The best Disney Plus movies available in Australia
Disney Plus is gathering all your favourite franchises in one place. Here are the best movies you can stream on day one.
Disney owns everything, from Star Wars to Marvel to The Simpsons to pretty much your entire childhood. On November 19, when Disney Plus launches in Australia, the House of the Mouse will own your streaming dollars as well. Here are 10 great movies to start your journey with.
15. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
In the surprisingly crowded based-on-a-Disneyland attraction genre, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie leaves the competition in its wake. Sorry Tomorrowland and The Haunted Mansion, it’s true.
Johnny Depp plays a wobbly, drunken buffoon of a pirate that largely carries the film, while Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley provide the forbidden love angle. It’s a gorgeous but shallow, simple but rollicking adventure, that goes down easily when you want to switch your brain off.
14. Empire of Dreams
Like a Jedi Master hiding out on a backwater swamp planet, Empire of Dreams has been almost impossible to track down despite having a legendary reputation among the devout. Until now, the only way you could watch this exhaustive two-and-a-half hour doco on the making of the original Star Wars trilogy was by spinning up the bonus disc of the 2004 DVD box set. Fortunately, that all changes with Disney Plus. Using fascinating archival footage and modern interviews, Empire of Dreams covers the production of George Lucas’ magnum opus in a chronological fashion, from the early drafts of A New Hope‘s script through to the cinema release of Return of the Jedi.
13. National Treasure
We’re not going to pretend National Treasure is a cinematic masterpiece, but Nicolas Cage does steal the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives in Washington DC because it contains clues hidden by the Freemasons, clues that lead to a long-hidden Knights Templar treasure.
If that ridiculous set-up doesn’t work for you, we’re very different people. Part Indiana Jones, part The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure holds no pretensions of being high art. It is, however, quite a bit of fun.
If you thought Up and Toy Story 3 tugged at your emotions, be prepared to collapse into a sobbing foetal ball by the end of Coco.
Miguel, a young Mexican boy with the gift of music rebels against his music-hating family and, without going into too much detail, ends up trapped in the afterlife. Based on the Día de Los Muertos festival, the Land of the Dead is a spectacular setting for this adventure, vibrant and colourful, and (ironically) bursting with life.
This is Pixar at its absolute best, heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure.
11. Thor Ragnarok
Best Marvel Movie on Disney Plus
Although Guardians of the Galaxy took Marvel into weird space opera territory first, Thor Ragnarok was the moment it became clear anything goes in the MCU.
With Taika Waititi at the helm, there’s more quirky irreverence here than you’d expect from a film with a $180 million budget; there are moments when it feels like the most expensive Flight of the Conchords episode ever made. Cate Blanchet is fantastic as the scenery-chewing evil sister Hela, Hemsworth is funnier than ever as Thor, and Jeff Goldblum plays, well, Jeff Goldblum. It’s not only the funniest Marvel movie, it’s the best.
10. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
The best Star Wars movie on Disney Plus
You’ve no doubt seen Empire countless times before. Hoth. Yoda. “I am your father”. An extremely questionable kiss between siblings. But you’ve never seen it like this. One of the unexpected perks of Disney Plus is having the entire original Star Wars trilogy in 4K resolution with vibrant HDR colour for the first time ever. Lightsabers glow with new brilliance, perfect for lore nerds that want to pore over every tiny detail in newly-lit background sets. I’d pay $9 a month just for these.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
Under the questionable leadership of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the adopted daughter of a tyrant, a raccoon, a tree, and a green wrestler that doesn’t understand metaphors need to band together to recover one of those pesky Infinity Stones. It’s colourful, exciting, and genuinely funny.
8. Home Alone
The best Christmas flick on Disney Plus
Nothing says “family-friendly entertainment” like the violent disfigurement of two home invaders, abandoned children, gross parental negligence, and the creepiest Christmas music (courtesy of John Williams) ever composed. And yet, despite the horror on paper, Home Alone remains a Christmas classic, thanks in no small part to Macaulay Culkin’s charming portrayal of Kevin McCallister and John Hughes’ ability to capture the world as it appears to the young of heart. Joe Pesci’s rare comedic turn as one of the bungling burglars is the icing on the cake.
7. Free Solo
The best documentary on Disney Plus
This Oscar-winning documentary takes a vertigo-inducing look at Alex Honnold, one of the world’s greatest free solo climbers (for the uninitiated that’s climbing sans rope), as he attempts to scale Yosemite’s infamous El Capitan, a sheer granite face nearly a kilometre straight up. “Everyone who has made free soloing a big part of their life is dead now,” says Tommy Caldwell, one of Honnold’s climbing buddies. This is a tale about the remarkable humans amongst us, and what drives them to reach these, er, heights.
6. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Writer/director J.J. Abrams was given a near-impossible brief when the reigns of George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away were passed to him: set-up a new generation of heroes and villains while simultaneously reminding everyone why they loved Star Wars in the first place.
Eschewing the green-screen sets and trade disputes of the prequels, The Force Awakens returns to the practical effects and rollicking adventures that defined the original trilogy.
Some critics derided it as derivative… but that was pretty much the entire point. Adam Driver shines as the conflicted big-bad Kylo Ren, and Daisy Ridley, Oscar Issac and John Boyega ooze charisma as the unlikely heroic trio. It’s not as bold (or divisive) as Rian Johnston’s follow-up The Last Jedi, which arrives on Disney Plus on December 26, but it captures the original spirit like nothing else.
5. The Lion King
With Disney’s strange, comedically flat 2019 “live-action” reboot still fresh, there’s no better time to go back to one of the best animated movies from Disney’s Renaissance period. Take all the realistic fur you want – nothing compares to the charm of the original hand-drawn animation and the catchiness of the original soundtrack.
The 2019 version may have the star power of Beyoncé and Donald Glover, but our 90s hearts will forever belong to JTT, Rowan Atkinson and Jeremy Irons.
4. The Rocketeer
Although it received generally positive reviews upon release in 1991, The Rocketeer has undergone something of a critical re-evaluation of late. Possibly because it’s an early superhero film owned by Disney; possibly because it’s newly satisfying to see Nazis get punched in the face in 2019.
The Rocketeer, like Indiana Jones before it, takes its inspiration from the rollicking Saturday morning serials of yore. We can’t pretend it’s anywhere near as good as Indy, but it does have a really cool jetpack and you probably haven’t seen it for 25 years.
3. Toy Story 3
Best Pixar movie on Disney Plus
In case you’d somehow forgotten, Disney owns Pixar as well. Unfortunately, a bunch of the studio’s best work – the tearjerkers Up and Coco, and the superheroics of The Incredibles 2 – are missing from the launch-day line-up. Until they return home, Toy Story 3 is hard to beat.
As Andy heads off to college, Buzz, Woody and co. attempt to make a new life for themselves at the Sunnyside Day Care Centre. But under the tyrannical rule of Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, their seemingly idyllic second lease on life turns into a nightmare. Few films about talking toys touch on the tragedy of the human condition and the inevitable passage of time with this much poignancy.
2. The Muppets
Rebooting The Muppets for modern audiences that have little attachment to the source material was always going to be a tough task, but Disney nailed it. The secret to the success of the 2011 spin on Jim Henson’s wackiest menagerie lies in a few key hires.
Amy Adams is charming as always and Jason Segel is hilarious in the lead human role, but it’s Flight of the Conchords’ Bret Mckenzie’s work as musical supervisor that elevates this to classic status. His tune, “Man or Muppet”, the film’s emotional core, won him an Oscar for best Original Song. It’s not quite the Rainbow Connection for a new generation, but it’s close.
Like The Lion King, Aladdin recently suffered the indignity of a modern retelling; an unnecessary coat of paint given just how well the original still holds up. A classic tale of forbidden love across class bounds and, you know, flying carpets, Aladdin features arguably the best overall soundtrack of the classic Disney musicals. Taking place in Agrabah, a “mystical land of magic and sand”, the romance between “street rat” Aladdin and Princess Jasmine drives the plot forward. But it’s the all-time legendary performance by the late, great Robin Williams as the Genie that propels it to its giddy heights.
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