (in her first role) as Annie and Hallie, who discover they’re identical twins who were separated at birth. They decide to switch places so they can each learn about their others’ parents, and then conspire to bring them together. It’s a well-acted and charming movie that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Before she was Nakia in Black Panther, or a Tethered in Us—but after she won her Oscar and made her Star Wars debut—Lupita Nyong’o played the mother of a chess prodigy in this 2016 biopic of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a young woman from Uganda who became a Woman Candidate Master after winning matches at the World Chess Olympiads. It’s an inspiring success story, with a cast that also includes David Oyelowo as Phiona’s chess coach.
R is for Return to Oz
Be warned: This movie will fuck you up. Fairuza Balk stars in this sequel to The Wizard of Oz, which dives into Dorothy’s life after her trip to the Wonderful World of Oz. Her family thinks she’s having mental health issues, so she gets sent to a specialist for electroshock therapy (what the fuuuuuck). After her traumatic ordeal, Dorothy finds herself back in the Emerald City—only it’s not the magical place she remembers. The yellow brick road has been destroyed, the Emerald City lies in ruins, and all her friends have been turned to stone. Dorothy has to secure the help of new friends to stop Princess Mombi and the Nome King and save the Land of Oz once again.
Only so you can see the hairy butt.
When I first saw this movie as a teenage girl, it was simply a love story between a young woman and a boy who could never age, and I was sad that she chose to grow up instead of stay with him forever. Now that I’m an adult, I’m like “My. god, this is some messed-up shit.”
Tuck Everlasting is about a family who drank from a spring and inadvertently halted the aging process, rendering them immortal. These were people whose minds and hearts were centuries-old but their bodies were trapped in suspension—worse than vampires, as they couldn’t even be killed—and the older brother has (understandably) gone into a deep depression as a result. How the hell did I ever think this movie was romantic? It’s a tragedy! Anyway, it’s still good.
Now we start getting into some of the trickier letters, rendering it nearly impossible to not pick Up in this case. What else am I going to go with: The Ugly Dachshund? All dogs are beautiful, how dare you. “Squirrel!”
Sure why not. I’m not picking Valiant.
W is for Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Another well-known movie, but in this case my hands are tied because you must recommend it. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the kind of film that comes along once in a lifetime. It’s the perfect blend of comedy, commentary, and human connection—and most of the characters are cartoons! There’s nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said so many times before by better people. If you haven’t watched this one yet, there’s no better time.
Sorry, had to. Disney+ has the Broadway version of Newsies available to watch. More singing, more dancing, more unions. Sadly, no Christian Bale but bonus Jeremy Jordan, aka Winn from Supergirl.
Here’s your time to shine! Pull out a movie from the Disney+ repertoire and let us know in the comments what it is. Bonus points for those who pick a lesser-known movie, aka something not from Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars. And I’ll know who made it this far into the list if you include this line in your comment: “Newsies never say die.” We’re in on a secret now, you and I. Nobody can take that away from us.
Z is for Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
It all comes down to this. Seems fitting that this is where we’re going to end, because this movie is the reason I wanted to make this list in the first place. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is a Disney Channel Original Movie that takes place in the distant future of 2049. By then, we’ve got a privately-owned space station orbiting Earth that houses dozens of scientists and researchers, as well as their families. Zenon, the resident prankster, ends up uncovering a secret that could destroy the company behind the space station and, as part of a cover-up, is “grounded” to Earth. It’s a fun fish out of water story that features hilarious fashions and bizarre catchphrases like “Zetus Lapetus!” Plus, it’s the origin story behind one of the best songs in the galaxy. “Zoom zoom zoom.”
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