Last Updated: February 17th
Disney entered the streaming wars in a big way with the launch of its own streaming platform, Disney+. But unlike other rookie streaming services, Disney’s already got a vault full of animated classics and superhero blockbusters ready to be unlocked when fans subscribe. There are hundreds — yes hundreds — of movies coming to Disney+, including Avengers team-ups, Star Wars trilogies, and beloved animated throwbacks, so of course you’re going to need help combing through the library to find those must-watch hidden gems. We’ve done the hard work for you and researched the Disney+ lineup to find the films worth subscribing for.
Here are the Disney+ movies that deserved to be watched first.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Run Time: 181 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
The epic conclusion to a ten-years-in-the-making story arc, Endgame exceeded all expectations, rounding up the team of beloved superheroes one last time to take on Thanos and undo the destruction he caused in Infinity War. Hats off to the Russo brothers for crafting this masterpiece (and giving us a final glimpse of “America’s a**”). The best thing about Endgame being offered on Disney + though? You can take as many bathroom breaks while watching it as you want.
Run Time: 160 min | IMDb: 8.7/10
What can we say about Hamilton that hasn’t already been said? It’s become one of the most prestigious, boundary-crossing musical masterpieces to ever hail from Broadway. It’s impacted the culture in ways we’re still learning about, which makes Disney’s choice to stream the show, complete with its original cast, so groundbreaking. An entirely new audience is being introduced to an art form that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to enjoy. Of course, there’s also the undisputed fact that this musical — a retelling of America’s underrated founding father in hip-hop form — is just unrivaled in its greatness. You won’t really understand the hype until you see it for yourself.
Star Wars Original Trilogy
Look, it’s too difficult to pick between the three masterpieces in George Lucas’ original trilogy, so just watch them all okay? You’ll get to follow Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on his journey from becoming a farmhand to a Jedi, teaming up with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to take down an evil empire, and to confront his past in a fight with the all-powerful Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) and we won’t have to wade into the war of which Star Wars film is best. Win, win.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Rob Reiner’s ridiculous fantasy romp never fails to entertain, no matter how many times you re-watch it. It plays with classic fairytale tropes in inventive, increasingly absurd ways without ever sacrificing its story — the quest for true love. Cary Elwes plays Wesley, a farmhand who falls in love with a beautiful maiden named Buttercup (Robin Wright), but a cruel twist of fate separates them, leading him to become a notorious pirate and her to be betrothed to a truly awful king. It’s a bit Monty-Python-esque but with more swoon-worthy moments and, if you can believe it, memorable jokes.
Black Panther (2018)
Run Time: 134 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Ryan Coogler’s superhero flick revolutionized the Marvel Universe and with the tragic passing of its star, Chadwick Boseman, what the film was able to accomplish for the Black community feels all the more worth celebrating. The film gives us a fully-realized, otherworldly Wakanda as it follows the trials and tribulations of a newly-minted king, T’Challa (Boseman). While trying to govern his people and embrace his Black Panther alter-ego, he’s also got to fight off a would-be usurper in Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, who may just be the best villain Marvel has ever seen.
Run Time: 104 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Say what you will about the sequels and prequels and alternate-timeline takes on this comic book franchise but 20 years later, the original entry in the X-Men universe still works. Not only does it properly introduce a slew of iconic characters like Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto, it also gave us Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The special effects may be a bit outdated but the essence of what X-Men (the comic) was is hidden in this movie, a superhero action flick that basically launched the blockbuster era we’re now living in.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
When you think of Disney, you think of most of the movies that populate this list — animated comedies, childhood classics, superhero sagas, you get it — but every so often the studio churns out a family-friendly biopic that navigates tricky waters and teaches audiences about our shared history. Remember The Titans (also here) did that well, but this movie, which sees Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson — one of the unsung African-American mathematicians who helped Nasa launch a man into space — does it better, introducing us to a group of Black women (Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae included) who battled racism and sexism in their industry to take a giant leap for mankind.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Run Time: 123 min | IMDb: 7/10
Brie Larson brings this icon to life on the big screen, marking the first Marvel superheroine to get her own solo movie, a move that many consider to be overdue. It’s a kick a** journey filled with nostalgic ’90s callbacks, comic book references, eye-popping battles, and a de-aged Nick Fury.
Run Time: 162 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
James Cameron’s fantasy epic changed the motion-capture game when it was released 10 years ago and while we’re still waiting for those planned sequels, it’ll be nice to revisit the wild, mysterious world of Pandora in the meantime. The story — a paraplegic Marine is torn between completing his mission and being loyal to the people he feels at home with — is meh, but the action and visuals are compelling enough to carry it forward.
Monsters Inc (2001)
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 8/10
Still one of the best Pixar films out there, this early-aughts classic introduced us to a whole new world of thrills and chills when it revealed just how much work goes into scaring the sh*t out of kids every night. The real star here though (besides the exceptional animation) is the voice work from John Goodman and Billy Crystal.
The Lion King (1994)
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
Yeah, Beyonce’s version will eventually land on Disney+, but no offense to Queen Bey, there’s just no beating the original. The Elton John-created soundtrack, the Shakespearean story, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and Jeremy Irons as a sassy Scar. What’s not to love about this classic?
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Run Time: 121 min | IMDb: 8/10
Five years ago, James Gunn revolutionized our idea of what a superhero movie could look like with this space comedy about a bunch of a**holes sent to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt plays Star-Lord, a snarky everyman who gets caught up in an intergalactic battle and meets some interesting friends along the way. Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista also star, but no one gets as much love as Vin Diesel, who managed to put on a masterclass in acting while repeating the same phrase for two hours.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Run Time: 113 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Denzel Washington and Will Patton star in this feel-good football film, based on another true story of a coach who defied a bigoted small town to lead his school’s first interracial sports team to victory. Washington shines as the no-nonsense Coach Boone while Patton plays his reluctant right-hand, Coach Yoast. Squint your eyes and you’ll also see a baby Ryan Gosling out on the field.
Iron Man (2008)
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
The superhero film that launched a franchise, this origin story from Jon Favreau remains one of the better Marvel installments. Robert Downey Jr. introduces us to the wise-cracking billionaire-philanthropist-playboy who we’d all eventually come to love, giving him a complicated, layered backstory and plenty of swagger.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Run Time: 172 min | IMDb: 8/10
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer star in this family drama based on the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers. Andrews plays a nun named Maria who leaves her Austrian convent to serve as a governess to a respected Naval officer and widower. As she wrangles his unruly brood and teaches them all how to sing, the Nazis begin their invasion, forcing the family to make difficult decisions about their future.
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Disney switched up its formulaic princess model with this icy musical about two orphaned sisters who must work together to protect their kingdom from evil forces. Kristen Bell plays Anna, the perky protagonist and younger sibling to Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), a young woman with extraordinary abilities who must hide her powers from the world. The songs are terrific, the animation is superb, and you can’t tell us that you don’t love Josh Gad as a talking snowman.
Run Time: 135 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
This stirring sports drama based on a true story follows Kurt Russell’s Herb Brooks, a legendary hockey coach given the impossible task of whipping a team of rookies and rejects into shape before the 1980 Olympics, where they’d nab a history-making win over a seemingly invincible Russian squad.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Run Time: 139 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Julie Andrews in anything is good, but she feels born to play the role of Mary Poppins in this classic musical about the magical, mysterious British nanny who must shape up the unruly children of a harried London banker and his wife. She’s charming, she’s mischevious, she’s practically perfect in every way. So is Dick Van Dyke, despite, you know, that accent.
The Princess Diaries (2001)
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Gary Marshall. Julie Andrews. Anne Hathaway. Do we really need to explain why this teenage drama about a nerdy outcast who discovers she’s actually the heir to the throne of a foreign kingdom became a cult classic and one of the most influential films of a generation? No? Okay, good.
Inside Out (2015)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Warning: watching this animated flick that personifies the inner emotions of a preteen girl going through the turmoil of a cross-country move will bring out all the feels. Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling lead the stellar voice cast for this one but please, don’t talk to us about Bing Bong. It’s still too soon.
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Run Time: 79 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
One of the best things about Disney opening its vault for the new streaming platform is fans getting the chance to revisit hidden gems like this ’60s animated classic. It’s a trippy, psychedelic take on the legend of King Arthur, with a forgetful Merlin nearly managing to get the boy king killed before he can pull the sword from the stone, turning him into all kinds of forest creatures and battling an evil witch along the way.
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 8/10
Sorry to Will Smith, but there’s a superior Genie in our book. He’s big, blue, animated, and voiced by Robin Williams. Come for the musical numbers, stay for Williams’ outlandish comedy, and the gorgeous artwork.
Robin Hood (1973)
Run Time: 83 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
There are too many Robin Hoods on film to count at this point, but there’s something special about this take on the masked outlaw, who’s imagined here as a sly fox while the rest of the key players take on other humanoid animal forms.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Having a scientist father who regularly experiments in your house sounds fun, until those experiments end up shrinking your entire family, forcing you to navigate very real household dangers while he cleans up the mess.
Cadet Kelly (2002)
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 5.5/10
Sure, on paper, Shawn Ashmore is Hilary Duff’s love interest in this comedy about a ditzy teen who gets sent to military school and faces off against a strict drill instructor. But anyone with eyes can see the real chemistry is between the former Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens star Christy Carlson Romano. Watching these two go at it is all the fun you need.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Run Time: 80 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
Another forgotten animated classic, this fantasy film follows a young boy and his group of misfit friends as they race to find a dark, magical weapon before an evil tyrant bent on ruling their world can do the same.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Run Time: 83 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
You can create painfully awkward live TV musicals. You can stick Melissa McCarthy in an octopus onesie. But you can’t touch this Disney classic about a mermaid princess who strikes a terrible bargain with a sea witch in exchange for the chance to walk on land and find her prince.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
This second installment in the Captain America series follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he tries to acclimate to life in the 21st century. He makes friends in Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and finds a tense partnership with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, but when a familiar face from his past returns to wreak havoc, Rogers learns some disturbing truth about the organization to which he’s devoted his life.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Run Time: 79 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Based on a children’s story from Roald Dahl, this imaginative tale of an orphan who befriends a group of anthropomorphic bugs living inside a giant peach marked a breakthrough in animation when it was first released. It’s deliciously weird and fun, and it’s got Tim Burton all over it.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Demi Moore, Jason Alexander, and Kevin Kline lend their voices to this colorful tale of a deformed bell ringer who must fight his guardian, an evil government minister, to help his gypsy friend. There’s talking gargoyles, some great musical numbers, and the animation is breathtaking.
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 5.3/10
Robin Williams stars in this absurd comedy about a hair-brained professor who invents a rubber-like bouncy substance he calls “Flubber” that quickly grows beyond his control. It’s ridiculous, and the acting is over-the-top, but it’s Robin Williams, so it’s also funny as hell.
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Another animated classic, the story of Mulan might be getting a live-action version in 2020, but this animated rendition of a young woman who poses as a man to prevent her father from serving in the Emperor’s army (and defeats the greatest threat to China’s dynasty) is still the standard by which all other animated movies are measured.
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
There’s so much to love about this cult favorite Disney Channel original. It stars Erik von Detten as Andy “Brink” Brinker, a young skater who shreds for fun with his crew and often squares up against another team of sponsored skaters led by a kid named Val. Brink’s no sell-out, but when his family begins to struggle financially, he joins the opposing team, skating for them to earn some extra money while keeping it a secret from his friends.
Smart House (1999)
Run Time: 82 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
In 1999, Disney Channel gave us a moment of true brilliance when it delivered this work of art about a family who moves into a fully-automated dream house controlled by an operating system named PAT, voiced by Katey Sagal. All’s well and good until PAT begins to take control of the family’s lives, holding them hostage in their own home.
The Aristocats (1970)
Run Time: 78 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Look, Disney usually banks on cute canines to sell movies, but cat people will always have this animated classic about a reckless alley cat who must save a family of Parisian felines set to inherit their owner’s fortune when an evil butler takes matters into his own hands. Jazz-loving cats? Who knew?