Watched everything on Netflix? Disney+ has a seemingly endless selection of Marvel movies and plenty of Star Wars and Pixar fare too. Problem is, there’s so much stuff, it’s hard to know where to begin. WIRED is here to help. Below are our picks for the best movies on Disney+ right now.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
OK, so The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is only 44 minutes long, which doesn’t quite make it a feature film in the truest sense. But it’s also not The Star Wars Holiday Special—and that’s a good thing. ‘Tis the season for some feel-good holiday content, and in that sense, this special delivers the zany fun we’ve come to expect from the Guardians, plus a plot line that involves kidnapping Kevin Bacon, who seems thrilled to go along for the ride. Given James Gunn’s new role as architect of a bigger DCEU, it’s also worth savoring this little bit of holiday magic before his last gasp as a Marvel guy with 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
If These Walls Could Sing
Abbey Road Studios is best known as the place where the Beatles recorded some of their most iconic albums, including 1969’s Abbey Road. But the hallowed halls of this legendary music studio have played a much bigger role in the music industry, as it has hosted the likes of everyone from Elton John, Pink Floyd, and Aretha Franklin to Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Radiohead, Adele, Oasis, Kate Bush, and Frank Ocean. This documentary, which comes on the heels of Peter Jackson’s docuseries The Beatles: Get Back (which is also streaming on Disney+, and is highly recommended), is directed by Mary McCartney—daughter of Sir Paul—who practically grew up in the studio and, as such, is able to treat her subject with the reverence it deserves.
James Cameron’s Avatar was all anyone could talk about when it was released in theaters in 2009 and promptly went on to make more than $1 billion, becoming the cinematic iceberg that sank another Cameron epic, 1997’s Titanic, from its place as the highest grossing movie of all time. For a movie that made so much bank, it never occupied a huge space in the cultural conversation about movies. Like so many of Cameron’s works, much of its innovation came from the technology that essentially had to be invented to make it possible. And while the original film was unexpectedly yanked from streaming back in September, as it made a surprise reappearance back in theaters, it’s finally back on Disney+, ready to treat audiences to the world of Pandora all over again.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Sam Raimi’s sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange isn’t the beloved director’s first superhero movie, but it is his first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe style of making movies, which ultimately proves to be both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, the movie is probably the closest thing the Marvel franchise has gotten to a straight-up horror film, and it’s full of Raimi’s signature practical effects (plus the ever-important Bruce Campbell cameo). Yet, because the MCU is such a box office powerhouse, the movie never goes full Raimi—which is understandable but somewhat disappointing for fans of The Evil Dead maestro. Still, it’s ultimately a fun ride with multiple versions of Benedict Cumberbatch’s cocky Doctor and Elizabeth Olsen as the power-seeking Scarlet Witch.
Mei Lee is a 13-year-old with a problem: Whenever she’s overcome with any sort of overwhelming emotion, which is just about every emotion at that age, she transforms into a giant red panda. Eventually, Mei comes to learn that it’s an inherited family trait. And while there are people who would like to exploit her supernatural powers, she slowly learns that only she has the power to control them. Think of this as a spiritual sequel to 2015’s Inside Out, which explored the complex inner workings of an 11-year-old’s constantly changing emotions.
The MCU has produced more than two dozen movies since 2008, yet the very first of them—Iron Man—remains one of the best. It’s almost hard to believe now how hard director Jon Favreau had to fight to get Robert Downey Jr. the leading role, as he’s arguably one of the MCU’s most beloved figures. Before there was a whole franchise plus a shared TV universe, Downey, as Tony Stark/Iron Man, was just allowed to do his thing. It was a gamble that paid off for all involved.
West Side Story
From Martin Scorsese to Spike Lee, pretty much every great director has made—or at least attempted to make—a grand Hollywood musical, perhaps one of the toughest genres to successfully pull off. Steven Spielberg made the task even more difficult when he decided to adapt Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story—which Robert Wise already did to great acclaim in 1961. But Spielberg (being Spielberg) managed to create an updated take on the story of Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler), two love-struck teens caught in the middle of an escalating rivalry between two street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. The update gives nods to the original (like casting Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her role as Anita in Wise’s film) while tamping down its more controversial bits (like casting Natalie Wood in the role of a Puerto Rican teen).
Fantastic Mr. Fox
When, in the early 2000s, it was announced that Wes Anderson would be cowriting (with Noah Baumbach) and directing a traditional stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, it seemed like an odd choice—until one remembered that Anderson’s career was built on delivering the unexpected. In this classic tale, the eponymous animal (voiced by George Clooney, who brings just the right amount of slyness to the role) breaks a longtime promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) that his days of stealing from their human neighbors are over. Though it’s family-friendly, the stakes are real as Mr. Fox risks his marriage and career by falling back into old habits.
Lady and the Tramp
Sure, you can watch the live action/CGI version that Disney+ released shortly after it launched, but why bother when the 1955 original is here too? Put aside the rather vulgar stereotypes that were common at the time (the movie now comes with a warning) and Lady and the Tramp remains one of the most iconic classic Disney animations, and a love story for the ages. When a spoiled cocker spaniel named Lady finds herself competing with a new baby for the attention of her parents, she ends up getting loose and befriending a mangy but charming mutt named Tramp. Ultimately, Lady needs to choose the pampered life she’s always known with Jim Dear and Darling, or a life of spaghetti dinner discards with the hopelessly romantic Tramp—unless there’s another way.
In the summer of 2018, people around the world were transfixed by the story of a dozen young soccer players and their 25-year-old assistant coach, who became trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand due to monsoon conditions. Eighteen days later the team was rescued, with all 12 boys and their coach surviving the incident. While it was happening, filmmakers were already scrambling for the rights to tell the story—no matter how it ended. Tom Waller’s The Cave (2019) and Ron Howard’s upcoming Thirteen Lives are two of them. But, in this particular case, the truth is far more compelling than fiction, as this documentary from Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi—the Oscar-winning husband-and-wife team behind Free Solo—certainly attests.
The Muppet Movie
Between The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson and the Muppets were everywhere in 1979. Their first big-screen outing serves as more of a prequel, as it follows Kermit the Frog’s journey from a swamp in Florida to Hollywood, where he’s headed to pursue his dreams of becoming a movie star. Along the way, we get to witness where and how he meets the fellow members of his felt-made crew, from Fozzie Bear to Miss Piggy. Hijinks ensue when a restaurateur named Doc Hopper doesn’t take too kindly to Kermit turning down his offer to serve as the official legs of his chain’s famous fried frog legs, and follows the frog in order to seek revenge.
Before Tom Hanks was TOM HANKS, he was a sitcom star (Bosom Buddies) and a budding comedic actor who fell in love with a real-life mermaid (Daryl Hannah) in this literal fish-out-of-water rom-com from Ron Howard. Splash was the first movie released by Touchstone, a Disney banner created so that the studio could step a little bit further away from its classic cartoons. Some profanity and a brief glimpse of Hannah’s backside were too hot for Disney to handle at the time. (Hey, it was the 1980s.)
Enrico Casarosa’s Luca earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2022 for its sweet and soulful story about a young boy named Luca who is hiding a dark secret: He’s a sea monster living in a town on the Italian Riviera that absolutely despises his kind. Ultimately, Luca is a moving coming-of-age film about friendship, family, and overcoming our own prejudices—and truly one of Pixar’s best features.
Marvel’s biggest mistake in the entire MCU canon (so far) was not commissioning Captain Marvel sooner. The film, which is set in the past, sees the rise of Marvel (Brie Larson) as she discovers her origin story and develops her powers. The film, the first entry in the Marvel universe with a female lead, channels the spirit of the 1990s both in its setting and in style, with heaping spoonfuls of Samuel L. Jackson and all the plot and subtlety of a blockbuster action movie. Larson adds a healthy dose of sarcasm to undercut her character’s immense power, and Jackson is eerily brilliant, making for a super fun 123 minutes.
Who doesn’t love a heist movie? Paul Rudd’s MCU debut acted as something of a palate cleanser after the heavy, literally Earth-shattering events of Age of Ultron. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a reformed criminal who teams up with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter (Evangeline Lily) to keep Pym’s shrinking technology from falling into the wrong hands. The film’s depiction of quantum physics wouldn’t hold much water at CERN, but it’s terrific fun—thanks in part to Michael Peña’s star turn as Lang’s former cellmate Luis and, of course, Rudd’s legendary likability.
Turner and Hooch
When you think of crime-fighting duos, Tom Hanks (Scott Turner) and Beasley the dog (Hooch) probably aren’t the first investigators that spring to mind. That doesn’t mean they’re without merit, though. This 1989 cop comedy—which Disney+ made into a 12-part TV series in 2021—forces the pair together as Turner, a city cop, investigates the murder of Hooch’s owner, with the dog being the only witness to the crime. Using Hooch’s nose and appetite for swift justice, the duo set out to track down the killers—and, in the process, find themselves ensnared in an even more sinister plot.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and its shutdown of almost the entire movie industry, Disney decided to try something new with its live-action version of Mulan by making it available to Disney+ subscribers instead of releasing it in theaters. The film itself is one of the latest in Disney’s recent string of live-action remakes and sees Liu Yifei in the title role, with reviews praising the cast, visuals, and action sequences.
There’s a moment in the event movie to endgame all event movies when you realize that writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus have gone full Harry Potter and the Cursed Child all over the MCU. Once you get past the rather glum beginning, you can settle in for what you have come to expect from any Avengers movie: Tony Stark cracking wise; Doctor Strange doing weird things with his hands; Professor Hulk explaining the science of what’s going on; and Black Widow and Captain Marvel kicking ass, both emotionally and physically. It’s a messy but epic baton-pass in the form of an angsty portal-powered mega-battle. And we’re not going to lie: We’ve watched those audience reaction videos and they, too, are a thing of joy.
The year is 1925 and a deadly epidemic has struck the Alaskan town of Nome. The only cure is 600 miles away, and a massive storm is about to strike the region. Leonhard Seppala and his lead sled dog, Togo, are the town’s only hope of getting the vaccine. The dog may not be the biggest of the sled crew, but it is tenacious. The entire mission to save the town relies on Togo’s ability to face the challenging conditions. Added to all that, Togo is based on a true story.
This foul-mouthed superhero movie marks a definite departure from the vanilla content that was available on Disney+ in its first couple years of operation. Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool, who has the ability to heal from pretty much any injury—and is an angry, violent, wisecracking mercenary tasked with protecting a young mutant from a time-traveling soldier.
If you only know Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical from the obscenely high ticket prices and snippets of the soundtrack, here’s your chance to find out what all the fuss is about. A version of the production, recorded via a six-camera setup over two performances by the original Broadway cast, was put on Disney+ after plans to release it in cinemas were scrapped. Aside from a couple of censored swear words and the fact it’s directed (by Thomas Kail), it’s essentially the same show—an energetic, empathetic, witty, quippy hip-hop musical about US founding father Alexander Hamilton.
All the Pixar Shorts
Now’s the time for a Pixar short sesh. You could do as the studio intended and pick out the correct short to watch before the main animated showing, or you could head to the Shorts tab and go wild with Pixar, Disney, and new “Sparkshorts.” WIRED’s faves are Lava (8 mins), Bao (7 mins), Purl (12 mins), Smash and Grab (8 mins), La Luna (6 mins), Sanjay’s Super Team (7 mins), and Day and Night (7 mins). Out (9 mins) is one of the latest, and for a slice of Pixar history, check out 1997’s Geri’s Game (4 mins) and see if you recognize the chess player.
One of the potential answers to “What oh what to put on after Frozen and Frozen 2,” Moana is in fact better than Frozen. By that we simply mean better soundtrack, better heroine, better visuals, better side quests. There’s also 100 percent more Dwayne Johnson as a tattooed demigod and Jemaine Clement as a giant crab doing a Bowie impression. Set thousands of years ago on the fictional, Polynesia-inspired island of Motunui, Moana’s hero’s journey is fairly classic, but the sumptuous animation and Lin-Manuel Miranda tunes are top-tier Disney. (Sure, we’d love to see Taika Waititi’s original script, but we can live without it.)
If your friend told you they’d decided to solo-climb up the sheer 3,000-foot granite El Capitan wall in Yosemite, California, with no rope, you’d think they had gone mad. But that’s exactly what Alex Honnold set out to do back in 2017. Honnold’s quest to climb the vertical wall was documented by his two director friends, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, as he took on the ascent to become the world’s first person to free-climb El Capitan. But it’s not just about the ascent, it’s also about Honnold’s complicated life, his emotional issues, and all the things that have driven him to pursue one of the most dangerous missions ever attempted by any free climber. The cinematography in Free Solo is dizzyingly beautiful, and the entire thing will have you gripping the arm of your chair in terror.
Tim Burton directs this ’80s classic, with Johnny Depp starring as the eponymous Edward and Winona Ryder playing his love interest, Kim. Edward was artificially created by an old inventor, but before his hands are finished, the inventor dies and Edward is left with scissors where his fingers should be. In proper suburban society, it’s hard for him to fit in. But he soon learns where his talents lie and becomes the neighborhood hairdresser, hedge trimmer, and dog groomer. Things aren’t easy when anything you touch gets cut, destroying things and hurting people, and as hard as Edward tries, he’s always an outcast.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is an experimental inventor who creates an electromagnetic shrinking machine. Naturally, he accidentally shrinks his own children (if you didn’t already guess that from the title), plus the kids from next door, then unwittingly throws them in the trash. To have any chance of becoming their normal size again, the teeny tots must navigate their way across the family’s (now seemingly gigantic) yard and back to the house. It’s something fraught with peril when you’re half the size of an aspirin.
Cheaper by the Dozen
Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and his wife, Kate (Bonnie Hunt), always wanted a big family, but they weren’t expecting to have 12 children. When Tom gets his dream job as a college football coach, he relocates the entire family, causing upset among his offspring. Kate’s book gets published, meaning she has to spend some time away from the family, and without her the Bakers’ lives are pure chaos. Cheaper by the Dozen is a classic Steve Martin slapstick comedy, though it will make you glad you don’t have that many kids.
Toy Story (All of Them)
While it might have seemed that Pixar could never make anything as good as the original 1995 Toy Story, each of the three subsequent movies add depth to the franchise’s canon. All of the movies are critically acclaimed—and they’re all available on Disney+. When combined, the four movies tell a story about growing up and how everything in life, inevitably, changes. Woody (Tom Hanks) and the gang go from learning how to deal with new people to understanding loss. It’s something that’s also followed the cast: In Toy Story 4 the voice of Mr. Potato Head was created through archive recordings after Don Rickles, as the man behind the voice, died ahead of the film’s release.
The Lion King
Remember the terrifying wildebeest stampede in the 1994 version of The Lion King? That was actually computer animated, because drawing them by hand would have taken a long, long time. Special attention was taken to blend it into the cel-shaded backgrounds, and this was all before Toy Story came out the following year. Which is all to say that not only is the ’90s version a perfect movie that had absolutely zero need for a charm-deficient 2019 remake (which is also streaming on Disney+ in case you want to compare), it’s also the best Lion King to use CG animation.
10 Things I Hate About You
Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” on the bleachers. That’s the iconic scene in this top-caliber high school rom-com. The plot is taken from The Taming of the Shrew, the cast—including Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt—are all adorable, and the late ’90s nostalgia is potent. Offering some much-needed variety from the sci-fi and animation that dominates the Disney+ launch catalog, 10 Things I Hate About You is as good as comfort-food movies get.
Tron & Tron: Legacy
Tron and its modern sequel, Tron: Legacy, aren’t your typical Disney movies. The original sees a programmer (Jeff Bridges) become trapped inside a computer system where he meets and befriends programs, including the eponymous hero Tron, who are resisting the power of a growing artificial intelligence, the Master Control Program. It became a sci-fi cult classic, leading to the creation of a modern sequel that continues the story and which features an epic score cowritten by Daft Punk. Both are watchable distractions, even if the sequel feels a little thin in places.
Another nostalgia fest, this time for fans of ’80s fantasy. Willow is a family-friendly mythic quest that’s best seen as George Lucas and Ron Howard’s fun, $35 million Tolkien fan fiction. The story of a farmer tasked with protecting a magic baby from an evil queen is not exactly the most original story in the world, but that hasn’t stopped this from becoming a classic, with Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood and Val Kilmer waving a sword around. Classic Sunday afternoon fare.
This sugary sweet animation tells the story of Ralph, a villain from an 1980s arcade game who wants to be something more than just the bad guy throwing debris off the top of an 8-bit building. One day, he goes AWOL from his game and ventures into the wider arcade—encountering a mish-mash of video game characters loosely based on your childhood favorites—from Hero’s Duty (a combination of Halo and Call of Duty, so basically Gears of War) to Sugar Rush (a weird mash-up of Mario Kart and Candy Crush), where he strikes up a friendship with a young girl racer.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Winter Soldier is among the best Marvel movies. It makes time for quieter character moments, and the action, while still spectacular, feels a little more grounded and real than the CGI-fueled shock and awe of the mainline movies. In this outing, Captain America faces off against a rogue element of SHIELD led by Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce.
The first two Thor movies were comfortably among the worst in the overall series — Chris Hemsworth’s thunder god was dour and charmless. Director Taika Waititi injected some much-needed color into the proceedings, borrowing heavily from the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics. Thor finds himself stranded on a bizarre planet, ruled over by Jeff Goldblum (who is pretty much playing himself). There, he crosses paths with Bruce Banner’s Hulk, who has been missing since the events of Civil War. It’s hugely funny and arguably the best film of the series, which now includes this summer’s Thor: Love and Thunder.
The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Naturally, Star Wars is one of the big attractions on Disney+. Needless to say, though, the original trilogy are the ones to seek out. The caveat for pickier fans is that these are the versions that have been messed with by George Lucas post-release. Some, such as improved visuals in and around Cloud City, are thoughtful additions, but others are more controversial.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The newer Star Wars one-off movies attract strong opinions, and Rogue One is no different. But, while it has its issues, it fills an important hole in the universe and features some of the best action sequences in the entire saga. Its main black mark is the rather iffy CGI recreation of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, but it’s still a fun romp that lacks the narrative baggage of the new trilogy.
Black Panther had a huge cultural impact. It was refreshingly unusual to see a blockbuster superhero film with such a diverse cast—and the Afro-futurist setting was unlike anything Marvel had ever done before. Michael B. Jordan steals the show as Killmonger, who returns to his father’s home to claim the throne from T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman). The much-anticipated sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, was released this fall.
Released in 2008, a time when, for many, the climate crisis felt like a distant, abstract threat, WALL·E is classic Pixar. It’s a love story—sort of—that focuses on two robots. But it’s also a story about survival, believing in yourself, and dancing through the vacuum of space propelled by a fire extinguisher. The animation, especially on the desolate, barren Earth, is a sight to behold. The opening scenes of the film are also basically a silent film, with the score and robotic sound effects doing a fantastic job bringing out the emotion and drama of what’s happening.
Don’t cry. But also cry. A lot. Inside Out is the perfect realization of what every Pixar film strives to achieve. On the surface, it’s a comedic look at human emotion, the complexity of a child growing up, and the delicate balance of family life. But by literally getting inside the head of 11-year-old Riley, the film finds a way to bring emotion to life in a way that is at once comedic, profound, and often ingenious.
Pixar’s Up can claim one of the most moving opening scenes of any movie. Despite being released more than a decade ago (in 2009), the animation hasn’t aged or lost any of its charm. In a little over 90 minutes, director Pete Docter takes us on the journey of Carl, an old widower who is seeking out Paradise Falls. Carl’s trip, in his flying house, is made in memory of his wife, Ellie, who had always wanted to visit the falls. The film won two Oscars—Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score—but was also nominated for three more. These included Best Picture, which at the time made it only the second animated film to have received the nomination (1991’s Beauty and the Beast was the first).
The Jungle Book
Whatever mood you’re in, Disney+ has The Jungle Book to suit it. The streaming service has both the 1967 animated classic, with its catchy soundtrack and moments of humor, plus the live-action version released in 2016. The two movies couldn’t be more different: If you want to go for full family entertainment, pick the original, but if you’re after something that’s a little darker, the modern remake is where you should head. (Bonus fact: The entire live-action film was shot in a warehouse.)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Volume one of Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t burst into the MCU until 2014, which is relatively late considering that Phase One began with Iron Man in 2008. However, it’s become a firm fan favorite, providing some of the Universe’s most memorable (and important) characters. Quill, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Nebula are all distinctive and in many ways are more likable than other key MCU characters. However, Guardians is worth returning to if you want to remember a slightly simpler time before Thanos’ snap.