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The Best Movies on Disney+ Right Now (May 2022)

Chill with Polar Bear

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Tim Surette, Liam Mathews

The best movies on Disney+ may surprise you, at least a little bit. You expect Star Wars and Marvel movies, Pixar flicks, and classics from the Disney vault. And to be clear, all of those are represented to varying degrees on our list of the best movies to watch on Disney+ right now. But there are also plenty of cool movies you wouldn't necessarily associate with the Disney streaming service, like Oscar-winning music documentary Summer of Soul, hit Ryan Reynolds action comedy Free Guy, and arthouse film director David Lynch's fairly obscure family movie The Straight Story. The newest movie on our list is Polar Bear, an inspiring nature documentary from the makers of Penguins

You'll notice that movies like Stars Wars: A New Hope aren't on this list, but before you call us a bunch of bantha fodder, know that this is a list of the best movies on Disney+ right now. We already know one of the first things you did when you got Disney+ was to go through the good Star Wars films, so there's no need for them to be on here. Same with the bigger Marvel and Pixar movies from years past. This list is reserved for the new releases (whether they're new to everyone or just new to Disney+), the Disney+ originals that you can't watch anywhere else, hidden gems, and our own personal favorites, like the goofy '90s family comedy George of the Jungle, aka Brendan Fraser's peak.

More recommendations:

Last updated May 1; newer additions are at the top

Polar Bear 

For fans of: Ursus maritimus, Catherine Keener's voice

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Florian Ledoux/Disney

Director: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson
Stars: Catherine Keener, some polar bears
Genre: Documentary, Nature
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: n/a

Brr! This Disneynature documentary follows a polar bear as she grows up from a cub alongside her mother and brother to becoming a mama bear herself in an increasingly inhospitable climate. It's always been difficult to survive in the Arctic, but climate change has made it even harder than it used to be. This documentary doesn't shy away from that, but it's not all gloom and doom, either, as it focuses on themes of hope, resilience, and family that the bears embody. Catherine Keener narrates with her inimitable raspy voice. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]



Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u (A Sour Film)

For fans of: Olivia Rodrigo, road trips

Olivia Rodrigo, Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U

Olivia Rodrigo, Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U 

Interscope Geffen A&M

Director: Stacey Lee
Stars: Olivia Rodrigo
Genre: Documentary, Music
Rating: TV-14
Metacritic score: 66

Olivia Rodrigo began her career as a Disney Channel child actor and is currently the star of a Disney+ show, but her ascent to pop superstardom was not Disney-branded. Her debut album, Sour, has a Parental Advisory sticker and was released by Geffen Records, whose catalog includes albums from Nirvana and blink-182. But now Disney has found a way to directly profit off Sour with the Disney+ documentary driving home 2 u. The doc gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Rodrigo's chart-topping album and features new arrangements of some of the album's songs. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]



Turning Red

For fans of: Cute animals, coming-of-age stories, boy bands

Turning Red

Turning Red

Disney/Pixar

Director: Domee Shi
Stars: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy, Animation, Family
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 83

The early '00s get the animated period piece treatment in Pixar's latest family film. Turning Red follows Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old, boy band-obsessed Chinese-Canadian girl who suddenly starts turning into a giant red panda when she gets excited. It is, as you may have gleaned, a metaphor for puberty. It's a Pixar movie, so you know it's going to be emotionally resonant, fun for kids, and maybe even a little more fun for adults, and beautifully animated. The fur effects on this one are immaculate. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]



West Side Story

For fans of: Classic musicals, remakes, Spielberg

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno, Mike Faist, David Alvarez
Genre: Drama, Romance, Musical
Rating: PG-13
Metacritic score: 85

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is the kind of movie that makes the case that some remakes are good, actually. If you're familiar with the Broadway musical, the 1961 film, or even just Romeo and Juliet, you already get the general idea: In 1957 New York, a young couple fall in deep, sweeping love at first sight, but their burgeoning romance fuels an all-out war between two rival gangs. Yes, Spielberg's film has "I Feel Pretty," "America," and all the iconic Sondheim-Bernstein songs, but it also miraculously breathes new life into a familiar story with poignant updates (it's kind of about gentrification now! The Sharks actually speak to each other in Spanish!) and great performances from Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, and Rita Moreno, who starred in the original film and plays a whole new character here. It's a true old school movie musical, the kind of big, exuberant thing that'll make you lean back in your chair and say, "Ah, cinema." -Allison Picurro [Trailer]



Free Guy

For fans of: Video games, Ryan Reynolds

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy

Alan Markfield/20th Century Studios

Director: Shawn Levy
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery
Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Metacritic score: 62

This special effects-travaganza was one of the biggest box office hits of 2021 — a very weird year at the movies — and got unexpectedly positive reviews from critics who couldn't help but be charmed by Ryan Reynolds, one of Hollywood's most likable personas. Reynolds plays Guy, a non-player character in a video game who one day decides to take charge of his destiny and start doing what he feels like. This leads to him helping a gamer/computer programmer named Millie (Jodie Comer) try to take down an evil game company CEO (Taika Waititi) who stole code from her. It's a pleasant, undemanding watch that seems more like a straight-to-streaming movie than a theatrical blockbuster. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]




Eternals

For fans of: Marvel, Marvel schadenfreude

Eternals

Eternals

Marvel

Director: Chloe Zhao
Stars: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.
Genre: 
Superhero, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Rating: 
PG-13
Metacritic score: 
52

If you didn't go see Eternals in theaters last fall, you may have heard all about how it underperformed at the box office and with critics and audiences, and that it's the first unsuccessful Marvel movie since Thor: The Dark World. But now it's on Disney+, so you can watch it at home and decide for yourself whether it works or not. Maybe now that the stakes of its franchise-launching theatrical release aren't so high, director Chloe Zhao's superhero epic can be watched through new eyes and evaluated on its own merits. And maybe it still won't be very good. It's up to you! Either way, it's hard to not be intrigued by a movie whose cast includes a Snow, a Stark, a Hayek, a Jolie, and the creepy kid from The Killing of a Sacred Deer. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]




Encanto

For fans of: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Disney musicals, family

Encanto

Encanto

Disney

Director: Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith and Jared Bush
Stars: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo
Genre: Musical, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 75

Disney's latest animated movie hits Mickey's streaming service a month after it premiered to positive reviews in theaters. Encanto is another Walt Disney Animation Studios musical, featuring all-new songs from tunesmith Lin-Manuel Miranda that tell the story of a family in Colombia who are bestowed with magical powers. Well, all except for one of the daughters (Stephanie Beatriz), who must work to bring her family back together when their powers begin to disappear. Is it as good as Moana? Probably not, but nothing is. -Tim Surette [Trailer




The Beatles: Get Back

For fans of: John, Paul, George, and Ringo

The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back

Apple Corps Ltd.

Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr
Genre: Music, Documentary
Rating: Not rated
Metacritic score: 85

In 1969, a documentary crew filmed the Beatles as they were recording what ended up being their final album, Let It Be, and preparing for their famous concert on the roof of their label's office building, their final live performance, which was documented in the 1970 film Let It Be. This three-part, eight-hour docuseries is built out of the hundreds of hours of unused archival footage from those sessions. The film was painstakingly restored by director Peter Jackson, who cut it into a fly-on-the-wall documentary that simply shows the lads from Liverpool at work. It's the most unvarnished look at the Beatles' creative process ever, capturing them at unguarded moments of interpersonal tension and spontaneous joy. It will test the patience of anyone who isn't a Beatles diehard, but even casual fans will want to check out the complete rooftop concert in Part 3. -Liam Mathews [Trailer




The Rescue

For fans of: Happy endings after going through a lot to get there, group efforts

The Rescue

The Rescue

National Geographic

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 84

National Geographic's acclaimed documentary on the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue from Free Solo directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin premiered in early December, and it was worth the wait. It tells the thrilling stories of the divers who risked their lives to save members of a boys soccer team and their coach who were trapped in an underwater cave system. (The stories of the survivors were locked up by Netflix, which will air a miniseries about their ordeals next year.) It became a race against time, as an intensifying monsoon season threatened to cut the boys off for good. This is one of those documentaries where knowing how it ends does nothing to diminish the power of the story. -Tim Surette [Trailer




Jungle Cruise

For fans of: Swashbuckling adventures, a wisecrackin' Rock, totally OK movies

Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, and Jack Whitehall, Jungle Cruise

Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, and Jack Whitehall, Jungle Cruise

Disney

Director: Jaume Collet-Sera
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall
Genre: Action-Adventure
Rating: PG-13
Metacritic score: 50

Most people subscribe to Disney+ for the Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars movies, but let's not forget the lot from Walt Disney Pictures. (Yes, John Carter is on Disney+!) The latest big WD movie to hit Disney+ is the 2020 action-adventure Jungle Cruise, which, yes, is based on the Disneyland ride of the same name, but is more than just a guy on a boat making bad puns (though Dwayne Johnson does do an extended bit on that). Johnson plays a man with a boat who helps a woman (Emily Blunt) and her brother (Jack Whitehall) go deep into the Amazon to find a mystical place before the bad guys do. It's a family-friendly film that's entertaining but not TOO entertaining. -Tim Surette [Trailer]




Edward Scissorhands

For fans of: Swoon-worthy romance, gothic imagery, topiary sculptures

Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands

Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands

Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Metacritic score: 74

Director Tim Burton was inspired by the popular drinking game Edward Fortyhands when dreaming up this classic romantic fantasy film. While growing up in the suburbs, he watched his classmates tape 40oz bottles of malt liquor to their hands, which made him imagine "what if instead of bottles, the hands were scissors?" All right, that's a joke — Scissorhands came first, not Fortyhands — but still, the drinking game shows the cultural impact and legacy of the 1990 film, which was added to Disney+ in late 2021. It stars Johnny Depp as the titular Frankenstein's monster, a sweet, sensitive young man who's isolated from society because he's different but just wants to love. Depp and Winona Ryder, who plays Edward's love interest Kim Boggs, were at the peak of their powers, as was Burton, whose sense of gothic whimsy was perfected here. -Liam Mathews [Trailer]




Enchanted

For fans of: Amy Adams, princess parody, New York Frickin' City

Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey, Enchanted

Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey, Enchanted

Disney+

Director: Kevin Lima
Stars: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Comedy, Musical, Family
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 75

Step out of the usual Disney mold with this rom-com that's a wink and a nudge at Disney's animated classics and that finally hit Disney+ in late 2021. Amy Adams stars as Giselle, your typical singing and dancing wide-eyed animated Disney princess who gets transported to live-action New York City, where she gets life lessons in reality and New Yorkers get dazzled (or irritated) by her naïveté and innocence. It's appropriate for all audiences, with silly high jinks for the kids and Disney satire for the grown-ups. A sequel, Disenchanted, is due out in 2022. -Tim Surette [Trailer]




Hamilton: An American Musical

For fans of: American history, fake rap, Broadway musicals

Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Disney+

Director: Thomas Kail
Stars: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elizabeth Goldsberry
Genre: Musical, Historical, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Metacritic score: 90

If somehow you haven't already seen the concert film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda's era-defining Broadway musical, you might as well change that now. It's one of those rare cultural phenomena that actually live up to the hype. Don't let Miranda's cringe-inducing lip-biting selfie keep you from experiencing art that really is as good as people say it is. Miranda plays Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who rises from nothing to become one of the most influential voices in the creation of the American government. You've heard all about why it's culturally important, about how it brings hip-hop to musical theater and reclaims American history for people of color. But do you know how good a song "Wait for It" is? -Liam Mathews [Trailer]




Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles

For fans of: Billie Eilish, SoCal, orchestras supporting pop stars

Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles

Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles

Disney+

Director: Patrick Osborne and Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Billie Eilish
Genre: Concert film
Rating: TV-14
Metacritic score: n/a

Singer/artist/pop star Billie Eilish plays the entirety of her 2021 album Happier Than Ever in sequential order on stage at the famed Hollywood Bowl in this concert film that branches out from Disney+'s usual fare. Sometimes Eilish is on stage with just a drummer and guitarist for her more intimate songs, sometimes she's joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the grander songs. In interstitials, she's even animated almost like a Disney princess as she drives along the coast, and drones tower over Los Angeles to give a birds-eye look at the city. Watch it as a superfan or throw it on in the background during your cocktail party and you'll be fine. -Tim Surette [Trailer]




Science Fair/Own the Room

For fans of: Kids who are smarter than you, inspiring stories, STEM

Daniela Blanco, Own the Room

Daniela Blanco, Own the Room

Future of Work Film Inc.

National Geographic hosts a pair of films from directors Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster about kids making a difference in the world that are so delightful you'll want to watch more than one, which is why both are on this list. 2018's Science Fair follows nine kids from around the world as they compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and 2021's Own the Room follows five kids from different countries as they compete in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. The formula is the same because Costantini and Foster have found one that works well: These precocious kids are doing amazing things and inspiring others to do the same, not from any sense of self-interest, but from a desire to make the world a better place. This is hope for our future in documentary form. -Tim Surette [Own the Room Trailer | Science Fair Trailer]




George of the Jungle

For fans of: Brendan Fraser, live-action adaptations of old cartoons

Brendan Fraser, George of the Jungle

Brendan Fraser, George of the Jungle

Walt Disney Pictures

Director: Sam Weisman
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann, Thomas Haden Church
Genre: Comedy, Family
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 53

This 1997 comedy is one of those movies kids watched over and over again on VHS, and one of the main reasons why Brendan Fraser is currently beloved by the internet (hence its relevance on this list). Fraser plays the titular Tarzan-type dude who was raised by animals in the African jungle and is brought to San Francisco by Ursula Stanhope (Leslie Mann), his Jane. It's silly stuff — it's based on a Saturday morning cartoon from 1967, after all — but Fraser sells it with his sweet, wide-eyed naivete and gift for physical comedy. -Liam Mathews [Trailer




Free Solo

For fans of: Heights, people doing things that you would never do

Alex Honnold, Free Solo

Alex Honnold, Free Solo

Jimmy Chin/National Geographic

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Stars: Alex Honnold
Genre: Documentary, Sports, Thriller
Rating: NR
Metacritic score: 83

Disney+ is home to the 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, a white-knuckle thriller following mountain climber Alex Honnold as he attempts the absolutely unnecessary yet oh-so impressive task of free climbing — no harness, no safety net — Yosemite's El Capitan, a 3,000 foot tall sheer face of granite, against the will of gravity. While not for those with even the slightest hint of acrophobia, Free Solo is a mesmerizing character study of a man who has set his mind on achieving the impossible at the risk of his own life. It's not a spoiler to say he accomplishes his feat, either, but the interesting part is at what cost. -Tim Surette [Trailer]




Luca

For fans of: Cute monsters, sweet coming-of-age stories 

Luca

Luca

Disney/Pixar

Director: Enrico Casarosa
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Rating: PG
Metacritic score: 71

Pixar's most recent film is one of its lightest. Luca is a gentle, brightly colored romp through Italy in the late '50s from the point of view of Luca (voice of Jacob Tremblay), an anxious young sea monster who dreams of escaping his humdrum life as a goatfish herder and exploring life on the surface. But he's afraid, because he's always been told the surface world is dangerous, because humans want to kill sea monsters. He meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), a slightly older sea monster who regularly goes up on land. Alberto lets Luca in on a secret: When sea monsters get out of the water, they shapeshift into human forms. Together, they go on a journey of self-discovery and overcoming fear. Since the movie was released last summer, kids have found a new catchphrase to silence the nagging voice in their head that tells them they can't do something: "Silencio Bruno!" -Liam Mathews [Trailer]




The Straight Story 

For fans of: Rural Midwestern life, movies that make you go "WHAT?" when you find out who made them

Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story

Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story

Walt Disney Pictures

Director: David Lynch
Stars: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton
Genre: Drama, Adventure, Family
Rating: G
Metacritic score: 86

A wholesome hidden gem of a movie about an old man named Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) who drives his ancient John Deere tractor 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his ailing brother, to whom he hasn't spoken in a decade. The plot is really that simple, with Alvin encountering interesting people who help him along his journey. It's a plain-spoken, kind-hearted slice of Americana that still manages to avoid sentimentality. And the wild twist of this G-rated family film is that it's directed by David Lynch, the legendary autuer behind arthouse freakouts like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. Yes! In 1999, David Lynch made a Disney movie! And it's great! -Liam Mathews [Trailer]

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