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The Best Movies and TV Shows to Binge-Watch on Disney+ Right Now

Including the latest Pixar film, Onward

Tim Surette
Disney+ Recommendations
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The Best Shows and Movies to Watch on Disney+

If you're one of the millions of Disney+ subscribers stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it's a perfect time to check out the streaming service's near-bottomless catalog and binge-watch a mix of classic Disney titles and new shows and movies from Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. But even with an overabundance of free time as we quarantine, it's hard to even scratch the surface. Here's a guide to a wide variety of the best Disney+ offerings -- from marquee titles to rewatch to deep cuts to watch for the first time -- to help you cut through the clutter. -Andy Myers

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Onward

Two elvish brothers in a fantasy-infused modern world go on a magical quest to resurrect their father in Pixar's new tearjerking comedy Onward, which is reminiscent of Monsters Inc. and Coco in all the best ways. Onward was an inadvertent box office bomb due to theater closures during the COVID-19 outbreak, but Disney's decision to rush it onto Disney+ should give it the attention it deserves. -Andy Myers

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Timmy Failure

Highbrow indie director Tom McCarthy (Spotlight, The Station Agent) makes his family film debut in this knockout Disney+ original movie, introducing prodigious child actor Winslow Fegley as a Portland-based kid private eye with a pet polar bear. Based on a popular book series, Timmy Failure is being eyed by Disney as a potential new franchise. -Andy Myers

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Fantasia

In 1940, Walt Disney Animation created its most experimental feature of all time -- Fantasia, a collection of abstract short vignettes visualizing pieces of classical music through animation. In case you can't stomach the entire 2-hour runtime, check out Fantasia's best and most famous segment, titled The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which stars Mickey Mouse and starts about 30 minutes in. -Andy Myers

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

This merrily macabre stop-motion collaboration between Tim Burton and Harry Selznick has become a perennial cult classic for both the Halloween and Christmas seasons. In a fantastical world, the king of Halloweentown is a skeleton named Jack Skellington (get it?). When he stumbles upon the meaning of Christmas, he accidentally gets Santa Claus kidnapped by the Oogie Boogie man, leading to a weird, wild adventure mashing up both holidays. Oh, and it's a musical too, featuring music by the inimitable Danny Elfman. -Andy Myers

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Avengers: Endgame

Have you heard of this one? A bunch of superheroes get together and fight a guy with a big jaw who wears a fancy glove? It's here, earlier than expected. But find a comfortable place to watch: It's over three hours long.

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Frozen II

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has limited our ability to venture outside of our homes, Disney released the highly anticipated sequel to the uber popular movie Frozen on Sunday, March 15, which is much earlier than we expected. The movie, which finds Elsa traveling to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond her kingdom after hearing a mysterious voice calling out to her, was not scheduled to arrive on the streaming service for another three months.

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Snow White

When Walt Disney set out to make the first ever animated feature, everyone thought he was crazy. But Snow White's enormous success set the stage for the entire legacy of Disney Animation, establishing techniques and story formulas that would be iterated upon for decades to come. It's astounding to see how well this classic holds up today, although it's disappointing that Disney's overcooked digital restoration has essentially painted over every frame, erasing the original work of many pioneering craftsmen and women. -Andy Myers

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The Simpsons

Thanks to Disney's deep pockets and aggressive market absorption, Disney+ gets more than 300 hours of exclusive content from Fox's animated series alone. Sure, The Simpsons has been available online for a while now, but it's never been this easy to watch or integrated into a service that you already use. Fair warning: Currently, older episodes are cropped to fit today's standard 16:9 aspect ratio. It's OK to have a cow, man.

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Steam Boat Willy

The animated introduction of Mickey Mouse as a mischievous agent of chaos is a far cry from the good-natured brand mascot we know today. Walt Disney produced this musical short in 1928 to explore the newfangled possibilities of synchronized sound -- and voiced all the characters himself. Public releases of this short had censored certain scenes for decades, but Disney+ has the full short in all its teat-poking glory. -Andy Myers

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Old Yeller

This early Disney live-action drama about a boy and his dog from 1957 is an evergreen tearjerker. Yes, you'll definitely cry, but there's a lovely rollicking adventure preceding the waterworks. Fun fact -- the boomers were so traumatized by Old Yeller's ending as children that they grew up to become the boomers we know today. -Andy Myers

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Avatar

Since Avatar broke every box office record more than 10 years ago, people have seemingly forgotten about it and moved on with their lives. But Avatar hasn't forgotten about you. It's been lurking all this time, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to emerge and demand your attention once again, with four sequels (yes four!) currently shooting back-to-back-to-back-to-back. You might as well get that refresher watch over with. -Andy Myers

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Phineas and Ferb

This surreal animated comedy series from the late 2000s gained a devoted fan base for its clever plotting and zany Nickelodeon-style humor. Throughout Phineas and Ferb, the two titular step-brothers scheme various hare-brained adventures to spice up their summer vacation. The breakout character, however, is their chittering pet platypus Perry, who moonlights as a secret agent and proves himself to be far more than a sidekick. -Andy Myers

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Honey I Shrunk the Kids

The iconic '90s comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids stars Rick Moranis as an absent-minded scientist whose experimental shrink-ray goes haywire. Four miniaturized children find their suburban backyard transformed into a labyrinth of oversized hazards -- like a giant ant -- that they must overcome. The film spawned multiple sequels, plus an upcoming reboot, which has miraculously lured Moranis out of his 23-year retirement. -Andy Myers

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Gravity Falls

Bold statement: It's quite possible that Gravity Falls is the best animated series that Disney Channel ever aired. The show follows siblings Dipper and Mabel on their summer vacations in the fictitious Oregon town of Gravity Falls, where they go on adventures that dabble in the supernatural and unexplained. Gravity Falls is weird enough to stand out from the rest of Disney's animated series, while also retaining the poignancy of the best family cartoons.

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The Rocketeer

This 1991 film starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, and Alan Arkin has it all! Set in the 1930s and based on the comic book character of the same name, The Rocketeer tells the story of a former stunt pilot who finds a jetpack and decides he's gonna use it to do some mighty heroic things. His actions naturally attract the attention of Howard Hughes and the FBI, who are looking for the missing jetpack, as well as some Nazis, because this movie is in the 1930s. There's also an aspiring actress, some mobsters, and plenty of proof that Marvel hasn't always been behind Hollywood's best superhero flicks. -Kaitlin Thomas

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Disneynature: Chimpanzee

The entire library of Disneynature documentaries is collected on Disney+, and there's no better place to start than Chimpanzee. The doc follows Oscar, an orphaned toddler chimp in the African jungle, who struggles to survive on his own before being adopted by an alpha male. In addition to the scientific ingredient, at the core is an inspiring story about the experience of forging a family of choice. -Andy Myers

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Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

This charming DCOM was technically a pilot for a series that never got made, which is kind of weird because though it wasn't good enough for a TV show, it apparently was good enough to become a three-movie franchise (all of which are on Disney+). The 1999 film is set in the year 2049 and centers on a 13-year-old girl named Zenon who lives on a space station that orbits the Earth. After some mischief, Zenon is sent to Earth as punishment, where her space slang, space fashion, and space name do not sit well with the Earthling kids. I hope I'm not spoiling anything when I say that Zenon and the Earth kids learn to respect each other's differences and gravity.

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Toy Story

As not only the first Pixar film but also the first 3D animated feature ever released, it's astounding that Toy Story is even good. The fact that this movie is still absolutely perfect is all the more miraculous. Between the insanely inventive animated world, the classic bromance of Woody and Buzz, and Randy Newman's pitch-perfect soundtrack, Toy Story is an absolute masterpiece. All four Toy Story films are available on Disney+, and they're all fantastic. -Andy Myers

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Flight of the Navigator

This adventure film came out during the mid-'80s, which was the heyday of kids-doing-things-they-shouldn't-be-doing movies like The Goonies, The Last Starfighter, and Explorers. When a Henry Thomas circa E.T.-looking kid named David is knocked unconscious and wakes up eight years later, scientists discover he has a ton of celestial charts in his head, and David discovers he has a inexplicable link to a crashed UFO. Turns out he can fly the ship and has to help its robotic resident get home.

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Brink!

Inline skating has never been cool, but there was about a three-month period when we thought it was cool. It was during this period that some Disney executive gave the green light to Brink!, one of a handful of films in existence to cover the sport. The 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie follows a young aggressive inline skater who joins a sponsored skating team to make ends meet, despite his moral objection to skating for anything but the fun of it. Yes, it's a movie about someone who sells out by making a few hundred bucks a week to rollerblade. It's aged like milk, which makes it a fun watch that will help us learn from our miskates. I mean mistakes!

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Sister Act

In Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg plays a glitzy showgirl who goes into witness protection from her mobster ex-boyfriend, hiding in disguise among a convent of nuns. The premise is milked for plenty fish-out-of-water laughs, the musical elements are top-notch, and Whoopi's enormous charisma makes the whole movie sing. -Andy Myer

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A Goofy Movie

This animated feature starring Goofy was a departure for Disney at the time, which was focused on retelling classic stories in films like Pocahantas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Critics didn't care for it -- perhaps it was too different -- but most of those critics were old people who had no business reviewing this movie anyway. The young folks loved it, and its story of single dad Goofy trying to reconnect with his teen son through a bonding road trip was surprisingly progressive for the time.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It would be easy enough to say that yeah, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are good movies and should be on this list, but we agree and just figured you knew that already. Instead, we're adding this animated Star Wars series set between the films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Six seasons aired starting in 2008, and the beloved cult show was revived for a seventh and final season that lives exclusively on Disney+.

25 of 42 Jimmy Chin/National Geographic

Free Solo

Free Solo has been streaming on Hulu since last year, but it moves to Disney+ as National Geographic is one of Disney's many properties. The film follows total psychopath pro climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to free climb -- read: no ropes or safety gear -- Yosemite's El Capitan, a sheer rock face that turns knees to jelly. Settle in, pop some Dramamine, and prepare to be wowed by his remarkable achievement.

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X-Men: The Animated Series

One well publicized element of the Fox buyout was Disney acquiring Fox's Marvel library, which includes illustrious lush superhero GIN GENIE... and also the X-Men. We're obviously more excited about the latter, because it brings the legendary '90s animated series to Disney's streaming platform. This iteration of mutants most closely models Jim Lee's early '90s comics, considered by some to be the benchmark, and while it features all of the typical trappings of a Saturday morning action-cartoon, it also hits on many of the serious societal themes that makes X-Men great while still being digestible to the kiddos. Marvel also managed to make this series when the company was practically broke, a feat in and of itself. -Tony Maccio

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Gargoyles

Gargoyles was uncommonly erudite for a Saturday morning cartoon, chock-full of references to Shakespeare and medieval Scottish history, with complex, serialized storylines. It prepared kids for prestige TV. We're still hoping Jordan Peele does a live-action adaptation someday. -Liam Mathews

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, directed by technophile Robert Zemeckis, is a groundbreaking combo of live-action film and hand-drawn animation that transcended its special-effects gimmick to become an enduring classic. Abundant pop culture pastiche and self-serious noir mystery somehow find a way to coexist and complement each other, creating a world still utterly unique and compelling more than thirty years later. -Andy Myers

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Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Nowadays, kids all over movies and TV have psychic powers, but Escape to Witch Mountain was ahead of its time. The 1975 film focuses on two orphaned siblings whose powers of telepathy and telekinesis draw the attention of a weird millionaire (this was back when a million dollars was a lot) who wants their abilities. What separated this from most of the movies Disney was making at the time was that it was a bit darker than the others, a departure for the company.

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Millions

From a somewhat uninspired setup -- two boys stumble upon a bag full of cash -- this family comedy/drama dives into unexpectedly poignant questions of morality, faith, and economic inequality. The film is directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle, who adds this film to his collection of number-based titles including Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, and 127 Hours. Millions is dazzling, imaginative, heartfelt, and despite the setup, just about as far as you can get from Blank Check (also streaming on Disney+). -Andy Myers

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Noelle

Anna Kendrick decks many halls alongside Bill Hader in this new original holiday movie, but unlike those Hallmark films, there will be no romance involved. Well, there better not be, because they play brother and sister, and the children of Santa Claus. Hader's character is next in line to take over as Santa, but he chickens out, leading Kendrick's Noelle to find him to save Christmas.

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The Mandalorian

For most people, The Mandalorian is worth the seven bucks a month a subscription costs and the rest of the Disney+ library is just there to fill time between episodes of the Star Wars series. Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal plays the titular character, a bounty hunter from the same planet as Boba Fett. The best thing about this big-budget, big-effects show? It's a space Western. Season 2 can't get here soon enough.

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Cool Runnings

This '90s dramedy, based on the true story of Jamaica's 1988 Olympic bobsled team, starred John Candy in one of his final roles. This is an underdog tale if there ever was one -- the team faces ridicule because they come from a land sans ice and snow -- and the surprising ending endures for its unconventional yet poignant tone. Cool Runnings is the ultimate feel-good movie for a feel-bad summer that just lost the Olympics. -Andy Myers

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Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Arguably the most attractive part of Disney+ is the treasure trove of Disney animated classics that are readily available to stream for the first time, and at the top of the list is the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland. For some reason, the film flopped in theaters when it was first released, but it found a second life after it moved to television in the mid-1950s and a third life in the early '70s when everyone was whacked out on LSD. It has a talking caterpillar who sucks on a hookah, so, uhhh, yeah, man, that tracks.

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Willow

The spectacular mythical fantasy Willow was created by George Lucas and Ron Howard, and conceived as the fantasy mirror-image of the Star Wars formula. Warwick Davis stars as a farmer who becomes an unlikely hero, journeying from one spectacular special effects set piece to another. It's one of those iconic '80s movies so drenched in nostalgia it doesn't actually matter if it's good. -Andy Myers

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Bao

If you didn't see Incredibles 2 in theaters, then you might have missed this Pixar short that ran before it (and was nowhere to be found when Incredibles 2 reached Netflix). It's about an aging woman who gets a second chance at motherhood when a steamed bun (a bao) comes to life. Bao is one of Pixar's best shorts, which is saying something, and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short film at last year's Oscars. For more Pixar shorts, check out SparkShort, a collection of short films from Pixar artists.

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High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Based on the show's name, we know what you're thinking. More saccharine future teen idols dancing and singing and holding hands? But did you notice all the colons in the title? That should give you an idea of this mockumentary's tone, which features fourth wall-breaking confessionals like The Office. It's both a sly send-up and homage to High School Musical, following a new production of the hit film at the fictional school where High School Musical was filmed. This is the show for people who grew up earnestly enjoying the original films, but also recognize the corniness behind them.

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The Emperor's New Groove

Coming just after the Disney Animation Renaissance of the '80s and '90s, The Emperor's New Groove was certainly the studio's least ambitious film in decades. And that's what makes it such a breath of fresh air -- the filmmakers threw out the entire Disney formula, instead focusing every element to serve the comedy. The result is a breezy, stylized, hilarious gem. -Andy Myers

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Waking Sleeping Beauty

No disrespect to The Great Mouse Detective, but the 1970s and 1980s weren't great for Disney animation. The documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty looks at the "Disney Renaissance," the era from 1989 to 1999 when Disney revived its animated presence with hits like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. This is for hardcore Disney fans, which is pretty much everyone.

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Holes

Before his public fall from grace and well before his return, Shia LaBeouf starred in this 2003 adaptation of the Louis Sachar novel. It's a seemingly simple story of delinquent boys sent to perform meaningless labor (digging giant holes) at a corrective camp. But it gets oh-so-weird, intricately weaving in flashbacks to multiple tall-tale timelines. On top of all that, Holes also delivers an urgent message about the moral bankruptcy of America's criminal justice system -- but does so without detracting from the bonkers fun. -Andy Myers

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Wall-E

Look, we could put any Pixar movie on here with no regrets (except The Good Dinosaur, that movie sucks), but we want to highlight Wall-E, the 2008 sci-fi film that turned kids into environmentalists. Like a select handful of Pixar movies, Wall-E has been hard to stream unless you have a Starz account, but with a Disney+ account, your kids have the source material to lecture you about irresponsible recycling.

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Empire of Dreams

A must-see for even mild fans of the saga, this feature-length documentary on the making of the original three Star Wars films presents the definitive origin story of the Star Wars phenomenon. Particularly awe-inspiring is the attention given to the elaborate craft of practical special effects, a largely lost art form in today's computer-dominated Hollywood. -Andy Myers