The best movies on Disney Plus this month
Disney owns everything, from Star Wars to Marvel to The Simpsons to pretty much your entire childhood. On November 19, when Disney Plus launched in Australia, the House of the Mouse it began claiming your streaming dollars as well.
Here are 26 of the best movies on Disney Plus.
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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Few movies have been as divisive as the final two instalments to the Star Wars movie saga. They are both loved and loathed for wildly different reasons, but there’s absolutely no doubt that both movies are marvellous in big and small ways once you find your way through the fog of online discourse.
The Rise of Skywalker picks up its lightsaber more or less where The Last Jedi left it: Rey is learning to master her Jedi powers under the guidance of General Leia Organa, Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) in on a quest to max out his connection with the Dark side, and Finn, Poe, BB-8, Rose, and our favourite Chewy, they’re all here!
The Rise of Skywalker might not be the finale everyone was hoping for, but it’s still a fun way to spend your final hours inside George Lucas’ magnificent universe.
The addition of The Rise of Skywalker rounds out the movie collection on Disney Plus. So you can now marathon every movie back to back, and in 4K no less.
Remember the Titans
Most of the movies on this list so far are good for a goof. Comfort viewing. But 2000’s Remember the Titans is a family movie with something to say. This true story stars Denzel Washington as Coach Boone, a high-school football coach up against extreme racial prejudice in the early 70s Virginia.
It’s a real tearjerker but its star-studded cast (most before they were stars) and banging soundtrack (Creedence, Cat Stevens, The Temptations) make it more feelgood than not.
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.
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.
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.
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+ on December 26, but it captures the original spirit like nothing else.
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.
Beauty and the Beast
You can watch both the 1991 Beauty and the Beast animated movie and the recent live-action remake on Disney+. For all the gorgeous lushness and grandeur of the Emma Watson remake, nothing beats the beauty of the timeless original.
The combined musical genius of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken make the 1991 Beauty and the Beast a golden classic that never gets old. While down-to-earth Belle may not be everyone’s favourite Disney Princess (I’m still somewhat torn between Ariel, Belle and Mulan), just listen to the opening number and you’ll be watching impatiently for the on-screen appearances of Lumiere, Chip and Mrs Pott in no time.
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+. 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.
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.
The most anticipated movie of 2019 and the highest grossing box office film of all time, Avengers: Endgame concludes the Infinity War series with this epic finale in just over 3 hours.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or have some serious resistance to FOMO, you’ve probably already watched Endgame at least once since its release. But who can get enough of the MCU right?
Along with Endgame, you wouldn’t be the only one splurging on an Avengers movie marathon with the 4 preceding Avengers movies (as well as the 3 Captain America movies) also available on Disney+. So go ahead, we’re sure that Endgame will surely be worth another round of your screen time.
10 Things I Hate About You
If anything screams 2000s sleepover cult classic, it’s 10 Things I Hate About You. Who can resist another glimpse of a young Heath Ledger in this classic coming-of-age drama? Yes technically it was released in 1999, but if you’re anything like me, we had this on replay throughout the noughties — and we’re not about to stop now.
The beloved flick was sorely missed from the Disney+ launch library, but finally got rolled out on 19 December 2019. So bring out the popcorn already, and maybe a glass of wine (or two).
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
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+ 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.
For those who still shudder just thinking about the flop that was Dark Phoenix (sorry Sansa, we recognised you), you can now relive your favourite X-Men moments with 8 X-Men titles spanning X-Men (2000) all the way to X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) on Disney+ since 20 December.
Before Jennifer Lawrence and Mystique became synonymous for fans of X-Men’s soft franchise reboot that began with X-Men: First Class, true X-Men fans grew up with Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen’s Magneto.
If you miss the old Professor Xavier like I do, you can now binge-watch all the old X-Men movies in all their glory on Disney+. Plus, you can even indulge in some extra Hugh Jackman time with two solo Wolverine flicks also available (you won’t find the R-rated Logan though).
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.
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.
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.
Before Avengers: Endgame took the box office crown, James Cameron’s Avatar was in top spot for over a decade. It’s been a while since Avatar’s 2009 release, yet we’re still all waiting on tenterhooks for Avatar 2 (its December 2021 release is finally confirmed, thank god) — plus another 3, yes you read that right, planned sequels.
If you want a refresher to get the hype starting a little early before the long-awaited Avatar 2 rolls out, you know what to watch.
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.
Julie Andrew’s quintessential nanny never loses her heartwarming charm. Before you can finish saying supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Mary Poppins will have you singing along with her to “A Spoonful of Sugar”.
Even better, you can watch another generation of children (and parents) fall under the perfect nanny’s spell with the follow-up Mary Poppins Returns. And if the sequel leaves you wishing there had been a Julie Andrews cameo, you can catch her starring in The Sound of Music. If that’s not enough, check out Saving Mr Banks, the story behind the many challenges Walt Disney faced before Mary Poppins made it to the big screen.
Toy Story 3
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.
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.
Disney+ finally dropped the first four films in the Ice Age movie series on January 1, so it’s time to get cosy on the couch with some hot cocoa. The latest installment in the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Collision Course, will be released in mid January, so it really isn’t long now before you can binge-watch the entire Ice Age series on Disney+.
If you simply don’t have any better reason to watch Ice Age, hit play so you can at least check out the baby in Ice Age (you decide yourself whether he’ll grow up to be Adam Driver).
High School Musical
The entire season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is already all on Disney+, but if you just want to see a 19-year old Zac Efron again, you can watch the original three-part movie series too. You’ll be singing along with Troy and Gabriella in no time.
Better yet, Jonas Brother and Demi Lovato fans will surely get a laugh out of Camp Rock, another good old 2000s Disney Channel Original movie series that stars these ex-Disney stars.
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